Justin Upton and Park Effects

Dave · January 4, 2013 at 11:15 am · Filed Under Mariners 

I have a post up over on FanGraphs about Justin Upton, but it’s really more about home/road splits in general and how they should be used. Quoting the conclusion, but you should read it all to see why the conclusion exists:

Whatever you do, though, don’t just look at a player’s road stats and assume that it’s a window into his real talent level, with the difference between his home and road stats being a mirage of the park he played in. That’s simply not how home/road splits work.

A lot of people look at Justin Upton and think he won’t hit in Seattle because his road numbers suck. A lot of people look at the Mariners hitters from last year and think that they’re all actually good because their road numbers were good and their home numbers sucked, thus Safeco just screwed everyone over. Those conclusions are easy to draw. Those conclusions are not completely accurate, though, and you shouldn’t be willing to so easily use split data to come to such conclusions.

Justin Upton is better than his road numbers indicate. Jesus Montero, Kyle Seager, and Michael Saunders are probably worse than their road numbers indicate. You want to adjust for park effects, but do it correctly. Realize that Justin Upton won’t hit as well in Seattle as he does in Arizona, while at the same time realizing that Justin Upton is a good hitter who will likely be a productive offensive player no matter where he calls home.


34 Responses to “Justin Upton and Park Effects”

  1. Jopa on January 4th, 2013 11:47 am

    The key is in the no-trade clause. Upton is more likely to talk to players around the league (eg. Beltre) than study the sabermetrics of park factors, which as you’ve written, don’t favor Safeco.

    Upton still has his one big mega deal to make in three years. A couple hundred million hang in the balance.

    Seattle is a black hole for media attention. It’s a perennial last place team. They have one star whom they’ve yet to extend. Why on earth would he waive the no-trade clause? For a few million dollars?

    His next contract could fall from 10/250 to 6/120.

  2. NRFully on January 4th, 2013 12:20 pm

    I just don’t see us getting Upton. He still has that no-trade-clause with us. I don’t know, maybe it’s the pessimism M’s fan in me. I’d also be extremely surprised if we get Stanton or Eithier.

  3. _Hutch_ on January 4th, 2013 12:22 pm

    Unless he wins a couple MVPs between now and then he’s not going to get 10/250. You’ve probably got a point about Upton wanting a say in his proposed destination, but I don’t think it’s something that an extra chunk $5-$10 million couldn’t fix – that’s often why players insist on no-trade clauses in the first place.

  4. terryoftacoma on January 4th, 2013 12:53 pm

    I’ve stayed out of the Upton discussion for the most part because I don’t see us acquiring him. I think he’s be a great addition but I don’t see him waving his no trade clause to hit at Safeco. I don’t buy the “Yankee” argument that all it takes is throwing money at him and he’ll wave it. Not all players follow the buck so I don’t count on that happening. I’d really like to be wrong on that.

  5. Mike Snow on January 4th, 2013 1:40 pm

    Valid points, but they won’t easily sink in for those of us who remember Jeff Cirillo.

  6. dchappelle on January 4th, 2013 1:46 pm

    So if you figure Upton’s worth what, 12-15 WAR over the next 3 years. What are you willing to pay to get him and what will you have to give him to agree to waive his no-Seattle clause?

    Are we talking 2-3 of our top prospects and then 2-3 years at 20-25/yr extension?

    What’s the most you’d give up for him Dave?

  7. roosevelt on January 4th, 2013 2:00 pm

    Perhaps I have heard wrong… but, some have compared the Upton Brothers to being similar in attitude to guys like Carl Everett and Milton Bradley.

    If this is the case, historically speaking, JU sounds like a M’s organization player! Good luck!

  8. GhostofMarinersPast on January 4th, 2013 2:48 pm

    Arizona wants Seager, and I don’t think Jack wants to part with him. As for Upton, the guy is a stud. Last year he had a down year due to a nagging thumb injury and having his name publicly shopped for the second year in a row. His “terrible year” last year was better than anyone on our roster had. He hasn’t had any behavioral problems. His brother BJ did, not Justin. My opinion is that he should pull the trigger on the deal. Straight away. Then you could go sign a Marcum or Lohse.

  9. _Hutch_ on January 4th, 2013 3:56 pm

    Dave, can you write a post on the inherent racism in baseball and how it effects people’s perception of the Upton Brothers?

  10. 9inningknowitall on January 4th, 2013 7:18 pm

    Everyone keeps mentioning the no-trade clause as if that is a telling fact that Upton doesn’t want to come here. A lot of players put teams on their no-trade clause because they know that team may be interested in them and this gives the player additional bargaining power if a trade does come up. Teams like the Yankees, Dodgers and Red Sox are often put in these clauses to let the player get a few extra million dollars in a contract. Upton’s agents knew Seattle would want hitters and that Upton has always been on Seattle’s radar so they could of added it just to get more money if a trade ever occurs.

