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Can Buxton be Worth $100M Playing 100 Games?


Byron Buxton revealed that the Twins and he are working a plan to keep him healthy for at least 100 games, a mark he has only reached one time in his career. This has raised the question whether can he be worth his 7-year, $100M+ contract if he only plays that much? The answer is yes, but before we dive into why, let’s look at Buxton through a stat that traditionalists love: RBI.  

204 RBI. That’s the number of RBI Byron Buxton has had in his seven-year career. But this isn’t going to be a screed on what a stupid stat RBI is, nor is it going to be a tirade against modern players.  Instead, it’s about how a guy who averages less than 30 RBI per year is worth $100M, or how to reconcile traditional counting stats with modern player evaluation

First, since talking about RBI is like waving a red flag in front of a sabrmetrically inclined bull, let’s point out that it isn’t just RBI. Buxton’s injury history means that almost all of his “counting” stats are far lower than one would expect. Buxton has averaged 10 home runs over those seven years. He’s averaged 15 doubles. 11 stolen bases. Even defensively, where everyone admits he shines, he’s only saved, on average, about 5 runs per season.

Counting stats aren’t great for predicting the future, but they are usually valuable for talking about past production. And Buxton’s inability to stay healthy means that he hasn’t been able to demonstrate much productivity using traditional counting stats. If you do a comparison between him and other MLB players, he looks more like a utility player than potential superstar.

Check out the list of 10 players to whom he is most similar on Baseball Reference. It’s not exactly stocked with Hall of Famers. Domingo Santana? Wily Mo Pena? Pena didn’t make $7M over his entire career. So why is Buxton worth so much more?

Baseball nerds will talk about Buxton’s WAR or Wins Above Replacement, which is not at all similar to that of Wily Mo Pena and Domingo Santana. But that statistic just moves the disconnect to another arena. Why is WAR so much different than traditional (and far more intuitive) counting stats?

There are two fundamental differences between a player that puts up middling counting stats over 70 games (which is what Buxton has averaged over the last seven years) and a player that puts up middling counting stats over 162 games. The first is 92 games. The second is the last initial in WAR: Replacement.

In those other 92 games, a replacement player is in center field, and the stats that player puts up also help out the team. So when Buxton is not available, the team gets slightly below-average productivity. But when he is available, he performs like a superstar. Average those out and you get a very good center fielder, even if Buxton continues to require frequent trips to the 10-day IL.

How much is that worth? Figuring out the value of a single MLB Win Above Replacement is fairly simple math: just take the total amount paid to the last free-agent class and divide it by the total WAR they had. The answer lately has been around $8M. Buxton is making $9M this year and is guaranteed $15M over the next six years. So he needs to be post a WAR of 1 this year and a WAR around 2 for the next six years.

He’s already at 1.6, and that’s through just 24 games played.  Yeah, he’s worth it.

This naturally leads to the question about how he and the Twins can keep him in the lineup even more. That’s the same question the Twins are attempting to answer by working a plan to keep him healthy for at least 100 games, a mark he has only reached one time in his career.  It may not be the right plan, but you can see value in trying something, anything. He’s certainly worth the effort.

 


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Verified Member

I long have been a supporter of Buck, but also stated he would not play a full season, as he never has.  The contract he reached really accounts for his lack of health, and pays him more if he can stay healthy.  It was actually a good contract for the Twins and Buck.  When on the field he is worth one of the highest paid player in the game. 

However, we knew he would not play even 150 games a year.  I also feel when he plays DH his value is dropped a ton as much of his value is on his defense.  However, he is worth the contract as he will play about half a season each year.  

One comment on the counting stats versus antilytic stats.  No one stat tells a full story.  They need to always be taken into context.  Also no stat predicts future outcomes either, they can only be compared to see if they are in line with expected results.  I could go off for a long time about that issue, but I do agree WAR as a whole is best to look at as an overall looking at most stats, but it is not predictive either.

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I think (hope) the 100 game plan is just for this year and did not come into play until he hurt his knee.

Going forward Buxton himself needs to figure out how to stay on the field. He has started to dial in the recklessness in the field that led to running into walls and teammates, now he needs to figure out how to not get hurt on the bases. If he had been running hard on that pop-up, he gets second standing up. Since he didn't (nor do many MLB players), he should have been content to stay at first instead of having to awkwardly slide into second and jam his knee (like many MLB players have done).

