the dump's sportslog - baseball analysis
National League Rookie of the Year
There is a very rich crop of NL rookies this year. Almost half a dozen guys have made legitimate contributions to their teams, and many will be productive for a long time. There are years when any one of them could have won, but because of the parity, many guys will get passed over - especially the hiiters. Here are their stats:
Scott Podsednik - .312/.378/.434/
Marlon Byrd - .302/.366/.418
Ty Wigginton - .255/.317/.397
Wigginton has the most at bats and RBIs, and Podsednik has more runs, hits and steals. Byrd probably plays the best defense, but each one is a legitimate choice in many seasons. Unfortunately for those three guys, there are two dominant rookie pitchers (and some other great ones, sorry Jerome Williams and Rafael Soriano).
The two big guns at the top of the race are Dontrelle Willis and Brandon Webb. There are a lot of similarities between the two. Willis has more wins. Webb the lower ERA. Willis has less walks. Webb has more strikeouts. Neither have any saves.
Unfortunately for Webb, he has been very unlucky. I commented in my last post about how much of a factor luck is in the playoffs, but you expect it to even out in the regular season. For pitchers, so much is based on how the hitters do in the other half of the inning, and it is out of his control. Baseball Prospectus has him as the sixth unluckiest starter in the majors. Third if you don't count the staff of the Tigers.
Willis on the other hand had excellent run support, with an offense that scored runs and got on base often. It is stupid to say that Willis is a better pitcher because his team scores more runs while he isn't pitching. If Webb had even neutral support, he'd be 13.5-4.7. If he was on a team with an above average run support, who knows how many wins he would have. Webb also appears fourth on their list of "Steadiest" starters, not like I have any idea what it means, other than he's "consistent" - and in his case, "consistently" good.
Webb will probably be the ROY, which makes his absence from the 2003 Baseball Prospectus slightly amusing. But hats off to him. Hopefully the D-Backs will be able to build a cheap and young pitching staff, and realize the error of their ways. Actually, I don't hope that, I want them to keep losing. Oh well.
I'm taking a break from predictions (NL ROY will go up sometime tonight) to discuss an article by Buster Olney in the current ESPN magazine. I'd provide a link, but they don't have it up yet, since its marked the 29th. The article is titled "supercharged" and the quote in the middle immediately piqued my attention, "My Job is to get us to the playoffs," Beane says in Moneyball. What then?" Now I'm assuming that Olney has read Moneyball, but he seems to miss some of the major points.
After that quote appears in the article, the next sentence is, "So that's why the A's are 0-for-3 in the Division Series on Beane's watch?" Ouch. Buster obviously isn't going to to explain the entire premise of Oakland playoff baseball and the depth of the Beane answer that realizes that you cannot project statistics from a whole season in to a five game series.
What Olney does in the next paragraph is attribute winning in the playoffs not to "luck" - which Beane can actually prove, but instead to simply being "wired for the postseason." That's it. Wow, Buster. Now usually I'm a fan of his. He did (still does?) the Yankees beat for the New York Times and does some excellent articles. However, you cannot knock someone for attributing something to "luck" when you are going to say that some players are "wired."
To Olney's credit, he does attempt to back it up. The rest of the article is about two categories that he thinks best describes the "wired" feeling. And after dissing Oakland, guess what the two things are: "contact hitters who wore out opposing starters," and "exceptional middle relief"! Amazing! Right after saying that Beane has trouble in the postseason because of something other than luck, he says that the two things that Billy strives for are the most important thing!
In the rest of the article, not once are the Athletics mentioned in their capabilities in either regard! Perhaps after reading Moneyball you would talk about how Beane wanted to get players that did exactly this, and then maybe look at some statistics which showed which of the playoff teams had the highest OBPs or looked at the most pitches or had the shortest average innings an opposing pitcher goes against them (is that even kept anywhere?).
As far as middle relief goes, how about discussing that it really is a crapshoot in a five game series, no matter how well your pitchers go during the regular season. I guess ESPN will try and tell us which players have "it" instead of actually looking at the numbers and seeing that they matter for getting to the postseason, but once you are there, its just luck.
More on... AL Rookie of the Year
We'll see how we want to arrange what is sure to be a series of postings on who we think should win season-end hardware, but for the moment I'll simply piggyback Dan's posting on the AL Rookie of the Year. The relevant stats for three of the ROY hopefuls have been laid out for you in the previous post, but I think it only fair to invite a few more deserving guests to the consideration party. In keeping with the theme, here's a piece of the block of stat lines Dan presented, with two more candidates added to the mix.
