Some preliminary statistical notes on Crawford to the Red Sox

Matt’s working on a Carl Crawford post of his own, but in the interim I’d like to weigh in with a couple of notes on Crawford’s 7-year, $142 million deal with the Boston Red Sox.

– For starters, while Carl Crawford is an admittedly dynamic and exciting player, we’re also talking about a hitter with a career .347 wOBA, and who is coming off a career-high .378 mark. Of course, with a player like Crawford one also has to factor in his defense, which is where he derives a significant amount of his value. Is Crawford worth $20.3 million per year? According to Fangraphs he certainly was and then some in 2010, putting up a 6.9 fWAR worth $27.4 million. He was also excellent in 2009, with a 5.7 fWAR that was worth $25.4 million. It’s probably worth nothing that Baseball-Reference has a rather drastically different opinion of Crawford, as bWAR has his 2010 season at 4.8 and his 2009 at 4.4.

– I also find the move somewhat odd from an OBP perspective. Without doing the research, I’d have to imagine that Crawford has the lowest career OBP — a rather uninspiring .337 — for a $100 million man in history. For a team that values on-base percentage just as much as the Yankees do, I find it somewhat surprising that the Sox were willing to go this high for the lefty Crawford and not, say Jayson Werth, whose overall skill set (and right-handedness) seemingly would’ve been a perfect match for the Green Monster. I know Werth’s two years older and all that, but he’s coming off four straight seasons of .380-plus wOBA production — a level that Crawford has never reached once in his nine-year career — and could’ve presumably been had for $16 million less. Additionally, Crawford isn’t even that much younger than Werth — he’ll turn 30 next August.

– In trying to figure out whether this is a significant overpay, I thought it’d be helpful to parrot what SG did yesterday with his Cliff Lee hypothetical. According to SG by way of Tom Tango, a general rule of thumb is to assume a player in their 30s will decline around 0.5 WAR a season. If you read Tango’s post it’s a bit more complex than that, but for our purposes I’m fine with using that as a general baseline. I also don’t think we can expect a decline immediately off the bat from an elite player like Crawford, so I’ll assume he’ll maintain his lofty 2010 performance for the first year of the deal. I’m going to ape SG’s table showing the various scenarios depending on how much a win is valued, as we don’t know how much the Red Sox value a win. I’m also using bWAR, as it appears SG’s CAIRO forecast for WAR more closely tracks bWAR than fWAR.

Bear in mind this is a rudimentary calculation and the first time I’ve ever attempted something like this. In any event, even if the Sox value a win at $6 million, it appears the overall pact still may be a slight overpay, but it’s probably not a dramatic overpay. One also has to figure that Crawford’s offensive game will see a boost getting to play 81 games a season at Fenway Park, although I’m not sure there’s a way to quantify that. On the flip side, as Ben notes his defensive impact may be somewhat limited manning left field in front of the Monstah, and David Pinto notes that Crawford’s speed may not age all that well.

– How does this affect Boston’s lineup? Well for one, it makes it quite dangerous (and quite left-handed), perhaps moreso than 2010, although Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford have some fairly large shoes to fill in Adrian Beltre (.390 wOBA) and Victor Martinez (.364 wOBA), so I don’t know that I’d expect the Sox’s offense to be overwhemingly better in 2011. If we use SG’s CAIRO projections for 2011 and plug them into Baseball Musings’ lineup analyzer, we get 5.5 runs per game (5.6 in the ideal iteration) for Boston’s presumed starting lineup, a ridiculously robust lineup any way you slice it. Of course, we also have to keep in mind that A-Gon’s and Crawford’s projections are for the Padres and Rays, respectively, and we can expect their overall numbers to see some inflation due to Fenway.

Plugging SG’s 2011 CAIRO projections in for the Yankee starting lineup, we get 5.6 runs per game (5.7 with lineup optimization), so yes, while the Red Sox certainly improved their team significantly with Carl Crawford, the Yankee lineup didn’t exactly get worse. Factor in presumed bounceback years for Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, and I don’t think Yankee fans have anything to worry about. As has been the case for the better part of the last decade, both the Yankees and Red Sox will be fielding elite offensive powerhouses, and we shouldn’t expect anything less from the game’s premier franchises.

If anything, not throwing obscene amounts of money at Crawford should make Yankee fans do a jig, as the team can now keep its cost-effective outfield in place and spend whatever extra money they may have on continuing to improve the pitching staff.

