Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The New Matt Kemp Contract

A Barry Bonds type 10 (!) WAR in 2011. This is worth an A-Rod type contract at 30 million a year according to the Halladay Standard. Over the past 3 years, he has averaged a 6 WAR. This is worth 18 million dollars, but he got a 8 year 160 million dollar deal, worth about 20 million dollars a year. So if you take his average over the past 3 years, the Dodgers overpaid him. However, according to his 2011 season, he is being underpaid. So which is it? Kemp has a career OBP of .350, but in 2011 that number soared to a .399 number. In fact, before 2011, his career OBP was just .336, very unimpressive. His Secondary Average jumped from .296 in 2010 to .434 in 2011, and his ISO went from .201 to .262. In 2010 he had a Runs Created per Game of just 4.4 to 8.6 in 2011, as his Offensive Winning Percentage rose from .478 to .771. These jumps are staggering enough (I could go on, for example his OPS jumped from .760 to .986) that if they happened 10 years ago, there would be serious accusations of steroid use. So why were 2010, where he was an okay offensively and bad defensively (according to D-WAR) outfielder, and 2011, where he certainly deserves the MVP, so different? Our old friend BABIP. In 2010, his BABIP was a touch lower than league average at .296, while in 2011 it was a monstrous .380. So obviously a big key to his success in 2011 was BABIP, but was it BABIP luck or was he just legitimately hitting the ball harder? One important thing to look at is walks of course. For the first time in career, he walked above league average. There are two ways to look at this: 1. Because he was either hitting the ball harder or experiencing some mad BABIP luck, pitchers pitched him more carefully, giving him more walks or 2. He has changed as a hitter and is more patient. There is a lot of belief, and I admittedly think this thinking has a lot of merit, that number 2 is not possible. As a fully developed adult playing at the highest level of baseball possible, one does not change the way one sees the ball and develop more patience the thinking goes. This is shown by pitches per plate appearance, probably the most predictive and consistent offensive statistic. To confirm this kind of thinking, Kemp's Pit/PA was 3.96 in 2011, while it was 3.91 in 2010. This is above average, but certainly not a drastic change. So now on the issue of BABIP, Kemp has always been a flyball hitter, but it was slightly more so in 2011 (.62 GB/FB to a career .73). His line drive percentage was the same as it has been his whole career, as was his infield flyballs. However, a greater percentage of his flyballs left the yard at 14.8%, compared to his 10.8% career average. Since he played in the same ballpark the whole time (his OPS +, an Adjusted OPS that accounts for ballpark factors where 100 is average, jumped from 106 in 2010 to a league leading 171 in 2011), one simply has to conclude that he is at least hitting his flyballs harder. However, he only hit 11 more home runs in 2011 than 2010, even if all those 11 less HRs turned into outs in 2010, it would not affect OBP all that much. So one has to conclude that there was a lot of BABIP luck to go along with him hitting the ball harder. Paying a player after an amazing season is always risky, one cannot rely on Kemp putting up these awesome numbers (a PAPP of just 2.04). However, Kemp has a shot of at least being good enough to meet the Halladay Standard in his 20 million dollar a year deal (he needs a 6.7 WAR a year) most years. It is just really risky, especially for a team that is supposed to be bankrupt.

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