2016 Reds

Hey. Let’s Keep Adam Duvall

Playing GM for a major sports franchise is a fun thing to do. That’s part of why so many of us do Fantasy Sports. Unfortunately, for many of us, there is a huge difference between making fantasy trades online and actually running a major sports organization.

Which is a good thing, because I’m getting killed in my fantasy baseball league. Sure, the guy winning the league has a masters degree in statistics and is an athletic director for a large school district in northern Ohio. But I’m an Analytics Manager for an international, entertainment company. I really should do better than 8th out of 10.

I’m kind of embarrassed about it. I hope nobody finds out.

When you fantasize and fanaticize about sports, it’s easy to speculate on the whys and wherefores of potential trades without thinking of the real-world consequences of those trades. Earlier this week, Jason Linden shared some wonderful thoughts on why he thinks the Reds should trade Adam Duvall. It was a great article and it made a lot of sense.

You should probably go read that article first. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Okay. Now that you’ve studied why the Reds should trade him, here are some reasons why I think the Reds should keep him.

His K% Isn’t That Surprising, Neither Is It Problematic

Jason mentioned that Adam strikes out a lot. He’s right. Duvall strikes out so much he’s solely responsible for an 82% increase in high wind phenomena in every major league park he visits (which is a statistic I totally did not just invent). Jason even went so far as to say that Duvall has been Dave Kingman-esque in his ability to hit for power while rarely walking and getting more strikeouts than Nolan Ryan pitching to little leaguers.

But here’s the thing.

Most power hitters strikeout a lot when to come to the biggs. Another famous Adam, Adam Dunn, struck out 25.9% of the time his rookie season compared to Adam Duvall’s 29.6%. Duvall is also in the same ballpark as Rookie-Dunn in wOBA (Duvall: .372 , Dunn: .398) and wrc+ (Duvall: 131, Dunn: 138). This, despite Dunn having a much higher OBP due to his uncanny ability to walk. Dunn, you will remember, was near the league leaders in OBP most of his years in Cincinnati.

Duvall probably won’t hit 40 homeruns a year like Dunn did (although he is currently on pace for that this season, so who knows?), but he almost does enough with the non-homerun hits to make up the difference in value. Duvall is already at 1.4 Fangraphs WAR and projects out to a high 2 or low 3 for the full season if he stays healthy. Dunn put up only a 2.1 his rookie season.

kingofthemulletsDunn is a bit of an anomaly for power hitters, since he took so many walks. Compare Duvall to someone line Jose Canseco’s rookie campaign – BB%: 9.7%, K%:25.7, OBP: .318, wOBA: .341, wrc+: 115, WAR: 2.9 – and, while the walks are still troubling, the numbers are still good.

He strikes out a lot and rarely walks, but if the return is a walkless Dunn or a mulletless Canseco, that’s not necessarily a drag on the team.

VALUE IS RELATIVE:

The thing about returns on investment, though, is they’re relative to what you paid at the outset. If you spend $50 on a shoebox of baseball cards at a garage sale and find a T206 Honus Wagner, you did well. If you spend $1million on a bowl of ice cream, you lose out on that deal, no matter how good the ice cream is.

There’s a similar philosophy in play here. The Reds didn’t pay all that much for Duvall. He was the also-ran in the Mike Leake trade. He’s already a full run in WAR ahead of Leake this season. Duvall could fall off a cliff and explode and the Reds will have their money’s worth.

In Duvall, the Reds might not have found shoebox Honus Wagner, but they’ve got something a lot better than a million dollar bowl of ice cream.

What this means is, unless he’s keeping someone else from filling his spot (he isn’t) or his numbers get real bad real fast, the Reds have nothing to lose by keeping him around and everything to gain. IF he can keep up his numbers or even play slightly worse, he’ll be a bright spot in a very dark year. That’s not necessarily a quantifiable reason for keeping a player around, but it is a BIG reason: one that will mean a lot to even the hardest of hard-nosed statisticians the closer they get to that 100 loss margin as the season wears on.