36 thoughts on “Some preliminary statistical notes on Crawford to the Red Sox

  1. Wow, you could make Hillary Duff look like a turd with your creatice analysis. Crawford is a 5 tool player and I certainly agree no one is worth this kind of money, but come on now! Did Texiera earn his $ last year? You have the brush to paint the pic any way you want Picasso. Go SOX!

  2. I don't think this analysis makes Crawford look bad at all; it's just an attempt at an objective look at the contract.

    Regardless of whether it's an overpay, it's still a fantastic signing for Boston, and one that's going to keep them at the top of the AL East for years to come.

  3. Why do you expect bounceback years from Jeter and A-Rod? Next year, A-Rod will be 35 and Jeter 37. It's just a likely that they will both continue to decline.

  4. We looked at the numbers and concluded that ARod has a higher probability for a bounce back than Jeter because he was still solid against the fastball. His problem was that he was swinging at bad pitches. If he corrects that – and he appeared to at season's end – then his overall skills could continue to decline, but the improvement in his plate discipline could lead to a greater performance overall. All-in-all, until ARod has two consecutive seasons like 2010 you have to figure he'll bounce back because he's just such a good player.

    I'm less inclined to believe Jeter will bounce back. He's older than Arod. He was miserable against the fastball last season. Two of his last three full seasons have been below what we expect from him. However, he seems determined to prove the doubters wrong (something that happened between 2008 and 2009) and I'm more inclined to see him get his overall line up to .285/.350/.420 than for it to fall further. That would be a bounce back, but it would also be well below his career production.

  5. I'm personally not all that optimistic on a Jeter bounceback, but so far the two publicly released projection systems — Bill James and CAIRO — are, as both have him rebounding to around a .342 wOBA.

    Both systems also see increased production from A-Rod, and I'm more inclined to agree with that. As Frankie Pilliere noted at the beginning of August, A-Rod was underutilizing the lower-half of his body for much of the year, which may or may not have been injury-related. Alex of course then missed the second half of August and the first few days of September, before coming back and raking to a .411 wOBA during the last month of the season in the heat of a playoff race. Maybe it was the rest, maybe he worked out a mechanical flaw, but I would expect a player of A-Rod's caliber to do everything he can to ensure he comes into the next season feeling as healthy (hip-wise) and as prepared as possible so that he can be the kind of hitter he's capable of being.

    Additionally, as I noted on Monday, A-Rod experienced a massive dropoff in his walk rate in 2010, and even if you don't believe some of his missing power will return, patience is an aspect of his game that should be fairly easy for him to improve upon. While the days of .400-plus wOBA A-Rod are likely gone, I don't think it's unrealistic to expect a bounceback to the .380s.

  6. Larry, you have to remember that Crawford and Gonzalez's projections will change now that they're on Boston. I'll be posting an updated CAIRO later tonight which will have those changes.

  7. Absolutely, SG. I did note in the antepenultimate paragraph of the post that your original projections were of course for Gonzalez as a Padre and Crawford as a Ray, and that we should probably expect their offensive numbers to be a touch inflated due to the 81 home games at Fenway.

    On a side note, any particular reason you projected WAR for pitchers but not hitters in the first iteration of CAIRO? My riff on your marginal win analysis for Crawford would've been much better if I knew what CAIRO was projecting for Crawford WAR-wise in 2011.

  8. Weird, a comment I thought I published earlier this afternoon isn't showing up in this thread. Anyway, at 3:49pm I wrote this as a follow-up to my 3:38pm comment:

    Mike didn't include the link, but to back up his point Alex was actually the 13th-best fastball hitter in the league last season, at 17.2 runs above average. Of course, if you're a glass is half empty person you'd note that this was his lowest mark against the fastball in his Yankee career, but I don't think that's a terribly concerning number.

    Ultimately, a little more selectivity should get A-Rod closer to where you'd expect him to be. As Mike said, if Alex turns in another .360 wOBA campaign in 2011, then we can probably assume he's on the decline for good.

  9. "On a side note, any particular reason you projected WAR for pitchers but not hitters in the first iteration of CAIRO? "

    I'm wary of doing full WAR because of issues with both measuring and projecting defense. The position players do have their batting runs above replacement level listed as BRAR based on whatever position they're listed at and based on whatever the playing time shows, so you can use that as the offensive component (divide by 10) and then either use the defensive projections I have, or your own, or assume average or whatever.

    Or just do offensive WAR plus pitching WAR with the caveat that defense needs to be added or mentally adjusted for.

