FA OF Analysis: David Murphy, Curtis Granderson, Chris Young, Rajai Davis

The Tales of the Tape for 4 FA OFs

Curtis Granderson (left) pulls more hits, given Yankee Stadium in 2012-13; Murphy more spray, but power to Left Center in this 275 feet or greater hit/ out chart (red is an out)

It is a constant argument among baseball fans and analysts to find guys that will make their team the big winners for the next season. Today, will breakdown four outfielders that aren’t named Choo or Ellsbury.
David Murphy(33 in October), Chris Young(31 in September), Rajai Davis(34 in October) and Curtis Granderson(33 before 2014 season) provide a good swath of potential targets for teams not looking to go $100M plus on the Boras’ Megadeals yet consummated.

Granderson, just 1 season plus removed from 40+ homers, is the sexy pickup, a marketing campaign plus accolades and talent. Yankees offered a qualifying offer, which makes him less attractive to teams outside of the protected draft zone, the worst 10 teams in 2013. His more pressing problem: is he able to do what he once did? Can he bound back after a broken hand? His last two months of 2013 were a push: August good – September bad – with lots of strikeouts, few walks, and likely, a ton of frustration.

David Murphy and Chris Young suffered too at the plate, clocking a .227 and .237 BABIP. Rajai Davis had the most average season, as the triple slash of .260/.312/.375. Davis, never blessed with power, is also a few years removed from above league average OBP (.318-.319 was the MLB average, counting those pitchers.)

The Chart above reflects how these player swing at balls outside the zone.  Davis is pretty much a free swinger, and has stayed that way. Murphy and Young are your consistent guys year in and out, Young is well above league average on not swinging at pitches astray. Murphy is as consistent as one can be. Granderson, has progressively gotten worse on swinging at balls out the zone. He could regress back to say 27.5%, but I am betting this could be a product of age decline.

David Murphy, Davis, and Granderson all started out their early careers within the same contact zone of around 90%.  By 2010, though, the pattern broke. Murphy has stayed a good contact man on strikes.  Chris Young seems to have improved as his career went on. Meanwhile, Granderson has slipped the last 3 seasons, becoming a 80% hitter in the zone. This patterns as a slugger that falls in love with jerking the ball out the park. It’s not a judgment on the value of power over other things, but take him out of New York, and this flaw may not play well in parks less suited for lefties pulling everything.

Quickest thing: Murphy and Chris Young have BABIP about .075 points of the normal league average. So, regression to the mean is likely in 2014. Chris Young has never had a high BABIP, so his may be a function of other factors.

This decline struck all players. But who improves? The youngest Chris Young, or Murphy, have possibilities with BABIP, higher contact, and consistency with balls not in the zone.

Before 2011, each were likely options based on a range of expectations. Now, in 2013 off-season, it boils down to how you see Chris Young and Davis versus the travails of Granderson, and the ups and downs of Rajai Davis. Looking at the evidence, one can put a better spin on David Murphy if this has told us anything. Granderson would rank 3rd on the list behind Young as an option.

Granderson’s age while maybe not as bad in the year 2014, compared to 1984 or 1954, is still on the decline side of a career.

Our last graphic is Davis and Young’s spray chart:

 Both are pull side hitters, though Davis seems less likely to ever hit one out past Left Center. Young has some straight away power, but not overwhelming.

The Final Call on OFers

So, if you are in the market for an OF, David Murphy has the best mix of tools, potential luck, and relative patience to get a starting job and make a difference. Chris Young rates next best. Granderson should take the $14.1M and be glad to stay in New York to pull balls to his content. Rajai Davis will stay at it, but I am not expecting big things out of him.

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