August 2009

The best 1-2’s in the game.

Please comment at my new site. Thanks.

Since Cliff Lee teamed up with Cole Hamels in Philly, the Phils now
feature a great 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation. Two very good
left-handed pitchers, both with great seasons behind them, and much
greatness left in front of them. They make up what is easily one of the
best in the game.  And come playoff time, that matters a lot.

So I decided to take it upon myself to rank the five best “1-2’s” in
the game. And there are plenty of good ones, so it was difficult to
narrow it down to just the five. I could have gone ten deep with this
post…

The five best 1-2’s are:

Tim Lincecum/Matt Cain: Lincecum is arguably the best pitcher
in the game. A great righty, short in stature, large at heart–and in
the numbers. Lincecum has posted the highest ‘WAR’ in baseball the past
two seasons with an awesome 14.8 (among pitchers). In addition to that,
he also has the lowest FIP, and the lowest ERA.  Lincecum is definitely
the better of the two, but his counterpart can hold his own, without a
doubt.

Matt Cain, as mentioned, is the second best pitcher in the Bay area.
But that is no knock on Cain. His FIP doesn’t match up well with his
ERA, meaning he may see a small jump in that eventually. But young
pitchers are always learning how to pitch, and Cain will only get
better, it seems. Cain’s ‘WAR’ the past two years is only 6.6, which is
really good. But it falls well, well short of Lincecum’s.

Josh Beckett/Jon Lester: Josh Beckett, the every-other-year
wonder. He makes it look so awesome, so prolific when he is on. And
when he is on, I may want no other pitcher in baseball on the mound.
With that being said, he hasn’t been great the entire time, just most
of the time he has spent in Boston, post-2006 of course. When things
are going well, Beckett has command of two nasty breaking balls, the
four-seamer, and what can be an unhittable two-seamer at times.

Lester is as good as ever. Even though his ERA may not indicate he
was much better than last year, trust me he is. He has become a
dominant strikeout pitcher who is a little less reliant on his porous
defense. His 10.3 ‘WAR’ is less than Beckett’s 11, but Lester isn’t
much different in terms of results than Beckett. This season, Lester
has over ten K’s a game, to less than three walks.

Yea, the guy is good. I know.

Cole Hamels/Cliff Lee: The aforementioned left-handed duo. I
can tell you what, no one wants to face this pair come playoff time.
You know how you always feel uncomfortable when a lefty is on the
mound? Yes, I do as well. Just imagine having to see these guys in a
short series, both being left handed. But not only left-handed, also
great.

Hamels has been somewhat unlucky, but isn’t exactly having a year that tops last season either. His ‘WAR,’
again, over the past two seasons is 6.6, actually tied with Cain. So
while he hasn’t been dominant of late, it is probably just because of
luck, and possibly being worked hard in 2008.

Cliff Lee is a bonafide ace. He was the Cy Young winner of course
last season, in the superior AL. And ever since his arrival to the
weaker NL, he’s been carving up the competition. His WAR is third only
behind Lincecum’s and Halladay’s. Command is Lee’s specialty, as he
will not overpower you. And he “commands” very well…

CC Sabathia/AJ Burnett: CC Sabathia is one of the five best
pitchers in all of baseball.  And his WAR helps prove that, finishing
4th in that category.  CC really broke out in 2007, having a Cy Young
caliber season.  2006 was good too, but people really took notice in
07.’  The lefty is the real deal, and is showing everyone why the money
was spent on him, rather than not.

AJ Burnett hasn’t had many great seasons.  But his WAR is very good
over the past couple of years.  I was never a supporter of Burnett
being an “Ace,”  but he has pitched very well, under the lights in New
York–something that not everyone can handle well.  CC is the main
reason this tandem is so high, but Burnett is definitely a good pitcher.

Dan Haren/Brandon Webb: I know that Webb is hurt, but just
last season these two were arguably the best 1-2 in the game. 
Different styles, but both use an array of pitches to get batters out. 
I guess with the injury to Webb, we can place Haren in the number one
slot.  But in fairness to Webb, he was truly great.  And hopefully he
can get back into form someday.

Haren is underrated, maybe the most underrated in the game.  His
transition from a pitchers park in Oakland to a hitters park in Arizona
has probably gone better than any scout could imagine.

