Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hot Stove Update: Free Agent Smackdown- Shane Victorino vs Angel Pagan

On one of the prior posts, the discussion took a turn toward debating the relative merits of two FA OF's on the market, Angel Pagan and Shane Victorino.  Now, considering that Angel Pagan is coming off a season in which he was a major player leading the Giants to a World Series Championship while Shane Victorino has a long history of doing and saying things that Giants fans have come to despise him for, it might be hard to come up with any semblance of a rational discussion here, but it might be fun to try.

Victorino and Pagan are actually very similar players.  They are both switch-hitting CF's with modest power and speed to steal bases.  Victorino, who turns 32 yo in a few days is shorter at 5'9", 190 lbs. Pagan turns 32 yo next mid-season and stands 6'2", 200 lbs.  

I'm going to post 3 stat lines for each player here, 2012, Career and Bill James 3013 Projection:


2012:                  .288/.338/.440, 659 PA, .329 BABIP, 7.3% BB, 14.7% K, 29 SB.
Career:                .281/.333/.424, 2653 PA, .318 BABIP, 7.4% BB, 14.7 % K.
2013 Bill James:   .277/.332/.403, 605 PA, .319 BABIP, 7.6% BB, 14.9% K, 27 SB.


2012:                 .255/.321/.383, 666 PA, .278 BABIP, 8% BB, 12% K, 39 SB.
Career:               .275/.341/.430, 4295 PA, .296 BABIP, 7.8% BB, 11.6% K.
2013 Bill James:  .269/.338/.418, 624 PA, .291 BABIP, 8.3% BB, 12.3% K, 29 SB.

Notice that Pagan had a 2012 BABIP about .010 higher than his career while Victorino's was about .020 below his career number.  Now, I'm someone who believes that BABIP is a widely misunderstood, and misused statistic, but in this case, I think it is essential to the evaluation of these two players.  BABIP does tend to regress to around .300 for most players.  I have not done the exact calculations due to the constraints of time, but it appears to me from eyeballing it that the only difference between these two players last year is that one had a career low BABIP and the other's was above their career average.  If you normalize these two player's BABIP's, which is a statistically sound thing to do, they are essentially the same player! Admittedly, Pagan has a career BABIP that is .022 higher than Victorino's.  My answer to that is there is no obvious reason why Pagan would be expected to have a significantly higher BABIP than Victorino.  They are both fast, so should beat out a similar number of IF hits. Pagan has a higher FB%, but that should, if anything, suppress his BABIP.  Pagan has just a bit over half the career PA's and has had a couple of unusually high BABIP seasons.  It is a reasonable bet that if Pagan had over 4000 PA's under his belt, he would be within .010 BABIP points of Victorino.

Conclusion:  Shane Victorino and Angel Pagan should carry the same value in free agency.  Whichever players can be signed for less is the better deal for the signing team.  At the same signing price, one could be substituted for the other.


  1. I want to take this a step further and look at Victorino's character and how he would fit in with the Giants current roster. For me, a guy like Victorino is just looking for an excuse to play hard. You can tell just by his body language (remember when he charged the mound against Ramirez?). He has a ton of intensity and passion and is just looking for a team like the Giants where he can be appreciated for that.

    Look at the 2 teams he has played for and it makes sense that he had a down year last year. Going from the Phillies with big egos like Halladay, Lee, Utley, and Howard to a team like the Dodgers with even bigger egos who have proven less! Much like Pagan last year coming from a horrible NY team, Victorino is just looking for somewhere he can go all out and not be the only guy on the field hustling.

    I see way more similarities between Victorino and Pagan then differences and thats a big factor in why I think he would be a good fit. His attitude and the tools he brings to the table would fit very nicely in CF or LF for the next few years. Sabes has become a master at getting bargains and Victorino would be a huge bargain imo based on his potential and the fact that his price tag won't be inflated like Pagans because of a monster year last year. Remember, baseball players get paid on what they've done in the past not what they will do so this is a perfect buy low sell high opportunity.

