FanPost

Why we don't want Damon (long and stat intensive)

First, I'll start with the obvious.  Damon is a poor defensive outfielder whose skills are declining.  For the price tag-about $4 million-we're getting a guy who can only play LF, and there's reason to worry about whether he can do that effectively.  Last year, UZR had him at -9 in LF.  And from what I've heard from Yankee fans, he got even worse as the season progressed-by the playoffs, they were just praying for teams to not hit the ball to LF.  He was never a particularly good CFer, but his skills had clearly declined during his last year with the Sox and going into his time with the Yankees, which is why he's only a LFer at this point, and he's only getting older.  He's now 36 years old, and there's only season of a decent sample size to base his defense off of, and that's 2009.  He logged less than 1000 LF innings total in 2008 and 2007.

It's clear that any time he spends in the field will take away from less capable defensive players.  Matt Diaz has generally been above average in LF, though he's regressed a bit since he was injured in 2008.  Still, he's average at worst right now, and is probably a bit above average.  Melky Cabrera's OF time has more noise in the data, but on the whole, he's a slightly below average CFer and well above average corner.  His defense gives him value alone, and his bat is essentially league-average.

Most people see Damon as the solution to our lead-off issues.  First of all, the speed difference between McLouth and Damon is nearly inconsequential at this point.  Most projections have McLouth stealing more bases than Damon, but given that this is a Bobby Cox team, we're not going to run a lot regardless, and we're probably looking at both guys having SB numbers in the low 20s.  Stolen bases are overrated anyway because the risk generally cancels out the added win probability.  At 75% you're breaking even-at 79%, you're over, but it's still nothing to brag about.  Johnny Damon is at about 79% success on his career.

Ideally, in the leadoff spot, we'd go with some type of platoon, in order to take advantage of Matt Diaz's sick ownage of lefties last year to the tune of a .464 OBP.  So I'm going to compare a Damon/Diaz platoon to a McLouth/Diaz platoon.  I'm doing this because it's easy to look at the .350 from McLouth and the .360 from Damon overall and make that comparison (which, over a full season, comes down to a mere 6 more times on base total).

Damon's OBP over the last three years against RHPs is .371 (I went with recent results).  McLouth's OBP against RHPs over the same period is .364.  We'll assume both guys play at that level, but keep in mind that McLouth is entering his age 28 season and Damon his age 36, meaning one guy is in a prime year while the other is on the down slope.  Assuming those two numbers remain consistent, we're talking about 4 more times on base, at the most, over a season.  Meaning, we're not making much noticeable difference at all by adding Damon.

Now, some might argue that Damon is still a really good hitter-after all, he just hit 24 home runs last year!  Not so fast.  Damon benefitted extraordinarily from playing half of his games in Yankee stadium last year.  How much so?  Well, his hit-tracker data can give us a clue at his real power.

(Ignore the coding, skip to the table-I had a tough time getting a table formatted in)

 

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Speed off Bat

Avg. True Distance

Avg. Std. Distance

Johnny Damon

101.7

379.9

379.6

League Average

103.6

398.8

395.7

As you can see, Damon's well below the MLB average in terms of distance on his HRs, and in terms of speed of balls coming off his bat.  In fact, among guys who hit at least 10 HRs, I found only 4 guys putting less distance on their HRs than Damon:  Mike Lowell, Dustin Pedroia (those two REALLY benefited from the Monster), Alexei Ramirez, and  Adam Kennedy.  Interestingly, ALL of these guys were American leaguers-for some reason, NL home run hitters average more distance overall.

So Damon really profiles more as a guy who hits maybe 9-10 HRs over a season (Turner Field plays more like a pitchers park), rather than 20, or the 17 most projections have him at.  I went ahead and tweaked his CHONE projection for next year, to drop 7 HRs and bring him down to 10.  Most of those become outs, but not all, so he drops a couple of OBP points, and takes a big blow to his  SLG%, which makes him a slightly below average hitter-an OPS around .740.  Bring that number of HRs up to 12, and he's just a tad over a .750 OPS-or right where Melky Cabrera was last year.

In short, he's worse than our current defensive options and, IMHO, he's not an upgrade over our current offensive players because his HR numbers are a bit flukey.  It's a mistake to add him if I'm correct because every game he starts, he's taking time away from guys who give more value, unless the fluke HR total continues.  It's a real mistake to pay something like $4 MM to make our team slightly worse.

This FanPost does not express the views or opinions of Talking Chop.

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