Saturday, February 9, 2019

Bryce Harper v. Manny Machado

Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are two players who see themselves as generational talents, both of which seeking to top the ginormous contract (13 yr, $325 million) bestowed upon Giancarlo Stanton by the Miami Marlins. That seems extremely improbable now based on the state of current market. Both Harper and Machado are 26-years-old and were selected in the top 3 of the draft 8 years ago (2010).

Photo: USA TODAY Sports

Harper was hyped extremely early and landed on the front of a Sports Illustrated cover at age 16 — labeled the “Chosen One.” When attending a showcase at Tropicana Field (Tampa Bay Rays’ home stadium), Harper hit a 502 foot blast. The following year, the prodigy was selected 1st overall by the Washington Nationals. His aspirations were as high as could be: his goals included to be the great baseball player ever and to make the Hall of Fame.
Machado received a lot of attention in his own right. Some scouts gave the then 17-year-old the nickname “A-Rod light.” He was a leader on the U18 USA team and contributed greatly in the Pan-Am Junior Championships in Venezuela, paving his team’s path to a gold medal. Machado was deemed a fantastic defender at short and was seen as a fundamentally sound hitter who would hit .300 at the big league level, providing slightly above average power as well. The Orioles made him the 3rd overall pick of the draft. 
Fast forward 8 years. Harper and Machado are free agents and hope to sign record-breaking deals. In this investigation, there are two main questions I am attempting to answer:
a. Who is the better player?
b. What salaries should they receive depending on the length of their contracts?