Duo’s that just missed:

Javier Vazquez/Jair Jurrjens

John Danks/Mark Beurhle

Chris Carpenter/Adam Wainwright

Zack Greinke/Gil Meche

Justin Verlander/Edwin Jackson

Jarrod Washburn adjusting, or regressing?

Please comment at my new site. Thanks.

Jarrod Washburn was having a heck of a season up in the northwest of
Seattle.  An ERA+ of 164.  An FIP well under 4.00.  It was an unlikely
occurrence, given his lack of greatness in recent seasons.  But it was
a welcomed occurrence on his part, for who wouldn’t want to have a good
year?

Washburn was then moved to Detroit, a team in contention, for a
return of a few young, semi-promising players.  And since that day, he
has been struggling.

A 6.04 ERA.

But what is the reason?  Is Washburn finally regressing back to
himself?  Or is it simply a guy adjusting to a new environment? After
all, he is human right?  He is not the FIP-bot, or robo-ERA man.  He is
a dude learning a new life, in a new city.  The sampling is much too
small to begin with.  But the struggles have still been there.

Not sure of the reason, but Washburn seems to be having issues on a
team that went out and acquired him based on the notion that he’d help
them get over the hump in the AL Central.

And so far, he hasn’t accomplished that, not even close.

What would one be getting if they signed Marco Scutaro?

Please comment at my new site. Thanks.

As you may have heard, Marco Scutaro is going to be a free agent
after the season.  And he will be sought after by multiple teams
looking to shore up the shortstop position.  But if a team decides to
ink Scutaro to a multi-year deal, what exactly will they be getting?

If you follow baseball astutely, then you probably understand that
this would be a career year for the Blue Jays shortstop.  A guy that
has never posted an OPS+ greater than 96, all of a sudden posts one
that is 118.  A hitter that was basically league-average in the
category of getting on base, all of a sudden reaches base well over 38
percent of the time.  And a player, Scutaro, that has never Slugged
over .400, now sits with a .442 Slugging percentage.

That would be defined as a career year, my friends.

And all this comes at age 33.  Meaning it is not likely to repeat itself, not to this degree anyway.

But hey, I am not getting on Scutaro.  Good for him.  I am glad to
see someone experiencing success late in their career.  I just wonder
whether or not it will be sustained, even for another year.

See, players at the age of 33 don’t generally learn the game, and
take their game to another level.  They don’t typically become 5 ‘WAR’
players, when they have never topped anything over 2.7.  So forgive me,
I may end up being wrong.  But I just don’t think Scutaro will ever
come close to repeating this performance.

Here are hiw ‘WAR’ totals since 2002:

-0.1, 0.3, -0.3, 1.6, 1.0, 0.2, 2.7, 4.7

There is an outlier there.  And of course it is 2009.  Marco can
probably be that player of 2008, the one with the 2.7 ‘WAR.’  But to
ask him to be a star, as he has been this year, is simply asking too
much.

One aspect of his ‘WAR’ that is much improved–along with his bat. 
Is his defense.  He has been mediocre with the glove, according to UZR,
his entire career while manning short.  But this season in 115 games,
his UZR sits at a pretty 7.6.  Is it actually better?  Or is it a flaw
in the metric?  I really don’t know the answer to that, for I am not a
scout, and I do not watch the Blue Jays enough to evaluate an
individual defender.

If a team, say the Red Sox, is interested in Scutaro this
off-season, then be aware.  Be aware of what he might revert to.  It
wouldn’t be a bad signing by any means, but the price and length have
to be looked at long and hard.

UZR leaders, by position over past three seasons.

Please comment at my new site. Thanks.

Since UZR has been looked at as “suspect” recently, with it’s grade
on Mark Teixeira.  Here are the top five at each position over the past
three seasons.  And three seasons is much better than one…

1B:  Albert Pujols, Casey Kotchman, Kevin Youkilis, Todd Helton, Lyle Overbay.

Does anyone dispute that?  Pujols has been regarded as the best
defensive 1B in the game for a few years now.  Kotchman is notorious
for being a powerless wiz with the glove.  Youkilis is solid, albeit
unspectacular, and really doesn’t make many errors at all at first. 
Helton and Overbay both have been known to flash the leather.  I do
think Tex is of quality on the defensive side.  But I am no scout
either.  He makes plays look great, but are they great plays?  I’m sure
some of them are…

2B:  Chase Utley, Brandon Phillips, Mark Ellis, Dustin Pedroia, Placido Polanco.

