Fridays Above Replacement

Jose Peraza has played in 16 games for your Cincinnati Reds.  He played in 7 games for someone’s Los Angeles Dodgers.  In total, Peraza has been to the plate 77 times.  Since Bryan Price chose to play a possibly-concussed Billy Hamilton over Peraza on Thursday night, I don’t have to include any caveats like “through Wednesday’s game.” In reality, there really isn’t enough data to draw any meaningful conclusions.

See you next week, folks!

Peraza

Photo: Kareem Elgazzar/Enquirer

Oh. Right. I have to write something.  Hm.  Ok, then!

What we know about Peraza is as follows:

  • He doesn’t (and probably won’t) hit for much power
  • He swings at a lot of pitches
  • As a corollary to the above, he doesn’t walk much
  • He makes a lot of contact
  • He’s extremely fast
  • He was 21 years old on Opening Day
  • Many fans are unhappy with the Reds pursuit of Peraza

Ok, these are our going-in assumptions. I won’t touch on the last bullet until the end of the article.

Since we don’t have a lot of MLB data to do any reasonable trend analysis or predictive analysis, I’m going to do a different sort of analysis; comparisons! Basically, who is a good comp for Jose Peraza?

In order to locate a good comp, we have to identify the things we think will define Peraza as a baseball player.  The first thing that pops into my mind is his plate discipline.  We don’t know exactly what his BB% or K% will be, but we can be pretty sure he’s not Joey Votto, and also pretty sure he’s not Adam Duvall.

The second thing we’ll look at is Peraza’s lack of power.  We’ll try to isolate this variable by using…isolated power (ISO).

Third, Peraza’s speed is going to play a big factor in his overall production, so we’ll look at base running runs above average (BsR).

Fourth, we’re going to look at BABIP, which is partly made up by speed (already accounted for) and how hard you hit the ball.  So, we’ll also look at Soft% and Hard%.

Now that we’ve identified our variables, we need a methodology.  I propose we use z-scores! Do you agree?  I’ll assume you do since I wrote this before you read it.  (Is the cat alive?)

Our sample from which to draw comps will be populated by every player who accumulated at least 1000 PA between 2007 and 2016.  This ends up being 537 players.  Their might be a bit of survivorship bias introduced here, since you have to display some amount of skill to accumulate 1000 PA, but we’ll press on!

I pulled the numbers for BB%, K%, ISO, BsR, BABIP, Soft%, and Hard% for all players in the sample.  Then, I calculated the standard deviation of each stat, as well as the mean.  Here are those figures:

chart1

ISO and BABIP means look right in line with actual league average, so perhaps the bias mentioned earlier isn’t really an issue.

Now, we need to determine the figures we want to use for Peraza.  For BB%, K%, Soft%, and Hard%, I’m going to use his actual MLB numbers from last year and this year.  These stats stabilize quicker than most, so we’ll just go with what Peraza has shown us.  For ISO, I’m going to use .100, because his current ISO of .045 is likely not representative.  For BABIP, I’ll use .315, which is 5-points higher than his 2016 BABIP.  He is not a fly ball hitter and he runs well, so he should run a slightly above-average BABIP.  For BsR, I took his total cumulative BsR and pro-rated it out to a full season.  Here are those figures added in:

chart2

Now that we have all our numbers defined, we need to decide how we want to group them together to create comps.

As a starting point, I’d like to look at Peraza’s plate discipline and his penchant for hitting the ball softly.  Since we’ve already calculated every player’s z-score for every stat, we simply add them up for those selected stats and sort from lowest to highest!  Here are Peraza’s comps based only on BB%, K%, and Soft%. I’ve also presented “6-year WAR” to show the amount of value provided during the theoretical team control years.

chart3

Here we see some interesting characters.  Most interesting, perhaps, is Ichiro Suzuki.  He’s proof that you can be a productive player without walking a lot or hitting a bunch of homers.  He, of course, is a pretty big exception.  Not many people have the bat control of Ichiro necessary to keep the K% down.  Also, Ichiro came with superlative speed and a stance that let him fall towards first as he finished his swing.  As such, Ichiro accumulated nearly 600 infield hits in his career.  Six. Hundred.  Perhaps Peraza will be like Ichiro, but I doubt it.  Let’s look at some different comps.

chart4

In this comp, we’re look at base running value, BABIP, and BB%.  Recall that BABIP is a byproduct of your batted ball profile (grounders, liners, fly balls), your batted ball authority (Soft%, Hard%), and your raw speed!  This list looks vastly different from the first list.  It is, however, populated with many productive players, as well as Willy Taveras.  The fact that we see Mookie Betts and Jeff Kent show up indicates that we need to add a power component into the mix.  Let us choose ISO! Behold:

chart5

Adding in ISO gets rid of Betts and Kent, as expected, and also adds a few familiar faces; Jordan Pacheco (ouch) and Billy Hamilton.  Pacheco is interesting because he really wasn’t a good base runner.  Turns out his BB%, BABIP, and ISO are almost identical to Peraza’s numbers, so he gets on the list.