In order to determine who is the better ball player, I will examine where they stand in 4 out of the 5 tools of baseball: hitting (AVG and OBP), power (HR and SLG), fielding (UZR/150 and DRS), and speed (SB and BsR), as well as their durability. The arm tool is to be excluded for a number of reasons. For instance, Bryce Harper has recorded some of the hardest throws in the short history of Statcast. Back in 2017, the radar clocked one of his throws to home plate at 99.7 MPH. Interestingly enough, he was -5.5 outfield arm runs below average in 2018, per Fangraphs. Also, there is no arm strength metric for infielders (which includes Manny Machado). I think it is fair to say that there is not a direction correlation between arm runs above/below average and pure arm strength. Additionally, I feel that in the big scope of things, the arm tool is relatively insignificant. For instance, rookie 3B Miguel Andujar of the New York Yankees has a very strong arm, yet he recorded a -25 DRS (defensive runs saved). Fangraphs’ prospect experts Kiley McDaniel and Eric Longenhagen graded his arm a 70 (really good) on the 20-80 Scouting Scale. Nonetheless, Andujar’s advanced fielding metrics exemplify his defensive deficiencies. In other words, having a cannon of an arm does not necessarily translate to adequate fielding performance. That is exactly why I will be analyzing statistics that encompass defense as a whole. 
It is also important for me to note that for this investigation, I will be excluding the numbers from Machado and Harper’s 2012 season (when they were rookies). Although Bryce Harper registered nearly 600 PA that year, Machado barely eclipsed 200, which is far too small of a sample size. At that point, it makes more sense to leave that season out of the picture. Through omitting their statistics from 2012, the metric I generated will better gauge whether or not Machado and Harper were able to make adjustments after their first season in the MLB. The formula I used on the vast majority of statistics in this investigation is as follows:
(statistic in 2018 season * 0.3) + (same statistic in 2017 season * 0.25) + (same statistic in 2016 season * 0.175) + (same statistic in 2015 season *0.125) + (same statistic in 2014 season * 0.085) + (same statistic in 2013 season * 0.065) = metric for that particular statistic (AVG, HR, UZR/150, etc.)
As you can see, the formula incorporates their stats from the last 6 seasons (2013-18), with the most recent seasons weighted more heavily. What a player was able to do this past season is indisputably more predictive of future performance than what he was able to produce 6 years prior. We now begin by analayzing their hit tools: AVG and OBP.
Bryce Harper’s 2018 AVG: .249
Manny Machado’s 2018 AVG: .297
Bryce Harper’s AVG metric (calculated through formula outlined above): .279
Manny Machado’s AVG metric (calculated through formula outlined above): .283
Bryce Harper’s 2018 OBP: .393
Manny Machado’s 2018 OBP: .367
Bryce Harper’s OBP metric: .397
Manny Machado’s OBP metric: .340
Score (only metrics for each stat count towards this score, not 2018 statistic): Bryce Harper 1 v. Manny Machado 1
We are now ready to take a closer look at a couple of their power tools: HR and SLG.
Bryce Harper’s 2018 HRs: 34
Manny Machado’s 2018 HRs: 37
Bryce Harper’s HR metric: 29
Manny Machado‘s HR metric: 32
Bryce Harper’s 2018 SLG: 0.496
Manny Machados 2018 SLG: 0.538
Bryce Harper‘s SLG metric: 0.523
Manny Machado’s SLG metric: 0.500
Power tool score: Bryce Harper 1 v. Manny Machado 1
Overall score: Bryce Harper 2 v. Manny Machado 2
Fielding is the third tool we will assess, specifically UZR/150 and DRS.
Bryce Harper’s 2018 UZR/150 (in all outfield positions combined): -16.7
Manny Machado’s 2018 UZR/150 as a SS: -6.9
Manny Machado’s 2018 UZR/150 as a 3B: 14.9
Bryce Harper‘s UZR/150 metric: -2.9
Manny Machado’s UZR/150 metric as a SS (does not account for the 53 innings he played there in 2015): -4.8
Manny Machado‘s UZR/150 metric as a 3B (does not account for the 143 innings he played there in 2018 with the Dodgers): 7.54
Bryce Harper’s 2018 DRS: -26
Manny Machado’s 2018 DRS as a SS: -13
Manny Machado’s 2018 DRS as a 3B: 3
Bryce Harper‘s DRS metric: -5.94
Manny Machado’s DRS metric as a SS: -9
Manny Machado‘s DRS metric as a 3B: 11.25
Fielding tool score (if Machado plays 3B for his new team): Bryce Harper 0 v. Manny Machado 2
Fielding tool score (if Machado plays SS for his new team): Bryce Harper 2 v. Manny Machado 0
Overall score (if Machado plays SS for his new team): Bryce Harper 4 v. Manny Machado 2
Overall score (if Machado plays 3B for his new team): Bryce Harper 2 v. Manny Machado 4
The fourth and final tool we will judge is speed: SB and BsR.
Bryce Harper’s 2018 SBs: 13
Manny Machado’s 2018 SBs: 14
Bryce Harper‘s 2018 SB metric: 10 
Manny Machado’s 2018 SB metric: 9
