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Ambiguity, Deception, and Albert Pujols

[ 24 ] November 21, 2011 |

With the NBA not happening and college football over, it’s time to start talking baseball. ┬áLet’s begin with this from Jason Brannon and Rob Neyer:

Resolved: Albert Pujols is not 31 years old.

It’s really a fascinating discussion, and not just for baseball fans; there’s a lot about how organizations make mistakes and deal with those mistakes, and about how different elements of an organization (in this case the scouting team) have strong incentives to deceive about those mistakes. There’s also a fair amount about deception and strategic ambiguity between organizations, with Neyer and Brannon trying to interpret the apparent motives of the Cardinals and Marlins. Good stuff.

Comments (24)

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  1. actor212 says:

    He’s not the only player. No one knows how old El Duque really was (and the Mets bought into his agent’s line), and there are a couple of other players whose ages would be suspect.

    • mark f says:

      It’s not just people hoping for a bazillion-dollar MLB career, either. I went to high school with immigrants from all over and many were plainly open about being a year older than their documents said they were. As the Pujols links suggest it must’ve had something to do with school eligibility, which is useful even for non-baseball reasons. It wouldn’t surprise me if he lied about his age for a much less serious fraud than coaxing a few dozen extra million from a future employer.

  2. John F says:

    Either he’s the only player in the modern era who could compete at an MVP-level at age 20, or he wasn’t 20. Which is more likely?

    1st of, Pujols was not an MVP level talent at 20, at 20 (listed age) he was a heccuva Midwest League Player (low A) where he hit .324/.389/.565 (Austin Kearns also 20 hit .306/.415/.558 in the same league that year.

    .324/.389/565 in the Midwest League does not translate into the .329/.403/.610 line Pujols put up in St Louis the next year at 21.

    Sometimes the obvious things should be looked at- Pujols in 2001 was a much better player than he had been in 2000 or earlier – and a great leap forward at ages 20 to 21 is slightly more likely than one at ages 21 to 22, which is more likely than one at ages 22 to 23, etc etc.

    Pujols’ huge improvement AFTER being drafted and AFTER his first full professional season actually tends to indicate that he was as young as advertised – but for some reason is being used as evidence for the opposite conclusion- including by people who now better.

    Is Pujols older than his listed age? Possibly, but his career stat record really doesn’t support that conclusion- personally I think the best “evidence” that he is older is the observational one- most people who visually looked at him from the start of his career thought he looked older than advertised- pretty weak evidence, but it is something…

    Statwise, sure he had the 2nd best age 21 season (by WAR) among active players:

    1 Andruw Jones 7.2
    2 Albert Pujols 6.9
    3 Mike Stanton 5.7
    4 Justin Upton 5.2
    5 Alex Rodriguez 4.8

    But at age 20 he wasn’t as good as these guys:

    1 Alex Rodriguez 9.4
    2 Jason Heyward 4.4
    3 Adrian Beltre 3.7
    4 Andruw Jones 3.2
    5 Mike Stanton 2.8

    Now if you look at the top age 21 seasons from 1961-2011 you get:

    1 Rickey Henderson 8.6
    2 Cesar Cedeno 8.2
    3 Ken Griffey 7.3
    4 Andruw Jones 7.2
    5 Albert Pujols 6.9
    6 Johnny Bench 6.1
    7 Mike Stanton 5.7
    8 Joe Morgan 5.5
    9 Justin Upton 5.2
    10 Tom Brunansky 5

    Then look at career value last 50 years through age 31:

    1 Alex Rodriguez 89.7
    2 Albert Pujols 89
    3 Barry Bonds 85.3
    4 Rickey Henderson 80.9
    5 Ken Griffey 76
    6 Cal Ripken 68.7
    7 Joe Morgan 68.1
    8 Mike Schmidt 67.9
    9 Johnny Bench 66.5
    10 Carl Yastrzemski 61.3

    All of those guys were star level players by age 23 at the latest

    • SEK says:

      Vis-a-vis his leap in “potential” after being drafted, I’ve never understood why people don’t note the obvious. Before the 2000 season, he looked like this. By 2001, he looked like this. It’s almost as if having access to professional-grade training facilities might have an effect on a player’s performance.

      • Rob says:

        Especially the Cardinal’s “professional” training facilities.

        • SEK says:

          I wasn’t going to say anything, but … yes, of course.

