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The Hamilton for Volquez Trade
by Tony Aubry, BaseballEvolution.com
May 30, 2008

On December 21st, 2007, the Cincinnati Reds agreed to trade Josh Hamilton for two Texas Rangers pitching prospects. Those two prospects were Edinson Volquez and Daniel Herrera. Texas had offered a rumored 15 different packages for Hamilton, and ultimately gave up Volquez, feeling that they had enough pitching down on the farm, and the Reds gave up Hamilton, knowing they had hotshot prospect Jay Bruce waiting in the wings. At first, very few, if any, people would think that this trade would make a significant impact on either of the teams. Volquez hadnít pitched very well at all with his cup of coffee in Texas, and Josh Hamilton was 26-year old out fielder with a horrible substance abuse problem. He also only had only one season in the majors under his best, albeit a good one, and wasnít even guaranteed a starting spot until he had a very good spring.

However, when we fast-forward five months, we find that Hamilton and Volquez are the leading candidates for the MVP and Cy Young awards in their respective leagues. Hamilton was the fastest player in American League history to 50 RBI and now has 58, 11 more than Carlos Quentin, who is second in the majors with 47. Edinson Volquez has been equally impressive, going 7-2 with an ERA of 1.32 while whiffing 76 batters in only 62 innings. What this trade does is raise two major questions: Which team will benefit more from this trade, and are these two players simply playing way beyond their capabilities?

The short answer to the latter part of the question is yes. There is no way Volquez will maintain his 1.32 ERA which is a mind boggling 237% better than the league average. Hamilton is on pace to hit over 40 HR and knock in over 170 runs. However, it isnít that simple. Is Josh Hamilton benefiting from The Ballpark in Arlington, which is one of the best offensive parks in all of baseball? Is Edinson Volquez simply getting lucky? Letís take a better look.

Last year, Josh Hamilton finally broke into the majors, playing 90 games with the Reds after being drafted 8 years prior by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. In sporadic playing time, Hamilton enjoyed a fine ďrookieĒ season, posting averages of .292/.368/.554. His BB% was slightly above average at 10%, and he posted a BABIP of .318 which is a little high, but certainly attainable with Hamiltonís speed. You could claim that consistent playing time and moving to Texas, a hitterís dream, would help him, but his numbers so far look way out of line. He has posted averages of .324/.369/.595 with 13 HR and an eye-popping 58 rib eye steaks. I recently checked his home/road splits and I was surprised. I wasnít surprised that his OPS was over .300 points higher at home, but that his power numbers on the road are pretty much on par with what he has done at The Ballpark. He has 14 extra base hits at home (7 doubles, 7 homeruns) and 14 on the road (8 doubles, 6 homeruns).

However, there are still a couple red flags when looking at what Hamilton has done this year. His overall BABIP is .322, but at home it is an alarming .348 with Josh hitting .385 total there due to his seven Texas homers. Hamilton has also seen a drop in his walk rate by 2.1% since last year. It is possible that he is not walking as much because he is killing everything in sight, but it is also possible that he will continue to hack when things arenít going as well for him. I think Hamiltonís power numbers are for real and has the skills to hit 35+ HR regardless of where he plays, but his BA seems very vulnerable, which means his gaudy RBI totals will probably slow up as time progresses.

Edinson Volquez was drafted by the Texas Rangers in 2001, and prior to this season, he has had little success in the majors. He waent 3-10 with an ERA over 5.00 in his first three years with Texas prior to becoming the 2008 version of Francsico Liriano. Volquez flourished last year in Triple-A, however. He posted a meager 1.41 ERA in 51 innings with 61 strikeouts and 21 walks, which ultimately led to a big league promotion. Although he didnít pitch that well with Texas in limited work (2-1 4.50 ERA), he has flat-out dominated thus far in 2008. He is 7-2 with an ERA of 1.31 plus 76 strikeouts in 62 IP and has yet to allow more than one earned run in any of his 10 starts. Volquez has a great K/9 and has a good GB% of 54%, so itís safe to say that he isnít getting lucky, right?

Wrong. I think that once you look at a few things, it is quite obvious that he has been lucky. One thing that jumps out at you is his HR/FB rate, which is extremely low at 6.9% while the usual rate for a pitcher is 11%. Usually, extreme deviations from the mean have a lot to do with luck, since the pitcher doesnít have control of how hard or far the batter hits the ball. It is even more important to know that the Great American Ballpark has a HR factor of 1.41 (41% above average), ranking 4th in all of baseball. Along with having an unusually low HR/FB for playing in such a park, Volquez also leads the league in LOB%. LOB% is the percentage of base runners that are left stranded, and Volquez leads the league at 88%. This could either mean he is extremely effective, or he has been, you guessed it, lucky. Usually great pitchers will have a high LOB% because of the fact that there are usually few base runners to begin with. However, with Volquezí poor control it is going to be difficult for the 24-year old right-hander to maintain that high LOB%.

If I had to choose, I think Volquez would regress a little more than Hamilton will this season since his home park will continue to help Hamilton, but Volquezí might hurt him, but I will hold off on who I think will be better off in the long run because I would at least like to see how they finish out the season. Also, a note to all you fantasy players, if youíre an owner of either of these players, Iíd say sell high, especially with Volquez, since you probably didnít even use a draft pick to get him.


Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Tony resides in Queens, New York and can be reached at tony@baseballevolution.com.

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