OTHER TEAMS AREN’T FOOLED

The story on Adam Duvall this season is he’s had a fast start and it’s been fun to watch him play, but he’ll most likely regress as the season goes on and teams figure him out. You know that. Other teams know that, too, and that will affect what they’re willing to pay. Nobody is desperate for what appears to be a low ceiling /low floor LF with lots of HRs and lots of Ks. We won’t get anything close in value to what we’ve seen thus far.

Since there’s no excessive cost in keeping him around a while, the better option is to see if his success thus far is a fluke or the real deal. If it’s a fluke, no harm no foul. Send him to the minors with his memories and follow up with him in twenty years when he’s coaching high school baseball and teaching History classes side. Talk about his one, shining moment in the sun. Put it on the front page of the paper. It will be awesome.

But if he IS the Real Deal – and, yes, that is a big if, but an exciting if nonetheless – the Reds will have gained a lot more for their patience. They might have a potential big bopper in LF to match Winker in Right. Or, if they DO trade him, they’ll get a significantly higher return than they’d get if they trade him now.

HE’S STLL ON MY TEAM

Duvall is on my fantasy team. I took a risk on him, Tyler Story, and Corey Dickerson as backups. Dickerson hasn’t panned out, but the other two are doing okay. Two out of three ain’t bad, as my Grandpa used to say. Maybe the Reds should think the same way.

Then again, I AM in 8th place. So what do I know, right?

38 thoughts on “Hey. Let’s Keep Adam Duvall

  1. @Joe +100

    He has power. We need power. Power scores runs. And he’s young enough. And, he is in a salary-friendly controllable situation.

    Unless we have a number of big bats on the brink and ready to supply power (and I don’t see them), I say we keep Duvall–unless we get an unexpected and overwhelming offer.

    • Power doesn’t “score runs” in a vacuum. I read something recently saying a player would need to hit something like 100 home runs a season to warrant a roster spot if he didn’t ever walk, single, double, or triple and provided no defensive or base running value. He’d essentially be a .160/.160/.640 hitter.

      Power is probably the single best thing to have, but you still need to be somewhat decent at the other facets of the game to warrant a roster spot.

      That’s essentially the crux of Jason’s article about trading Duvall. The power is great, but he strikes out a ton and never walks. His defense seems adequate at the moment, but that’s over a 2 month span. That puts him on a dangerous path to obscurity based on past guys who had similar profiles.

      • As you say, “Power is probably the single best thing to have…: Amen. Duvall has some. Of course, other players need to get on base.

        No one is claiming Duval can do it all and is the best all-round player and the next coming of Frank Robinson. Still, there is no reason at this point to let Duvall and his power go, unless another team makes the Reds a foolish and overwhelming offer. But that can be said about any other player on this roster!

        • Agreed. Any overwhelming offer should be taken, regardless of player.

      • Patrick: Concerning his defense, wouldn’t you agree that the eyeball test is encouraging? He appears to handle the outfield well, and my impression was that the defensive negatives were mostly about 3rd base. Hitting, it seems to me, is more volatile than defense. The pitchers may adapt to Duvall and make him less effective, but there is little the hitters can do to make him a worse fielder.

    • I agree.
      Also the issue over Duvall highlights one of the quandaries of rebuilding. When does a team, absent immediate direct replacement, decide to move forward with what it has as opposed to stepping back to reload more for an ambiguous date further in the future.

      • I think the only answer to that can come from the organization having a plan on when they will have the right pieces at the right cost. The FO traded for Duvall, maybe they were just taking a stab or maybe they saw him in the picture for 2018 and beyond

  2. @Adam: Your grandpa was channeling Meat Loaf, a baseball sage. Thanks.

  3. Reds = no brainer! Nobody is going to give much for him since they don’t know anymore than the Reds know at this point? If he turns out to be legit then they don’t want to trade him

    Fantasy is a different deal….if you need power? I have him on both teams but the one team already has Bryce Harper, Toddfather, Bruce, Mookie Betts, and Suarez so I may trade someone? I’m too Reds heavy w/Hamilton too. Sleeper pitchers that might be available….Hellickson, Kazmir & Wood w/LA, Duffy w/KC, and Tony Disco of course!

  4. You are correct that value is relative.

    A corollary to “value is relative” could be something like “an extra win on a 65 win team is worthless.” I subscribe to that.