I’m still not 100% happy with this, so let’s throw the kitchen sink at this and add in K% and Soft%.  So, basically we’re looking for someone who runs very well, doesn’t hit for much power, doesn’t walk a lot, strikes out less than average, and also doesn’t hit the ball particularly hard.  Here’s the final list!

chart6

The first two names here are the same as the last list.  Joe Panik and Ender Inciarte are two decent players.  They have both accumulated a decent amount of WAR for their teams while still being under team control.  If Peraza ends up like either one of these guys, I don’t think the Todd Frazier trade will look so bad.

Now that I mentioned the Frazier trade, I’ll talk about it a bit more.  Many people don’t like it because it seemed the Reds targeted Peraza for speed and defense, and speed and defense aren’t super valuable.  While this may be true, they do have value and they derive their value from being fairly cheap and fairly consistent.  Barring injury, speed doesn’t slump and defense doesn’t slump unless your name is Chuck Knoblauch.  Regarding my “cheap” comment, players who accumulate value via speed and defense generally make less in arbitration and free agency than guys who accumulate their value via home runs and RBI (article coming later this year).

To wrap this up, I’d like to say I actually like the pick up of Peraza; I think I’m one of the few.  He won’t be a super star, and he won’t be Ichiro.  He will, however, have a very high likelihood of being a 1.5 to 2.0 WAR player for several years, while providing positional versatility.  In my opinion, he’s the kind of guy the Reds will need 1-2 of in order to have long periods of competitive teams given their inability to outspend people.

Just for fun, if you were to take the list of comps and sort it in reverse order (showing the most dissimilar players to Peraza) you get the following: Jack Cust, Carlos Pena, Adam Dunn, Votto, Ryan Howard, Paul Goldschmidt, Jim Thome, Chris Carter, Mike Trout, and Chris Davis.

Note: I specifically left out defense because of positional concerns. If Peraza were to be primarily a 2B/CF player, we’d see a very different list than if he were primarily a SS.  Also, speed correlates highly with defense, so it’s kind of baked in.

All stats courtesy of FanGraphs

 

Join the conversation! 37 Comments

  1. I love the Redleg Nation logo on some of that stats. Nice touch!

  2. Nice insight. I think the Reds front office brass see Peraza as an Omar Vizquel type of player in the middle infield. However, Vizquel was always in the 8-10 BB% area, where Peraza is not.
    If speed and defense are going to be the hallmarks of future Reds teams, maybe Vizquel would be a somewhat ideal candidate for the next manager. Senzel is supposed to have good wheels. Schebler and Winker have good wheels. Holt does too.

  3. Nice analysis and I love the title of the piece.

    Wow, picking on poor Chuck Knoblauch. For shame *wink* … Steve Sax also had the same issue. Mackey Sasser had a similar issue throwing the ball back to the pitcher. Baseball is a strange game.

    • But..but… I also picked on Willy Taveras!

    • As the notoriously bad defensive outfielder for the Dodgers, Pedro Guerrero, used to say, ‘God, please don’t let them hit the ball to me. And please, don’t let them hit it to Sax.’

  4. Nice job Patrick, I love reading your articles.

    I had an off topic statistical question. I have this gut feeling that Brandon Phillips swings himself out of more walks than the average guy. That is he’ll get 2 or 3 balls and swing at a couple of pitches that are out of the strike zone and he’ll swing and miss (or swing and make really bad contact) at them so instead of being on first base with a walk he’s heading back to the dugout. My question is: Can we track this? Is it possible to see what somebody’s swing rate is on balls out of the zone when they have say 3 balls and 1 strike? So not in a “protect the plate” situation. And can we compare that to a league average?

    I don’t know now that I have typed it out it seems like a bit of a nit picky thing.

  5. When you talk about about value with regards to speed and defense, I think you are conflating two different types of value.

    The first type of value is what you add to a team on the field; what skills you have that increase the likelihood your team wins. Speed and defense provide value to a team in terms of saving runs and adding runs (and runs = wins whether through prevention or creation), just in different ways than power does.

    The second type of value is maximizing production while minimizing cost. Most people would choose to buy a brand new Mercedes for $10,000 over a brand new Ford Focus for the same price. The speed and defense types provide this type of value to a team in free agency; a 3 win player on the open market that accumulates his WAR through speed and defense will likely cost a team less than the slugger types.

