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  • Paul Semendinger

Perspectives: June 7, 2022

by Paul Semendinger, Ed.D.

June 7, 2022

***

When I reflect on the great teams I have seen over the years of my baseball fandom, I always first think of the 1984 Tigers. That team was a powerhouse who rode a great start all the way to a World Championship. One could argue that other teams (the 1998 Yankees, for example) were better, but the Tigers definitely set the gold standard for starting quickly.


Guess what. The 2022 Yankees aren't that far off from the 1984 Tigers:


1984 Tigers (June 6): 40-13, 3.5 games in first

2022 Yankees (June 6): 39-15, 7.5 games in first


***

One thing that marked the Yankees in recent years was inconsistent play. There would be some great stretches and some poor stretches. This year, the good has vastly outweighed the bad.

  • The longest losing streak for the team has been three games

  • Besides that, the Yankees have only two other two game losing streaks.

  • The Yankees have had winning streaks of 11, 6, 5, 4 and 4 games.

This is a remarkable stretch. They are doing what must be done day-in-and-day-out. It's been a pleasure to see.


***

In the history of my Yankees watching, dating back to 1977, I have never, ever, seen a team, let alone a Yankees team, with a starting staff this amazingly unbelievable:

  • Gerrit Cole: 5-1, 2.78 (0.96 WHIP)

  • Luis Severino: 4-1, 2.95 (1.00 WHIP)

  • Nestor Cortes: 5-1, 1.50 (0.87 WHIP)

  • Jameson Taillon: 6-1, 2.30 (0.90 WHIP)

  • Jordan Montgomery: 1-1, 3.02 (1.01 WHIP)

That's not just great. It's crazy great. It's ridiculous. And, it's so much fun.


***

I believe the Yankees realize that Aaron Hicks and Joey Gallo are not the answer for 2/3rds of their outfield. I expect that the Yankees, knowing that this is the year to go all in, will bring in two outfielders by the end of July. Sooner would be better, but because of their huge lead, the Yankees don't have to rush. Yet.


If the Yankees get two productive outfielders, they can win a World Series with Jose Treveno as the catcher and IFK at shortstop. Absolutely and positively.


***

The other day in the comments, I engaged in a debate over Bryce Harper and Aaron Judge and the fact that, even though Judge is having a monster season, I think the better value going forward will be Bryce Harper.


Aaron Judge is the better player this year. That's not in question. But, overall, the two players have produced very similarly the past few years.


First, looking at Baseball-Reference, Here are their stats from 2019-2022:


Harper: 356 games: .281/83/231 OBP- .402 SLG- .556 WAR- 14.0

Judge: 329 games: .285/96/217 OBP- .375 SLG- ..566 WAR- 15.6


Judge has been better, but not by a lot, or as much as people might think.


Now, let's look at some other important stats:

Age:

Judge: 30 years-old

Harper: 29 years-old


Contract Length:

Judge: Turned down a contract that would have run until age 38

Harper: Signed until age 38


Contract Value:

Judge: Turned down $30.5M annually

Harper: Will average $26.1M annually


Over the next 9 years, Bryce Harper will earn $36 million fewer dollars than what Aaron Judge turned down. It's safe to assume that that number could double or even triple once Judge signs a huge deal. Also, if Judge gets a contract any longer than seven years, the team that signs Judge will be paying for his age 39+ seasons. When Harper is that old, he won't still be signed to a super expensive long-term deal.


I'm taking nothing away from Aaron Judge who has stepped up, big time, put the Yankees on his back, and is having a season for the ages. This is GREAT to see. But, judging by what Judge will get, it's fair to say that Bryce Harper projects to be the better value dollar-for-dollar when their contracts and careers are compared in ten years.


***

I know it's not allowed to be said, but if I were the Yankees, as great as Judge is doing, I still would not give him more than seven years. A great 2022 does not mean he'll have a great 2023 and beyond.


Sometimes (really, most times) players, even great players, get old quickly. The Yankees don't want to pay in 2023 and beyond for what happened in 2022 and before. That's just not good business sense.


***

Here's a great player comparison... The following is a star of recent vintage who signed a gigantic contract after his age-31 season.


This player played 11 seasons before the big contract. Over that span, he averaged 155 games played each year. His average season was .328/40/121. As good as Judge is, he isn't close to being as good as this player...


Then from age-32 to age-40, this player averaged just 129 games, .257/24/86.


It came apart quickly - in an instant. And, just in case a reader wants to claim that the numbers are skewed because I included the last years of the contract, let's take away those last few years and look at the first years, up through that player's age-37 year:


From age-32 to age-37, that player averaged: 145 games, .262/28/98. That's good, not great.


My point is that the Yankees do not want to be paying more than $30.5M for that type of production. To do so would be foolish. And the team that signs Aaron Judge will be paying way more than $30.5M a season. The likelihood is they'll be paying for a lot of years like that.


The great player outlined here is Albert Pujols. He was other worldly until he turned 31 and then he just wasn't the same.


Aaron Judge is having a great year. Albert Pujols also has a great age-30 season: 159 games played: .312/42/118. He led the league in homers and RBI's.


There is a lesson here for the Yankees and any team. It's not good strategy to give a big time long term mega contract to a player past 30-years-old.


It's just not.


I am usually not the guy who defends the Yankees. I wanted them to sign Bryce Harper. They didn't. I wanted them to trade for Francisco Lindor. They didn't. I didn't think signing D.J. LeMahieu for six years was a good decision. I wanted Buck to be the manager, not Boone. I think the money grab for streaming is a rotten deal for their loyal fans. On and on... But, I think the Yankees' offer of $30.5M for seven years was fair and even (yes, I'll say it) a bit of an overpay for how Judge will most likely produce through his thirties.


I'd love for Judge to remain a Yankee forever. But I also wouldn't give him $35M a season or give him more than 7 years. No way.


***

Just for fun - Here are the average age 31-36 seasons for the players who Baseball-Reference ranks as the ten most similar to Aaron Judge (through his Age-29 season):

  • Brian Giles: 147 games, .285/20/84

  • Khris Davis: Still Playing, but through age 33: 68 games, .216/9/31

  • Kevin Mitchell: 65 games, .306/13/42

  • Norm Cash: 142 games, .265/24/73

  • Leon Wagner: 109 games, .272/13/45

  • Trot Nixon: 87 games, .263/6/38 (He was done at age-34)

  • David Justice: 132 games, .284/24/82

  • J.D. Martinez: 98 games, .290/19/64 (He is still playing and is 34)

  • Yoenis Cespedes: 42 games, .274/9/25 (He was done after his age-32 season)

  • Reggie Sanders: 128 games, .264/24/73

I know, I know... when people look at the career of Aaron Judge, they expect to see names like Mickey Mantle, Dave Winfield, or Reggie Jackson as the most similar. You might expect Giancarlo Stanton to be on the list. That's just not the case. The players above are the players most similar to Aaron Judge. Would you pay upwards of $30M a year for any of those players if they were playing today? Would you sign any of those players to a seven year deal (or longer)? Do any of those names inspire great confidence?


As a point of comparison, through his Age-28 season, Bryce Harper has comparable players that include Barry Bonds, Andruw Jones, Giancarlo Stanton, Mike Trout, Duke Snider, and Frank Robinson.


***

Let's Go Yankees!












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