Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Significant Date in Twins' History - Torii Hunter leaves for the Angels


2007 was a rare poor season for the Twins in the first decade of the 21st Century.  They finished under .500 and in 3rd place.  A long-time Minnesota Twin was heading for free agency after the season as well.  Torii Hunter was likely the fourth or fifth best player on the team at this point, behind Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Johan Santana and possibly Joe Nathan (I think Hunter was better).  In addition, he was 31 years old and slipping defensively from a great centerfielder to an aging centerfielder who probably would benefit from a change to right field.  I know that I was personally against signing Hunter to a long-term deal, but Hunter obviously wanted to cash in on what had been a good career to this point.

I remember hearing that the Twins offered 3 years and 45 million dollars.  I thought that was too high, but the years were not offensive to me.  I tried calling Terry Ryan, but realized quickly that I didn't have his number, and that he doesn't care what I think.  It was all irrelevant anyway, as Anaheim and Hunter agreed to terms on a 5 year, 90 million (actually 89.5) dollar contract on November 21, 2007.  I found this to be laughable, and I was more than relieved that the Twins did not offer anything close to that. 

I thought that Hunter might do well for the first 2 or 3 years of that deal, and then completely fall off the table as a 35 and 36 year old.  Knowing that his defense was slipping a bit, moving him to right field might have made some sense for the Twins.  So, I wanted to see how he did against Twin center and right fielders.  The results?  Well, let's just see, shall we?  I took the liberty of making some charts; I hope you don't mind.

Chart 1 - Torii Hunter's WAR, compared with Twins' center and right fielders over the past 5 years.

WAR
Hunter
Twins CF
Twins RF
2008
2.6
Gomez
2.6
Span
3.2
2009
3.9
Span
4.1
Cuddyer
2.8
2010
3.7
Span
2.6
Kubel/Cuddyer
0.4
2011
2.6
Span/Revere
4.2
Cuddyer
3
2012
4.4
Span
3.5
Revere
2.7
Total
17.2
17
12.1

As you can see, Hunter was more valuable (by Fangraphs' WAR) than either Twins' center or right fielders.  Although, it was very close in center field.  If nothing else, this chart makes me appreciate just how good and underrated Denard Span is.  Hunter has been really consistent over the 5 year deal and definitely exceeded my expectations.

Chart 2 - Torii Hunter's Salary (in million dollas), compared with Twins' center and right fielders over the past 5 years.

Dollas (in mils)
Hunter
Twins CF
Twins RF
2008
16.5
0.4
0.4
2009
18
0.4
7.66
2010
18.5
0.75
13.516
2011
18.5
1.4
10.5
2012
18
3
0.5
Total
89.5
5.95
32.576

I chose dollas over dollars, because I am currently wearing my trucker cap tilted slightly to the side.  As is clearly seen, Hunter has been significantly more expensive than these two Twins outfield positions combined.  The center field situation is almost a laughable comparison.  So, let's take this one step further.

Chart 3 - Torii Hunters WAR/Million Dolla, compared with Twins' center and right fielders over the past 5 years.

WAR/Dolla
Hunter
Twins CF
Twins RF
2008
0.16
6.50
8.00
2009
0.22
10.25
0.37
2010
0.20
3.47
0.03
2011
0.14
3.00
0.29
2012
0.24
1.17
5.40
Total
0.96
24.38
14.08

I'm still using dolla instead of dollar, although my trucker cap did fall off.  I am still wearing my favorite shirt.  This is a rather crude measurement, I admit.  However it does show that the Twins got comparable production from these positions and at a much lower price.  Over the 5 years Torii Hunter was worth 17.2 WAR.  Over that same time, Denard Span was worth 15.6 WAR.  He also make approximately 200 billion dollars less (I don't feel like checking my math). 

Chart 4 - Torii Hunter statistics over the past 5 years

Hunter Totals
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
5 Year Total
5 Year Avg
Games
146
119
152
156
130
703
140.6
HR
21
22
23
23
15
104
20.8
RBI
85
74
76
80
74
389
77.8
SB
19
18
9
5
9
60
12
OPS
0.810
0.873
0.819
0.765
0.802
0.814
0.814
WAR
2.6
3.9
3.7
2.6
4.4
17.2
3.4

If you had shown me this chart in 2007, I would have said two things:  1.  What is WAR?  2.  Wow, that honestly surprises me.  Over the last 5 years, Torii Hunter has been a good player.  He has been about a 3 and a half win player and has produced good counting stats.  He also seems like a really good guy and someone that the Angels like having around.  My charts did not measure things like clubhouse chemistry, ballpark factors of anything like that.  I am sure there are ways to make the Twins' decision to let Hunter leave look bad.  As much as I have grown to appreciate Hunter over the years, I am glad he left.  Denard Span has really flourished in his absence and has become an overall more valuable player than Hunter (when you consider salary and age).  In addition, he also seems like a good guy.  The good guy stuff balances out!

Were you sad or glad when Torii Hunter left?  Were you mad?  Did you feel you'd been had?  Don't feel bad.  Love, Brad.

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