Community Projection: Aubrey Huff

From the transcripts:

Sabean: What you see here is the kind of computer you get when you play squash with folks at the NSA. Its name is Lobo, and it will replace you one day.

Yeshayah Goldfarb: Well, we have computers that are more than capabl...

Sabean: This is a quantum computer. A stable quantum computer. We’ve moved on from bits; we’re working with qubits now. Superpositions. Integer factorization with prime numbers. We’re running numbers that make those dorks at FanGraphs look like a bunch of gibbons gnawing on abacuses. This is the statistical nectar, pal. We’re in.

Goldfarb: I don’t see what the big deal is.

Sabean: I signed Aubrey Huff today.

Goldfarb: Wait, but I thought the dossier I gave you minimized his low BABIP with Detroit because the line-drive percentage went down commensurately? Also, he isn’t very good anymore.

Sabean: It was a fair report. But Lobo plotted the results of six hundred trillion simulated seasons in a few seconds, describing the results in projective Hilbert space as series of quantum superpositions. Quite ingenious, actually. There is every indication that Huff is set to rebound this year and finish in the top ten of the MVP voting.

Goldfarb: Impossible.

Sabean: You’re thinking in three dimensions, Yeshayah. Look, let Huff’s last season be α and his potential for a positive WAR be λ. With this...

Susan, Sabean’s assistant, enters the room

Susan: Baggarly’s on the line again.

Sabean: Dammit, I have to take this.

Picks up the phone

Andy, how you doing? Yes, the deal is pending a physical, but you didn’t hear that from me. Huff is a proven run producer, a middle-of-the-order guy. Bengie’s done a lot for this team, but everyone knows he’s not a true cleanup hitter. At the end of the day, Huff has the power to keep pitchers honest, and he really has a nose for RBI in clutch spots. Mm-hmm. Okay, sure. Thanks.

Hangs up

Okay, so we first have to look at this represented in Cartesian coordinates to know where we’re going wrong...

If you have a better explanation, I’d like to read it. What, do you think that Sabean got Huff in a mad scramble after being rejected by his first two choices? You are such a hater.

Sabean: I’d like to sign Aubrey Huff today.

Neukom: Why?

Sabean: Because he isn’t Travis Ishikawa

Okay, fine. Maybe that’s a little closer to what happened. Still, I can’t help but feel there’s a reason I was so wrong on Huff last year. It feels like there’s a logical way to detail the risk Sabean took -- something like, if a player is under 35, and he has three or four seasons with an OPS+ of better than 120 in his career, the most recent of which was in the past two years, then a one-year deal is a perfectly fine. That particular example is an exercise in goalpost moving and cherry-picking, but it feels like there should be an if/then like that to find Huffs in the future.

His offense wasn’t a complete and total shock -- he was just two years removed from a fantastic season, so it’s not like he was Neifi Perez hitting .350. But his defense was a complete stunner. Perfectly acceptable all the way around. His much-maligned glove was hardly noticed at first. When Huff kicked a ball in the fifth game of the NLCS, it was stunning. It seemed like he hadn’t made a brutal error like that all season. And when the Giants decided to try Huff in left field -- you know, to play Buster Posey at first and keep Bengie Molina in the lineup -- Boots Randolph cover bands everywhere rejoiced. But he was pretty good in left. Pretty danged good.

I’m starting to think this Huff-to-the-Giants thing is going to work out.

After the Giants re-signed Huff, a few pundits noted that the Giants were making a classic mistake, trying to keep a championship team together regardless if it was a good idea or not. While Huff isn’t exactly cheap at $11M, he only required a two-year deal. That’s a fair gamble. The odds are that he isn’t going to be quite as good next year, but I’m pretty confident he’ll be an average to above-average hitter at whatever position he’s at for the next two years. That doesn’t sound too exciting, but average is like a desert oasis compared to the Lance Niekro/Dan Ortmeier lineups of the past few years. The Giants do well with average hitters.

If there’s one thing that would make me hope that Huff could fully repeat his fantastic season, it’s this:

 

Year Age Tm SO% BB% SO/BB
2000 23 TBD 14.0% 3.9% 3.60
2001 24 TBD 16.6% 5.3% 3.13
2002 25 TBD 11.1% 7.5% 1.49
2003 26 TBD 11.3% 7.5% 1.51
2004 27 TBD 11.1% 8.4% 1.32
2005 28 TBD 13.8% 7.7% 1.80
2006 29 TOT 12.4% 9.7% 1.28
2007 30 BAL 14.4% 8.0% 1.81
2008 31 BAL 13.5% 8.0% 1.68
2009 32 TOT 14.6% 8.5% 1.71
2010 33 SFG 13.6% 12.4% 1.10
11 Seasons 13.2% 8.3% 1.58
MLB Averages 17.1% 8.6% 1.98
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/16/2011.

He didn’t have a great year because balls he put in play fell for hits. He didn’t have a sudden and dramatic power spike. But he was more patient than he’d ever been, which surely led to better pitches to hit. I’m a sucker for that sort of improvement. So I’ll go against my better judgment and be slightly bullish on Huff, even if that just means I’m not as bearish as the other projections.

Aubrey Huff

AB: 510
HR: 22
AVG: .279
OBP: .373
SLG: .466

Full disclosure: the fictional Sabean conversation was obviously an homage to/theft of this SNL skit. Thanks to Kitspool for reminding me of it in the comments yesterday, and rest in peace, Phil Hartman.

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