Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mike Jacobs Traded to KC

I've always been a big Mike Jacobs fan. Not necessarily because I thought he'd be the next big thing, but because... well... Mets prospects usually suck and he looked like he had a shot to become a useful major leaguer. And he has.

Back before the 2006 season, we traded Mike Jacobs for Carlos Delgado. At the time, I acknowledged Jacobs' future averageness -- but make no mistake, averageness is an asset. Young players who are not eligible for free agency who can hit and field well enough to be useful are a huge asset. So what has Jacobs gone on to do?

Year - Age- ba / obp / slg
2006 - 25 - 262 / 325 / 473
2007 - 26 - 265 / 317 / 458
2008 - 27 - 247 / 299 / 514

A really interesting career path, thus far. In 2007 he was injured, and in 2008 he underachieved what people expected of him. Why? Well, I believe there are two distinct factors working against him. First, I think he was a little injured. Second, I think that he sucks at cavernous Dolphin Stadium, and that he would do well to leave Florida (where everyone swings for the fences).

As to the injury, the first half of his season stunk. He may have been recovering from the injury, whatever, I do not know. But this is his split for the second half of the year.

195 at bats, 13 home runs, 41 rbi, 20 bb, 46 k, .255/.326/.531 -- 857 OPS

It's not good to cherry pick stats, but I think this is useful. 200 at bats is a worthy sample size, and its not like Mike Jacobs doesn't have the track record to project to that kind of production. In fact, given that he hit approximately that line (with less power) as a 25 year old, there is no reason to think that his actual talent level is somewhere near that as a 27 year old... or better.

Here's the other split.
Home: .238/.273/.484
Away: .258/.325/.547

Dolphin Stadium kills this guy. Once again, splits can be deceiving, but this is a very, very distinct split. Using baseball-reference to normalize Mike Jacobs' stats to a 750 run environment (that's the average amount of runs a team should expect to score) his line ups noticeably -- 33 hr, .253/.304/.524.

Now listen, this isn't a guy I expect to set the world on fire here. But there is plenty of reason for optimism. As a 22 year old, he posted a 924 OPS in Double-A. The next year, he was injured. As a 24 year old, he finally broke through, posting a 965 OPS in Double-A before being called up directly to the major leagues. In 100 at bats with the Mets, he hit a freakish 11 home runs and slugged .710.

Nobody expects him to repeat that, but he can definitely improve. He's 6-2, 200 pounds. He's got a sweet lefthanded swing. He was great in the second half last year and has a great minor league pedigree. His batting average on balls in play last season (which had never been below .294) dipped to .260 last season, indicating that he may have been unlucky.

Although his OBP was atrocious this year (as was pointed out by nearly everyone who analyzed the trade) there is reason to believe that it will improve. It was .298 last year but for his career is .318 and he is just now entering his prime.

Team context matters too. As a team, the Marlins were 20th in on-base percentage last year but THIRD in home runs. You never know what will happen when Jacobs gets out of that environment -- and it is worth taking a chance on. He's 28, he's healthy, and he's already hit 32 home runs in a season and slugged over .500. That's enough for me.

Out of Miami, different league, different park, different coach, no injuries, entering his prime, minor league skills, an age-25 season where he had a .325 obp, coming off his worst year as a pro, and given neutral luck? Steal for the Royals.

Mike Jacobs 2008: 27 2b, 32 hr, 93 rbi, .247/.299/.514
Fearless Prediction: 33 2b, 29 hr, 103 rbi, .269/.338/.490

Edit -- October 5, 2009
I was WAYYYYY wrong on this one. For some reason, Mike Jacobs went on to post BY FAR his worst season as a professional. He hit 19 home runs, but hit only .228. He posted a pathetic 84 OPS+. Why? I have no idea. After almost 1500 professional at bats, he fell off a cliff.