Friday, August 07, 2009

To Rent, or To Renteria, That is the Question

Clearly, the signing of Edgar Renteria has not worked out for the Giants. $19M for 2 years for .254/.311/.318/.629 with poor defense. Many have been fuming about the deal and rightfully so for what we have gotten.

Context is Everything

The facts are these, however:
  • Renteria came off a season where he hit .270/.317/.382/.699 at Detroit, but hit .296/.343/.469/.812 in the second half of the season. He had hit .332/.390/.470/.860 the season before in Atlanta, .293/.361/.436/.797 the season before that, and he hit .336/.387/.477/.864 on the road in 2007, .287/.363/.460/.823 the season before that. These all suggest he just had a bad first half of 2008 and would hit somewhere in the mid to high 700 OPS, perhaps higher if he got things going. He would be 33 for the 2009 season.
  • Orlando Cabrera was the option that most note as an example of who the Giants should have signed instead. He signed for $4M in the middle of spring training. His two previous seasons he hit .282/.335/.404/.738, .301/.345/.397/.742, and .281/.334/.371/.705 in 2006, 2007 and 2008. And his career numbers right now is .275/.323/.398/.721. That's the reason he was paid so much less, he isn't the hitter that Renteria has been, either career or in the recent prior two seasons. Plus he is a year older than Renteria.
  • Rafael Furcal was another option. He signed before Renteria for 3 years at $30M plus team option year. His career numbers are about what Renteria has had and he's only 31 for this season. However, he had been bothered by injuries in 2007 and 2008. And he hit pretty poorly in 2007 when he played most of the season, though he hit great in limited but extended play (36 games, 143 AB) in 2008.
Now that is all offensive numbers. Defensively, UZR has Renteria as been slightly below average, about 2 runs below average. Cabrera has been all over the place, having some great defensive years and being very slightly above average, but the vast majority of his seasons have been barely above average, or about 2 runs above average. That is about 4 runs better than Renteria, but Cabrera has been about 10 runs worse than average offensively that if Renteria batted like he could in recent years, he would be better than Cabrera overall, defense included, by the difference of their salaries, based on what Fangraphs calculated for runs over replacement. Both Renteria and Cabrera appear to be equal deals in terms of what their prior performances suggest they would provide to their teams.

Furcal, however, was pretty bad on defense, about 10 runs below average. And his offense has been about as good as Renteria's. So he was clearly a worse deal than Renteria's, less runs overall while getting more dollars and more years.

So Renteria's deal, viewed in the line of pre-season facts, at least was equal to the deal that Cabrera got, and appeared better than what Furcal got. It wasn't a steal, but based on past performances, it appeared fair at least. One of Fangraph's writers thought so, writing "For San Francisco, this isn't a bad deal..."

Reality, However, Can be a Bitch

However, it has not worked out as it appeared it might before the season began. Furcal's having his best fielding season ever, even for his younger years, but having one of his worse hitting years. Still, with good defense, Fangraphs have him generating $8.7M of value thus far, so he looks like he will earn his salary, based on Fangraphs methodology. Cabrera is having his worse defensive year ever, but his offense is one of his better ones. He has earned $3.2M according to Fangraphs, and look to earn his salary as well.

Not so good for the Giants, not by a long shot. Renteria has had a bad year both offensively and defensively - apparently he has an elbow spur, which is similar to what Dave Roberts had his first season with the Giants, and which he needed an operation on - and is actually costing money, so he has been a total loss. It is his worse season ever, but $9.5M is $2M less than the average of what Renteria had earned since 2002, $3M less than his prior three seasons, and is $500K less than what he had earned the prior five seasons. He looked like a good bet to earn what he'll be paid, even given some decline, over the next two seasons, but he is a bust signing.

However, clearly, that bone spur on Renteria's elbow greatly affects him. It affected Roberts so much that he could barely hit with it, but was back to normal once it was operated on and he returned to the lineup later in the season (his first one). I'm not sure why the Giants just don't operate on Renteria, which would shut him down for the season, as they have Uribe in reserve, and while he's not as good as Renteria in recent years, he should be better than Renteria this year.

