Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Contract Year Performance? Not so, says Forbes (and Bloomberg)

Hey. Is there such a thing as a contract year? Not really, says Bloomberg:

When a player on the cusp of free agency puts up a big year, everyone seems to notice. So much so that that it's become common wisdom to assume outsized production from a player entering his walk year. If the player slumped the year before, the refrain is, "He'll probably bounce back, he's playing for a contract."

But it's pretty much a myth, no more likely to happen than not. Data from Bloomberg's new MLB analytical tool, which is being used by 28 of 30 clubs this year on a free trial basis, shows that on balance, players' production in the walk years of their contracts vary little from the few years that preceded it...

...Over the past nine years, 177 players performing in the last year of a contract hit for a collective .282 batting average, with an .824 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage, an increasingly used measurement of the moneyball era). They also averaged 19 home runs, 51 extra base hits and 73 runs batted in per 500 at-bats.

That's not much different from their collective numbers from the previous year: .283 batting average, .821 OPS, 19 homers, 51 extra base hits and 74 RBI. Two years before? A .279 batting average and .809 OPS, with 18 home runs, 50 extra base hits and 73 RBI per 500 at-bats.

Berkman is used as an example:
Astros slugger Lance Berkman, playing for what would become a six-year, $85 million deal in 2004, put up a 30 home run, 106 RBI, .316 season, complete with a monster 1.016 OPS. That was a bump from his 2003 season but not much different from his norms over the previous three years.

What were those numbers? Well, actually...they're right. From 2001-2003 Berkman put up an average of .304/.416/.572 (.988 OPS), 34 HR-116 RBI. Hm.

Berkman is up for a new contract again this year, along with other notables like the Cubs' Aramis Ramirez and the Phillies' Jimmy Rollins and Jayson Werth. Don't expect any of them to necessarily turn into Superman in 2010.

Dudes, Forbes is totally right. Berkman isn't hitting for crap this year.