Friday, August 06, 2010

Yes, He is Huff Enuff

I wanted to write a post extolling the wonders that is Aubrey Huff and how invaluable he has been to the Giants when I ran across one by fellow Giants blogger, 8th Inning Weirdness, titled, appropriately enough, "Player Profile:  Aubrey Huff".

Giants Thoughts

I could not think of much to add to Mack's nice and comprehensive article regarding all the great things he has done for the club this season - great job! - other than to point out my posts on Huff, "I'll Huff and Puff:  Giants Sign Aubrey Huff for $3M", "Huff Aftermath:  Batting Cleanup, Merkin DFAed", and "Your 2010 Giants:  Big 6 Questions".  He mentioned that he didn't believe anyone liked the deal:  I did like the deal, and I thought he wasn't done.

That said, no way I could have predicted that he would hit this well.  He is hitting at an elite level, something he has not done much of in his career, plus this is higher than his career:

Year Age Tm Lg G AB HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2000 23 TBD AL 39 122 4 14 5 18 .287 .318 .443 .760 91
2001 24 TBD AL 111 411 8 45 23 72 .248 .288 .372 .660 74
2002 25 TBD AL 113 454 23 59 37 55 .313 .364 .520 .884 135
2003 26 TBD AL 162 636 34 107 53 80 .311 .367 .555 .922 145
2004 27 TBD AL 157 600 29 104 56 74 .297 .360 .493 .853 124
2005 28 TBD AL 154 575 22 92 49 88 .261 .321 .428 .749 98
2006 29 TOT MLB 131 454 21 66 50 64 .267 .344 .469 .813 108
2006 29 TBD AL 63 230 8 28 24 25 .283 .348 .461 .809 108
2006 29 HOU NL 68 224 13 38 26 39 .250 .341 .478 .819 107
2007 30 BAL AL 151 550 15 72 48 87 .280 .337 .442 .778 103
2008 31 BAL AL 154 598 32 108 53 89 .304 .360 .552 .912 137
2009 32 TOT AL 150 536 15 85 51 87 .241 .310 .384 .694 81
2009 32 BAL AL 110 430 13 72 41 74 .253 .321 .405 .725 90
2009 32 DET AL 40 106 2 13 10 13 .189 .265 .302 .567 47
2010 33 SFG NL 106 382 20 66 54 50 .312 .398 .552 .951 148
11 Seasons 1428 5318 223 818 479 764 .284 .345 .478 .823 115
162 Game Avg. 162 603 25 93 54 87 .284 .345 .478 .823 115
TBD (7 yrs) 799 3028 128 449 247 412 .287 .343 .477 .819 116
BAL (3 yrs) 415 1578 60 252 142 250 .282 .341 .473 .815 112
SFG (1 yr) 106 382 20 66 54 50 .312 .398 .552 .951 148
DET (1 yr) 40 106 2 13 10 13 .189 .265 .302 .567 47
HOU (1 yr) 68 224 13 38 26 39 .250 .341 .478 .819 107
AL (10 yrs) 1254 4712 190 714 399 675 .283 .340 .472 .812 113
NL (2 yrs) 174 606 33 104 80 89 .289 .377 .525 .902 133
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/6/2010.

So what to make of Huff?  He is headed for a peak career season at age 33.  That is not impossible, but rare.    He will roughly be in the 30 HR and 100+ RBI range, and barring a steep decline for any reason, should still be in the 900's OPS range.  And once he figured things out and got comfortable, he has been lights out:

Split G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
April/March 22 77 15 19 4 1 2 10 1 0 10 12 .247 .344 .403 .747 .266
May 27 94 11 31 6 0 4 13 0 0 14 10 .330 .409 .521 .930 .329
June 26 96 16 27 6 1 6 19 2 0 11 12 .281 .366 .552 .918 .263
July 27 98 25 36 6 1 8 23 2 0 18 15 .367 .462 .694 1.155 .368
August 4 17 3 6 4 0 0 1 0 0 1 1 .353 .389 .588 .977 .375
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/6/2010.

So it does not look like he's headed for a big fall or anything, plus he raised things by a notch this season by walking more than he strikes out while not striking out that often, which is a thing only the best hitters around can do.  July looks flukey, but May and June do not.

From my readings of his interviews, he has mentally taken things up a notch.  Not all players can do that.  He realizes the opportunity this season has handed him, and is grateful for being in a pennant race for the first time in his career.

Plus, I recently found some notes I took from the radio, where KNBR interviewed, from what I recall, one of his former managers or coaches talking about Huff for the 2010 season, noting that Aubrey, after that horrible 2009 season, realized that he needed to get his body into better shape and conditioning so that he would be better able to compete in 2010.  That is another factor why Huff has had such a great season.  This season would look right in place after his nice stretch from 2002 to 2004, as a step up as his body should have reached its prime physical peak.

Judging from the comments he has made during the season and particularly recently, I think the losing affected him.  Perhaps it made his mind a bit lazy.  Maybe he subconsciously didn't bother to keep his body in better shape.  I don't think it was something that he overtly thought, but almost anyone in a bad situation will take a mental break, particularly later in the season when you are losing at another historic rate, which the Devil Rays were doing at that time, when he was with them.  Then he suffered through the Orioles, all the while getting older and older.

