(Words taken from Grady Sizemore’s Wikipedia page from 2007 onward.)
Dude gets hurt a lot. After looking at this thing all I can see is SURGERY-MICROFRACTURE-KNEE-HERNIA-ohgodthepain. From 2006-2008 Sizemore was one of the best players in the American League. Scratch that, one of the best players in baseball. Over that time period (’06-08), Sizemore posted a 134 wRC+ along with above average defense in center (+22.3 runs above average to be exact). Sizemore was the rare center fielder that could hit, field and run. His fWAR of 21.6 was third in baseball — only Pujols (25.9) and Utley (23.5) were better.
That’s clearly a young and talented player. Heading into his age 26 season, in 2009, everyone expected Sizemore to maintain his skill-set or even get better. But sometimes injuries happen and Sizemore underwent operations on his left elbow and lower abdomen (sports hernia). In 2010, he underwent microfracture surgery on his left knee. In 2011, he had another sports hernia operation, and just this past October, he had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. Over the past three seasons, Sizemore has averaged just 70 games per season with a batting line of .234/.314/.413 (98 OPS+). Thus, you can partly conclude, that the Indians, on some level, had their doubts about Sizemore’s health for 2012 (and paying $9M to find out); the team utilized a $500,000 buyout and Sizemore is now a free agent.
Sizemore is clearly a once-special-player that’s been halted by injuries over the past three seasons. The million dollar question for 2012 is: How healthy will he be? Jeff Sullivan made a nice observation on Lookout Landing: Sizemore is making less contact these days. Looking at Sizemore’s player page on StatCorner reveals the same startling trend:
Year P/PA Swing% Miss% 2007 4.17 42.0 17.7 2008 4.09 41.1 16.4 2009 3.97 42.9 17.1 2010 3.94 44.7 25.4 2011 3.62 47.1 28.2
Sizemore is swinging more than ever, seeing less pitches than ever, and missing the ball more than ever. And it’s most likely health-related.
Here’s a quick matrix on Sizemore based on his assumed WAR and playing time.
For example: if the Giants believe that Sizemore is a “three WAR player”, then he’ll have to amass 400 PAs to hit league average (two wins) production. To me, by using this matrix, Sizemore only looks like an acceptable gamble if you believe he is a three WAR, or greater, player. Over the past three seasons, Sizemore has averaged 313 PAs (and about 0.9 WAR per 300 PAs). So place that in the back of your mind when looking at this table.
Sizemore comes with a lot of risk, but he was once really-really-good. How the Giants determine his current skill-set (and remember, health) is how they’ll determine how much they’ll bid. His trend to swing more and hit the ball less is unsettling, make no bones about it. However, it’s rare to find a player like Sizemore on the open market. And it’s rare to find one that will (presumably) sign a one-year incentive laden contract. Sizemore is at a point in his career where he’ll have to prove that he can still play at a high level, and he can do that on a one-year deal. Bringing Grady Sizemore into the fold would be a risky roll of the dice, but it’s a gamble with potential for a huge payoff. If you can imagine a future with Grady on the Giants, he’ll probably slot into a corner OF spot, further blocking Brandon Belt’s playing time. That’s probably the biggest negative I can think of when I go over this deal in my head.
I think I would be thrilled if the team got a good price on Sizemore, but the more I wrote this post the more I waffled on my original position of, “I want Sizemore.” Looking at the matrix above, he’d have to get at least 300 PAs at a 4-5 WAR level before I’d consider him a useful signing. Is he capable of posting a 4-5 WAR season these days with his health issues? Honestly, I don’t know, but expecting Sizemore to take more than 300 PAs for the Giants in 2012 seems somewhat grossly optimistic to me, given the past three years. I also can’t close the book on Sizemore because he’s just so damn intriguing, but unless the Giants get a great deal on him, he’s looking like a pass for me.