  10. Ah, makes sense.

    I wouldn't even know how to begin to develop my own defensive projections, but I appreciate your insinuation that I might have some of my own.

    You currently have Crawford at 32 BRAR, or 3.2 oWAR, and then with 6 runs saved above average divided by 10 we'd get 0.6 dWAR, making Crawford a 3.8 WAR player for 2011. Do I have it right?

  11. If that is indeed the case, that would significantly change the perceived value of the deal, as I had Crawford as a 4.8 WAR player in the initial analysis.

    Earlier today Dave Cameron mentioned that $5M per win is apparently the going rate for a win this offseason, so if we go with that figure and Crawford as a 3.8 WAR player with a -0.5 WAR penalty every year going forward in the contract, Boston would get $80.5 million of value during the course of the deal.

    Even at $6M per win, the value of the deal would only be $96.6M, which probably partially explains the Angels' reported $108M offer.

    In any event, I imagine Crawford's a pretty good bet to provide more than $100M of value during the course of the deal, although perhaps not too much more than that.

  12. "You currently have Crawford at 32 BRAR, or 3.2 oWAR, and then with 6 runs saved above average divided by 10 we'd get 0.6 dWAR, making Crawford a 3.8 WAR player for 2011. Do I have it right? "

    Yeah, although my defensive projection is probably underrating him by a non-trivial amount. UZR and DRS have him around +15, but zone rating plus regression knocks him down a lot.

  13. I've always thought Crawford was in the "overrated" camp as a player. Not because I don't think he's a good player (he certainly is), but his press clippings and what people "think" he accomplishes as a player do not match up with reality. He has a career OPS+ of 107 and, as noted, a lifetime OBP of .337. He is not very not selective. For a guy who is not a great OBP machine, and is not a great power hitter, and whose greatest skill (covering ground in LF) will be muted by Fenway, it does seem like this is an overpay. He also hit better on the turf in at the Trop than the road, and he will get less infield hits as he enters his 30s.

    That all said, he will help the Sox and does it really matter if they overpay, any more than it does when the Yankees overpay? Their goal is to win, and Crawford increases their chances of winning right now. I'll be writing basically the same thing is the Yankees sign Lee. It's an overpay, but he'll make them better today.

  14. Should WAR be ballpark-agnostic? His traditional stats may rise, but that would be the case for all players going to a hitters' park, so WAR should remain constant, yes?

  15. Please write about what disappointment arod is to the yanks, all Crawford has to do is win at least two championships and he's already better than Alex number wise no but winning yes. People just need to stop hating on the sox. GO SOX!!

  16. Considering Crawford has hit better on the road then at home for the majority of his career, I'm going to call shenanigans. You also didn't factor in the different from Tropicana to Fenway. Crawford will be fine, Yankees. You all just worry about pulling Lee and fielding the best possible team that you can, because the Red Sox are doing all the right things so far.

  17. How much better would the stats used be if Crawford signed in NY?

    The fact of the matter is that even if Lee signs in NY, Crawford & Gonzalez are good aganist lefties. Plus, I'll take our Lester, Buccholz, Beckett, Lackey & Dice-K, vs your Lee, CC, Pettitte (who might retire), Burnett, and Hughes any day. The lineups, at the very least, are very comparable…

  18. I love when a Yankee backer states the Yankees and their fans should do a jig because a guy they took to dinner the night before he signed with Boston is now off the menu.

    Igawa, Burnett, Pavano, etc, etc.
    Yankee fans have been talking about signing Crawford for 5 years and now the sudden spin. I think the writer preferred the days when ONLY the Yanks spent absurb money.

  19. "as the team can now keep its cost-effective outfield in place and spend whatever extra money they may have on continuing to improve the pitching staff."

    And by "spend extra money" you mean "write a blank check to Cliff Lee and then deal with paying a guy $20 million / yr who is in his 40s."

  20. Hey stop dreaming!!,,Boston will win the division but not the championship, they should be nulo "nada" cero, (DREW, ORTIZ, CRAWFORD, GONZALEZ,ELLSBURY) how they will hit if the Yankees sign Lee,,so,,keep praying this won't happen

  21. "Anonymous said…

    Should WAR be ballpark-agnostic? His traditional stats may rise, but that would be the case for all players going to a hitters' park, so WAR should remain constant, yes?

    For the most part, yes, but if a player's style is particularly suited to a park, you may expect him to actually be more productive to the point that he's more valuable.