Utley is going to go down as one of the best 2B ever, and his
defense has a lot to do with it–whether the casual fan knows about it
or not.  Phillips has the rep.  Ellis is kind of like a lesser Derek
Jeter, that has always been the better defender with respect to
position.  Pedroia is a good defender, and Polanco has that same
reputation.  More sure handed, then rangy I’ve heard on Polanco.

3B:  Ryan Zimmerman, Pedro Feliz, Rolen, Inge, Beltre.

If there is evidence that UZR is legit over a three year sample,
then this is the position that should be used as an example.  Zimmerman
is probably the best of the bunch now, although it’s very close, and
disputable.  Feliz was the best just a few years ago.  Rolen may be the
greatest of all time, if not, then top three.  Although I really cannot
name anyone other than Schmidt that would be in that top three.  Inge,
although qualifying as a catcher too, is a great defender who never hit
much until this season.  And Beltre’s greatest strength has been his
glove.  Yes, hacking away wasn’t Beltre’s strength.

SS:  JJ Hardy, Jimmy Rollins, Jack Wilson, Troy Tulowitzki, Orlando Cabrera

Hardy being the best in UZR over a three year period kind of gives
me the urge to acquire him to field SS with the Red Sox.  I knew he was
capable, but did not know that he led the league in UZR over this
stretch.  Rollins looks slick in the field, so the metric backs that
up.  Jack Wilson is notorious for his glove-work.  Tulo, ditto.  And
O-Cab was good before this year, when he has seemingly taken a decline on defense.

RF:  Randy Winn, Austin Kearns, Alex Rios, JD Drew, Jeff Francouer

Well, Winn apparently gets the job done.  Kearns doesn’t look the
part, but I have never heard anything bad about his defense.  Rios is a
guy that could play center, as he will in Chicago, it seems.  Drew has
the range, and gets good jumps.  But he doesn’t seem to field ground
balls well, something that doesn’t apply much to an outfielder anyway. 
And Drew definitely doesn’t won’t run through a wall for you, or even
lay out very often.  Francouer has a cannon for an arm.  If he could
learn to lay off a pitch, or two, then he would be a fine player–maybe.

CF:  BJ Upton, Coco Crisp, Carlos Beltran, Aaron Rowand, Mike Cameron

Upton likes to make his plays look good, but I never questioned his
brilliant range.  Crisp is awesome when healthy out in center.  Beltran
too.  Rowand will actually run through a wall for his team, and seems
to be a great teammate.  He is actually higher than I might have
thought thought, based on what I have heard recently.  Mike Cameron is
known for his defensive prowess as well.

LF:  Matt Holliday, Carl Crawford, Alfonso Soriano, Josh Willingham, Carlos Lee.

This is simply a lack of fielders that qualify.  Holliday above
Crawford though?  Maybe the Red Sox will look at Holliday to improve
their sub-par defense, as Bay is not good out there.  But Holliday will
probably command too much on the open market.  Crawford is great, and
could probably play center if given another opportunity.  Soriano is
surprising because he seems to make some blunders.  Both Willingham and
Lee are pretty terrible, but only nine left fielders qualify.  They are
both well into the negatives.  If I were to change the minimum innings
requirements, then Eric Byrnes and Fred Lewis would take their spots.

So there you have it.  UZR for the past three seasons.  Much
greater, and more reliable then simply looking at this season.  If you
are wondering, Tex falls in 7th among 18 qualifying first baseman.  So
yes, he is an above average defender at first, but he might not be great.

Joe Morgan on Joe Mauer.

Please comment at my new site. Thanks.

I don’t want to beat the subject down anymore, as Joe Posnanski
does that on a daily basis.  But Joe Mauer hit two more homers, and had
three more hits yesterday.  One homer to straight away center, and the
other to left center.  He is batting .383, and he’s a catcher
Poz’s message board is scattered with people saying that up until now,
this is probably the greatest season by a catcher of all time.  An OPS+
north of 190, he’s a catcher, Slugging over .600, he’s a catcher. 
Well, you must get my point by now.

After all those numbers suggesting he is easily the MVP, we find out that Joe Morgan is off base again.  In a chat
yesterday, which I went back and read out of boredom, Joe Morgan said
something I didn’t agree with (what a surprise). I don’t mean to bash
the guy to simply bash him, but I felt that this was off base.  Here’s
what he said:

I can’t call him the best player, because it’s hard for a
catcher to be the best player. The reason I say that is that he’s not
the best defensive catcher in the game and he doesn’t run as well as
some of the other players. But he’s definitely the best catcher in the
game. And he’s not better than Albert Pujols. However, Mauer is an
unbelieveable talent. We’ve never had a catcher win a batting title
before. Now he’s on to his, what?, 2nd or 3rd batting title? He is by
far the best hitter in the league. But as an MVP, the Twins might
finish 3rd or 4th in their division.”

