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Friday, December 23, 2005

Reggie, Reggie, Reggie

The problem with the signing of Reggie Sanders, who is, or used to be, a fine player, is that the Royals are paying $5 million per annum for a player based on what he has already done, not for what he is likely going to do.

When you look at the evidence, you have to think that Reggie Sanders is due for a precitious drop in production. That holds true even if he manages to stay healthy for 130-140 games, which is very unlikely.

Let's begin by looking at the history of 38-year-old outfielders.

Since 1950 and not including last season, there have been 134 player-seasons in which an outfielder, at least age 38, had at least 50 plate appearances. Only 28 (21 percent) created at least 10 runs above the league average or, to put it another way, only one-fifth of the 134 players added even a single win to the team's bottom line. Only 12 (9 percent) added two wins. Here are those 12: Barry Bonds (twice), Ted Williams (three times), Willie Mays (twice), Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Rickey Henderson, Tony Gwynn and Gene Woodling. Is it safe to say that Reggie Sanders is not in these guys' class?

When you look at the second year of Sanders' contract, only 8 of 83 39-year-olds (9.6 percent) added at least two wins offensively, all of them the Hall-of-Famers listed above.

Here are the ten-most similar player to Sanders at baseball-reference: Ray Lankford, Kirk Gibson, Ron Gant, Eric Davis, Darry Strawberry, Bill Nicholson, Frank Thomas (the 1950s/Pirates version), Ben Oglivie, Moises Alou, Roy Sievers. Each and every one of these players either quit after their age-37 seasons because of injuries (like Sanders) or declining skills. The ones who didn't quit suffered big productivity dropoffs at age 38 and never bounced back.

Before this season, PECOTA forecasted a dropoff in VORP for Sanders from 18.1 in 2005 (he actually posted a 27.5) to 5.9 in 2005 and 3.9 in 2006.

The last two seasons for St. Louis, Sanders has posted road OPSs of 738 and 789. His overall OPS those seasons was .797 and .886, so you have to believe he was taking advantage of the confines of Busch Stadium. In Kansas City, he'll be moving into a park in which runs were scored a little below the league-average rate and away from a park that gave a slight boost to the hitters.

Worst of all, here are the games played for Sanders over the last EIGHT SEASONS: 135, 133, 103, 126, 140, 130, 135, 93. That's 301 games missed, or nearly a quarter of the games in which he could have played. That won't get better as he moves towards 40 years of age.

Defensively, Sanders suffered a huge drop in zone rating from 2004, from .888 to .785. Will that improve with another year under his belt?

Sanders' acquistion means that either Chip Ambres or Aaron Guiel will likely be pushed off the Royals' roster. Either one would have provided similar or, possibly, superior production and would have done it at a fraction of the price. Either one could be easy moved aside when it was decided that Alex Gordon and/or Billy Butler were ready for the big leagues. Moving Sanders aside won't be nearly so easy.

This is the worst move the Royals have made in an off-season of questionable activity. The Royals employ a statistical analyst but this person either looks at the wrong statistics or holds no sway with the team's decision makers. The team has fallen into the common trap in the free-agency game of paying a player based on past performance rather than future performance.

This one is going to come back to bite them.

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