  11. TherzAlwaysHope on January 4th, 2013 9:41 pm

    What Jopa said. The word is out. Safeco is the place where power hitter’s careers come to die. EOM.

  12. maqman on January 5th, 2013 1:15 am

    I think you are dismissing the difference between hot desert air and cool moist ocean air has on a batted ball. Upton is over rated and would not be a good trade target for the M’s. Nor would Ethier given his cost and platoon split best value.

  13. Typical Idiot Fan on January 5th, 2013 8:16 am

    Arizona wants Seager

    Of course they do. A lot of teams want a good, young, cost controlled third baseman, including the Mariners. Trading away Seager fills one hole while creating another. It makes no sense.

    But just because Arizona wants Seager doesn’t mean we have to trade Seager to get Upton. Deals are more fluid than that.

  14. shortbus on January 5th, 2013 11:23 am

    It’s neat when our whiney conversations make Dave do more work. As one who was pushing the home/road splits line on Upton, I’m feeling very proud.

    So beyond the fact that his road splits are not an accurate measure of his ability, it’s also apparent that Upton was playing hurt last year and that should be taken into account when projecting his productivity. He turned it up at the end of the year, returning to something like his career average numbers.

    So how should we value Upton as a potential Mariner? Should he be viewed as a guy who will put up an average of 5 WAR every year for the next three years as he enters his peak? That would mean he has something like $35 million in value above his contract. Depends how you value prospects, but I still think Hultzen or Paxton + one of our major league relievers + one or all of Wells/Thames/Carp should be the starting point. I don’t want to give up Franklin until we see if Ackley can hit.

  15. bongo on January 5th, 2013 11:49 am

    “I still think Hultzen or Paxton + one of our major league relievers + one or all of Wells/Thames/Carp should be the starting point.”

    Hultzen + Wells + Thames + Carp + Wilhelmsen for Upton? That seems like too high a price to pay.

    Please keep in mind that one of the major reasons that the Mariners are where they are is because of their inability to properly evaluate prospects within their own system.

    Where would the Mariners be today if they had kept Adam Jones, Shin Soo Choo, Asdrubral Cabrera Brandon Morrow, Mike Morse, and yes, perhaps even Brian LaHair?

    If past experience is any guide, there are at least two Mariners prospects who will make the All-Star team within 5 years. The question is whether the front office can be trusted to figure out who they are. Past experience says no.

    If the management of the Mariners ran the Seahawks, Russell Wilson would have spent the season on the bench, and we would have gone 8-8 instead of 11-5.

  16. vetted_coach on January 5th, 2013 12:32 pm

    A really cool post, Dave. I referenced part of your point toward the end of my comment about Upton in the preceding thread. My comment traveled to a different town, but in the same vehicle. A metaphor. He would help the Mariners. Moot point. He won’t be coming here. A hitter’s value is more dependably reflected considering his overall numbers instead of seeking hidden mirages in splits. Sure, he’d be better in Phoenix or Albuquerque than Seattle or Sacramento, but he’d be better here than the guy he replaces.

  17. MrZDevotee on January 5th, 2013 1:36 pm

    There’s a problem with your logic… The Mariners DID evaluate their players correctly. They just made poor decisions what to do with them. You can’t pull off trades with guys other teams don’t want (ie, crappy players). They were traded away because if we wanted to bring in “crafty veterans” we had to give up something good in return.

    The problem is, they were the ONLY good players we had, so the farm was left with no eggs after they left.

    The problem was being short-sighted… Not blind.

  18. Typical Idiot Fan on January 5th, 2013 2:39 pm

    Hultzen + Wells + Thames + Carp + Wilhelmsen for Upton? That seems like too high a price to pay.


    Hultzen – SP
    Wells – OF
    Thames – OF
    Carp – 1B/DH/”OF”
    Wilhelmsen – RP

    So… to get one of the outfielders that the Diamondbacks are already overburdened with, we’re giving them two and a half outfielders back? Why would they want that?

  19. Westside guy on January 5th, 2013 3:04 pm

    Give us your good outfielder and will give you several scrub outfielders in return!

  20. G-Man on January 5th, 2013 4:33 pm

    Reports are that the D-backs would rather trade Jason Kubel. He wouldn’t be worth nearly as much as Upton, but he’d be worth something. Wonder if Z is interested.

    But surely, AZ will have to move some OF.

  21. GhostofMarinersPast on January 5th, 2013 4:51 pm

    If Z is interested in Kubel, then he is probably also interested in no longer being employed by the Seattle mariners. Anyone who thinks we can compete in the next few years with our current team is beyond delusional. We have potential hitters. The problem is we don’t have any thump. We need a marquee guy who can take the pressure off the kids and let them relax and play the way they know how. Stanton would be amazing. We’d have to sell the whole farm to get him. Upton would be cheaper. The m’s roster currently doesn’t make any sense either. Jack will definitely be making more moves in the coming weeks, and as someone who has watched upton for sometime now, I hope it’s JU

  22. stevemotivateir on January 5th, 2013 5:03 pm

    Anyone who thinks we can compete in the next few years with our current team is beyond delusional.

