Monday, August 27, 2007

Re-signing Mike Sweeney

While traveling for business last week, I missed this little item in the Kansas City Star: “Royals could re-sign Sweeney if Butler proves capable of playing first.”

The reasoning goes something like this: The Royals have very little power in their lineup. Signing a free agent with power will be expensive. Mike Sweeney has power and is already here.

I am curious about two specific aspects of this story. 1.) Does Mike Sweeney still have power? And 2.) How much should the Royals pay him for this?

I am leaving out the question of Billy Butler’s ability to man first base, because I think that he can certainly play it as well as Ken Harvey and... er... well, Mike Sweeney did.

Does Mike Sweeney still have power?
Joe Sheehan made a comment in a chat at Baseball Prospectus the other day that I found interesting: “[Y]ou should consider extra-base hits together as a group (or in a rate like XBH/H, XBH/AB, ISO) as opposed to isolating one category of hits. Guys can see doubles turn into homers one year and back the next for no real reason.”

Let’s see how the original $11 million Royal has done at hitting for power consistently over his career.
Year  AB   XBH  XBH  ISO
/H /AB
1995 4 0% 0% 000
1996 165 30% 8% 133
1997 240 26% 6% 121
1998 282 36% 9% 149
1999 575 37% 12% 198
2000 618 29% 10% 190
2001 559 44% 13% 238
2002 471 35% 12% 223
2003 392 30% 9% 174
2004 411 38% 11% 217
2005 470 43% 13% 217
2006 217 41% 11% 180
2007 204 36% 9% 162
CAREER 36% 11% 194

Not bad. Sweeney has lost a bit of isolated power the last few years, but his extra base hit percentages are still in line with his career numbers.

Before his latest trip to the disabled list, Sweeney had 7 home runs in 204 at bats. That put him on pace for 15 round trippers if he could have managed to stay healthy enough for 450 at bats. Don’t look now, but that would put him one behind John Buck for the team lead.

I’ll go out on a limb and say that the power is still there for Mike. A healthy Mike Sweeney could put 25 dingers on the board in a season, and while that won’t get him into any Barry Bonds debates, it would certainly help a team as anemic as this current Royals squad has been with the long ball.

Of course, the phrase “a healthy Mike Sweeney” is akin to “I want a pony” for most Royals fans. But, the fact is Sweeney is playing rehab ball in the minors right now. He will be able to play baseball next season and somebody will sign him.

How much should the Royals pay him for this?
Using some quick and dirty math along with the Play Index over at Baseball Reference, I cobbled together the following list of players I felt were having comparable seasons to Sweeney.
Name    PA  OPS+ Age HR BA  OBP SLG  Salary 
Erstad 274 80 33 2 272 331 354 $ 750,000
Redmond 270 86 36 1 289 344 350 $ 950,000
Zaun 285 79 36 6 228 310 378 $3,500,000
Blum 255 83 34 2 256 327 352 $ 900,000
Graffy 260 83 35 9 238 315 390 $3,250,000
Piazza 247 93 38 5 276 316 405 $8,500,000
Valent 192 88 31 2 290 339 409 $3,800,000
Cora 200 84 31 2 254 309 395 $2,000,000
Gomez 203 94 36 1 305 338 390 $ 850,000
Conine 253 85 41 6 268 325 411 $2,000,000
Delluc 196 83 33 4 234 301 389 $3,750,000
Pod’nik 170 84 31 2 257 323 382 $2,900,000
Cirillo 193 86 37 2 254 326 373 $1,500,000
Clark 176 82 35 11 230 278 453 $1,034,000
Barajas 141 86 31 4 214 343 376 $2,500,000
Valentin183 79 37 3 241 302 373 $3,800,000
Mientk 141 80 33 4 226 292 379 $1,500,000

AVERAGE 214 84 35 4 255 319 386 $2,557,882

Sweeney 225 82 33 7 245 307 407 $11,000,000

It’s good to know the Royals aren’t the only team overpaying for below-average production and disabled list time.