Bryce Harper’s 2018 BsR: 0.4
Manny Machado’s 2018 BsR: 1.2
Bryce Harper‘s BsR metric: 0.97
Manny Machado’s BsR metric: -1.0
Run tool score: Bryce Harper 2 v. Manny Machado 0
Overall score (if Machado plays SS for his new team): Bryce Harper 6 v. Manny Machado 2
Overall score (if Machado plays 3B for his new team): Bryce Harper 4 v. Manny Machado 4
Harper and Machado will only be worth hefty contracts if they can stay on the field with regularity; as a result, we will take a closer look at how durable they have been over the past 6 years.
Bryce Harper’s 2018 G (games): 159
Manny Machado’s 2018 G: 162
Bryce Harper’s G metric: 136
Manny Machado‘s G metric: 152
Overall final score (if Machado plays SS for his new team): Bryce Harper 6 v. Manny Machado 3
Overall final score (if Machado plays 3B for his new team): Bryce Harper 4 v. Manny Machado 5
It is rather difficult to conclude who is the better player between Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, considering Machado provides so much defensive value as a 3B, but he hurts his team as a SS; however, we can definitively say a few things about the two respective superstars:
Manny Machado 
  • Hits for a higher AVG
  • Hits more HRs
  • Prevents more runs as a 3B
  • Higher UZR/150 as a 3B
  • More durable
Bryce Harper
  • Gets on base more frequently
  • More total bases/AB 
  • Concedes fewer runs (if Machado plays SS)
  • Higher UZR (if Machado plays SS)
  • Steals slightly more bases
  • Better baserunner (although Harper sort of has a problem with hustling as well)
Now I will reveal what contracts the numbers believe Harper and Machado should receive. Fangraphs’ Neil Weinberg estimated in 2016 that “teams are paying about $8 million per every WAR they add to their roster. For example, a 2 WAR player signed for three years would theoretically provide his team with 6 WAR, so a team might want to pay him anything up to $48 million. If the team pays less than $8 million for each expected WAR, we call this a ‘good deal’ and if they pay more, we say they ‘overpaid.'” For my contract predictions, I will base the annual salaries on $8 million/1 WAR. 
Another essential aspect that will be incorporated into my contract predictions is aging curves
 A basic rule of thumb is that once a player gets to 30, you sort of expect them to lose about 0.5 WAR per year of value due to aging. Some players will age better or worse, but that’s an average estimate
Neil Weinberg
In 2019, Steamer projects Bryce Harper (4.9 WAR) and Manny Machado (5.1 WAR) to contribute virtually the same value.
Here are WAR approximations (based on Neil Weinberg’s rule of thumb) for Harper and Machado over the next 13 years, along with their monetary value for each season (based on $8 million/ 1 WAR):
2019: (age 26 season): Harper – 4.9 ($39.2 million); Machado – 5.1 ($40.8 million)
2020: Harper – 4.9 ($39.2 million); Machado – 5.1 ($40.8 million)
2021: Harper – 4.9 ($39.2 million); Machado – 5.1 ($40.8 million)
2022: Harper – 4.9 ($39.2 million); Machado – 5.1 ($40.8 million)
2023: (age 30 season): Harper – 4.4 ($35.2 million); Machado – 4.6 ($36.8 million)
2024: Harper – 3.9 ($31.2 million); Machado – 4.1 ($32.8 million)
2025: Harper – 3.4 ($27.2 million); Machado – 3.6 ($28.8 million)
2026: Harper – 2.9 ($23.2 million); Machado – 3.1 ($24.8 million)
2027: (age 34 season): Harper – 2.4 ($19.2 million); Machado – 2.6 ($20.8 million)
2028: Harper – 1.9 ($15.2 million); Machado – 2.1 ($16.8 million)
2029: Harper – 1.4 ($11.2 million); Machado – 1.6 ($12.8 million)
2030: Harper – 0.9 ($7.2 million); Machado – 1.1 ($8.8 million)
2031: (age 38 season): Harper – 0.4 ($3.2 million); Machado – 0.6 ($4.8 million)
2032: Harper – -0.1 ($-1.2 million); Machado – 0.1 ($0.8 million)
2033: Harper – -0.6 ($-5.2 million); Machado – -0.4 ($-3.8 million)
Harper contract possibilities:
  • 1 yr, $39.2 million total
  • 2 yr, $78.4 million total
  • 3 yr, $117.6 million total
  • 4 yr, $156.8 million total
  • 5 yr, $192 million total
  • 6 yr, $223.2 million total
  • 7 yr, $250.4 million total
  • 8 yr, $273.6 million total
  • 9 yr, $292.8 million total
  • 10 yr, $308 million total
  • 11 yr, $319.2 million total
  • 12 yr, $326.4 million total
  • 13 yr, $329.6 million total
Machado contract possibilities:
  • 1 yr, $40.8 million total
  • 2 yr, $81.6 million total
  • 3 yr, $122.4 million total
  • 4 yr, $163.2 million total
  • 5 yr, $200 million total
  • 6 yr, $232.8 million total
  • 7 yr, $261.6 million total
  • 8 yr, $286.4 million total
  • 9 yr, $307.2 million total
  • 10 yr, $324 million total
  • 11 yr, $338.8 million total
  • 12 yr, $349.6 million total
  • 13 yr, $356.4 million total
In conclusion, I would prefer Machado over Harper because 3B/SS are more premium positions than RF (Harper’s home), and I would offer to pay Machado more money to play 3B.

