Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Your 2014 Giants: Recent News on Panda and Pagan

Two really interesting bits of news have come out:
  • Sabean says that negotiations with Pablo Sandoval has been tabled.
  • Angel Pagan's time on the DL last year was not without its benefits, not all health (Merc, Schulman)
ogc thoughts

First off, Giants negotiations with Sandoval have been shut down because, basically, they are far apart in what Sandoval's side is asking for, and what the Giants are offering.  The last news was that Sandoval's side said that they were open to negotiations to mid-season, even though his agent also shared that that Pence's contract is their "base" (and the agent saying "5 or 6 years") and informed the public that the Giants reportedly offering 3 years and $40M.

Now, this makes all the sense in the world to me.   They were too far apart for negotiations to make sense.  I have to go with my prior (not sure if here or comment somewhere - or maybe it was deleted ;^) comment that it seems like Pablo's agent is a novice at being an agent, and severely didn't understand how Sabean likes to operate, which is with his kimono closed.   I'm sure Sabean wasn't happy that Sandoval's agent spilled both sides of the equation.

And there it is, Pence's 5 years at $90M contract is the "base" from which to start, according to his agent, and the Giants opening offer of 3 years and $40M, which the agent, from another account I recall him saying, that it was an insult.

What's insulting is that the agent thinks that Sandoval is worth over $100M right now (that's what 6 years at Pence's contract means).   What's insulting is that Sandoval never kept himself in good shape, even after the Giants rewarded him with his first big contract, he has acted since then like it was owed to him, not that he had to earn it.  What's insulting is last spring he announced to the world that his contract means nothing to him, that he had two years to get in shape before hitting free agency (clearly math or common sense are not his forte).

If Sandoval had stayed in reasonable shape and hit like he did in 2009 and 2011, he would not only be easily worth $100M, he might be looking at closer to $200M, that's how much money he left on the table by never taking his fitness seriously until just before free agency.  If Sandoval had even dedicated himself to fitness in last year's off-season, instead of coming into spring training and declaring that he got two years to get himself in shape, ignoring the fact that the Giants were paying him big money in 2013 and 2014 to be the hitter he can be, the Giants would have at least considered giving him a contract similar to Pence.  Sandoval hits better than Pence and also played superlative defense at 3B in 2011, whereas Pence is merely average defensively, at best (per advanced defensive metrics last few seasons).

The thing is, Sandoval's contract offer from the Giants is pretty fair.  If you take the Fangraph analysis of the disparities of $/WAR by position, for some reason, outfielders get paid more than 3B, and adjusting for that fact, the average 3B at Pence's abilities make roughly $13-14M per season.  If you look at Cot's, he fits into a wide range of market values.  I think he's clearly below A-Rod, 1st with $27.5M AAV, David Wright second at $17.25M AAV, Ryan Zimmerman and Evan Longoria, tied for third with $16.67M.  Then there is Aramis Ramirez at $12.0M AAV and Martin Prado at $10.0M AAV.  So somewhere between $12.0M and $16.67M seems to be the market value for Pablo, in my mind.

That also fits in with the Giants initial bid too.  Really, Sandoval's agent 1) don't know that the first bid is just that, the first bid, not an "insult" that, by the value, values Pablo as the 4th best thirdbaseman in baseball; and 2) is clearly within the market set for the best thirdbasemen in the majors, Pablo is clearly no A-Rod, Wright, Zimmerman, or Longoria, and yet he wants more than they are getting?  The first shows a lack of experience in negotiating or knowing who you are negotiating with, the second shows a lack of preparation and lack of market knowledge, knowledge that is easily examined by anyone with an internet connection.