.282/.339/.499 (Jody Gerut)
.261/.333/.482 (Mark Teixeira)
.287/.352/.437 (Hideki Matsui)
.293/.344/.462 (Angel Berroa)
.291/.328/.419 (Rocco Baldelli)
I've heard all these guys have their names mentioned in the debate, and rightly so. Berroa plays what is clearly the most difficult position of any of our candidates (shortstop), and Baldelli is a better outfielder than Gerut or Matsui (Teixeira too, in the 25 games he's played out there) and a joy to watch perform. I really like all these guys, but the final two in my eyes to consider for the award are the ones with the dimmest futures going forward over the long haul, in part due to their ages: Matsui, who is 29, and Berroa, who is 25.
While I respect Dan's choice of Gerut and wouldn't complain if it went that way (though I can't see it happening) and think Teixeira is going to be the clear-cut best player of this group in ten years, Berroa's put up very valuable offensive numbers at a key defensive position all season long. I have no trouble admitting that I, like so many others, thought Berroa was going to be a bust...and he's proved us all wrong. Matsui's a terrific player, and while I'd probably ultimately cast my vote for him, I fully expect him to lose. There's enough of a stir now about whether or not he should be eligible for the award that has conveniently reared its head now that a first-year Japanese player is on the Yankees as opposed to the Mariners. I think there'll be enough voters who leave him off their ballots for this reason to ensure that someone else gets the award. If we were going to remove Matsui from consideration (as I do think should happen, but through official channels...I'd like to see the Rookie of the Year awards given to Kazuhiro Sasaki and Ichiro Suzuki retroactively awarded to Terrence Long and C.C. Sabathia, respectively as well, as they finished second in 2000 and 2001), I'd vote Berroa.
I really like Jason Davis and think he's going to be an awesome major league pitcher...but his season (8-11, 4.68 ERA, 172 hits (25 homers), 47 walks, 85 strikeouts over 165.1 innings) simply doesn't warrant consideration among competition this stiff. He, along with fellow pitcher-on-a-bad-team Jeremy Bonderman, could well be among the best in this rookie class in a couple of years, but as we know, that's not the purpose of the Rookie of the Year exercise.
Rookie's of the Year
I figured I should start off with some award hopefulls, and for no reason in particular, I chose AL ROY. There are three candidates, all with eerily similar statistics. Lets take a look:
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB BA OBP SLG OPS
You should be able to figure out who 'c' is by the RBI totals, as they've been made up to be a pretty big deal.
It's Hideki Matsui. Despite over 100 more at bats, his numbers aren't that much better, and while he gets on base a little more, he loses in power to the other two. The Jamesian in me says that RBIs are completely random, and more a factor of the Yankees in front of him getting on base at better clips than the players on the teams of rookie a and b. That is in fact, the case. Also, in the case of rookie b, players in front of him hit many home runs, so he has less chances for RBIs. Another weird little luck thing.
The other factor that I'm not considering is defense. It is a very subjective measure, and I feel like I'd give Matsui a bit of an edge because I was able to watch him play excellent defense game in and game out - making perfect throws and playing balls well even in the difficult left field of Yankee Stadium.
However, he does walk a lot and have a ton of hits and doubles. With 140 extra at bats over rookie A, he has an additional 45 hits, which is a little more than a .335 clip. He is a lot of fun to watch but I don't feel like he should win for two major reasons: one, he isn't a real rookie. The argument keeps getting hashed over with the influx of Japanese players and its completely ridiculous that after having many years of practice in professional baseball, they are treated like they have no idea of what is going on. Obviously, Matsui already had an excellent command of the game, and its why he came over. Secondly, with the bats around him, its difficult to measure his contributions. While those other rookies aren't on winning ball clubs and none of them did any "carrying" this season, they do stick out a little more.
Okay, thats enough with the suspense, as I'll reveal my final two candidates (if you haven't figured it out): Rookie A is Jody Gerut and Rookie B is Mark Teixeira. There is no soft spot for Matsui, but there is a big one for Gerut. He played ball here in Buffalo last year and is apparently a great guy who was real nice to my friends who worked with the team. Unfortunately, I never got to meet him, but maybe another time.
The split between him and Teixeira could go either way. As seen above, they are very similar. Gerut plays a slightly more difficult defensive position, but I'm not counting it that much. The problem for Gerut is that he crushes righties but can't hit lefties. Only three of his homers are against southpaws, and he's had 130 at bats vs. them (332 vs. righties). The splits are laughable, and if anyone makes the case to be only used against righties, its him. So minus those at bats, he'd have better numbers. While that would be an advantage, the other side of the coin is that he's slightly one dimensional (out of two, ridiculous, I know.)
Teixeira on the other hand is a switch hitter with better power vs. righties but much worse average. His homers are more evenly split, which is weird since he's gotten twice as many at bats against righties. He also strikes out more and walks at about the same clip, giving him lower OPS. It's going to be a close race, and it may take a huge outburst by one of those two guys to cement their spot on top, but I'm giving the edge to Gerut.