2009 O’s Retrospective: Aubrey Huff

In part thirty-six of my almost 50 part series “Better Know An Oriole” (otherwise known as 2009 Orioles Retrospective), I take a look at lefty slugger Aubrey Huff… THE FIGHTIN’ LOVE SPONGE!

Here’s what I said about Huff before the season when projecting a .280/.344/.472 line:

“Expectations weren’t high going into 2008, but Huff exploded with a career year – .304/.360/.552, 32 HR, .382 wOBA (116 wOBA+). He won the Silver Slugger for DHs, and even got some down-ballot MVP votes.

Will Aubrey be able to replicate that performance in 2009, or will he come back down to earth?

I think he can still be a productive hitter, but to ask for another .912 OPS is really pushing it.”

Huff hit OK in the first half: though his .259/.327/.424 line was disappointing, it was largely the the product of a .270 BABIP and a slightly low HR/FB rate. July and August were even further in the toilet, with Huff’s BABIP descending into the .220’s and him putting up an OPS in the .540’s.

Since Huff’s contract* was expiring, he was a prime trade candidate for the O’s. I discussed the potential deal here, and then after he was traded to the Tigers for a hard-throwing minor-league reliever I talked about it here. Short versions:

“To come out better overall – on average – the team would need to acquire, more or less, nothing.  A bag of balls.  To make up for the top bound of the larger range, the team would only need a C/C+ type prospect (especially if it’s a younger one). That means that it’s really about what would the team looking to pick Huff up are willing to send over, and how much magic Andy MacPhail can work.”  and

“Jacobson came into the season rated as a B- prospect, and was anywhere from Detroit’s top 10 to their top 5. His 2009 season has been solid – but not spectacular – so maybe he’d be dropped down to a C+.  That’s still good value for Huff though.”

* I though the O’s made a good deal when they signed Huff for 3 years and $20 M. Aubrey was worth $3.1 M in 2007, $18.9 M in 2008, and -$2.2 M (to the Orioles) in 2009 (from FanGraphs). That comes out almost exactly even. Since the O’s saved some money when the Tigers took him off their hands and they got a prospect in return, I think you need to call the contract a win for the team – even if almost all the productions came in one year.

Huff ended up hitting .253/.321/.405 for the O’s this year and just .189/.265/.302 for Detroit down the stretch. He actually upped his walk rate from recent years to 8.7% and wasn’t striking out a lot (16.7%), but the .263 BABIP and 9.1% HR/FB rate sunk him.  His PrOPS line from The Hardball Times, which uses batted-ball data, strike-outs, walks, and home runs, was about .268/.338/.417 – still not good, but better than his actual .241/.310/.384 line. I expect Huff to catch on somewhere next year at a very discounted rate and have a little bounce-back of a season, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be with the O’s.

Photo by Keith Allison and used under the Creative Commons License 2.0.