Wright's, Zimmerman's, Longoria's and Prado's contracts were signed within the last two years, so they are very fresh and valid contracts to compare and contrast against:
  • Wright:  After signing an 8 year contract extension, the next season was his 30 YO season, and he had 8 seasons averaging 5.1 WAR.
  • Zimmerman:  After signing a 6 year contract extension, the next season was his 27 YO season, and he had 6 seasons averaging 4.7 WAR.
  • Longoria:  After signing a 6 year contract extension, the next season was his 27 YO season, and he had 5 seasons averaging 6.0 WAR.
  • Prado:  After signing a 4 year contract extension, the next season was his 29 YO season, and he had 4 seasons averaging 4.0 WAR.
  • Sandoval:  Next season is his 28 YO season, and up to this year, he has 5 seasons, averaging 3.6 WAR.  Even if he produced at his peak season in 2014, that's still only 4.0 WAR per season production.  In fact, his peak of 6.1 is below Longoria's average, and is the only season where he was better than Wright's or Zimmerman's AVERAGE WAR in his career (4.3, 1.5, 6.1, 2.5, 2.7).
Based on the above, there is no way he should get more than what the best thirdbasemen has gotten in the market so far.  His base appears to be Prado, who was older but around as productive as Pablo has been, before getting his big contract.  It appears that he should be closer to Prado than Zimmerman or Longoria, in terms of AAV and years given.  Five years appears to be a fair request, but no way he gets six like Zimmerman or Longoria, they accomplished more plus, moreover, was younger than what Pablo would be the next season.  Given his similarity with Prado, the Giants were rather generous, giving Pablo the same money for three seasons that Prado is getting in four seasons.

I thought perhaps that given their interest in keeping negotiations open to mid-season, that there was a compromise position in the middle of those two offers, like 4 years at $15M that would have satisfied them.  But given how quickly this door closed, clearly the Panda Camp has very high figures in their heads - again, Pence as their base - and from the way Sabean characterized it in the video at the link I inserted above, it sounds like they are still pretty much sticking to their Pence base assertion as his market value.

Good luck to Pablo trying to convince other teams to give him 5 years at $18M per season, minimum.   Any team doing that will have to be pretty desperate for a power hitting thirdbaseman to give him more money than the best thirdbasemen have been getting lately.  He would need to hit like he did in 2009 while fielding like he did in 2011.  Even then, teams are going to balk, both because of the years committed to a player who didn't take his fitness seriously until he had to and because the Giants will give him the qualifying offer that will strip most team's draft pick away from them for signing Pablo.

And if he didn't notice, the NYY already has a 3B, the Dodgers are right at their ceiling of spending, I would think, the Cubs aren't ready to sign anyone for the future yet, and would they take that risk with Pablo, and I can't remember the last time the ChiSox signed a free agent to that kind of contract.  Maybe a lower payroll budget team can take a flier on Sandoval, given that the new ESPN contract basically gave every team enough money to buy one extra-large free agent.  But will they blow their extra money on a player who until this season, never took much care to keep himself in shape?

He might find himself waiting for the season to start after it has officially started next season, like Stephen Drew and a few other free agents are this season.  That's what happens to players who want and expect big money, but had not really done that much to deserve it.

Angel's Just Trusting His Hands

Angel realized something while on the DL last season.

He said he had a revelation he had while rehabbing his hamstring injury last year that enabled him to raise his game when he returned, and to start this year. 
Pagan said his biggest problem as a hitter in his first seven big-league seasons was a lack of patience. As he hit bucket after bucket of balls from a pitching machine he finally realized what coaches had been telling him, to trust his hands. When a hitter trusts his hands he can stay back longer and see pitches longer. 
Pagan said that has made all the difference. He cites patience as the key to his hitting since the injury. 
“In this game, if you fall for the pitcher’s game, he’s going to get you out a lot,” Pagan said. “When you’re patient and wait for your pitch things can change drastically and you can get some good numbers. 
Like these: Since his Aug. 30 return, Pagan is 45-for-127 (.354) with 11 doubles, two triples, three home runs and nine walks.
The serenity shown by Pagan on his first at-bat was, according to him, the payoff for a mental reorientation he tried to make during those rehab weeks. 
"It was patience," he said. "Before, I had the game backward. I was falling for the pitcher's game, letting them get me behind and get me out. Now, I'm waiting for the pitcher to come to me." 
The light bulb went off in Pagan's head about this, he said, while watching all those games last summer and then going into the batting cage. Even though he was hitting off a machine, he would begin waiting for the best pitches or purposely keep his hands back to be ready for pouncing on the ball.
That's a key thing that often gets forgotten about major league players:  how hard it is to stay within yourself when you are playing the game.  Your mind starts wandering, you start thinking too much, and that gets in the way of your true talents from shining.  Players use different ways to get their minds out of the equation.  Ishikawa reportedly found God and decided to leave it in His Hands, which freed his mind to suddenly hit much better in the minors.  Some never find the key and have to leave the game.

