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BKeller wrote:Hey, does anyone know where to find a list of guys who will be free agents AFTER 2004? It often seems like guys play a little harder and do a little better in their contract years (e.g., Sheffield, Javy Lopez, Juan Gon (before injury), Mike Lowell (before injury)), so I want to find a list of guys who are eligible for free agency after this year. Anyone know where to find such a list?
Also, do you agree that guys tend to perform better in their contract years? (Owners of Tejada, Maddux, and L. Castillo [wasn't he in a contract year?] might disagree.) Thanks!
BKeller wrote:Also, do you agree that guys tend to perform better in their contract years?
This is another myth in bb. I haven't seen any evidence guys do better their free agent year, about a 50/50 split. Its just that only the good ones get brought up.
I agree (subject to further analysis). I just ran some numbers in a sufficiently imprecise way that would be guaranteed to make a statistician squirm. (If I had no job, the study would be more exhaustive! ) That said: The results, which are based only on 2002 v. 2003 data in a limited group of hitters (but not pitchers), suggested that more fantasy players than not actually produced at a slightly lower rate in their contract year than in the prior year, but generally by a small amount. (I.e., a player would only move up or down a round or two in a typical draft; I view this as normal fluctuation.) However, where there were major, rather than minor, changes in the performance of non-injured free-agency eligible players, those changes tended to be positive. (E.g., Sheffield, Lopez). (There may also be other factors contributing to these players' performance improvements, such as being in a better line up, better health & conditioning, batting in a different part of the line up, having been injured or slumped in the prior year, etc.) But there weren't many of these major improvers, anyway. Thus, while virtually no free-agency eligible players had substantial changes, those who did make major changes tended to improve (rather than regress). (I'm not including those who suffered from injuries; it's possible that players in free agency try so hard to put up big stats and avoid a reputation for being injury-prone that they get hurt more often; anyone tested this "Juan Gon '03 Hypothesis"?)
But the fact that most free-agency eligible players dropped in performance slightly offsets the projected value of upcoming free agents because these potential breakout players form a minority of the sample group. (And I haven't compared the frequency of breakout years by potential free agents relative to breakout years by non free agents! For all I know, guys in the middle of contracts are just as likely to break out. (E.g., Renteria; not to mention that some 'breakout' free agents, like Sheffield, are really just returning to form after an off year.)
Conclusion: I'm inclined to agree with McNugent and Hootie; free agency isn't a reliable predictor of improved performance. While my 30-minute look (at only about 30-40 hitters) shouldn't be relied on heavily, it provides a preliminary affirmation of Hootie's suggestion that free agency is "a 50-50 split" . . . except that it appears to actually be a virtual non-factor or slight minus-factor in most players, but a major plus factor in a handful of players; in any event, it works out to about a 50-50 split as Hootie suggests. (I.e., the lower probability of landing a Javy Lopez is offset by the greater probability of having a slight drop in performance.)
I agree with McNugent that free agency should be nothing more than a tie breaker. What's odd is that there isn't a stronger correlation between free agency and performance. Maybe the pressure offsets the increased interest in putting up good stats? In any event, I agree with McNugent's conclusion that obsessive drafters should "determine if the contract years are significantly different than the other years;" absent a strong correlation to an individual's performance in a contract year, there seems little reason to get excited about that player's fantasy value.
Moreover, as Madison correctly notes, extensions further complicate the ability to predict a player's performance. If I recall correctly, Randy Johnson was eligible for free agency in 2004, but signed a 2-year extension just before he began in 2003 to pitch like an old man. Madison's right that extensions make it tough to predict who will be a free agent, which compounds the fact that free agency appears to be a poor indicator of short-term future performance.
Anyway, it's 3:35am so it's time to sleep. I guess, this is a long way of saying that I agree with the above comments, except that I think the 50-50 point is a little more nuanced (as reflected by what has become a frickin' dissertation; sorry, I'll be more concise in the future!)
In any event, thanks for the responses! They made me second-guess the conventional wisdom.
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