    The problem with the Reds targeting a guys like Peraza is that they aren’t providing the second type of value to the team. Peraza is ALREADY cost controlled until 2019, and under team control until 2022, and any future player they acquire in trades of Cozart and Bruce are likely to be in similar contract situations.

    But the bigger problem I have with the getting Peraza is the dogged determination and narrow focus they seemed to have when trying to trade for him. Maybe that was the best return possible, but it doesn’t seem like the process the Reds used was very good.

    • You are correct on the two types of values. I sort of just tossed them in there and assumed everyone would get it. Thanks for explaining it.

      Regarding the 2nd type of value, a 2 win player with Peraza’s skill set will cost around $6 million less than a 2 win player with someone like Duvall’s skill set. That difference is realized through 3 years of arbitration. So, he does provide that type of value still. Perhaps not a ton, but having a guy who is very, very unlikely to ever get a huge arbitration raise is a ‘valuable’ asset, in my opinion.

      • That does have some value, I just think if you are going to have to pay extra for power (which every team needs at least some of) better to do it in arbitration than the open market where you’re competing with the deep-pocket teams. I’d think it more prudent to try to snag some extra value by signing a guy who provides value with speed and defense in free agency and trying to, such that you can, develop the power hitters from within (draft/trades for prospects).

        • Agreed, you’d rather have your power come from pre-arb and arb guys. But, in the absence of that option, you take what you can get I suppose. Think about how much value the Cubs are getting out a Kris Bryant, for example. Astounding.

          Also, I think power isn’t as easy to predict during the transition from minors to majors, so you’d probably have a higher bust rate on those guys than a guy like Peraza, who at this point, is basically a guarantee to provide some amount of “type 1” value, having been decent-ish in AAA at 21.

    • This is changing, though. Look at the demand for traditional sluggers on the open market the last few years like Trumbo,Cruz, and Cespedes versus more well rounded players like Heyward and Zobrist. It’s one of the reasons that Jay Bruce won’t bring a whole lot back in a trade anymore. Teams just aren’t overspending for power only guys anymore.

      • Right, but the arbitrators are the guys who need to change, not the teams. I think arbitration trends will lag significantly behind free agency trends.

      • I think that’s half right. Teams are giving more money to well rounded OFFENSIVE players. They’re looking more at BB% and OBP than batting average and home runs. If Peraza, or Hamilton even, could put up Jason Heyward 2014 offensive numbers (.271/.351/.384, 110 wRC+) numbers, I don’t think we’d be talking about this. Heck if either could put up the numbers Heyward had in his worst offensive season in 2011 (.227/.319/.389, 97wRC+), I don’t think we’d be talking about this.

        The problem isn’t that the Reds seem to be targeting players that derive MOST of their value from defense and/or base running while producing league average or so at the plate. The problem is the Reds seem to be stockpiling players that need their excellent base running and defense to compensate for their below average skills at the plate.

      • “It’s one of the reasons that Jay Bruce won’t bring a whole lot back in a trade anymore. Teams just aren’t overspending for power only guys anymore.”

        With a SO% of 20.7 (just marginally above league average), an OBP of .325 (at league average) and an ISO of .290 (nearly double league average), I don’t think Bruce qualifies as the ‘traditional slugger’ you referenced. Whatever caused Bruce’s performance drop during 2014 & 2015 and interupted his development and refinement as a hitter, seems to be a past event after a very consistent and dominant performance during the 1st half. I think teams looking for a LH hitting masher to fill an need and put them over the top for a deep playoff run are recognizing those results and reevaluating Bruce’s offensive potential as an offensive weapon.

  6. Uh oh. Someone dial Marty and tell him Votto has been better offensively than Duvall this year… then duck and cover….

    Votto wRC+: 120
    Duvall wRC+: 119

    • wRC+ hah! Duvall has to be the better player. He has way more RBI!

    • He’d say that that SABR crap is nonsense. I’m not sure he’d say that but Marty is very anti-SABR. I mean more so than even Harold Reynolds.

    • Votto has completely recovered his offensive mojo. He has even eliminated that goofy-looking, quasi check swing and is now striking out at a career norm of 19.0% & walking above his career norm of 15.9%…

      .172/.258/.241 for a .499 OPS during the 1st two weeks of 2016
      .229/.327/.313 for a .640 OPS with a 23.5% SO% & 12.3% BB% during April
      .200/.333/.484 for a .818 OPS with a 29.9% SO% & 14.1% BB% during May
      .319/.466/.549 for a 1.015 OPS with a 19.0% SO% & 20.7% BB% during June

      Votto may be entering another phase of production similar to his 2nd half performance in 2015. That should be scary for the NL pitchers not playing for the Reds. The Reds need to find someone to hit in front of Votto who will get on base well above league average (could that be Peraza?) and someone to hit behind Votto who can make a pitcher pay dearly for walking Votto.