So Joe can’t call Mauer the best player because he is a “catcher?” 
This is subjective once again.   See, Morgan was the best player on a
great Reds team that one two World Series rings in the mid-70’s.  Yes,
he was better than Johnny Bench.  Joe was a great defender at an
up-the-middle position, who stole a ton of bases, hit for power, got on
base a bunch.  He could very well be the best second baseman of all
time.

So anyway, Morgan was better than Bench.  He could do more on a
baseball field, his career WARP1 is significantly higher.  I seriously
would not be surprised if this is where this all comes from.  Morgan
saw firsthand that he was better than his catcher.  Result:  This
conclusion.

Maybe I am off base in this regard, but it wouldn’t be entirely unlikely.

He doesn’t run as well as some of the other players.”

Okay, but just last season he was 2oth in base-running according to
BP.  Although this season, he isn’t even in the top 100.  But he isn’t
a poor base-runner by any means.  He may not run as well as Jacoby
Ellsbury, but that isn’t really what Joe Mauer does that makes him so
valuable.

“We’ve never had a catcher win a batting title before. Now he’s
on to his, what?, 2nd or 3rd batting title? He is by far the best
hitter in the league. But as an MVP, the Twins might finish 3rd or 4th
in their division.”

So he is by far the best hitter in the league?  But he isn’t the
best player because he is a catcher?  Morgan doesn’t understand
positional adjustment whatsoever.  Joe Mauer is a catcher, he gets
points for simply being able to be a catcher.  Kind of like how Jeter
or Hanley get points for simply being ****.  They field the position
well enough to play it–although it may not be quality defense, they
aren’t so horrendous that they absolutely must be moved off the
position, like BJ Upton had to be.  But Joe Mauer, by all accounts, and
all that has been said, is actually a really good defensive catcher. 
He is a great athlete, and constantly has to work with young pitchers,
and does pretty well at it, outside of this season.  But again, that
may not be Mauer’s fault at all.  It may be the actual pitchers simply
not faring well.

As for the MVP part of that quote?  Well, that is Morgan’s opinion. 
I personally do not feel that a player should be excluded from an MVP
award simply because the team around him is not supportive enough–at
least in terms of performance.  If Joe Mauer doesn’t have the
supporting cast to make a playoff run, then how is that his fault?

It isn’t.

But I also understand that people’s definition of “value” differs.  Although I may not agree with this, I do keep an open mind.

However, just to reiterate, Mauer is my MVP.  So don’t think that I
do not understand how little one player can impact a team, and how much
is needed in order to surround said player.

“And he’s not better than Albert Pujols.”

Joe Morgan, you’ve done good.  Although Mauer might very well be
having the better season (It’s close),  he may not be better than
Albert.  For Albert has been the best player in the game for years now,
and knocking him off isn’t as simple as putting up a .383 batting
average in less than a season.  As great as Mauer is and has been, I
will accept Pujols as the best player in baseball.

So Joe Morgan, Joe Mauer is the MVP.  That is firm within my mind. 
Entrenched, one might say.  There is still some season left to play,
and what will happen is unknown.  But a “catcher” is in fact the best
player in the American League.  And it isn’t far fetched to say that
he’s the best in the game.

Ryan Zimmerman: Defender of the hot corner.

Please comment at my new site. Thanks.

Is Ryan Zimmerman now the best defensive 3B in baseball?

His UZR this season is 16, which is tops in baseball at the hot
corner.  And his 35.5 UZR over the past three seasons is also best at
the position.  And unlike some stat guys, I will admit I haven’t seen a
whole lot of Zimmerman’s play.  But I have seen him play.  And
his defense is not just statistical gibberish.  Zim’s definitely the
real deal on the defensive side of the ball.

But just for good measure, his Plus/Minus from 2006-2008 was sixth,
which is still really good.  But he was still evolving as a baseball
player.

I think that Zimmerman has grabbed the torch from the Inge’s and
Feliz’s of the world.  But I may be underestimating their greatness…

If there was one guy I needed to defend third, how could I go against Zim?

