A Quick Look at Alex Gordon

Only a few of the major free-agent names remain available as we approach the new year. One of the most intriguing is Alex Gordon. He’s not only been an excellent fielder over the course of his career, but he’s also been an above-average hitter. His age-25 and 26 seasons were cut short by injury and I think we can give some leeway to a 23-year-old rookie for not having an above-average bat, but otherwise he’s had an excellent career. Here’s are his stats throughout his career:

2007 23 151 15 60 0.72 90
2008 24 134 16 59 0.78 109
2009 25 49 6 22 0.70 87
2010 26 74 8 20 0.67 84
2011 27 151 23 87 0.88 140
2012 28 161 14 72 0.82 123
2013 29 156 20 81 0.75 103
2014 30 156 19 74 0.78 118
2015 31 104 13 48 0.81 120

There’s no doubt that he’s a great baseball player. He’s also accumulated 3 seasons with 6+ WAR since his rookie season. But there’s always the question as to whether a player has peaked or not, especially when their age starts creeping into the 30s. To try and answer this I look at the OPS values he’s put up over the years and extrapolated those numbers into his age-40 season. Below, in black, are the seasons that he’s already played. I’ve also included a line-of-best-fit through the data with the black portion representing past seasons and the red portion representing his future offensive output. Based on the seasons he’s put together, the model predicts that he will peak at about 34 years of age. Most players peak in their late 20s, but it’s not unheard of for players to peak later. Projections should always be taken with a grain of salt, but whichever team decides to take a shot on Gordon could expect his offensive production to remain relatively constant over the next few years.

So what does this graph tell us? Well basically nothing! It’s not very good practice to extrapolate past the range of your data, but it is interesting nonetheless. Also, considering Gordon has been so good for so long it’s tough to assume that he hasn’t peaked yet. That’s not to say he can’t continue to improve or even perform at a high level, but since it’s getting later in the offseason and so much money has been thrown at pitchers let’s assume he signs for 4 years. Below are his projected OPS values and as you can see from the graph above that Gordon may not even be in his offensive prime.

32 0.804
33 0.806
34 0.807
35 0.805

So far I’ve shown you data for Gordon’s career and also used that data to project his performance over the next 4 years. Assuming he signs a 4-year contract this off-season I wanted to find his closest comparables from his career so far and see how those players performed through their age-35 season. In order to compare players I used the Mahalanobis distance for all players that fell into the following criteria; (1) played in every season from their age 29 to 31 seasons, (2) at least 1200 ABs over that time and (3) played every season in their age 32-35 seasons. The Mahalanobis distance was calculated using common offensive statistics standardized by the number of at-bats. Here is a table with the lowest Mahalanobis Distance’s to Alex Gordon through his career thus far as well as their cumulative WAR for their age 32-35 seasons.

Name M Dist WAR
Melvin Mora 0.25954  14.0
Jay Bell 0.30550  10.0
Randy Winn 0.43127  9.7
Bret Boone 0.60615 9.9
Jermaine Dye 0.60776 6.0
Jim Edmonds 0.61443 24.3
Kevin Millar 0.61954  5.6
Ken Caminiti 0.62620  17.5
Lou Whitaker 0.63387  20.5
Ray Durham 0.69760 6.4

Last year Dave Cameron broke down the cost for WAR here and found the number to be somewhere around $7 million. Tim Dierkes projected a 5-year, $105-million contract or roughly $21 million per year. In order to live up to that annual salary, he would have to produce about 3 WAR per season which is 12 WAR for a 4-year contract and 15 WAR for a 5-year contract. Melvin Mora, Jim Edmonds, Ken Caminiti and Lou Whitaker each exceeded that 3-WAR threshold.

As this offseason progresses, offers will undoubtedly be presented to his agent so now it’s only a matter of when he signs. Based on the players that he was compared to, Alex Gordon definitely has the potential, not to mention the ability to exceed the standards of the contract he inevitably signs.

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Brian Reiff
8 years ago

How do you insert tables like that?