    I think any analysis of Duvall needs to be done under the scope of “can he help the 2018/9 teams win a division title or wild-card berth.”

    I tend to think yes, but as a bench player rather than a starter. From everything I’ve seen and know, Duvall appears to be a true talent 110 wRC+ guy (at his peak) who will likely play average defense in LF and be average to below average on the base paths. That’s a 1.5-ish WAR player over a full year. Basically, Chris Heisey with more power and less of everything else.

    Perhaps the largest reason to keep him is that it’s unlikely other teams will give up much for him. The hope would be that a contender needs a LFer specifically and will overpay for Duvall at the deadline in hopes of chasing down a playoff berth by adding some pop to a lineup that currently includes a no-power backup thrust into a starter’s role. That’s a very plausible scenario because something similar happens every year.

    Bottom line, IF you can get a package that increases projected future WAR over keeping Duvall, you should do it. If you can’t, you should keep him.

    • Well said.

      I’m in the same camp: I have no delusions about Duvall being a long term solution at any position, but he could be a useful piece, especially off the bench. Given the absolute best you could expect to get for him would be a bench-level player, what would be the point to trade him? It would essentially be making a trade just for the sake of making a trade, and could quite possibly be a downgrade.

      Duvall has something you need in a bench player: The ability to score a run or run(s) with a single swing. He also won’t hit into double plays. He’s basically a “Three True Outcomes Minus One” player.

      • He hit into a dp last night. He’s also chased bad sliders like Alfonso Soriano. I wonder if the pressure might get to him batting 4th? We need him to more than a bench player…..esp since they’ll prob move Bruce but if he then that’s a big improvement over scrubs like Pacheco, Skip, etc, etc

        • Duvall also took a pitch on a 3-2 count that was called a strike but looked low; didn’t check the computer to see if it was a strike. And I’ll put Todd Frazier’s first two years up against anybody in the chasing-sliders category.

          Jason said in his article that pitchers will quit throwing Duvall strikes. Maybe so, but for now, when the Reds are behind by 17-4 and the like, pitchers are throwing him plenty of strikes, because it is poor strategy to nibble on hitters when you have a big lead.

          With a small sample size, on a hitter that the pitchers have an strategic incentive to throw strikes to, it is at least possible that Duvall’s low BB rate is an aberration and will improve. We don’t have enough evidence yet to be sure at what level his BB%, and for that matter his K%, will normalize.

          Trading Duvall seems to me to be a solution looking for a problem.

        • In all fairness to Skip, Pacheco at no time in his career was as good as Skip was when Skip was with the Cards.

        • Pacheco, at all points in his career, has been bad. I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but he’s a head-scratcher on this roster.

    • I find it interesting that the team that traded Duvall to the Reds, the Giants, now needs outfielders in a bad way. Pagan is hurt again, and Pence is down for a few months. I think there have been Jay Bruce rumors, but would the Giants pay more to get a cost-controlled guy like Duvall? I’m not itching to trade Duvall, but it never hurts to find out his value to a needy team.

  5. Power bats just like power arms play anywhere.He could bring a boatload if somebody feels he is the missing piece.Sometimes teams feel that this is their shot to win it all and pony up more then they should.

    • I’m hoping this is the case. Teams often overpay for players at the trade deadline. The Reds would be smart to consider unloading ANYONE that another team might overpay for.

      • Exactly. … And the idea is to get to a point where the farm system is productive enough that a franchise can trade a player or two every year who will be getting too expensive. When too many players get too pricey within a short period of time, you end up rebuilding. And in a rebuild, everybody should have a price.

  6. Joe, I love your writing style and humor! Keep it up!

    I don’t know what Duvall will be or won’t be. I will point out though that his BB% is much more atrocious than even Canseco’s, so I’m not sure there’s a good comparison there. I keep going back to the fact that Jason looked at all these players and found no successful player with such a high K% rate and such a low BB% rate.

    What I’m hoping though is that the Reds manage to avoid a perpetual rebuilding cycle. That is trading young players for more younger players. Is Duvall still young? Perhaps not, but trading him feels like a move that leads a team down that perpetual rebuilding path.

