In mid-December, I wrote a quick blurb on the Giants’ age for the upcoming season among their position players, entitled ‘Are the Giants Geezers Again?‘. I decided to dig a little deeper to see how Sabean has done during his tenure with the Giants by age group and WAR. What I’ve done is to take every player that’s accrued at least 80 PAs in a season since Sabean became GM, sort them by age buckets, and average the WAR for each age group. I removed Bonds from the data set because he really skewed the numbers — he averaged 8.1 wins per season from age 35 to when he retired. I also wanted to get an idea of the ‘shape’ of the team by age groupings. So, I added the dashed-line below that represents the number of players in each age group during Sabean’s run.
Since becoming GM, Sabean has found moderate productivity among the age groups of 27-29 and 30-32. His best group was the 33-35 players. The groups past age 35 don’t do well, losing nearly have their WAR values compared to the 27-35 group. That’s not an earth shattering statement. Players do get old and lose skills and by 36+ most players are on the downward path. What jumped out to me while examining the numbers was how well the 33-35 player group has done over Sabean’s time as GM. Let’s take a closer look at that group.
‘Wins’ for Sabean in the 33-35 player group:
Name WAR Age Year Jeff Kent 6.6 34 2002 Aubrey Huff 5.9 33 2010 Ellis Burks 5.5 35 2000 Jeff Kent 5.1 33 2001 Ray Durham 3.9 34 2006 Stan Javier 3.8 33 1997 Randy Winn 3.7 34 2008 Ellis Burks 3.2 34 1999 Reggie Sanders 3.2 34 2002 Randy Winn 3.2 35 2009 Ray Durham 3.1 33 2005 Darryl Hamilton 3 33 1998 Pat Burrell 3 33 2010 Randy Winn 2.1 33 2007 Stan Javier 2 34 1998
That’s an interesting mix of players. There is a lot of Jeff Kent (adding 11.7 wins to his group — he was good) Ray Durham, Ellis Burks, and Randy Winn. Oddly enough, Stan Javier makes our list twice for top players in the 33-35 group during Sabean’s tenure. I think it’s easy to forget, but Stan Javier really was a nice player for the Giants when they had him. His 1997 season (.286/.368/.395, 102 OPS+) was right around his career averages (.269/.345/.363, 93 OPS+) but what made him outstanding was, according to Total Zone, his above-average defense. In ’97, he was worth +15 runs between RF/CF. He was sort of a Randy Winn –good baserunner, average hitter, strong on defense, good in all aspects of the game, not outstanding in any — before Randy Winn existed on the team.
Also, man, I really miss Ellis Burks. His 3 year stop with the Giants was short, but did he ever leave an impression – hitting a slash of .312/.404/.568 over that period. That’s works out to an OPS+ of 150 — meaning he was 50% better than the league average hitter. That’s a huge value when you consider that even with his creaky knees, his defense was below average (-11 runs over the 3 seasons) instead of just horrible.
Another interesting bit of information about the 33-35 player list is that most of the players on the list are the athletic-type such as Stan Javier, Reggie Sanders, Randy Winn, Ray Durham, and Darryl Hamilton. These tend to be the guys that I feel comfortable about Sabean acquiring. You could add Kenny Lofton to this list as well. He only played 46 games for the Giants in his career but he added 1.6 wins to the Giants in the 2002 regular season. That’s very good and it’s a shame we never kept Kenny longer. He ended up signing with the Pirates following the 2002 season for a bargain priced $1.025M.
I think this bit of information is slightly telling, but it doesn’t tell us a whole bunch right now. In short, I think it reinforces the idea that athletic players are going to age better past certain ages. And for the Giants, past 2011, it might behoove the team to get more athletic at several positions.