  2. After the offensive comparison we have to go defense, and then it gets a lot more subjective. I'ma choose UZR/150 today, just cuz... Pagan last year for us had a -0.1 according to F/G. His career UZR/150 is 3.3. Victorino had a stellar 4.3, and a career 6.7. That was not what I expected, but I did expect them to be roughly equal.

    Lets go armchair scout territory - I think Pagan has a strong arm, and Victorino is one step away from pie-thrower territory. That can translate in different ways, teams might not challenge a stronger arm for example. Pagan had 7 assists last year, including one that made the highlight reels. He has 29 in his career (5154 IP). Victorino had 9 assists, 59 in his career (8291 IP). Both players seem a bit spazzy in the OF to me, but they are fast and can make up ground quick. Overall I think they are both quality OFs, but one step off of "gold glove".

    One more thing, they have different splits versus R/L despite both being switch hitters. Pagan does better batting RH against LH, Victorino does better batting LH versus RH. I would consider that a big advantage to the Flyin' Hawaiian.

    Finally, I like to cross-check OPS+ or the F/G metrics that sabers consider infinitely superior to OPS+ by sorting PAs by park played. Pagan's top 3 parks are Citi, AT&T and Wrigley (his 3 home parks...) Citi: 781 PA, 299/344/462. AT&T: 364 PA, 267/323/393. Wrigley: 226 PA, 307/363/507. Side note: he hits very poorly at Turner Field, and Citizens.

    Victorino: Citizens: 1961 PA, 281/354/439; 230 PA, Turner: 333/376/507; Old FLA: 217 PA, 258/329/428. Doyer Stadium: 209 PA 298/356/441. He hits poorly at Shea and Citi, a reverse of Pagan. AT&T: 94 PA, 294/351/424.

    What does this tell us? Not sure. Victorino has neutral splits versus his home at Citizens, a good sign. I would say overall Victorino has had more consistent time in his career.

    Finally (really this time) in the measure of "heart" and "grit" and "intangibles" I would say Pagan is a cool dude and Victorino is a total jerk. Now would that change if he's wearing the laundry? Hmmm...

  3. metrics, shmetrics...the evil hawaiin midget cannot be a giant...he is rowand's mini me

    what is everyone's guess about wilson?

    i have a feeling the giants are gonna let him walk

    bacci...if victorino becomes a giant, im gonna be a full time a's fan

    1. I would say 65-35 Wilson is back on a incentive based deal with a 2nd year option. There is just too much unknown about a 2nd TJ for another team to aggressively outbid us. There is also too much marketing and history, I bet the Giants and Wilson meet somewhere towards what the club has in mind.

    2. I think the Giants will non-tender Wilson. I thought Willie's comments re. the Giants owing him were completely off base and inappropriate. As ogc pointed out over on his site, Wilson just pocketed a cool $8.5 M while not pitching all season. They don't owe him anything!

      Maybe he isn't digging the thought of an incentive laden deal, but who out there is going to give him more than that?

  4. BABIP, per Shandler: "Every hitter establishes his own individual hit rate that stabilizes over time. ... Three year BABIP levels strongly predict a player's BABIP the following year."

    For the past three seasons, Victorino had a .280 BABIP, Pagan a .317 BABIP. So 2012 might be the new norm for the Flyin' Hawaiian, which changes the whole comparison, per the stats above.

    I would note other reasons why Pagan's BABIP is naturally higher. His LD% for the past three years is 21%, above average, while Victorino's is 17%, below average. Also Pagan only has 13% IF/FB while Victorino has 18%. Both of these are very strong reasons why Pagan's BABIP should be higher, as line drives are hits at a very high rate (roughly 72% of the time!), whereas to your point, fly balls tend to be outs (only 15% hit rate) relative to grounders (28% hit rate). And, infield flies are basically automatic outs.

