18 January 2018

Manny Machado is Scott Rolen

18 months ago, Manny Machado was projected to earn more per year
than the island nation of Tuvalu.

There are two main narratives that rotate around Manny Machado.  First, his defensive play is the second coming of Brooks Robinson.  Second, if he had not missed so much time recently then he would unquestionably be the best third baseman in baseball.  Regarding his defensive play, you can waste an entire afternoon looking at the utterly mind blowing things he does with a glove, a couple arms, and a couple legs.  Regarding the latter, it is perhaps a bit more interesting than it seems on the surface.

A week ago, I knew the MLB.com best ten third basemen article was about to come out, so I asked this for my Twitter followers.

Half of the respondents declared that Manny is the best third baseman in baseball.  MLB.com this past week released their list to declare that Machado was the eighth best third baseman in baseball.  A year ago, he was third.  A year before that, he was fourth.  To be fair, in the writeup the staff at MLB.com made Machado the fifth best by tipping their hats to his potential.

Thinking about the potential as Machado enters his age 25 season, I thought that his unreached potential may be an idea that is kept afloat by the perception that he has missed a great deal of time during his development these past three years, so I asked this:

Over 80% of those who answered the poll were wrong.  Machado has missed 11 games these past three years for an average of 3.7 games missed per season.  He has been there every single day for the most part.  While he has done well, last year was a bit of a mess as he struggled to a good season of 3.5 bWAR.

In June of 2016, I made a comp model of Machado to see just where he might be headed.  He had done so much at such a young age that it was difficult to find positional comps and I had to look at big picture comps.  The group he fit into consisted of Ken Griffey Jr, Mickey Mantle, Alex Rodriguez, Al Kaline, Andruw Jones, Eddie Matthews, Cesar Cedeno, Vada Pinson, Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Cal Ripken Jr, Johnny Bench, Albert Pujols, and Orlando Cepeda.  It was a remarkable projection with the mean expectation to be a career as storied as Cal Ripken Jr's (~85 bWAR).  Even at its worse was a fringe Hall of Famer in Lou Boudreau (~60 bWAR), but, at its best, a monster Mike Schmidt level career (~105 bWAR).

Year Age PA HR AVG OBP SLG WAR Value
2017 24 642 34 .297 .375 .539 7.4 51.8
2018 25 639 31 .296 .374 .531 7.1 52.2
2019 26 662 35 .292 .370 .533 7.3 56.3
2020 27 570 29 .285 .367 .531 6.2 50.2
2021 28 646 31 .282 .362 .507 6.4 54.5
2022 29 651 33 .291 .378 .526 7.3 65.2
2023 30 593 27 .278 .366 .496 5.8 54.4
2024 31 551 24 .277 .357 .484 4.9 48.3
2025 32 516 23 .271 .350 .485 4.4 45.5
2026 33 450 19 .270 .350 .461 3.6 39.1
Mean 285 .287 .368 .511 60.4 517.5

However, 2017 was a train wreck in comparison to what the mean expectation of that group was.  Worse, Machado was unable to meet the -SD of that group, which was a WAR of 5.6.  That is certain to redirect a projection model.  It may seem unfair that a single season could torpedo a career projection, but it seems a bit dream casting to wish a season that missed expectations to be ignored.

So, I set out to update the model.  With another year under the belt, we are now able to restrict the model to shortstops and third basemen.  The comps are offensive based.  In the final projection, Machado's position is assessed as a shortstop and over the length of his career he is assumed to be league average there.

His new comp model cohort consists of Cal Ripen Jr, Alex Rodriguez, Evan Longoria, David Wright, Troy Glaus, Hanley Ramirez, Scott Rolen, Ron Santo, Jim Ray Hart, Ryan Zimmerman, Troy Tulowitski, Nomar Garciaparra, Hank Blalock, and Ernie Banks.  The weakest fits in this model are related to Alex Rodriguez and Troy Glaus for their prodigious power and Jim Ray Hart who could hit, hit, hit, but was unable to field, field, field.  Hart's plate appearances were greatly suppressed by his terrible fielding.  Regardless, the contribution of these three are largely overwhelmed by what the others in the cohort did.

The silver lining of the new projection model is that the baseline remains the same.  Lou Boudreau is still our -SD expectation, so Manny would have an interesting HoF case with around 60 bWAR.  The mean has dropped to a Scott Rolen level (70 bWAR) and the +SD expectation has dropped significantly down to a Brooks Robinson career (80 bWAR).  In other words, Manny has gone from someone who seemed likely to be mentioned in hushed tones throughout the land to someone who may still get that treatment, but only provincially.

Here is the mean projection:

Year Age PA HR AVG OBP SLG WAR Value
2017 25 639 29 .291 .367 .510 6.5 45.5
2018 26 555 24 .288 .366 .504 5.5 40.4
2019 27 508 24 .282 .360 .506 4.9 37.8
2020 28 607 26 .267 .339 .463 4.5 36.5
2021 29 540 25 .283 .360 .499 5.2 44.2
2022 30 483 20 .276 .347 .486 4.1 36.6
2023 31 539 21 .260 .325 .448 3.4 31.9
2024 32 486 19 .267 .331 .462 3.4 33.5
2025 33 470 17 .256 .323 .428 2.6 26.9
2026 34 449 16 .249 .314 .423 2.2 23.9
2027 35 441 14 .230 .290 .387 1.2 13.7
235 .274 .345 .479 43.5 370.9

For the time that overlapped between the two projections, ages 25 to 33, the decrease in value is 30%.  Originally, the value was assumed to be about 413 MM and in this iteration that fell to 288 MM.  That is a pretty sizable drop.  At this point, a mean contract extension would be 16 MM for this year and then a whopping 10 year, 325 MM payout.

It would also be likely that Machado would ask for an opt out. My conclusion has been than an opt out is worth the break even point for total potential loss and total potential gain at that point in time. This gives us this little table to cover years 2019-2028:

opt Out Total
1 311
2 338
3 349
4 371
5 380
6 382
7 382
8 372
9 331
None 371

Last year, I noted that Machado was set to earn more per year than the gross domestic product of Tuvalu.  At 36 MM a year, Machado would earn more than that in several iterations of this contract.  That said, it may well be that the team that signs Machado fully and totally believes in him. If that is the case, then we would see that 10/371 contract bump up to 10/417.  Yes, it is a major dropoff when we were pondering a potential 700 MM player, but that is what happens when what you have is good play and a lot of yet unfulfilled promises.

****Update:
Here are the three outcomes from the model in case anyone is interested.

Year Age (-SD) Mean (+SD)
2017 25 6.1 6.5 6.8
2018 26 4 5.5 6.9
2019 27 3.4 4.9 7
2020 28 3.9 4.5 5.4
2021 29 4.3 5.2 6.4
2022 30 2.7 4.1 5.1
2023 31 2.7 3.4 4.3
2024 32 3 3.4 3.8
2025 33 1.9 2.6 3.4
2026 34 1.8 2.2 3
2027 35 0.9 1.2 2
34.7 43.5 54.1

2 comments:

Unknown said...

And remember can't afford any of them.
I enjoyed this article very much, you have a very nice writing style and you manage to be humorous and serious at the same time.
My biggest concern is about his maturity, nobody talks about it very much, but he's had some very childish episodes, and if there's one thing that is true of all super rich people, they feel that they are, to and lesser or greater degree, exempt from accepted standards of behavior.
I really hope that Mandie is treated, and I do not expect that his value will increase significantly between now and July, although the number of teams seriously interested in him may increase.

Unknown said...

Scott Rolen was very good, but a reall wuss when it came to injuries. Definitely the Anti-Ripken.