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Was Vernon Wells a sign-stealer?

Aug 10, 2011, 2:30 PM EDT

Vernon Wells - Blue Jays AP

The Angels ignored the huge red flag in Vernon Wells‘ home-road splits when they took on $81 million of $86 million he was still owed by the Blue Jays in a January trade.  It seems pretty safe to say they regret it now.

Still, without additional information, writing off Wells’ 2010 splits as a fluke probably was the right call.  Wells hit .321/.363/.628 at Rogers Centre last year, compared to .227/.301/.407 on the road.  It was just a one-year thing for him, though.

Wells’ home/road splits by OPS:

2006: 1.038 home, .762 road
2007: .700 home, .712 road
2008: .849 home, .830 road
2009: .633 home, .779 road
2010: .991 home, .708 road

Wells also had the huge home/road split in 2006, but from 2007-09, he was actually better on the road than he was at Rogers Centre.  While Wells was grossly overpaid regardless, one year of bad splits wasn’t enough to signal that a collapse was imminent.

So, presented on it’s own, 2010 looks like just another fluke.  But what if Wells’ strong season was almost entirely the result of him often knowing what pitches were coming in his home games?  His 2011 performance suggests it may have been the case.  Wells has hit just .210/.243/.379 this season, making him a big liability even before his huge $23 million salary gets taken into account.

And the Angels are on the hook another $63 million through 2014.  If this is the real Wells and if he can’t bounce back at age 33 next year, then that’s a ton of money the Angels have simply flushed down the drain.

  1. derpdederpdederp - Aug 10, 2011 at 2:37 PM

    I cant believe AA found a team that was willing to give up 2 major leaguers in exchange for Wells’ salary. that was a true magic act he pulled off

  2. sknut - Aug 10, 2011 at 2:45 PM

    It’s amazing that the Angels are on the hook for Wells (24 Mill) Hunter (18.5 mil) and Abreu (9 mil) for next year, thats over 50 mil for those three aging outfielders, and they didn’t want to pay Carl Crawford why?

    • derpdederpdederp - Aug 10, 2011 at 2:47 PM

      Matt, this is why I think the Dodgers should shop Loney. theres tons of instances in which GMs have made moves nobody except themselves will ever understand

      • Matthew Pouliot - Aug 10, 2011 at 3:08 PM

        It’s true, and there is the chance the Dodgers could get a prospect for Loney. But I think it probably would have happened already if it was going to happen. There really hasn’t been a market for first basemen this summer. The Orioles didn’t get anything of significance back for Derrek Lee, and now Lyle Overbay is sitting there in free agency and he’s at least as good of a bet as Loney for the rest of the year.

      • derpdederpdederp - Aug 10, 2011 at 3:13 PM

        Agreed, I cant see them getting much. The difference between Loney and Overbay is that Loney is 7 years younger and this is the first season he has been unable to put up respectable numbers. Lyle on the other hand has been declining for the last 3 or 4 years (at least) and is likely nearing the end of his career. Its reasonable to assume that theres at least one team that would take a chance on Loney, but like you said if they really want him they can always just wait a few months

    • bloodysock - Aug 10, 2011 at 3:49 PM

      Abreu has a $1MM buyout so the Angles aren’t on the hook for the full $9MM.

      But add Joel Pineiro’s $8MM to bridge the difference.

      • Kevin S. - Aug 10, 2011 at 4:47 PM

        His option vested. They’re on the hook.

  3. proudlycanadian - Aug 10, 2011 at 2:57 PM

    Having fun Matt? According to the ESPN stort, the Jays were supposed to be cheating in 2009 also. Wells hit much better on the road in 2009 than at home. See my analysis in the other thread that indicates that the source of the story was either Baltimore (most likely) or Boston.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Aug 10, 2011 at 3:14 PM

      I’m trying to follow along :)

      Yes, the ESPN report did claim cheating in 2009, though the player who spoke up only noticed it in his team’s final series of the season in Toronto. If that was Balt, as you suspect, it would have been late Sept. (mid-Aug for Boston).

      • proudlycanadian - Aug 10, 2011 at 3:24 PM

        Agreed. In the spring of 2010 there wer 2 games in which Bautista both hit a home run and struck out. One was against Baltimore (May 28) and one was against Boston (April 26). In the story the strikeout happened after the home run. I do not have box scores so I can’t look further.

      • Matthew Pouliot - Aug 10, 2011 at 3:57 PM

        No, there was just the one game: April 26 in Boston. He tripled in that May 28 game.

        Hmmm… maybe this is all worth a post. Great detective work.

      • Matthew Pouliot - Aug 10, 2011 at 4:10 PM

        Actually, no, I don’t think we’re quite on the right track. The ESPN report doesn’t say that he homered in the game. Also, it does say he played right field: Bautista didn’t play RF on April 26.