    You’d be delusional to think we’ll have the same team for the next three years.

  23. GhostofMarinersPast on January 5th, 2013 5:18 pm

    You’re looking at a package of Seager, Hultzen, and Paxton I’d imagine.

  24. GhostofMarinersPast on January 5th, 2013 6:30 pm

    Next years free agent class is not good. Another year may expose some of our prospects but probably won’t validate any of them. The time to trade is now. Before our pitching prospects have the opportunity to lose their value. It’s time to make a big move. There is no doubt that if we don’t act now, 3 years from now we’ll be starting over….

  25. kinickers77 on January 5th, 2013 6:40 pm

    If you are right on what it would cost, that’s too much IMO. I agree that the time to act is now but we have no one for 3B if we trade Seager. Filling one hole by creating another gets you no where.

    If Seager could be replaced by Franklin, I’d probably do that.

  26. GhostofMarinersPast on January 5th, 2013 8:00 pm

    The hole created by Seager would pale in comparison to the addition of upton. Think of it this way….we -2 from 3rd, and +5 to OF. Also, after that kind of move, we could spend money on pitching depth. 3rd would be a hole. But not more glaring than the one we’ve been staring at for several years. The headliner.

  27. themojoworkin on January 5th, 2013 9:58 pm

    Perhaps I have heard wrong… but, some have compared the Upton Brothers to being similar in attitude to guys like Carl Everett and Milton Bradley.
    If this is the case, historically speaking, JU sounds like a M’s organization player! Good luck!

    This is my worry as well. It raises a red flag that a team is willing to trade a young hitter such as Upton, as these are usually the rare diamonds that teams build around. I wonder if anyone can think of similar situations, and remember how they turned out.

  28. Hunter S. Thompson on January 5th, 2013 10:25 pm

    I’d be more concerned if Arizona did not have attitude concerns about most of their players. They gave a top pitching prospect away for a decent SS prospect due to attitude problems.

    And it wasn’t Everett’s and Bradley’s attitue that hurt us, it was their lack of production. If Figgins would have hit like he did with the Angels no one (besided beat writers) would have care about his attitude.

  29. stevemotivateir on January 6th, 2013 8:40 am

    I’m just eager to see another move for an outfielder.

  30. Mini Mogul on January 6th, 2013 9:53 am

    Can we please stop talking about Carl Everett and Milton Bradley, Everett was a cheap addition and worth a roll at the time and Bradley was basically just a swap for Carlos Silva and his terrible contract that we were stuck with….Silva was terrible also. It’s not like Jack goes out looking for attitude issues, both made perfect sense at the time. On top of that, there is NO word that Justin is anything like either of them. Those two were seriously terrible people, all that you hear about Upton is that he might have motivation issues.

    If you’re a 21 year old kid who’s always been told you are amazing and you are making huge money, playing in the Bigs with cars, steak and women…it’s easy to get a cocky attitude. He’s a few years into the league, he will be fine and seriously the guy can flat out hit when he’s not injured.

  31. Mini Mogul on January 6th, 2013 10:15 am

    Oh and just as we’ve established that there is NO WAY Arizona wants Smoak (they have a good young 1B) and there is NO WAY they want another OF back let alone 2 or 3 of them………..Can we also establish right now that the M’s will NOT be trading Seager away in an Upton deal!!!

    Seager was 3.6 WAR last year at possibly the scarcest position in all of baseball (might be 2nd to catcher), making him the 8th best 3B in the game last year in his first full season (if his name was Ackley and he had a 3.6 WAR last year you’d be saying “on his way to the HOF” LOL).

    You don’t make a trade that opens up a gaping hole at 3B, you just don’t….there’s no debate about it.

    In fact there’s no way that Z would trade Seager for Upton straight up! For the 2 of you that don’t understand that statement: You don’t trade a 3.6 WAR 3B under team control for many more years costing the team very little $ for an OF who’s going to also be around 3.6 WAR who costs you basically 10 Mil, 14 Mil, and 14.5 Mil over the next 3 years. LOL, you’re giving them the more valuable player by a landslide given that position scarcity, money and the fact that they are going to give you a very similar WAR.

    Stop with the Seager trade talk. Other than King Felix, Seager is the only other 99.9% sure untouchable the M’s have (I also think Zunino is probably almost untouchable, that’s just my opinion tho).

    Anyone want to argue that?!?

  32. _Hutch_ on January 6th, 2013 12:44 pm

    Cars, Steak and Women: The Justin Upton Story.

  33. Westside guy on January 6th, 2013 2:49 pm

    Cars, Steak and Women: The Justin Upton Story.

    I like the guy already!

  34. Paul B on January 8th, 2013 6:53 pm

    Wedge seems able to select a bullpen from a big pile of pitchers.

    He seems less able when it comes to hitters.

    I have zero confidence in what will happen when he is given a pile of DH.

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