The Obsession with the Home Run -- A Stupid Sports Trade

Nothing seems to obsess general managers (and fans) as much as the home run.  And with the steroid era (maybe) in the past, there are a lot fewer of those out there to find.  Which means that given the perhaps irrationally high demand and the declining supply, the price for them is going to go up.  Which is a very good reason to be skeptical of deals for power hitters.

Unfortunately, the Diamondbacks just can't quite get over their sense that they need more power on the team.  So they have made a deal to acquire Mark Trumbo from the Angels.  To my eye, Trumbo is the reincarnation of former Diamondback Mark Reynolds -- 30-35 home runs, a batting average south of .250, and nearly 200 strikeouts a year.   I wouldn't take this kind of player if you gave him to me.  He is an inning killer who manages to hit one out of the park every five games or so.  I suppose he is cheap in money terms (has a couple of years until free agency) but we traded two good players who had down years last year.  In stock market terms, we are selling at the bottom and buying at the top.

  • http://devilish-details.blogspot.com/ mesaeconoguy

    Terrible trade.

    Skaggs will wind up being great, and Trumbo might be Mark Reynolds, or the unproductive year we got from Adam Dunn.

    Yet another Kevin Towers fiasco. His massive payroll for his flop bullpen last year is one of the most egregious personnel mistakes in baseball in years.

    Solution: Towers – gone. Gibby – gone.

    Start over.

  • MingoV

    This problem is common in business. Some managers try to develop a single product that will greatly increase the bottom line. But, when the home runs don't come, the company learns that it should have continued its policy of supporting multiple profitable products.

    Publishers do it with authors: they'll sign multimillion dollar contracts with authors of bestsellers but fail to provide assistance to less known authors who are writing very good books (and could become writers of bestsellers).

    Ditto recording companies, movie studios, universities (bidding for Nobel prize winners), large corporations (bidding for CEOs), etc.

    This attitude brings to mind 18th century hunters who ignore plentiful antelopes because they want to bring down an elephant. Even if they succeed, getting it home will be difficult, and preserving the meat will be a nightmare.

  • http://www.tarheelred.com/ Pino

    He is an inning killer who manages to hit one out of the park every five games or so.

    Consider the stat called Slugging - Bases per at Bat

    If a hitter hits a home run every 4 at bats he has a slugging % of 1.000.
    A hitter that hits 4 singles every 4 at bats also has a slugging % of 1.000.

    Would you rather have an inning of the singles hitter or the home run hitter?

  • Broccoli

    While you do bring up a good point that evaluating players by the old metrics of HRs, strikeouts, and batting average is somewhat outdated as their are much better metrics in evaluating a player, your hypothetical doesn't show anything. For example that singles hitter might have much higher RBIs as he is never stranding a runner. You could phrase your hypothetical as "What would you rather have, a guy who never strands a runner or a guy when has a 25% chance of clearing the bases?" Using that phrasing I bet every manager in the league would pick the singles hitter.

  • Nehemiah

    I don't know if this will prove to be a good deal or not, but I think Pino makes a good point. The slugging % will tell the tale. And don't forget the value of having a power hitter batting 4 or 5. The batters that precede him may get better pitches as a result.

  • Bram

    The Red Sox and Cardinals won their divisions and got into the World Series with hitters who rarely swung and missed (at least until they faced top-notch pitching). While they hit their share of homers, they often won games by wearing out starting pitchers then feasting on middle-relievers.

  • Pat Slattery

    The "Moneyball" question is whether or not he gets on base. My understanding was that the "Gibby way" was a bunch of scrappers who get on base, keep the line moving, and don't make unproductive outs, plus you play great defense. Strikeouts are the definition of an unproductive out. If this guy strikes out a lot, I don't understand how Towers can sign him to play poor outfield while being supportive of a "Gibby" style of play. It seems to me that Towers and Gibson may be at odds.

  • obloodyhell

    Your actual problem is that you care about baseball...

    :-D

  • http://www.bramblegolf.com/ naturaljag0ff

    Not a D-Backs fan, but I agree completely with the 'old-school' analysis here... Trumbo is a poor fit for what the D-Backs actually need... too many K's, not enough contact, below-average defense. Why add Trumbo when you already have Goldschmidt?

    Strange move, but I presume (based on the comments here) that Arizona's GM (Towers) is prone to such moves...

    OTOH, Angels' fans adored Trumbo, so maybe he'll catch on in AZ, too.