  7. Talking about trading a player but not the actual deal seems silly. A team any team offers you a couple of dozen balls and a new set of catching gear you shine them on if a team offers you an early second round power hitting outfielder for him you jump on it. These two examples are not going to happen so just to decide you should trade someone without knowing the offer is well just silly. I did notice in the article the comparison of SO to Adam Dunn but if the old CRS hasn’t taken complete control of my mind didn’t Dunn walk at a very high rate also? Apples to oranges!

  8. So here we are in the midst of the worst April/May in franchise history, and lo and behold, a pleasant surprise emerges to take some of the sting off and give fans a small bit of hope, a little bit of reason to cheer, that is, if they still go down to the ballyard, and what does somebody suggest? Hey, let’s trade our biggest pleasant surprise as soon as we can snd give fans even less to feel good about. Talk about backwards thinking. But that’s what happens when you get your nose too close to the monitor staring at analytics. You miss the forest for the trees. You no longer think like most people think. You outsmart yourself.

    Duval right now has turned out to be pretty much an even trade-off for Frazier, except he’s a hell of a lot cheaper and is salary controlled for the next few years. Folks, these are huge positives. Why in the world trade him now? This is exactly what you want when rebuilding; new guys who are a lot cheaper and make us forget the ex-star who was great, but became unaffordable. Yeah, he might tail off, but he might not. Some obscure stat comparing BB to Ks aint enough to sell me on dumping him quick. I’m letting him evolve and see how it goes. Why wouldn’t you if you were a real GM?

    As far as declaring 2019 “The Year” and using it to justify trades, there’s no certainty that’ll be the magic year. It’s magical thinking declaring that, usually done by numbers geeks too close to computers rather than people. You still have to put people in the seats in 2016, 17, and 18. You have to pay bills. Those years are very important. You have to have players that make people buy tickets. Running a real team aint like fantasy. You can’t rebuild if your attendance drops off drastically. You’re going broke instead.

    Some people said Duvall is too old yesterday. How dumb was that? Frazier was still penciled in as backup at 26, but Rolen was hurt a lot, so Frazier played a lot that year. He got his his first starting job at 27. Duvall is 27. Somehow Duvall is old and ready to decline, according to some guys yesterday, even though we just saw Frazier rise to greatness and become a huge draw from 27 on. There’s some very backwards thinking going on here.

    I jokingly suggested we trade Jason Linden for a rookie over at Fangraphs yesterday. Well, I guess he got mad, cuz my post disappeared. Somehow, Joe, if I suggest trading you for Bo Derrick and 3 fantasy players in single A ball, I have a feeliing you’ll laugh instead. A sense of humor goes a long way in life. Keep it coming, my good man. You’re a breath of fresh air in the high falutin’, overzealous world of deep metrics.

    • Great post jimmaloney. You better be careful and not rock the boat though. There are a few good writers here and Joe is one of them. He doesn’t take life to serious.

    • Your comments are valid, but they could suck for the next 2 years and they likely have a fair amount of financial flexibility.

      If we assume attendance will be down 600k this year to 1.8 million (Their approximate pace) then attendance revenue should be down around 18.0 million. Forbes uses $30 per head for the Reds (Tickets+concessions)-(amuesement taxes+visiting team share). Payroll is down about 20 million so they’re still 2 million ahead. That doesn’t include increased revenue from MLBAM and other shared dollars.

      Mesoraco and Bailey in aggregate earned/will earn 36 million for 2015+2016. If insurance picks up 1/2 of that you add 18 million to the bottom line. If you move Bruce at the deadline (assuming its for prospects) you add another 5.50 million. If by the grace of God they move BP at the deadline, thats another 6 million.So in total you’re looking at 31 million if all those things happen. For a team that has probably broken even in total over the past 10 years thats real money.

      It’s highly unlikely that the eagerly anticipated cable deal will bring the windfall that was estimated a couple of years ago. If we assume the Reds get 75% of what the Cardinals received thats a 15 year average of 50 million…..so a good starting number for next year would be 40 million, which is 10 million more than their current estimated deal of 30 million per year.

      1.80 million is a reasonable estimate for an attendance floor. It’s what they drew in 2009…..during their 9th straight losing season and an economic meltdown.

