Originally Posted by RedEye
Wow... didn't see this thread coming back from the dead!
If you're into zombie killing, here's a bone:
So what of this narrative that Figgins wasn’t a plus defender at third, should not have been considered a useful addition to an offense and used a career year in 2009 to fool the Mariners into artificially inflating evaluations of his defensive and on base skills? Can it be supported by objective facts? Was Figgins a volatile player who capitalized on a career performance during his contract year?
Below is a summary of relevant stats. The defensive stats are raw UZR, UZR/150 (normalizes for playing time) and Dewan’s raw runs saved (i.e. not normalized for playing time) for his defense at third base.
YR OBP OPS Def Inn UZR UZR/150 Dewans WAR
2004 0.35 0.77 705 5.7 13.9 3 3.6
2005 0.352 0.749 434 3.9 14.2 3 2.8
2006 0.336 0.712 280 -2.7 -38 -7 0.7
2007 0.393 0.825 836 -1.9 -2.8 -1 3.9
2008 0.367 0.685 919 10.6 17.8 5 3.2
2009 0.395 0.789 1339 16.6 17.9 29 6.9
These numbers basically paint the picture of a consistent player both offensively and defensively. As a starter, Figgins posted an above average WAR in 5 of his 6 seasons in Anaheim, posting a WAR of 3 or greater in 4 of his 6 seasons. To put that into perspective, Jay Bruce has had one season where he has posted a WAR greater than what Figgins averaged as a starter from 2004-2009 with the Angels.
As an aside, its surreal to have to post this but one way to help a run-challenged offense that is to get more guys on base. Obviously power is important but any argument that on base skills aren't valuable really is tough to take seriously.
1) So what of the impact of Figgins’ 2009 season?
Take away his 2009 season and his numbers as an Angel go from .292/.363/.390; OPS=.753 to .291/.356/.388; OPS=.744. This was not a guy who had a volatile past and thus presented a unique problem for projection systems. A myoptic focus upon Figgins’ 2009 season actually ignores a great deal.
2) Was Figgins a good defensive third baseman?
It’s been argued Figgins has not been a plus defender at third and his 2009 season skews objective measures of his defense. Is that actually the case? A look at his performance at third base as an Angel indicates such an assertion is not correct. If any number jumps out it’s his rating during 2006 when he only played 280 innings at third. I doubt anyone is willing to consider such a small sample indicative of anything. But the great thing is that even his 2006 doesn’t get thrown out. It’s all part of the 5000+ innings he’s played at third. It’s easy to see why UZR calls him a +9 defender (UZR/150) and Dewan’s calls him a +4.5 defender at third when looking at those 5000+ innings. Basically, if ’04 and ’05 are combined, ’06 and ’07 are combined (because doing so adds up to roughly 1100-1200 innings) while considering ’08 and ’09, Figgins had three significantly above average defensive seasons at third with one below average season. The notion that the 2009 season was an outlier that dramatically inflated Figgins’ defensive grade is wholly inaccurate. Dewan’s and UZR/150 show a pretty consistent, above average defender. The notion that Figgins’ has not been a plus defensive third baseman is unsupported both by objective measures of defense and his reputation.
3) Were the Ms fooled and made a bad decision as a result?
Given his body of work, Figgins was projected to be something like a 3.5 WAR player in 2010 which doesn’t seem like a stretch since he’d just came off a season where he doubled that while being a 3 War player for the majority of his career as an Angel. However, given market rates during that off season, the Ms only paid him like he was a 2 WAR player. Obviously they gave him 4 years which was longer than other teams were willing to go but they certainly did not pay Figgins like his 2009 season blinded them. In fact, they paid him a contract that undervalued him in every year but the final one assuming a normal aging curve. They paid a guy with a history of being an above average position player like he was a league average player. That’s not overvaluing a player by any reasonable definition.
Did Figgins make sense for the 2010 Ms? They were coming off of a season where as a team they produced a line of .258/.297/.402 while getting .224/.297/.376 from the two spot in their lineup. They also were losing Beltre to free agency. The Ms targeted Figgins because he had above average on base skills and a skill set that would fit nicely in the two spot behind Ichiro. His defensive flexibility gave them roster flexibility while his plus glove at third gave them a viable replacement for Beltre. Furthermore, Figgins represented a player type that would not be expected to be hurt by the unique environment of Safeco. Figgins fit the bill as a type of player that "would have improved their sorry state of affairs". What’s more the Ms paid him like a league average starting position player even though he should’ve been expected to be better than such a player based upon his body of work as an Angel. Again, it’s tough to construct a narrative of blindly overvaluing Figgins based upon his 2009 when actually looking at the rationale for signing him and examining his contract.
Meanwhile, looking at the 2009 market, what other options were there? Who were the high OPS guys to be had? Clearly Beltre was a stud but also, clearly he wasn’t coming back to Safeco. Holliday was not coming to Seattle even if they blew their whole $20-25M of spending money on him. In a slavish chase for OPS instead of OBP, defense, and roster flexibility, I guess the Ms could’ve outbid the Mets for Bay. That certainly is very consistent with the argument by some in this thread for what the Ms should’ve done. The Mets also agree that is what the Ms should’ve done BTW.
Instead, the Ms FO signed Figgins, a guy who looked to be the best fit for them on the free agent market because he addressed several of their needs. The Ms also then traded for the best left-handed pitcher in baseball while working to extend one of the best right-handed pitchers in baseball. I’m all for arguing that the Ms shouldn’t have stopped with Figgins concerning the offense. But I don’t own the Ms, I don’t get to tell Z how much he can spend, and I don’t get to magically populate the market with ready-made answers. The Ms needed position players who were at least league average or better and they signed one that had been above average for his career to that point who also was a good fit for their specific situation. They bought him for a price that significantly undervalued his past performance.
So by focusing upon the devil in the details instead of simply posting pejorative platitudes about tea leaves, metrics like WAR, and OBP, the OPS available on the 2009 market, and imagined bias etc, it’s clear that Figgins wasn’t overrated coming into free agency, the Ms didn’t overvalue him, and there was a reasonable rationale for why the Ms targeted him. Did his signing work out? No it was a train wreck. But was it a land mine that should’ve obviously been avoided based upon what was known at the time? Nothing in this thread comes close to supporting that notion. Figgins wasn’t a volatile player who capitalized on a career performance during his contract year. He’s a guy who fell off of a cliff while texting.