Thursday, April 02, 2009
Dear Brandon Wood: Sorry, Your Demotion Is No April Fool's Gag
In fact, looking at Figgy's comparables by age 30, we get —
- Tony Boekel, out of the majors by age 31
- Debs Garms, who played through age 38, but this was mostly due to the effects of World War II on the player population; even with that wind at his back, by age 34 he had ceased to be a regular.
- Bob Dillinger, out of the majors at age 33.
- Farmer Weaver, out of baseball at age 30.
- Emmet Heidrick, out of the majors at age 32, but there's a three-year gap in his record, and his age 31 season was unimpressive.
- Gene Richards, out of the majors at age 31, and only a semi-regular for three of the last four years of his career.
- Jack Rothrock, failed to play a game in his age 31 season, out of the majors by 33.
- George Stone, possibly Figgins' best-case scenario: continued playing through age 33 and was fairly productive (121 OPS+) up until his final year.
- Bill Barrett, a guy who had a couple good years as a 25 and 26-year-old, but was out of the game after his age 30 season.
And if you use comps, you should at minimum use James' age-based similarity scores. It makes not a whit of sense to try to compare the cumulative record of a modern player in mid-career to the full career of a cipher from a century ago before penicillin and the polio vaccine, let alone multi-million dollar contracts, sports dieting and contemporary conditioning and physical training. It's the worst sort of statistical abuse, and would even make Nate Silver throw up in his mouth a little.
Even if we limit our sample to at-30 comps from within the last two generations, the stats can't figure out if Figgy is Bip Roperts or Brett Butler. If he's Roberts, he's going to break down this season and Wood will get 300+ ABs anyhow. If he's Butler, he'll play to age 40 and score 109 runs this season. There are miles and miles between those comps.
I think I'll go with the club on this one. Figgins is in his contract year, he managed to out-hit Wood this spring, and got better in the final two weeks as he saw more major league hurlers, whereas Wood started regressing, walking less, whiffing more. Wood may still get there, but he looked terrible in 150 ABs last season, and one good spring doesn't tell a story.