          • mpowell says:

            Yeah, after reviewing the information here, I am actually less persuaded that Pujols is older than claimed that I was previously. But I think it is more likely he took advantage of some ‘professional training facilities’ especially early in his career. It is easier to naturally sustain muscle mass when you get a bit older. Most kids do not naturally reach their strength peaks at 21 or 22.

  3. c u n d gulag says:

    I wouldn’t be surprise to find out he’d lied about his age. A lot of players throughout history have.

    And now that 38 ‘s no longer the new 28, I’d be hesitant to sign him.
    But, that didn’t stop my stupid Yankees from giving A-Rod an absolutely rediculous 10-year contract when he was 32.

    A huge 9 year deal only makes sense in St. Louis, where he’s a big fan favorite, or with the Cubs, who may want to show their fans that with Theo and him, they’re going to do all they can to finally make, and win a WS, or the Marlins, who are opening up a new park in Miami, which has a huge (baseball loving, if you give them something to root for) Hispanic population.

    And if you live near NY, you have to listen to the imbecile Yankee fans who want them to sign him. And what would they do with Tex, one of the best fielding 1st Basemen in years? Why, move him to 3rd of course, and make A-Rod a full-time DH.
    Most Yankee fans are smart, but the stupid ones are REALLY, REALLY F*CKING STUPID!!!

  4. Anderson says:

    college football over

    Things look different down here in SECland. Tho I’m sorry the Ducks succumbed to USC and blew the chance of a BCS rematch with LSU.

    For the sake of my Tide friend down the hall, I’m half hoping for an Arkansas upset of LSU. But I really expect the Tigers to go all the way.

    • Ronnie P says:

      But the fact that the Oregon coach cannot manage the clock means the sport is over for everyone.

      Trash talk after the win, declare the sport over when you lose.

      • Erik Loomis says:

        The clock management was just fine. Timeouts make absolutely no sense in that situation, not with that offense and the USC defense clearly gassed. Lane Kiffin said the same thing.

  5. Richard says:

    The comments that he looked older should be regarded with great scepticism When Lebron James entered the NBA, he was 18 but he had a man’s body, beard, countenance, etc. He looked 25 at least but we have his birth certificate and know he was 18. Its probably the same thing with Pujols.

  6. Bill Murray says:

    I personally have looked at least 35 since I was 20, but that is what a lack of hairline will do

    • Medrawt says:

      I stopped growing taller (6’1″) just after my 16th birthday, could’ve passed for a college upperclassman at the time, and by the time I actually was in college looked like a man in his late 20s. And it’s not like I was the only guy in a small high school who, at graduation, was pretty close to looking like a grown man.

      And yet I’m totally willing to believe Pujols is older than he says. I can’t explain why.

  7. hootie says:

    If Pujols is lying about his age, it would only seem to be a year or so based on what the article discusses. I doubt the Cardinals are not giving a richer offer because of his age, but more because (1) it doesn’t make a lot of economic sense to pay more than that in their market, (2) they doubt anyone else will with NY and Boston not really in play and (3) they know Pujols has to weigh the long-term advantages of becoming an institution in St. Louis vs. the risk he’ll flame out taking a flyer for few bucks more in a higher risk situation in Chicago, Miami or other second or third tier market. Albert already has two rings in STL, he’s pretty assured of Musial status if he stays, irrespective of how the Cardinals do in the post-LaRussa era.

  8. joejoejoe says:

    Whether Pujols is 31 or 29 or 34 it still does not make sense to give him a 9 year contract if you are the Marlins. Look at the Yankees with A-Rod. They are going to be paying ginormous money for 6 more years to a player that has averaged 125 games a year in his age 32-35 seasons.

    If you have $27 million dollars to spend you are better off picking up 3 $9M players who are underachieving like Curtis Granderson based on the $9M contract and hoping for regression to the mean up rather than paying a Pujols or Rodriguez and hoping they can defy time.

    • Richard says:

      Well the thing that might justify the 9 year contract is that Albert is going to be close to breaking some all time baseball records near the end of the nine years and that will mean more people in the stands. Thats assuming, of course, no injuries which makes it a big gamble.

      • mpowell says:

        Which records are you thinking of? Arod had more homers at that age and catching Bonds is looking increasingly unlikely (unless he can hit 20+/year until he’s 45).

    • wengler says:

      The difference between the Yankees and everyone else is that they could take 27 million dollars and set it alight and still be assured of a highly profitable season.

      Miami seems like a good fit for Albert with his Latino background and Tea Party-curious political leanings.

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