    However, Victorino has had the better K% and BB%, which suggests that he should hit better than Pagan for BA.

    Looking at the stats, I noticed a move by Victorino to hit for more power in recent years, causing a spike in his ISO, but that also dropped his BABIP since he's hitting less grounders, a presumable outcome from swinging for more power. He still strikes out at a great rate and with his speed, he should go back to his old ways and hit more grounders.

    The stats, the way I see it, says that Pagan should produce more than Victorino, but to your point, Pagan's 2012 was high because of the high BABIP. If you bump up Victorino for a bounce-back year and lower Pagan's, Shane should be around .725-ish in 2013, while Pagan would be around .750-ish in 2013. For Victorino to match his Bill James forecast, he would need to change the way he has been hitting in recent seasons.

    Between the two, I prefer the one who we can sign for roughly 2 years at fair money. Right now, that appears to be Victorino, as Angel looks to be getting more years and probably more money than I would want to throw at him.

    As much as I appreciate Angel's contributions in 2012, he's a tweener. He's better than Torres, but he's not a true leadoff guy either. And defensively, he's OK in CF, but not plus there, though neither is Victorino. For $10M less money, Blanco can probably match Angel's OBP production, SB, and defense, while only missing on the power, but that isn't as important coming out of the lead-off spot. Victorino is an upgrade over Blanco in CF offensively, but again more so on power and he has a longer track record.

    Hmmm, I'm not as sold on Victorino as I was before, due to his lower OBP level that he seems to be setting. And I think Pagan at this point will be an overbuy, we would be paying for a high end player while getting a Taco Bell player, more fast food than high quality. It would be almost like giving Torres a long-term contract after his 2010 season.

  5. Pagan's BABIP was .010 higher than his career average. That's pretty small (perhaps within a SD). If you think his career BABIP is normalized, then I think you are overstating the impact of +.010 on his numbers. While it's more likely that he has a BABIP below .010 higher than his career average next year, it is nearly as likely that he hits more than .010 over his career BABIP.

    I think the Bill James prediction for Pagan's power is interesting. It is a big tick below his 2012 and a decent drop from his career. What is making the prediction drop that way? I suppose it could be FB/HR rates, or an age-related drop off, but I wonder if it has to do with AT&T's park factors. For a "tweener" like Pagan, whether he hits 5 home runs or 15, 12 triples or 10 long outs, might have to do with where he happens to be that day and what the weather is like.

    After his 2012, Victorino may be a bit undervalued, while Pagan is being overvalued after a hot 2012 and contributing to a WS trophy. But his is mostly pure speculation on our parts as fans and the media. It may be that Pagan buys into the hype, holds out for the big deal, and watches as other teams fill the CF/OF needs with the big names (Hamilton, Upton, Bourn), second tier (Victorino), the forgotten (Ross, Ichiro, Sizemore, Torres, others), 4rthOFs and minor leaguers (such as Blanco), and ends up with a lower than market deal like Ross got in 2012.

    Any way, I like it. Angel back on an overpay? Fine with me! I still love Huff! Angel back on a steal after the other CF spots are filled. Even better! Victorino or someone else cheaper than what Pagan signs for? Great.

    As stated in earlier posts, Blanco give Sabes and Co terrific room to maneuver here. And bringing in a basher for LF will make that their bargaining position even better. Now if I could only think of a LF basher that I actually want.

    1. Just to clarify, I do not think Pagan's BABIP has normalized. He has a lot fewer career PA's than Victorino and his career BABIP is helped by a couple of seasons that are impossible to sustain.

      I think if you gave both Pagan and Victorino 4000+ PA's, Pagan would normalize within .010 of Victorino.

  6. DocB, can't argue the stats with more stats.

    But, I didn't just watch Victorino carry his team for almost two months (with Posey and Scoots) on his back into the playoffs. Pagan did it. Pagan stepped up when his team could have fallen apart after Melky's infamous departure. Pagan did it. Pagan made the offense go with leadoff hits, power, and base running style. Pagan did it. And Pagan destroyed the Bums, not Victorino the Giants when they played key series in Aug/Sept.