We also don't know how much of his hip problems are related to running to first, stepping on the bag (creating a jamming force on the ankles, knees and hips), and coming to an abrupt stop from full-speed. I do love the hustle, but sometimes you need to let the routine grounder to the pitcher or second baseman be routine and just jog to first. Groundballs to short and third are potential infield hits and you gotta go hard to first!!

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Based on my own physical experience another counting stat is how many years you live.  Knees, hips, backs...don't get better with age.  They don't always improve from days off and rest - when Buxton does not play, what else does he do on that day.  We he hurts adapt, when he feels good let him play.  

In the long run, no one is worth that kind of money - CEOs or ball  players, so I disregard that stat. 

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Old-Timey Member

Buxton when in the lineup is setting a new level of performance. He is simply awesome right now. 

Buxton's willingness to commit to the Twins and the State of Minnesota makes him one of us and moves him into the group of my favorite all time Twins. 

I will not let the times that he is not on the field diminish my enjoyment of the times that he is on the field. 

I'll take what I can get. He's worth every penny. 

Go get em Buck... I drink to your health. 

 

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Yes, but that's why this contract made sense.  Byron Buxton was never going to be a 7 year/300M guy despite all the posts around here about it because he simply can't stay healthy enough to warrant that.  But his impact and health does warrant the deal he got.

What people have to accept is that getting 100 games out of Buxton is likely MORE than we can reasonably expect.  He just went through his 22-27 year old seasons averaging far fewer games than that.  It is who he is: a transcendent talent, with a ton of heart, but with part-time availability.

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I guess my question is...who came up with the goal of 100 games?  A doctor?  Him?  FO?  Would 122 games cause injury?  Would. 87 played mean he has more in the tank?  Is it a random number?  Either way I love watching him play and is well worth it to me.

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One factor I don't see in the article or comments. This is a great strategy to have him healthy come playoff time. And the team's fortunes are MUCH shinier if he is playing in the postseason. Resting him regularly to let the body recover from his intense outputs makes sense, especially if you have him with a championship on the line.

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1 hour ago, se7799 said:

I guess my question is...who came up with the goal of 100 games?  A doctor?  Him?  FO?  Would 122 games cause injury?  Would. 87 played mean he has more in the tank?  Is it a random number?  Either way I love watching him play and is well worth it to me.

Sometimes you have to just pick a number as a starting point. 100 is a nice round number and accounts for about 4-5 10 day IL visits with Rocco's generous rest day policy. 81 would be half the games 100 games is roughly 62% of games. I know both parties would love more, but somewhere to start. 

 

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The economics of baseball make "worth" hard to quantify when a player gains control over his own contract negotiation, since the instant comparison with all players includes young productive guys being forced to play for under a million.  So, John's analysis is quite proper in light of the choice to pay Buxton market rate or not have him at all.  He's "worth" the money.

Still, a couple of things bother me.  One is that having a player you are forced to expect to be "part-time" puts pressure on your roster (both 40-man and the active major-league one), and while I don't know how to quantify what that costs you, it's got to be something.  Also, that $100M over seven years could be deployed some other way, such as on non-draft prospect acquisition or simply on pitching (which our FO seems averse to).

Using $8M per WAR is a neat and easy analysis, but I don't think a general manager can afford to look at it quite that simplistically.  Still, the bottom line almost surely is for that GM to say yes to Buxton.

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The incentives laden contract for Mvp awards and placing in the top 5 or so in MVP votes, getting 500 or more ABs, we're all agreed to since last season. It's hard to imagine he would be considered for Mvp if he's only playing 100 games and it seems a stretch to get to 500 ABs. I think the ABs incentives were in $500k increments. 

Seems a little odd to me they came up with this plan in the spring (according to Souhan) before he hurt anything, but after the incentive packed contract was signed in December. 

 

 

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8 hours ago, Eris said:

The one stat that is most important is the W-L of the team when Byron Buxton is playing. There have been some variations of this stat on the other Buxton threads. 
 

https://calltothepen.com/2021/09/25/importance-byron-buxton-minnesota-twins/amp/

Taking that argument to its logical conclusion, wouldn't it also be important to look at the W-L records of the opposing teams in the games he plays in?  If he plays much of his games in a weak division, Detroit, KC, etc., and we win our share of those games, how many games does he play against NY, Houston, etc.?  What is our record in those games?  I say that because it is these teams we see in the playoffs.  So far this year we have played only 8 games against teams that are over .500, and we are 2-6 in those games.  And, again, these are the caliber of teams we will see in the playoffs.   This is not to discount the stat you presented, I would just be curious to see a breakdown of the opponents records he is playing against before I get too carried away with our record in the games he plays in.  

