Monday, November 8, 2010

Big Bopper Breakdowns and Adam Dunn

As with so many of my posts, this one is born out of a comment here on the blog or by a Twitter follower. This time, it's from The Oriole Way. In response to my tweet advocating a 4-year contract offer from the Orioles to Adam Dunn, he had this to say:

4 years for Dunn after the worst K% and BB% of his career? That body looks capable of rapid decline. 3 years is plenty risky.

Dunn was only 30 this past season and I felt that signing him through age 34 is not all that risky. But I really didn't know how players of Dunn's body type and skill set had aged in the past. Dunn is huge, listed in Baseball Reference as 6' 6" and 285 lbs. As a rough cut, I decided to use the Play Index to take a look at players who were at least 6' 2" and 240 lbs. Also, the players had to have hit 175 homers prior to their age 31 season. That gives us the following list:

Frank Howard
Jim Thome
Ryan Howard
Jason Giambi
Carlos Delgado
Frank Thomas
Derrek Lee
Carlos Lee
Scott Rolen
Troy Glaus

From here, I eliminated Ryan Howard and Troy Glaus since they have yet to play their age 34 seasons yet. I also eliminated Scott Rolen since third basemen are just plain different from corner outfielders or 1B/DH types. That leaves us with seven players to help track Dunn's trajectory. Here are their stats from their age 31-34 seasons:

                Height    Weight   OPS   OPS+   HR
Frank Howard     6'7"      255    .919   166   162
Jim Thome        6'3"      250    .982   155   148    
Jason Giambi     6'3"      240    .945   150   126
Carlos Delgado   6'3"      245    .957   146   145
Frank Thomas     6'5"      240    .926   135    90 
Derrek Lee       6'5"      245    .869   121    96
Carlos Lee       6'2"      265    .833   119   110

The first thing I noticed is that while all these guys are big, none are quite as hulking as Adam Dunn. (Also, how big must Frank Howard have seemed back in the 60's?)

Second, only Frank Thomas (20 games in 2001) and Carlos Lee (115 games in 2008) missed significant time due to injury during this span.

How is the decline overall? A comparison of OPS+ up to age 30 and OPS+ from age 31-34.

               OPS+         OPS+
           Up to age 30    31-34
Howard         131          166    
Thome          147          155
Giambi         148          150
Delgado        140          146
Thomas         174          135
D. Lee         123          121
C. Lee         119          119

Surprisingly, even to me, we have 4 increases in OPS+. Carlos Lee held steady, his was who you thought he was (a power hitter with poor on base skills). Derrek Lee's decline is almost negligible and although Frank Thomas' performance fell drastically, it was still at very good levels since his prior performance was utterly off the charts.

Why is this? Do these bigger guys take longer to grow into their bodies? Maybe. But a big guy seems (based on this limited information) to be at least as likely to get better in his early 30's as he is to decline. He is at least a pretty good bet to hold serve.

Based on this, you could expect Adam Dunn to continue to be the .900 OPS, 130 OPS+ type of player that he has been to this point in his career.

So I stand by it. A four year deal seems a good bet to me.

1 comment:

The Oriole Way said...

Excellent! An analysis fight!

I think Travis Hafner may be a fair comp (though he doesn't meet the HR criteria above). He rates plummeted at age 31 and he's never reached the same level of production since. I'm not saying I think Dunn will be out of the game in four years, just that I don't think he's likely to be worth $15mm per year for that long.