    Okay, so granted Pagan's stats taken over the whole of the 2012 season are middling and reflect his very cold and then hot season, his defensive lapses and errors, his parade of outs and sucky OBP in the first half plus. Pagan's prior years' stats with the Mets are on a team with bankrupt owners and mostly going no where.

    Now he's playing for something and a championship team and raised his game to do so. Maybe, just maybe, he is a better player for the next 2-3 years and with the Giants. And he got us free Tacos in the WS.

    Victorino, not so much and that goes for his Philly days too.

    So I am in the OVERPAY PAGAN! camp.

    And guess what the Giants owners got winning the WS? Big $$$'s and lots of it. And guess what they got next year. More big $$$'s and a sold out park and WS merchandise and all the perks.

    So I say enough, OVERPAY PAGAN.

    1. Well, you sort of could have said the same thing about Aubrey Huff after the 2010 World Series, and a lot of people did.

    2. And don't get me wrong. I'm fine with Pagan coming back, even with overpaying a bit. I just find the comparison to Victorino interesting. I would be fine with Victorino too, even if I really don't like the guy, at least when he's in an opposing uniform.

    3. Good points. Pagan really did step up, and his 2nd half play has been flashed while with the Mets as well. Injuries and inconsistent play may be masking something. I have liked Pagan for a long time, I'm just leery of the overpay. I'd be cool with the Gints softening, adding a third year and going 10mm a year. Or the Huffy contract. Also, I don't want to see victorino in the French vanilla.

    4. I tried to get my free tacos. Hurricane Sandy disrupted the supply to Brooklyn, apparently. C'mon Taco Bell, just because your street was flooded the day before, no taco?!

  7. Some Boras-ian sabermetrician ought to figure out the point at which a player of a given age is well advised to accept more money but fewer years, the sort of contract that's more prudent for a team. The player gets less security, but he also reenters the FA market a year earlier. That might mean that he would get a much plusher contract. Why? Because once one gets to one's early to mid-30s, when for many players performance begins to sag, a year less or more seems to have what may be a disproportionate effect on GM's minds. In their imaginations, or at least in the imaginations of the sportswriters and bloggers who expose their imaginations for the rest of us to tap, somehow 34 looks like more than one year over the hill than 33.

    1. That's an interesting point, although I have to say I'm not sure what the point is. I will say this: Scott Boras routinely advises his pre-free agency clients to not sign contracts which run past free agency so they can test the market. Yes, they are risking injury and an early end to their career before they can cash in on the big payday, but on average, they come out ahead if they take that risk and enter the market.

      So, if it works in that situation, why not try it every year? Who wants me to play for them for 1 season? I'll take the highest bidder! Then do it all over again the next year? It would be interesting to see who comes out ahead on that deal.

      Of course, when you see contracts like what Albert Pujols signed, it's pretty easy to figure that he would never come close to that by going year to year.

    2. I don't think that there is a universal solution to such an equation. It depends on how much the player believes that he will be able to stay healthy and productive. Also, you are dealing with the bird in the hand versus the two birds in the bush issue. For example, Upton got $15M AAV, but guaranteed $75M with his contract. Even if you offered him a $30M one year contract, if he's injured, he's out $45M, so I don't see him accepting the one year alternative in that case.

      It was much different with, like, the Dodger's deal with Furcal, I think he got a 3 year deal at $13M per, but was looking for 5 years for $50M (bad memory, might be wrong, but use as example), which means he gambled $11M (but still got $39M) that he would get more than $11M for the missing two years of the contract.