I don't see either player getting a contract as expensive as the ones above. They are estimates which attempt to convey what Harper and Machado are really worth. The Yanks need to go after one of Harper or Machado; they'd be potentially getting a real bargain.
Now it’s your turn. If you were an MLB general manager…
  • Would you sign Harper or Machado? 
  • If so, how long would you sign him for?
  • How much money would you pay for him?
Write your responses in the “comments” section below. 

Thanks for reading and if you're interested in reading the full article (includes what it could take for the Brewers and Mets to trade for Mad Bum), click here. Feel free to follow me on Twitter (to receives updates when I release new content) @MaxGold81356590 and make sure to check out my website (Max's Sporting Studio).

The Sights and Sounds of Steinbrenner Field...

Photo Credit: The New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)
Pitchers and Catchers Report on Wednesday…

Here we are. The final weekend before pitchers and catchers report and Major League Baseball officially kicks off preparations for the 2019 season. Many players have already made their way to Tampa and have been seen in their informal workouts on the practice fields around Steinbrenner Field and signing autographs as they depart the hallowed grounds of 1 Steinbrenner Drive.

Photo Credit: Bryan Hoch via Instagram
I always enjoy the opening of Spring Training. So much excitement for the new season, everyone’s healthy (for the most part), and after no Major League baseball since last October, the gang’s back together again to make another run at the American League championship and the ultimate goal of winning the World Series. Of course, the feeling starts to fade in a couple of weeks when we are anxiously  and impatiently awaiting the start of the regular season but for now it’s a thrilling experience.  

The past week saw another round of rumors surrounding Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. While both young superstars remain unsigned, there is continued speculation the Yankees could make a play for one of the players if the price falls into their comfort zone. The words of Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner this week while attending the owner’s meeting in Orlando did not dispel the rumors. I know, he can’t say the Yankees are out because of the CBA, but he somewhat flamed the rumors by not counting the Yankees out on any moves they might make in the coming days.  

Steinbrenner made the comment, “If there’s a narrative that we’re not spending money and being cheap, that’s just false”. In my opinion, the Yankees have not been cheap. If anything, my frustration is simply the allocation of dollars that have been spent. I like DJ LeMahieu but with all honesty, the team would have been better with Manny Machado than LeMahieu. There’s been word (no official confirmation) the Yankees floated a concept of 7 or 8 years for around $220 million when they met with Machado in December. If true, Machado’s agent should have used it as a starting point for more serious negotiations. It didn’t happen, and the team quickly pivoted to LeMahieu. I don’t feel Steinbrenner is being cheap but conversely I don’t feel that he’s putting the best possible team on the field. Maybe signing Machado is not meant to be or if he really wanted to be a Yankee, he would be one by now. Regardless of events, I can’t help feel a little disappointment that neither Machado nor Harper are making flight plans for Tampa.   

At various points of the off-season, the Yankees have called Brett Gardner the starting leftfielder and Troy Tulowitzki the starting shortstop. I don’t buy either claim. At this point in his career, Gardy helps this team the best as its fourth outfielder. He is not the player he once was. Age happens to all of us, except for maybe Tom Brady or Mariano Rivera. Perhaps Clint “The Wildling” Frazier proves the injuries and concussions are behind him and he finally fulfills the promise he’s held for a few years now. I have no problem rolling out Frazier as the starter if he proves in Tampa over the next few weeks that he is ready. Personally, I’d prefer it if Frazier can take the job from Gardner because it means he has proven he can be better. 

As for Tulo, I just can’t shake the feeling he is done. Realistically, I am not expecting much from him. I think he’ll be very rusty in Spring Training, and I don’t see him as an every day starter once the team moves north to the Bronx. It feels too much like trying to “catch lightning in a bottle”. The infield is much stronger, in my opinion, with current two-year consecutive Wilson Defensive Player of the Year DJ LeMahieu at second and Gleyber Torres sliding to shortstop until the great Didi Gregorius is ready to return. 

Photo Credit: Didi Gregorius via Instagram
But despite Plan B’s that make sense with the current roster and invitees, the Yankees can be a better team with Harper or Machado. Of the two, Harper makes the most sense. Aside from the left-handed bat that he’d bring to the lineup, he represents a great option for left field, keeping Giancarlo Stanton in the healthier role as DH, and Harper could potentially develop as a first baseman. I know, you don’t pay a guy hundreds of millions of dollars to see if he can play a new position but Bryce would represent such a great resource for the Yankees in their drive to dethrone the Boston Red Sox. For Hal, Harper will increase tickets sales, both at home and on the road. If the Yankees are successful in reacquiring controlling interest in the YES Network, Harper would be a primary face and draw attraction for the team. He is a popular player, perhaps one of the most popular in the game outside of Mike Trout. This is not meant as a slam to Aaron Judge who I feel is one of the greatest players in the game, but Harper unquestionably has more fans outside of the Yankees Universe.