      Yes, the Reds need butts in seats more than most teams…..but they have cut/will cut/may cut expenses to more than offset the decreases in attendance revenue.

    • I love your writing style as well as I do Joe’s. I don’t always agree with you but it’s always a good read and from a traditional viewpoint that I respect. In this case, I feel you, especially what you’re saying about Duvall being a bright spot in a miserable season. The only thing I’ll point out is that most people don’t simply only use analytics to evaluate. It’s part of the overall evaluation. That said, when some relatively simple and straightforward metrics like BB-rate and K-rate can be used to show that there has, up until this point, never been a MLB player with such a low BB-rate and high K-rate, who’s gone on to a successful career; we must take notice. It’s possibly that Duvall may just be the first such player to do so. There’s a chance right? There’s always a chance. There’s just overwhelming evidence to suggest that he won’t be.

      The way I look at it, the Reds have very little to lose in keeping him and seeing how he does and most likely very little to gain by trading him. I don’t know what the return would be but I don’t think you could move him for much based on some of the same concerns that I see being seen by those who evaluate MLB talent. I’m with Joe that the Reds should probably keep him unless there is an offer too good to refuse.

      • To be honest, I’m more worried Trump might ask him to be his running mate. Far greater chance of losing him that way than the Reds brass trading him. Right now he’s money in the bank for this organization. And with his medical issue (diabetes) on top of his HR numbers, he’s becoming a larger than life hero for the Reds downtrodden fan base.

        Adam Duvall for President!!…err, I mean, Vice President!!…no, no! I meant, Left Field. Yeah, Adam Duvall for LF, or 3B. Either works for me.

        Thanks for the kind words, btw.

  9. I say move Duvall back to 3B when Winker is called up in a couple of weeks. Suarez just does not impress with his fielding at that position.

    • I am not sold on Winker being the savior at LF. I am liking Duvall. Though, I have only seen Winker bat in spring training. It would be nice to have options in the field.

  10. I don’t know why MLB pitchers throw him strikes. On pace for 42 HR and 18 walks. Throw everything at the edge to off the plate and see if he chases. The power is great, but history says the scenario I listed is going to start happening, and he needs to not chase bad pitches when it does.

  11. My 2 cents, you keep Duval unless someone gives up too much for him. If I’m GM, I’m looking to get rid of BP and Cozart (even though I’m huge Cozart fan). I actually keep Bruce. I’m probably alone in that thinking, but I believe you need good mix of vets on a team and I like keeping Bruce with Votto. I’m also not completely writing off Meso being able to be productive member of this team in the future. I want to see him healthy and make judgment after that.

  12. if you ask me, it all depends on the total line up package. Agree that comparing Duvall with Dunn one-to-one is apples to oranges. Doubt Duvall will be a career 40Hr/100BB/100R/100RBI per year kinda guy. However, we never went to the playoffs with Dunn. Why not compare Duvall more with the 2010 Gomes/Nix combo or Ludwick in 2012. If he can put up those kinds of numbers with some consistency, Id say he’s a keeper (unless, of course, someone better comes along).

  13. We finally, at least so far, solve our LF debacle and now some you want to trade him. Sheesh.

    He’s second in the Major Leagues in isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average) at .341.

    He’s the best player on our team right now,” said Brandon Phillips, “It’s about time since I’ve been here that we have a left fielder that’s penciled in every day.

    He is in the top ten in all of baseball in home runs and slugging percentage.

    14 Doubles, 15 HR’s and 32 RBI. I say we keep him.

  14. 4th of 10, 4th of 9 and 6th of 20 teams in each of my 3 fantasy leagues. In 2 of those leagues he has been one of my starters most the season. Overall happy to keep him around especially since he is so cheap for the team. If he does fall flat like the writer above wrote send him to the minors no harm no foul.

  15. I agree with him, for now. Adam is cheap and athletic enough to play LF. As long as we don’t have a “plan B”, play Adam.

    Now, once we do have a plan B, I do believe we trade Adam. I don’t see Adam being the type we “build a team around” or a player to depend on so much we don’t consider others. Once we get a plan B in place, I say trade Adam. Until then, Adam’s in LF.

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