    So if enough of say, Adrian Gonzalez's fly ball outs to LF in PETCO turn into Fenway 2Bs, it may make him more valuable than a straight ball park run factor adjustment would show.

    If you're trying to project WAR, that's the kind of thing you want to consider. If you're retroactively assigning value after the fact, it's less of an issue.

  22. Yankee fans do love crawford, but not for the money he is getting paid. All you arrogant soxs fans that are complaining here have to realize the author is not saying he is a bad player, he is simply saying the sox are overpaying him.

    And please dont even try to compare Arod to Crawford. Thats just silly.

  23. Lee is not going to pitch to our lineup every night you moron. Our lineup is far superior than the Yanks. It is so easy to hate the Sox now, not that it was hard to before these signings, but now all Yankee fans are fearful, which immediately causes them to put our players down. Bring it, don't sing it.

  24. Tyler, did you bother to read the article, where they said the Red Sox projected lineup would average 5.6 runs per game, and the Yankees current lineup would average 5.7? Also, Lee might not pitch to your lineup every night, but Sabathia, Lee and Pettitte will face it 3/5ths of the time. And Ortiz, Crawford, Pedroia, Drew and Ellsbury aren't exactly inspiring against southpaws. Fact is, the lineups are comparable, and with the addition of Lee, the Yankees rotation is LIGHT YEARS ahead of Bostons, with Beckett coming off another horrid year, Lackey underacchieving in your ballpark, and Buchholz as sure of a thing to repeat his solid season as Hughes.

  25. did you facter the Red Sox team numbers for next year by using last years numbers for all the injured Red Sox player i.e pedrioa Youkalis

  26. Suddenly Yankee fans care about being cost concious? Lol, every free agent is overpaid for by the team that lands him. Tex was overpaid for, Burnett, ARod, C.C., Werth… the list goes on and on. Crawford is no different and Yankee backers should take the spin off. The whole " not at that price" spin is nonsense and you know it.

  27. Els and Crawford are going to have a field day on the base paths against the Yanks. Lee and CC will be popping xanax like tic tacs trying to control their anxiety as they stare over at Crawford knowing he is going and they won't be able to do anything about it

  28. gotta get on base, crawford isnt a five toolplayer by any means weak arm and very average power, he's a turf hiiter and a lifetime .256 hitter vs lefties 7/142 is ludicrous

  29. It is absolutely amazing how far one will go to make themselves feel better about not getting what they want. The deal is we lost a great player who is young and works as hard as anyone in the business. No baggage, no trouble, no mouth, no STEROIDS, Nothing but good ballplayer and great teammate. Put those numbers up on Jeter or Rodriguez and see what they are really worth. Was Jeter really worth the contract he signed? I know in my heart he wasn't but we wanted him to stay here because HE wanted to stay here. Let's worry about signing Cliff Lee, finding a catcher and getting a 4th and 5th starter, AND get some bullpen help. We are in trouble in 2011!!!

  30. I miss the days when you could just watch baseball, pitcher vs. batter, double plays, stolen bases, etc, etc. Now it seems like we have to be mathematicians and accounts to follow baseball. Stupid Bill James and Billy Beane, thanks for making me have to take a calculator to the ballpark.

  31. Anonymous said … Considering Crawford has hit better on the road then at home for the majority of his career, I'm going to call shenanigans.

    If you're going to call shenanigans, please look up the stats first. His OPS at home compared to the road has been higher in seven out of his nine seasons, and overall has a triple slash at home of .305/.345/.460, compared to .289/.330/.430. That all said, I think the home/road splits is not much to worry about, and I have seen much made of it beyond mentioning it exists. The main knock, and it's fair, is he is neither great at getting on base, nor does he have much power. Odd choice for a $20-million-dollar-a-year man.

  32. Anonymous said…
    It is absolutely amazing how far one will go to make themselves feel better about not getting what they want. The deal is we lost a great player who is young and works as hard as anyone in the business
    You don't have to pretend to be a Yankee fan when posting just because you don't like some of the Crawford comments. The comment from the Yankee fans here have been reasonable. It's the Red Sox fans that are bit emotional, for whatever reason. The Yankees were never in on Crawford anymore than your Sox were in on Lee. Both sides driving up the price for the other.

  33. Why did Lee's offer go up in years and dollars immediately after the Crawford signing if the Yanks were not in on him?

  34. Pingback: A look at the 2011 Boston Red Sox | New York Yankees blog, Yankees blog, A blog about the New York Yankees | The Yankee Analysts