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This is just a thought, and I hope ya all don't yell at me too loud, but what would be so wrong with Buck being our next Nelson Cruz?  Full time DH?  If Cellestino is for real, he can handle center much of the time with Gordon and Kepler as back ups.  Put Buck in the cleanup spot behind Arraez, Correa, and Polanco and let him swing away 500-600 times a year.  Tell him to back off the sprints that get him hurt so much of the time and run at a pace he knows is safe for his body.  The damage he could do at the plate would be immense, and he stays safe (or at least safer).  If he hurts himself in that role we know we are cursed.  Might be worth a try.  His bat in the lineup every day will more than compensate for the difference in defense by the others.  And since he is only playing center part time now, how much difference could it make?  Just a thought at 4:00 am after work.  :)   (think I should have slept on it?)

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I love Buxton, when he plays.  I'm glad he's on the team and hope he does well.  However, I'm of the opinion that paying a part time player $15 mill per season after this year's measly 9 mill, for 7 years is ridiculously high.  He has been and continues to be a part time player.  He has proven to be great when he plays.  But he is unreliable.  They can't play him because of his nagging injuries and fear that if he plays he might get hurt.  There's not too many players that I recall that are more brittle and fragile than Buxton.  He hurts the team when he cannot play which is way too often.  He should be happy because he was able to coax $100 million guaranteed over 7 years whether he plays or not.  He's good but not worth $100 million if you can't count on him to play and contribute.

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21 hours ago, rwilfong86 said:

I'm okay with them being cautious with him. It's a long season, and if him missing a game a week keeps him from missing 2 months that is a long term win. 

1 game a week would be an improvement. As the current plan is playing out he sits twice a week an DHs one other time! I believe a realistic goal would be 125 to 140 games a year. Dh once or twice a week if necessary. 

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What are the variables that measure WAR. I don't believe it's accurate at all. I think the Twins are 10 games over .500 with Buxton and 3 or 4 games under .500. So how to you get a factor of 1.6 when that's a 13 or 14 game difference. I never quite figured that one out. 

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1 minute ago, Schmoeman5 said:

What are the variables that measure WAR. I don't believe it's accurate at all. I think the Twins are 10 games over .500 with Buxton and 3 or 4 games under .500. So how to you get a factor of 1.6 when that's a 13 or 14 game difference. I never quite figured that one out. 

And yes I think he's worth it. 100 games is less than 2/3 of a season. Harper Trout Betts etc are all making 30 million plus. So if he's effective for 100 games or more then he's worth it. IF Buxton had mostly good health in his career, he'd be gone because there's no way the Twins would offer him say 7 years for 250 million

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3 hours ago, Karbo said:

1 game a week would be an improvement. As the current plan is playing out he sits twice a week an DHs one other time! I believe a realistic goal would be 125 to 140 games a year. Dh once or twice a week if necessary. 

Hopefully on days when they're either scoring a lot of runs early or getting shellacked early they can get him out of the game and give him additional rest. 125-140 sounds reasonable. 

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17 minutes ago, Linus said:

Yes. Easily. 
Relax and enjoy that this hard working young man left a pile on the table to be a Minnesota Twin. 

He most assuredly did not leave a pile on the table.  If this was his walk season he'd only have given the FA market yet another indication that his availability is what it is. 

He and his agents knew full well that this was well within the cap of what he'd earn given his circumstances.

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On 5/18/2022 at 11:34 AM, mnfireman said:

I think (hope) the 100 game plan is just for this year and did not come into play until he hurt his knee.

Going forward Buxton himself needs to figure out how to stay on the field. He has started to dial in the recklessness in the field that led to running into walls and teammates, now he needs to figure out how to not get hurt on the bases. If he had been running hard on that pop-up, he gets second standing up. Since he didn't (nor do many MLB players), he should have been content to stay at first instead of having to awkwardly slide into second and jam his knee (like many MLB players have done).

We also don't know how much of his hip problems are related to running to first, stepping on the bag (creating a jamming force on the ankles, knees and hips), and coming to an abrupt stop from full-speed. I do love the hustle, but sometimes you need to let the routine grounder to the pitcher or second baseman be routine and just jog to first. Groundballs to short and third are potential infield hits and you gotta go hard to first!!

I don't think "figuring out how to stay on the field" is something that a ball player has control over.  Either you do or you don't.  Not really something that can be controlled.  Guy can be totally healthy all season and still get hurt at any point.  I do like the possibility of playing him less earlier in the season and more later, hopefully in the post-season.

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