Pagan is lucky to have figured this out, it's never too late to learn some key insight into the game:  see how Torres parleyed that into some nice money by changing his batting mechanics totally.  This might also extend Pagan's career by a few years, if his hitting since returning is truly indicative of his improved hitting.

Let's see what the numbers say.  His career BABIP before this season is .317.  That's with a 14.4% SO% and 7.4% BB%.  That's a 1.94 K/BB ratio.  He had a 8.3% XBH% and 32% X/H%.  58.6 AB/HR plus 0.67 GB/FB and 0.78 GO/AO, with a 21% LD% and 3.9% HR/FB and 13% IF/FB.

For this season, his BABIP is .500, clearly going down, so nothing there.  13.5% SO% and 8.1% BB%, both within his career ranges, and so is his 1.67 K/BB ratio.  He has 13.5% XBH% but that might be due to high BABIP, especially since his 33% X/H% is right in his career range.  34.0 AB/HR but that could be small samples.  0.81 GB/FB, that is a high for his career for full season work and continues a trend of raising that ratio over the past 3 seasons.  0.75 GO/AO is right near his career average.  34% LD% is very high for his career, he averaged 21% and peak was 24% last season.  As well as his 6.3% HR/FB, but again, could be small sample sizing.  His peak seasonal high was 4.4% in 2010 and he's been in the low 4's in his recent seasons, suggesting that is his norm, in the low-to-mid 4's.  And he hasn't had an IF/FB so far this season, which greatly helps anyone's BA.

So that is his big difference this season so far, his line drive hitting and lack of IF/FB.  Obviously, SSS, but he's been a good line drive hitter his whole career, league average is only 19%.  So his BABIP should roughly halved once the luck ends.  And I don't think anybody averages that high a LD%, though I'm not sure what the high for the majors is.  He will definitely come down, but where he ends up will be the question.  If he can stay near .800 OPS and .340 OBP, that would be great to get out of the leadoff position.  

In this last games of 2013, he hit .323/.376/.496/.871, with a .350 BABIP.  Dropping his current BABIP to .350 would leave his BA at .291 and OBP at .336, both right around his career norms.  His SLG would be around .430, which would leave him near his career .761 OPS.   He appears to be totally near his career norms for everything except for LD% and BABIP being elevated.

So despite what he says right now, his numbers are very similar to his career norms, and as his BABIP normalizes, so should his batting line.  He would need to continue to keep his LD% higher, which would leave his BABIP higher, if he hopes to keep his batting line greatly improved.  It's something we can only wait and see.  Good luck Angel!  We're rooting for you!


  1. Hey OGC - what do you think about Pablo's stats decreasing the last 3 years? The BA/OBP isn't that bad, but the SLG is really dipping. Do they worry about it? Is that the key that made the Giants hold strong on contract talks? I put up the numbers at raising matt cain today.

    the thing with the Panda for me is he absolutely has to rake. If he is a singles hitter he is very ordinary, and easily replaceable.

    Having a 3 year trend in his stats may hurt Panda's market a lot, in addition to the points you outlined.

    1. I didn't look into this stats now, per your comment, but I don't think his overall numbers reflect his abilities accurately. That's because he's basically a singles hitter when he's covering from an injury and trying to find his stroke back.

