Pablo Sandoval

Modeling a potential contract for Pablo Sandoval


So “data journalism” is a pretty cool thing these days with the launch of Nate Silver’s Five Thirty Eight, so I thought being the stat guy for BASG that I should jump in and try this thing out and use some data to model what the market for Pablo Sandoval might look like.

Luckily for me, some of the hardest work has already been tackled; Dave Cameron at Fangraphs ran a regression for free agents signed in 2014 came out with an equation that can be used to estimate contract values based on forecasted WAR. Not being one that likes the reinvent the wheel, this model should provide a nice framework to work within.

The first step in figuring this out is to go out is to forecast Sandoval’s WAR into the future. For this I turned to Oliver, (which is available on Fangraphs), PECOTA from Baseball Prospectus, and finally Dan Szymborski was nice enough to run the numbers through ZiPS and give me the forecast. Oliver projections only cover the next five seasons so to cover 2019 to 2021 I estimated a 20% decline from the season before.

Year Age Oliver PECOTA ZiPS
2015 28 2.9 2.2 3.2
2016 29 2.6 2.9 3.1
2017 30 2.4 2.7 2.9
2018 31 2.2 1.7 2.5
2019 32 1.7 2.5 2.1
2020 33 1.4 1.4 1.6
2021 34 1.1 1.2 1.2
Total 14.3 14.6 16.6


With that we can then translate these projection’s into forecasted WAR over different lengths of contracts.

Deal Length Oliver WAR PECOTA WAR ZiPS Average
7 14 15 17 15
6 13 13 15 14
5 12 12 14 13
4 10 10 12 10
3 8 8 9 8


The next step is to take the forecasted WAR and plug it into Cameron’s regression equation (8.6872 x forecasted WAR – 8.5817) for estimating the value of free agent contracts. That gives us the following:

Deal Length Oliver WAR PECOTA WAR ZiPS Average
7 $116 $118 $136 $123
6 $106 $108 $125 $113
5 $94 $96 $111 $100
4 $79 $74 $93 $82
3 $60 $59 $71 $64


Based on these forecasts, Sandoval would have expected a pretty healthy payday on the open market this winter. If the reports of the Giants only offering three years and $40 million are true, they are expecting a very large hometown discount from Sandoval. If it’s also true that Sandoval’s camp was asking for a deal in the five-year, $90 million range, that’s a very reasonable estimate and maybe even a little low as a starting point in a contract negotiation.

There are a number of caveats that need to be made, along with missing information that is not taken into account with this model. The issues include: his age, weight, injury issues, positional scarcity at third base, the lack of internal options to replace him and his work ethic. Many of these were covered by Steve in yesterday’s post he wrote about Sandoval’s contract situation.

The potential big one that isn’t included is what a qualifying offer might do to his value if he waits until next season to sign. We have already seen this new wrinkle really change the markets for middle-tier free agents over the past two winters and Sandoval could end up in that camp if he underperforms or gets injured this season.

With all of the above taken into account, if the Giants want to make a deal to keep Sandoval they will need to come a lot closer to the numbers that the model suggests. Giants management might not be comfortable spending that much, but if they want to keep their third baseman they’ll need to pay up.

While we wait for a resolution, we’ll always have fans who call KNBR to keep us entertained:

1 Comment

Great stats! Alex Pavlovic's article on Brandon Hicks chances of getting a shot at second put in perspective the Giants giving scrubs like Marvin Bernard, and Andres Torres meaty contracts, for small sample size performances. They have a history of rewarding a single season of good play (Cody Ross), or a good Spring (Torres hit .400 in 2009) with contracts that they end up having to dump, or eat. Easy to argue now that Pence is not the 3rd best right fielder in MLB, but he is paid that much, and brings intangibles that we love. These deals are not on the scale of Sandoval's potential deal, but the Giants reach for anyone who can play at certain positions in an attempt to fill holes. When Sandoval is 'on', he is one of the best in the game....

Once again the Giants have painted themselves in a corner, and I am not surprised Pablo turned down what was offered, as the Giants have zero options at replacing him, and Sandoval's agent knows it. He likewise know the Giants may be desperate looking at the future voids coming up a the end of 2014.

It is great the Giants will (as Pavlovic notes) corner the market on "bearded guys named Brandon" that may or may not be able to hit. Scutaro is done, his career is all but over, and the fact the Giants have no one to step into the place of an almost 40 year old infielder with a huge contract is absurd by itself. Hope springs eternal though, with Brandon Hicks, a  veteran, non-roster guy with only 90 big league at bats for two teams, who becomes the man at 2nd for a team looking for another World Series. Hicks offered us this quote " I could always hit it out when I'm not chasing bad pitches. Thats been my issue". Great.

Ponder that Giants while you think about how much money to give the best junk ball hitter in the league.

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