But, when you come right down to it, he is not all that old.  33 YO is old, but there have been plenty of hitters who thrived into their mid-to-late 30's.  And he has been a good hitter more often than not in his career, and a great hitter a few times too.  This season, while the best in his career, is not a surprise given what he has done before, but more a surprise that it didn't happen sometime between 2005 and 2008.

Luck or Process?

Whatever.  It don't matter, because he's here.  I see people write that Sabean don't deserve any credit for the signing.  I'll admit a luck factor, but there's the old saying about making your own luck.

From what I read, the Giants first choice was Nick Johnson, and thank goodness he signed with someone else (I think Yankees).  Some would say Sabean lucked out here, but none of us know exactly what happened.  Just because you want someone does not mean you would pay anything for that player.  Johnson's price got too high for Sabean's tastes and valuation, perhaps, and he let it go.  That's as legit a scenario as any I've seen.

Next up was Adam LaRoche, who reportedly got a two-year, $17M offer.  Some has characterized this as LaRoche turning it down (and I wrote that too), but in interviews in spring, LaRoche clarified that he never turned down that offer, per se, but thought he was negotiating on the final offer.

Perhaps he read all the career handbooks that tell you that you never accept your first salary offer, that you try to negotiate to make sure that you get all that you can get.  I know that is the advice that my outplacement firm told me after I was laid off.  But they never mention the downside of that:  if that offer is all they are willing to pay, your move to negotiate suggests that you are not happy with the offer and want more, which could lead your potential employer to move on.

And to be fair, LaRoche did want more, but he also sounded like he wanted to join the Giants eventually, that he thought he was close, though he had his concerns about the ballpark and such.  It really seems to me, based on what I've read, he thought he was just taking another step toward finalizing a contract, not that he "turned the Giants down", as most has characterized it.

But that apparently turned the Giants off him.  Again, it could have something to do with value, that the Giants had a price in their mind that they wanted to pay for LaRoche, and decided that he was not worth that, and moved on.  Which led to signing Huff.

Studying the Giants and particularly Sabean over the years, I think I have a feel for what Sabean's MO is.  When he wants a player like he really wants a player, they are going to pursue him to the bitter end.  That was something that happened with Edgardo Alfonzo (unfortunately, ultimately), as he outbid Boston's wunderkind, causing a Billy Beane moment when their GM tossed a chair (nice article once on the whole process of signing Alfonzo, I think in the Chronicle about 4-6 years ago.).  I think it happened with Benitez too, and it seemed like they really wanted Carlos Lee as well, but he just really wanted to be near his ranch (and make $108M).

What happened with Johnson and LaRoche, however, showed that he was just working through the process of getting a bat at 1B, preferably a lefty.  I think most baseball fans would agree that Johnson was the best hitter of the three to pursue this off-season.  In fact, many fans over the years have excoriated Sabean for not obtaining Johnson.  He's a great, if perpetually injured, player (which he was again this season).   And I think most would agree that LaRoche was the second best option as well.

But nobody is giving Sabean credit for only wanting to pay what he thought those players were worth, and when it went beyond what he thought they were worth, he moved on to the next best option.  We lucked out on some levels, obviously, with Huff.  There was a huge risk with him  given how poorly his 2009 season went, but to the points I made in the posts I linked above and here:  he's not that old that he couldn't have a rebound season, he did hit very well just two seasons ago, he actually underperformed during his peak years (for whatever reasons) but showed his talent was still there and strong in 2008.  Plus, as we found out later, he finally got himself into shape and is raising things another notch because of the playoff chase.

With every player, there is the potential risk of poor performance and potential benefit of good performance.  Yes, he rolled the dice with Huff, but he did sign him for the price that he thought was right given the balance of risk and reward, for each of the three players.

Yes, it worked out for him, but what most of the people still not giving Sabean any credit don't realize is that what he did is probably exactly what they would have done.  He did what he was suppose to do, in the order he was suppose to do.  If he gets the blame when the process ends up with bad choices like Rowand, Benitez, and Alfonzo, we also should commend him for the ones that work out, like Marquis Grissom, Randy Winn, and now Aubrey Huff.

And hopefully Huff has not priced himself out of the Giants price range with his great play so far, but if it gets us to the playoffs and beyond, it would be worth it:  one to two year contract with a team option, $6-9M range, depending on how much he wants to stay in SF.  After all, he has already made almost $40M in his career:  how much is winning it all worth?
 

1 comment:

  1. Nice post. Huff has been great although, I think Andres may have a slight edge in the MVP department (he was even cheaper, he's under team control for a few more years, he plays some of the best OF that I've ever seen, he hits for average, power, has a great arm, great read on balls, and is our only real run manufacturer on the base paths). They both deserve it.

    I read somewhere that an age considered old in baseball like 33, isn't very accurate. If a player stays healthy, his power will develop as he grows older and when this is seen in players such as Huff, it occurs during the mid thirties. This is also when the patience comes together as well. Look at Jeff Kent. He was not magical until around age 29. At 32 is when he had his best year/MVP season. He hit good through his thirties.

    Aubrey Huff's BABIP this year is .311 (he has a career .294 BABIP). He hasn't been very blessed when he gets the ball in play, however, he has adapted by taking walks and and making better contact. I don't think he's been all too lucky. It just looks like hard work (Andres too). I think that those guys will have more good seasons to come.

    Go Giants!

    ReplyDelete

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