        I think that Baltimore series may have been more likely. Bautista started in RF and struck out in a home game just once in April 2010: Apr. 13 against the White Sox. He didn’t in any of the games against the Red Sox, though he did move from 3B to RF in the April 28 game. Against Baltomore, he started in RF and struck out on both May 28 and May 29.

      • proudlycanadian - Aug 10, 2011 at 4:51 PM

        Baltimore was my first choice, and the May 28 game makes sense if he hit a triple and was playing in RF. He did not get a hit on May 29. Baltimore also played in Toronto in late 2009. I do wonder if the person they were watching was a part of the TV crew as the CF camera was near him.

      • proudlycanadian - Aug 10, 2011 at 5:14 PM

        One other factor pointing to Baltimore as the likely source of the sour grapes is that during the last decade the Jays have consistently whupped Baltimore.

  4. jimatkins - Aug 10, 2011 at 2:59 PM

    I think Angels GM Reagins is kind of reactive and panicky. The deals they wanted to make (and the fanbase was expecting) didn’t happen: he was outsmarted and outmaneuvered, and he jumped at the chance to do something, anything. Abreu, not too heinous. He’s dropped off severely, but that isn’t really a hideous mess of a contract. Hunter has declined precipitously last season and this season, but that looked like a decent deal at the time it was made. Wells, however has been a disaster for a few years now and his dog’s breakfast of a contract will haunt the Halos for a long time.

  5. clydeserra - Aug 10, 2011 at 3:15 PM

    You really need to start using park adjusted numbers. Splits like this are a little better than useless.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Aug 10, 2011 at 3:21 PM

      Well, what kind of park-adjusted numbers do you want? There’s nothing black and white anywhere. From 2008-10, Rogers Centre was a neutral ballpark, but it skewed high on homers, particularly for right-handed hitters. But, then, if we take Wells’ numbers out there it wouldn’t skew quite so high on homers for right-handed hitters.

      For 2011, it’s played as a hitter’s park so far. So how do you want me to run the stats?

      • clydeserra - Aug 10, 2011 at 3:34 PM

        You don’t have to run them, you could look at B-Ref. home/road tOPS+*
        2007 98/101
        2008 102/98
        2009 79/119
        2010 131/68
        2011 77/121

        *tOPS+ — OPS for split relative to Player’s Total OPS
        A number greater than 100 indicates this batter(pitcher) did better(worse) than usual in this split.
        A number less than 100 indicates that the batter(pitcher) did worse(better) than usual in this split.

        http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/w/wellsve01-bat.shtml

      • Matthew Pouliot - Aug 10, 2011 at 3:51 PM

        Well, if that’s all you wanted, sure. But that’s not adjusting for anything.

      • clydeserra - Aug 10, 2011 at 3:57 PM

        ops+ is park adjusted.

      • Matthew Pouliot - Aug 10, 2011 at 4:20 PM

        OPS+ is, B-Ref’s tOPS+ stuff isn’t. It just uses 100 as a midpoint and averages off that.

      • clydeserra - Aug 10, 2011 at 4:34 PM

        Ok, if its not, fine. I don’t see any info otherwise.

  6. Ben - Aug 10, 2011 at 3:15 PM

    2010 home BABIP: .311
    Away: .232

    Career home BABIP: .286
    Career away: .281

    Looks like luck to me, unless someone can explain to me how sign stealing would allow for a .80 difference in BABIP. Maybe if he’s putting a ton more balls in play, but I can’t find balls in play home/away data. Can anyone else?

  7. scatterbrian - Aug 10, 2011 at 3:20 PM

    “His 2011 performance suggests it may have been the case.”

    His 2007-2009 performance suggest otherwise. If someone really wanted to get to the bottom of this, they’d go through PitchFx and see exactly which pitches Wells (and all Blue Jays) were hitting. Perhaps even something as simple as swing-and-miss data between home and road games. As it stands now, this is about as compelling an argument as you’ll find on Ancient Aliens.

  8. Mark - Aug 10, 2011 at 3:46 PM

    Vernon Wells isn’t a sign stealer. He’s a right handed power bat who got to inflate his numbers playing half his games in a park that heavily favours and rewards RH power hitters. So he moves to a park which is tougher on RH power bats, and you’re shocked he’s doing poorly? Maybe not this bad, but still. This is getting ridiculous.

    Being healthy in 2010 didn’t hurt. No shoulder/wrist/hamstring injuries to deal with.

  9. kingbuccaneer - Aug 10, 2011 at 3:54 PM

    Good thing for Angel fans, Artie Moreno is a gazzillionaire…

  10. Matthew Pouliot - Aug 10, 2011 at 4:30 PM

    Bautista said the accusor was a White Sox player. Waiting for a little more info and then I’m going to followup.

    • proudlycanadian - Aug 10, 2011 at 5:48 PM

      The only visit the White Sox made to Toronto in 2009 was in May. When they visited Toronto in April 2010 Bautista’s batting average was below the Mendoza line. I doubt that the White Sox were the source of the ESPN story.

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