  8. First domino falls: Braves sign Upton to 5 years, $75.25M, average $15M per year: http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2012/11/braves-to-sign-bj-upton.html

    Wow, OK, maybe the market has changed or maybe the Braves were just desperate, but Upton's numbers are not that way different from Pagan, main differences are these: this contract covers ages 28-32, so he could be expected to improve some, or at least not decline much, whereas Pagan starts his contract at age 31 already, and a five year deal would cover his 31-35 years. Also, despite being younger than Pagan, Upton has 6 full MLB seasons under his belt, while Pagan only has two plus one that is about 75% of a season. However, Pagan actually gets on base better than Upton, so he profiles as a leadoff guy while Upton is really more of a middle lineup guy, he has a 167 ISO, averaging over 20 homers so he profiles more batting 5/6/7 in the lineup. however, both are very good basestealers, so any team is probably going to hit Upton 2/3 to take advantage of his ability to steal bases and get into scoring position for their big RBI guys, which is mainly where he batted in 2012. He's much better against LHP, not so good RHP, while Pagan is much better against RHP than LHP. Upton's career numbers are very skewed by his good stats his first two seasons, but his last four is worse than Pagan's last three years.

    Upton's 4 year stats is less than the average NL CF (though his overall is above). He is above average for a second place hitter though, even with the 4 year stats. .242/.316/.420/.736 is his batting line for the past four seasons. Both of them are actually significantly below average CF, both are -5 DRS players at a seasonal basis, meaning that their defense cost their teams half a win per season. Meanwhile, neither of them hit well enough to be a corner OF. Their main value is above average offensive production for a CF, plus much above average speed. That's a dangerous edge to play, much like our signing of Rowand.

    Still, all you need is one bozo GM to screw the pot (and I think the Braves overpaid for Upton) and Pagan will get mega-bucks. 3 years seem likely now, and above $10M, though how much, we will see.

    1. Well-covered territory, but this relates to the Giants not making a qualifying offer to Pagan. Even if it is an overpay, it's one year.

      I don't mind the WS Champs hanging back and working from a position of calm calculation. But, I hope they don't get caught playing catch-up in the new world of financial windfall that MLB finds itself in.

      Upton is worth more than Pagan: Youth and Power.

      But yes, Pagan is going to get paid and I'm thinking it's going to be for 4 years. GMs are going look at Pagan's 09-12, and see three (out of 4) very solid years. Someone is going to roll the dice on him. Maybe 4-$50 mil?

      If that is the market, then a qualifying offer, in hindsight, was the way to go.

      I want to think I wouldn't mind Victorino. But I have to go with Bacci on this. He never was a favorite of mine. And then he became a Dodger. And moreover, Victorino has said, on more than one occasion, that he wanted to remain a Dodger. So, yeah. I don't want him.

      So with Brown in the wings, Pagan wanting too many years, Victorino with the LA stink all over him, what way with the Giants go?

      I'm kinda OK with Blanco. He is a better fielder than Victorino or Angel.

      Of course, then the whole mess turns to left field. God help us if the solution to that is Swisher...

  9. I've ben looking at Swisher's numbers recently and though I started out cold on him, his OBP has been excellent, a 20-30 HR threat each year (not ay AT&T), OPS always above .800, what's not to like? He's a low profile guy who plays hard, and this fits with the Giants ethic.

    I don't know him well and don't know what to look at for defensive metrics, so I have no idea how he profiles in LF. Blanco covers great ground in CF, and Pence held his own in RF, so the dangers are reduced.

    As an above average bat with power, I think he'd profile perfectly for the next 3 years. I think if Swisher can be had on a value contract, he's the better of the FA outfield solutions, and fits the future plans MUCH better than Pagan.

    PS - Reading the tea leaves of minor league profiles, I think Kieshnick fits right between Schierholz and Bowker/Ortmier as a guy who just won't transition. Traid bait!

    1. I had thought that Swisher must have been OK if a team started him in CF at some point, but his defensive stats suggests that he should only be playing 1B going forward, he's pretty bad in the corner OF.