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Evan Longoria can still be good, even if the Giants’ history with third basemen suggests otherwise

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On a scale of “Telenovela” to “Desperate Housewives”, which version of Longoria will the Giants get this season?

MLB: Spring Training-Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The first thought I had after I started this new role was, “What am I going to do about the community projections?”

Statistical projection is not my strong suit. It’s not even an area of interest that consumes a great deal of my curiosity. I’m generally interested in understanding the thinking behind analytics, but I’m functionally a dullard when it comes to math.

So, let this be the dullard’s post about a player who’s anything but dull (no — I won’t delete this. Standing by it)...

The last five years of Evan Longoria’s career have been about attendance. He plays almost every game. Statistically, he’s had two incredible seasons, one great season, and two basically average seasons over that span.

2017 trended in the wrong direction. He was, essentially, a league average hitter in the first half, and Hunter Pence’s first half in the second half. His batting average on balls in play for the second half was .243, which makes me think, “Yeah, sure, he was unlucky, but also, maybe, he’s lost all his power.” He hit into 11 double plays in the second half (7 in the first half), which to a math idiot like me reads like an old manining of his skillset.

This is his age-32 season, and as Grant has mentioned before, a player doesn’t have to disintegrate as soon as he crosses into the 31-32 range, that that sort of value death tends to happen mostly in the 34-35 range. The Giants are counting on him still having some quality baseball left in those cells. I don’t think that’s a wild thing for them to count on.

After looking at his 2017, where he put up a 100 OPS+ (per Baseball-Reference), I thought about whether or not the Giants had another Edgardo Alfonzo on their hands, in terms of how his tenure as a Giant was going to look. And then I thought about all main third baseman the Giants have had so far this century (except for Pablo Sandoval, who’s too young to get into this comp orgy) — Alfonzo, Russ Davis, Pedro Feliz, David Bell, and Bill Mueller. Is Evan Longoria likely to follow in any of their footsteps?

I’m happy to report that, no, probably not. Alfonzo was signed to a 4-year deal that began in his age-29 season. Over the next 3 seasons (the Giants traded him before the last year of his deal), he posted an 88 OPS+ and hit into 40 double plays. He was hounded by back problems, as I recall, but his situation is not comparable to Longoria’s. He was good as recently as last season, his age-31 season. Edgardo Alfonzo was out of baseball after his age-32 season.

Russ David had a pretty solid 2001, actually, posting a 110 OPS+ while slugging .473 in 53 games in his age-31 season. But the fans booed him and called him “Roos”, and due to some family matters, the Giants designated him for assignment. And then he never played Major League Baseball again.

Bill Mueller played for the Red Sox in his age-32 season. It was his first season with the team, and it was an incredible season. He placed 12th in MVP voting with a 140 OPS+. This was also the season he became the first player to ever hit two grand slams in a game from both sides of the plate. It is highly unlikely Evan Longoria will replicate this season.

Pedro Feliz’s age-32 season was his final year with the Giants (2007), and he posted his third straight sub-100 OPS+ season. He did hit 20 home runs, though, while grounding into 15 double plays. I feel that Longoria can avoid a Felizesque tenure as a Giant simply because he’s able to draw walks from time to time and lay off of bad pitches. But still, here’s a haunting reminder of how bad it can get.

David Bell’s age-32 season was three seasons removed from his one year with the Giants (2002), and with 617 plate appearances he was able to generate a 72 OPS+. He managed to get a job in his age-33 season, but then he never played Major League Baseball again.

So, basically, Evan Longoria should be worried. The Giants chew up and spit out third baseman his age. Or maybe it’s just Time that does that. Still, I think his recent success coupled with his durability and skillset give him an edge on the aforementioned guys. And his defense is another strong positive in his favor. At least for this season.

Evan Longoria, projected 2018
AB: 605
AVG: .272
OBP: .329
SLG: .445
HR: 18
SB: 3
rWAR: 3.2