      I have no idea what happened during the 1st teo months of this season, but I think the umpiring calls made it difficult for Votto to adjust, but adjust he did… once again.

  7. The yips are a disability, man. You wouldn’t make fun of a guy in a wheelchair, would ya?

  8. Great analysis.

  9. To me, this is a very well researched and depressing article. I like everything about it except the conclusion that Peraza was a good guy to get in the way that we got him.

    The thing that this article doesn’t discuss in terms of his value is the opportunity cost of getting him. If Peraza were the Reds 4th round pick from 2012, and everything else in this article stayed exactly the same, then sure, I think everyone could agree that Peraza has some value, and that he may contribute a little to a good team.

    But that’s not how the Reds got him. They had one of the most valuable trade chips in baseball last year, and they were only able to get a guy that profiles as maybe a guy that can possibly be average but probably will be mediocre. That’s what is bad about Peraza.

    He is who he is, and that’s fine. He’s going to be a major league player, and may play for a good long while, maybe enough to amass double digit WAR over his whole career. But we gave up two years of an all-star 3rd baseman with a team friendly contract. Frazier racked up 9.3 bWAR over the last two years alone. It is entirely possible that Frazier will be more valuable in 2016 and 2017 than Peraza will be over his entire career.

    This is why every analyst in the game said the Reds got the bad end of the trade. It’s one thing to say that Peraza may be an ok ballplayer compared to all humans who try to play the sport, but it’s another thing altogether to say that he was a good guy to get in the Frazier trade.

    • Good post, Jeremy.

      Of course, I’m in the “I wish we got more” camp, but we got what we got. There’s no way for us to know if the Reds actually could have received a better package. Because of that, I try not to speculate on it. There is some chance (even if it’s small) that the package they took was the best.

      Also, Scott Schebler has some non-zero chance of being decent. He’s young, athletic, and can hit the ball very hard.

      Perhaps I should have said “I don’t dislike the pick up of Peraza…” rather than “I like the pick up of Peraza…” That would probably be a bit more accurate.

      One parting though… given that the Reds seem to be attempting an “retool” or whatever rather than a traditional tear-it-down rebuild, Peraza is a better player to try and attain that goal than a A+ high-upside guy.

      Long term, it will likely not be the best of trades, but it won’t be the worst either. The Reds took a middle road approach that will more closely fit with the Reds trying to be competitive in 2018. Will it work? History says no, but we’ll have to see I guess.

      • I think that’s a fair assessment. I agree it’s not going to be the worst of trades, and Frazier is having a down year in some areas, so he’s making it easier to let it go.

    • I get what you’re saying about Fraizer but I think you are overvaluing his worth at the time. Don’t forget he had a pretty bad second half of the season which more than likely decreased his trade value. Also Walt had just received a pretty good haul from KC for a half year of Cueto several months earlier so I doubt that Walt all of sudden lost the ability to negotiate a favorable deal. I think he got what he could at the time.

      In addition, you’re neglecting the cost of Fraizer’s salary over the two years which will be around $20-25 MM so in reality his surplus value is 6-7 bWAR and even less if you go by fWAR where he only has been worth .7 so far this year. Will Peraza exceed 6-7 bWAR during his cost controlled years? Judging by Patrick’s comps it appears that the answer will be likely be yes so if you go by WAR it wasn’t bad trade.

      • The problem with thinking that the Reds got all they could for Frazier is that they had targeted Peraza in the Chapman trade first. He was clearly who they wanted.

        As far as the salary consideration, that’s fair, but it doesn’t do me any good. It’s a decent way of looking at it from a business perspective, but not from a fan’s perspective. It’s not like they reduced the cost of tickets because they saved $20 mil.

        They had a player in Frazier that I think they could have gotten a better player in return for. The fact that they were going to trade a relief pitcher for the same player, and the overwhelming number of analysts who did not like the deal for the Reds is my evidence for that belief.

  10. I’m kind of worried about having a guy who has Billy Hamilton as one of his best comps in a lineup with Billy Hamilton. And a pitcher. BH may be worth it for his defense and his potential, but having two light hitting/low OBP speedsters as cornerstones of the rebuild seems risky.

    Great article, BTW.

    • Thanks, Eric. The next “good” Reds team looks like they are aiming to prove the whole “value is value” thing I espouse. If that’s really true, it shoudn’t matter if you are 2 WAR hitter with 20 homers and bad defense, or 2 WAR hitter with defense and speed and no homers.

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