Photo Credit: USATSI
I am still a major fan of Manny Machado but I recognize that his presence would adversely impact Miguel Andujar. Nevertheless, the Yankees should not decide to pursue Machado because of Andujar because Machado is clearly the better overall player. But under that scenario, the Yankees would need to move Andujar to left field or first base or trade him for top starting pitching as we’ve talked about ad nauseam this off-season. Putting Harper in left keeps Andujar at third with the potential to see if he has improved his defensive game and allowing LeMahieu to slide over to the corner for support if necessary.  

My desire to add either Harper or Machado will not die until the players sign somewhere, anywhere.  Once that happens and if it is not in the Bronx, we’ll move on. The 2019 New York Yankees will be a very good team with or without Harp-Chado. If the Yankees do not sign either player, I’ll undoubtedly look at it as  missed opportunity (the “missed” chance to turn the team from very good to great) but I’ll support the current roster with full force and vigor as we all will.    

I am really enjoying Adam Ottavino as a Yankee. His ‘This or That’ videos on Instagram with his wife feeding him questions from off-screen have been stellar. Given he is a lifelong Yankee fan like us makes him so relatable, outside of the fact that he’s 6’5”, ruggedly handsome, throws a nasty slider, lives in a beautiful Manhattan apartment with an overview of the city, has an adorable wife and family, and makes millions of dollars per year.  

I like that Otto’s first pic upon arriving in Tampa this week was to take a picture of the famed George Steinbrenner statue outside of Steinbrenner Field. 

Photo Credit: Adam Ottavino via Instagram
Ottavino understands the history of the franchise better than most through his childhood fandom. He recently mentioned that his favorite Yankee hitter was Bernie Williams and fave pitcher was Jimmy Key. There’s probably guys on the team who don’t even know who Jimmy Key is. I respect both of those choices.   

After being known for years as Zach Britton, I was surprised the reliever formally announced that he’d be known by the proper “Zack” going forward. Not so much the correction of his name to match how he uses it and the name which appears on his birth certificate but rather why it took so many years for him to do it. I am sure that I’ll type Zach a time or two this season. Personally, with no offense to any Zack’s reading this, but I prefer the “ch” version of the name. It sounds more sophisticated, IMO. But hey, it’s not my name.  Britton has the right to call himself whatever he wants. If he wants to go by “Fluffy”, that’s fine by me. I guess I’ll get used to the new spelling in time. Speaking of Britton, I didn’t realize that his brother Buck was a manager in the Baltimore Orioles’ farm system. Buck Britton managed the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds to a 68-66 record in 2018. For this season, he’s been elevated to manager of the Double-A Bowie Baysox. Not that I expect Zack to ever get over his love for Birdland, but his brother’s presence in the Orioles organization continues to give him ties to his former roots.  

I mention it every year but I’ll continue to do it until there are changes. The Yankees need to revisit their facial hair policy. I don’t want to see the uncontrolled beards like Justin Turner of the Los Angeles Dodgers wears each season or Johnny Damon’s “Caveman” look during his days in Boston, but with controlled guidelines, there’s no reason guys like Luis Severino should not be allowed to wear beards like this:

Photo Credit: YES Network
I know the Yankees stick to the policy out of respect for the late George Steinbrenner but times have changed. I do not feel that short, trimmed facial hair detracts from the brand. It seems like all of the Yankee players are sporting some type of facial hair during the off-season. And very often when Yankee players are traded elsewhere, the first thing they do is grow a beard. I saw a pic of Ronald Torreyes, now playing for the Minnesota Twins, sporting a cool goatee this week. 

Photo Credit: Ronald Torreyes via Instagram
Players should be allowed a certain degree of self-expression. I get the history and tradition of Baseball’s most storied and prestigious franchise but wearing a groomed short beard is not exactly like slapping last names on the back of the famed Pinstriped jersey. Loosen up the facial policy rules, Hal. It’s your team, set your own standard.  

This has been a tough year watching Boston win championships in both MLB and NFL. I am tired of Boston fans celebrating and want to see the fans of New York rejoice. The Yankees have a huge opportunity to make plans for a parade in late October. Let’s not screw this up. The dawn of the 28th World Championship is upon us.

As always, Go Yankees!