The Sheff Stops Cooking

Today the Tigers released 40-year-old OF/DH, Gary Sheffield. Sheffield, who is only 1 HR shy of 500 career HR's, has had a career with bumps and bruises along the way -- but also with some amazing production. Over 21 seasons in the majors, Sheffield has hit: .292/.394/.516 that's good for an OPS+ of 141.

Using BaseballProjection.com's handy Historical WAR Database, let's check out two WAR graphs for Sheffield. The first graph a year-by-year plot of Sheffield's career. The second graph depicts Sheffield's seasons by WAR as ranked from best to worst.

Sheffwaryear-edit_medium

Sheff's peak seasons came in 1992 (+6.3 wins), 1996 (+6.1 wins), 2000 (+6.7 wins), and 2003 (+7.6 wins). In fact, his batting line from '03 is ridiculous. In that season with Atlanta Sheff hit: .330/.419/.604. His bat alone was worth +57 runs above average or nearly 5.5 wins. A +4 win player is a legitimate All-Star and by eyeballing our graph we can see that Sheffield had several seasons that would classify him as a All-Star level talent. In 2007 Sheffield was +3.3 wins above replacement -- or an above-average talent -- and in '08 he dropped to slightly below replacement level.

Sheffwarbestworst-edit_medium

Because Sheffield often battled injuries in his career, the low-end of his WAR graph is partly because of injuries. For example, in his final season with the Brewers in 1991 Sheffield only played in 50 games. For most of the season he was having thumb and shoulder problems which obviously killed his performance -- in just the previous year he a +3 win player.

Projections

Now that the Tigers have released Sheffield -- and in the process they are eating his $14M salary for '09 -- any team can sign him to the league minimum. Does Sheff have anything left in the tank?

Let's do a quick WAR projection for the upcoming season with CHONE.

Offense - +3.3 runs above average (I've set lgwOBA to .332 and CHONE has Sheffield at .338).

Defense - -10 runs in a corner OF spot

Positional - -7.5 runs for LF/RF or -17.5 runs for DH

Replacement - +22.5 runs

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Total = .83 wins * .8 (accounting for playing time) = .66 wins

You'll notice that it doesn't really matter if Sheffield is DH'ing or playing the OF. He's getting the same overall adjustment of -17.5 runs either way. Though, whether he can stay healthier at DH might be a topic for debate. When everything is totaled up, Sheffield probably breaks into '09 as a half-win to a full-win player. Moving forward, Sheffield looks like a league average hitter (slightly better) that should probably be kept out of the field as much as possible. Having a league average hitter for your DH is nice, but you should really be able to do better. 

Because Sheffield is essentially free, I wouldn't be surprised to see a team pick him up to see if he's got anything left in his bat while he collects his last remaining couple of home runs. Just don't expect for vintage Sheffield to show up, because it's not going to happen.

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