A Contract Incentive for Adam LaRoche

Adam LaRoche career indicates an odd performance pattern in one area. The table below reports his seasonal tOPS+, which measures how well LaRoche did in each half relative to his performance that year.

Year	1st Half	2nd Half
2004	85		113
2005	109		71
2006	77		126
2007	90		113
2008	84		128
2009	83		126

In five of the six years that he has played in the majors, he’s hit better in the first half than he did in the second half. This fact has not gone unnoticed by broadcasters.

I do not think that LaRoche can be counted on to repeat this pattern. In Curve Ball, statisticians Albert and Bennett look at the ability of players to repeat half-season splits and they conclude: “Players don’t generally hit any better or worse in the last half of the season than the first half of the season.” Now, this doesn’t exclude the possibility of a few players having this ability, but I think it is unlikely. I suspect that Adam’s performance represents a run in a small sample that is likely noise.

But, what if Adam is a second-half player, and a team wants him to play more like second-half Adam in the first half? How might a team structure a contract to give LaRoche the incentive to do the things he needs to do (e.g., get in shape, practice, take his medication regularly, etc.) to generate higher production. I have a simple solution: offer a big All-Star bonus. Players with strong first halves have an advantage at making the All-Star team over second-half players. Many players have All-Star bonuses in their contracts in small amounts, a few thousands dollars or so. If a full-year of second-half LaRoche is worth an additional $2 million, offer him a $2 million bonus for making the team. If he can fix the problem, it will likely be fixed. If not, you get the same LaRoche as always without having to pay the bonus.

3 Responses “A Contract Incentive for Adam LaRoche”

  1. Eddie C. says:

    I agree with your assessment of the LaRoche situation with one caveat; will LaRoche be of an All-Star quality when compared to the likes of Pujols, Fielder, Gonzalez, Votto, etc.? Even if his statistics render him most deserving at the position, fan voting may not push him past his NL counterparts.

    For the Braves, it seems completely reasonable to offer an incentive even higher than the suggested $2 million for an All-Star bonus. In my opinion, it seems highly improbable that LaRoche will first out play the other NL 1B candidates, and additionally overcome their established superstar reputations held by the fans. With a pattern of poor first half performance, the task at hand may be insurmountable for LaRoche.

    LaRoche must recognize the subjectivity in all-star voting, and perfer to have statistical benchmarks which would trigger the performance incentives.

    Here is one hypothetical example of how a performance-based incentive-laden contract could be drafted for LaRoche:

    LaRoche must accrue a minimum of 325 PA by the All-Star Break for incentives to vest.

    $1.25M for OBP greater than .360
    $1.75M for SLG greater than .550

    Pending LaRoche reach the first half performance goals previously established, the Braves may want to include additional incentives if LaRoche can sustain this play throughout the entire season.

    I am uncertain as to how much the Braves will be able to shave off of the guaranteed portion of LaRoche’s salary, but if high enough, the bonuses must be at least slightly appetizing to LaRoche. It is all dependent on how much risk he is willing to accept as it pertains to his expected income.

  2. JC says:

    Incentives cannot be tied to performance stats. They are limited to playing time totals and award selections.


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