Heck, between Uribe and Frandsen, the Giants should be able to cobble together enough offense and defense to match the suckiness that has been Renteria's season. I would never wish an injury on anyone, but Renteria sitting on the DL now wouldn't be the worse thing in the world right now for the Giants. Renteria's "Hot" streak is .273/.351/.364/.715 since July 26th, but his cold streak is .193/.256/.229/.484 since July 4th (I had explained my Hot/Cold streak in a prior post: basically, the players hottest and coldest streak I could find for him currently, where both are relative to each other, i.e. both could be good, both could be bad, but one is hotter than the other).

Uribe apparently has hamstring problems right now, which would make Frandsen the starter at SS (but could cost Aurilia, who just got off the DL, with Bowker going down, DFAed), based on who we have in the minors right now. Frandsen's MLEs and his career hitting in the majors suggest that he should easily beat Renteria's .254/.311/.318/.629 abomination this season and the puny 2 homers Edgar has hit so far, easily. That Frandsen would provide some average defense as well would be a bonus.


  1. For all the BS about the youth movement we still end up with Renteria and Aurilia handling important roles for this club.
    It's a scary prospect knowing that we might have to rely on those two in a big situation with the postseason on the line.

  2. It's not B.S. Going with a youth movement does not mean that everyone will be young, only that decisions will be made that favor youth over experience, like starting Sandoval, Ishikawa, and Burriss. Prior to that, they went with Lewis over Roberts. And, of course, our beautiful pitching staff.

    Still, you are not going to fill every hole with young players, and, if you want some measure of success, you need the vets to provide more consistent production and to fill holes where you have no viable young players.

  3. thanks for the column - been a while since I've been to the site, and am really liking it.

    One thing I would really be interested in seeing, and I have to wonder if someone has done this, is to really analyze the salaries of non-RPs.

    What I mean by that, is take the VORP "pool", and remove the Lincecums, etc - players who are pre-abitration (or maybe even in their abitration years), Rule 5 guys, etc... and see what it really costs for a player in the open market. I know that one is reducing the sample size to difficult levels, but it seems obvious (I think) that your average free agent is technically overpaid, but perhaps not overpaid according to the market.

    I'm not speaking in terms of what value the player brings the team, just "what it really costs to sign a free agent first baseman". One can certainly argue the wisdom of Renteria vs Furcal vs Uribe (though Rowand may be a better example), but I would be really curious as I think it would bring some illumination by comparing apples to apples.

    So, not "is it more cost-effective to sign no free agents and just play your AAA players" (which to a less extreme extent seems to be somewhat true) but "okay, we want a generic veteran shortstop, it costs $xxx per VORP".

  4. Let's give Sabean another 2 year extension for making another fine decision to bring in yet another washed up veteran.

  5. No, Boof, let's ignore that he has put together one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, a very solid defensive team, a team that has the 3d best winning percentage in the NL, and that he has some solid young position talent and some very promising pitching and positional talent in the minors. Let's focus on the one weakness on the team, likely caused by injury, and fire the guy.

  6. I wrote somewhere before the season that I was skepical of Renteria because he was a leading under-achiever on the leading under-achieving team (Tigers)last year. There is also a chance, he being from Columbia, that he is not 33. I think he started his pro career at 16. Suppose he was actually 19 or more? Wouldn'[t that explain a lot?

  7. Walter, thanks for joining the discussion. That's an angle I haven't seen, his age, and would make a lot of sense as 35-36 is around where most players typically hit the wall. That's when Willie Mays started his decline.

    Like Winn, his K-rate has increased significantly this season, above the level you want to see from a good hitter. An elbow spur, however, would explain a lot of that. Still, it isn't horribly bad - just above the 15% contact rate you want to see in a hitter, only 2 extra strikeouts - and his walk rate is actually up to compensate.

    Marc, informally, it seems to be that the average type player has been getting around $9-10M per season on the free agent market. It is an overpay for the production you will probably receive, but the market price is heightened by the cost of trading to get a similar player and by the relative lack of available "merchandise" on the market.