      As we know, 2011 and 2012 were affected by his hamate bone breaks, and 2013 was affected by a couple of injuries he had; that's why 2013 was lower, he had two extended periods of recovery, he was just starting to hit again when he got injured again. I recall looking at his stats outside of those periods, and he was Panda-like then, it was just a matter of his injuries hampering him the past few seasons.

      However, while he might be a better hitter while he's healthy and got his stroke, this may just be who he is: an injury prone player. Combine that with his being a single's hitter for 4-6 weeks after coming off the DL, and I can see the Giants or any team being reticent about giving him a big Pence-type contract. That's basically why I think his agent's being stupid about negotiations - he's got $ signs in his eyes, not a good way to negotiate, that's what happened to Aurilia and you saw what that did to him.

      Though Panda is a much better hitter than Aurilia, so the same exact thing won't happen, but what I'm referring to is that his agents held out for what they thought he was worth and he ended up taking a cheap deal with Seattle, couldn't get his hitting going, and he never did get that big contract. I would bet the Giants would have given him a lot more than what he got in terms of contract had they been more reasonable.

      I can see Pablo being like I-Rod in 2003 (?), holding out for a long time and finally taking a one year deal (perhaps as much as I-Rod), probably like Morse's deal, to play somewhere by spring training. Morse seems to be a good comp in that he's been dealing with injuries too, around the same age, but hits pretty good when he's healthy. It could be like with Molina in 2010, where we sign him to a deal just before spring, at a fair price, I can't imagine that the Giants wouldn't still be interested in one year, nor that Pablo would want to leave for a one year deal if he can get the same or similar amount from SF.

      But I agree, mostly: if he's a singles hitter, we can replace him. I don't know about easily, but with the guys we got in the lineup, and assuming we end up signing Morse to a 2 year deal, we probably can get by without him around, and in 2015, we could be ready to see Panik up here, and maybe move Scutaro to 3B, maybe Duvall could be ready, or maybe Susac continues to rake and Posey finally moves to 3B and the Panda era might be over...

      And yeah, a 3 year declining trend would definitely hurt his value in terms of total years and thus dollars, but he's going to get a pretty good deal from someone for one year, at minimum, I'm pretty sure about that, and I think 2-3 year deals are what he'll be seeing if he has a so-so to good year and not a Panda year like 2011.

      Oh, and it also depends on how well he fields 3B as well. DRS had him worth almost 3 wins defensively in 2011. If he can repeat that in 2014 while being a singles hitter, he'll probably get a better deal, much like Adrian Beltre, as he'll have a high BA since he don't strike out much.

    2. Oh, and here are my thoughts about his hitting so far.

      I think that he's probably OK, the announcers say that he's been hitting the ball well with some bad luck. I would counter that perhaps some of that bad luck is self induced based on this odd fact: he's leading the team in walks.

      The Panda has never liked to take walks. But look at him now, he says he lost the weight at the behest of his teammates, it had nothing to do with the contract, he's trying to be the model player that teams want to unload a Panda-load of Benjamins into his bank account, so maybe he took to heart what Barry that Batter Whisperer perhaps said to him in spring training and trying to take more walks.

      Well, as I've noted before, Malcolm Gladwell's article said that when people are in learning mode, their muscle memory is not working, he's like a beginner again. So perhaps Sandoval is trying hard right now to take walks, but that's causing a micro-second of extra wait time, and thus he's just missing pitches he would maybe knock with authority otherwise.

      He is not striking out too badly, plus walking a ton, so his eye must still be pretty good, he's just making the same contact. I would give him a month to figure out everything and it starts to become muscle memory.

      And luckily, he's doing it batting 3rd, the spot you want to put your 5th best hitter, because that batter is in a lot of 2-out situations, so on bases and extra base hits are not worth as many runs as it is in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, or 5th spots in the lineup. Though if Morse continues hitting, they might swap until he starts hitting again. I think it is a matter of time.

      Though I also think it's a matter of time before he gets injured, and it pushes him back to zero. Hopefully not for his and our team's sake, but I'm waiting for it...



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