Taking a quick average of Sweeney’s last three years, how does he stack up with your average older, oft-injured player?
        PA  OPS+ Age  HR BA  OBP SLG  Salary 
AVERAGE 214 84 35 4 255 319 386 $2,557,882
3 Years 326 102 30-33 12 268 334 454 $?,???,???

And some of this year’s numbers just for fun...
Player  Age OPS+
Sweeney 33 82
Gload 31 99
Brown 32 65
Costa 25 77*

*Costa’s OPS+ is from last season, when he spent significant time at the big league level.

Gload and Costa are relatively cheap. Emil Brown is getting paid $3,450,000 for his contributions this year. The Oakland Athletics have paid Frank Thomas and Mike Piazza $500,000 and $8,500,000 respectively over the last two years to man the designated hitter post with varying levels of return.

It’s funny to say it, but if the Royals can get Mike Sweeney’s average production from the last three years for Emil Brown money, I say they make that deal.

1 comment:

  1. This is gonna be a long comment, so please hang with me…

    Regular KC baseball fan here, I read your Royals stuff regularly. I’ve not commented before but I appreciated what you do.

    This data on Sweeney is particularly impressive and I totally agree with your summary. I got the feeling from the Star article that Sweeney would be inclined to low-ball in order to stick around KC so I’d be very surprised if he turns down something between the average and E. Brown money if Moore makes that offer. I’m as disturbed as anybody with his health issues but, looking around the league, I’m sure we could do worse than have a $3 million Sweeney as a part-time DH next year. If it boils down to Sweeney versus Healy, I hope the choice is obvious. Still, I don’t think retaining Sweeney can be considered in any way an “aggressive” move to fix the offensive weaknesses of this team.

    You, and others, have hinted that perhaps KC has turned a corner this year. I don’t completely disagree but I regularly read and hear from the “experts” the gut feeling that KC’s priority is to acquire 1 maybe 2 more solid starters to really be scary next year.

    Typically my gut is full of grilled sheboygans and Boulevard Pale Ale but after watching the marked improvement on the mound at the K this year my numbed senses are now aching for a long-ball hitter.

    I understand the basic foundation of good pitching and I’m so thankful that we’re finally on that track. I’ll accept it if you prove me wrong, but it just seems to this average fan that KC needs a 30-homer guy in the worst way and they don’t have anyone ready to do that. (When it comes to home runs, I’ve heard all I want to hear about Buck and have completely lost faith in Teahen.)

    I was most pleased this year with KC’s series at Fenway back in July. Honestly, I think it was the doubles not the homers that influenced me during that series. But I came away wishing that the scheduled stadium improvements at the K would include a “Blue Monster” of sorts in our own future. (And, I admit, I had nightmares about how brief a time it might be before I saw Billy Butler in a Red Sox uniform.)

    Still, although I have no stats to back it up, my impression throughout the season was that KC’s game changed dramatically when they had a long ball or two. The few times it happened, then the pitching, the fielding, the manager’s decisions, suddenly everything looked 100 times better.

    If Frank White is right, and I have every reason to believe him, Gordon will be a major league power hitter some day. But judging his ’07 start in The Bigs, and recalling the starts of Damon, Beltran, De Jesus, I have the feeling that we won’t really start seeing the full effect of that potential until ‘09, at least.

    In the meantime, I assume Slow-Pitch Odalis is gone next year and KC relies mostly on what they already have on the mound for the near future. Maybe they pick up an experienced middle reliever, move Soria into the rotation, or maybe they wisely don’t. Many of the questions surrounding next year’s starters may depend on who the Manager is in January more than anything else.

    Besides Sweeney’s big contract in ‘08, I also assume they lose obligations to Reggie Sanders, potentially E. Brown and J. Larue. I’m assuming Larue will be the hardest to let go and he may very well be back (hopefully for less $).

    Taking all that, and the slight hope/possibility that Glass will add a few more bones to the pot, the idea crosses my mind that KC may have an opportunity to keep the potential they have now but add another Meche-like impact player to this team next year.

    So, if $10-15 million becomes available this winter, based on the stats and observations of the ’07 KC team in transition, where do you really think it should go? Pitching or power?

    Thanks again for keeping this blog up,