    Rowand, if that is the right pricing range, is right in line with that as he was suppose to be above average defensively and offensively. He severely underperformed last season, possibly because of that injury he suffered early in the season.

  8. Thanks about the salary guesses - see, that's kind of what I figured. So, absent any non-free agents, that's just the way it goes. So "Rowand" (the theoretical one) isn't overpaid, though Rowand (the real-life one) hasn't worked out so well. Though hasn't been as much of a disaster as some might say.

    I'm always a bit befuddled by the how old are they really question when it comes to Latin American players. Seems like it can't be that hard to verify, but yet it is. Would explain a lot re: Renteria, though. I certainly hope that it doesn't apply to Pujols, however - I want to watch him as he is for a long time.

    Thanks again for the answer - a much bigger topic, I know, but gives me food for thought.

  9. Cain sure fell apart. Must've lost his focus or something.

  10. Cain had a nice stretch of games in which he was good to great. He's eventually going to have games where he's not so good, but he's been much better this year about avoiding games like this.

    The good news is that this is only the third series of the year the Giants have lost a series at home. Third. Given that there is less than two months left, that's pretty good. And they still have the second best home record in the majors (I think they had the best before losing this series).

    I'll worry if he is like this the whole month of August.

    Now it's time to take it to the D'gers, they need to step it up this series, with Sanchez, Martinez, and Lincecum pitching against Kuroda, Wolf, and Billingsley. We have a good chance of winning with Sanchez and Lincecum, and most probably will lose with Martinez, though Wolf has had two poorer starts in his last two starts. Still, Kuroda and Billingsley are no push-overs, it's going to be a tough series.

    It's nice to dream that if we sweep, we'd be only 2.5 games back, but it is going to take somebody (Sandoval? Garko?) going crazy on the D'gers and blasting a few out of the park against them for the Giants to pull off a sweep.

    I think a 2 out of 3 is more realistic, though still will be hard to achieve. Nobody on the team is really that hot, except for Velez, who I've covered already, and Freddy Sanchez, who has been delivering thus far. Perhaps he is finally healthy and doing what he can do, particularly without worrying about whether the team is going to trade him or not, and knowing the Giants already are counting on him for 2010.

    Rowand has perked up a little too since July 26th, hopefully he can get keep it, that will help our offense greatly.

    Molina has perked it up since then too, and hopefully he too can continue, since he's our clean-up hitter.

    Luckily, since his no-hitter, Sanchez has been pretty good, 3.80 ERA, .668 OPS against, 28K/11BB, great ratio, 23.2 IP, 16 hits, 4 HR, so he's actually been a little unlucky there. Plus, he has pitched better at home than on the road, and has 3 DOM starts in his last 4 (3 in the other one).

    And Lincecum has been Lincecum, almost every game is a well pitched game.

    And Martinez was pretty good after his rough early start, when he said that he was a bit amped up and nervous. Still, it's too early to say what he would do in his next start. He was great in Connecticut last season, but he's hardly pitched this season and just came off the line drive off his head early in the season. The good thing was that he threw a shutout in his last start in the minors before coming up.

    Go Giants!

  11. O-Cabrera: .312 wOBA (or .707 OPS)
    Renteria: .275 wOBA (or .616 OPS)

    O-Cabrera: 2009/$4M
    Renteria: $9.25M per year

    That's all.

  12. Jack, I'm not sure what your point is. I've already said in the article that Cabrera was a better acquisition with 20-20 hindsight. The contract only makes it that much more better.

    But it's not like Cabrera has been that great an acquisition either. Apparently you can lose value quickly: Fangraphs only has Cabrera earning $1.9M for his performance this season. He should have been paid $2.7M for the season thus far, so he is returning negative value for the A's and Twins.

    Apparently it was his offense that suddenly looked bad in comparison. Despite his hot hitting lately.

    And a .312 wOBA isn't that good, it's less than his career and it is only 140th out of 158 qualified hitters. You are just pointing out how bad offensively he has been this season.

    Furcal has been a good deal, thus far, but could be poised to look bad in future seasons if his poor health returns. People rarely get healthier in baseball, once the injuries come, they continue to come.



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