Johnny Damon or JD Drew?

 

Please comment at my new site. Thanks.

Tony Masserotti via Boston.com:

And before anyone suggests that Damon has benefited solely from the laughable right field at Yankee Stadium, let’s remember that his game-tying home run last night was a laser that landed in the Yankees bullpen, just to the right of the 385-foot mark. Even fireballing young righthander Daniel Bard couldn’t get his fastball by Damon. Over the last three years of a contract during which Red Sox officials believed Damon would be grossly overpaid, Damon has more hits (424 to 311), runs scored (267 to 222), home runs (50 to 42) and RBIs (199 to 171) than J.D. Drew, who makes an average of $1 million more per season (edge Drew, $14 million to $13 million) and is signed for two more years. Damon, by the way, will be a free agent in the fall.

Oh, and did we mention that the Red Sox rank 13th among the 14 American League teams in on-base percentage from the leadoff spot since Damon departed? Damon might not be hitting leadoff for the Yankees anymore — he bats second — but he certainly could do it for the Red Sox.”

Johnny Damon has played much better, on the wrong side of 30, then most would have expected.  In fact, he has been a better player the past two seasons, than he was the previous two.  But how could anyone have foreseen that?  How could anyone have known that he would age so well?

The Red Sox made a choice to let Damon walk, they let him accept more money.  And that is the other part of this equation; the Yankees offered him more money and an extra year if I recall.  So naturally, Damon went elsewhere.

But comparing him straight up to Drew isn’t necessarily fair.  Coco Crisp was Damon’s successor, not Drew.  Crisp was brought in, and the results were mixed.  Sure, he couldn’t hit much at all.  But Crisp was arguably the most valuable defender in all of baseball during a 2007 World Series run that resulted in a bunch of rings.  Crisp was then moved to give the role to Ellsbury of course.  So let us just say that it could be much worse in center field.  Ellsbury is still learning the game, and should be a solid all-around player, eventually.

Drew was brought in to replace Trot Nixon, and a declining Nixon too.  At age 32 Nixon was a sub-par player, so Drew gave them a player on par with the average player, if not a little better than that.  Nixon disappeared off the face of the baseball planet, while Drew actually played some decent baseball.

Now, I have never defended that Drew contract.  Not the length of it, not for a player that misses time each and every season.  But I understand the reasoning.  They wanted to get better, plain and simple.  Nixon was the hometown favorite, but he was finished.  And the front office knew that, much more than most of the fans did.

Masserotti also states that Drew is having a “disappointing” year.  Disappointing how?  Is it disappointing because people still feel like he is all of a sudden going to become a great player?  He isn’t.  He is a pretty good player, and that is all he will ever be.  The guy has had one truly great season, and I would be very surprised if he had another. 

But to the stat archive…

Drew and Damon have been remarkably similiar in terms of overall value over the 2+ seasons that Drew has been in Boston.  Damon leads in total ‘WAR’ 8.4-8.1.  In terms of dollars, according to Fangraphs, Damon has been worth $37.1-$35.8. 

Drew has the higher OPS of .867-.821. 

Drew also has a significantly better UZR at 6.6 to Damon’s -2.1.  Drew is clearly the better defender.  But Damon leads all the counting stats because he plays more often, and his overall ‘WAR’ is slighty better.  If one were to compare th past three years, the players could almost be interchangeable.  So I guess, comparatively, since Damon is paid a small margin less, that he is the better baragain.  But the difference is marginal.  

Anyway, Drew was brought in to play right field.  Not center field as Damon was playing when his contract expired with the Red Sox.  I guess the Red Sox could have projected that Damon would need to shift to a corner outfield spot a year or two down the road.  But who in their right mind would have felt that his bat could have also “projected” for a corner outfield spot?  At age 34 and 35 nonetheless?

And let us not forget those home/road splits.  On the road this season, Damon has an OPS of .788, compared to .979 in new Yankees stadium.  Maybe that stadium IS freakishly helping these players numbers.  Damon isn’t failing much at home.  But on the road he is average at best.  In past seasons, his splits have been similiar.  But not this season.

According to that pesky ‘WAR’ metric, both Damon and Drew are having about the same year, with Drew actually having a better number.  But again, the difference is marginal. 

So Tony Masserotti, the difference between the two players isn’t much.  And the positions aren’t the same anyway.  Damon would have been resigned to play center field and would have had to shift to a corner slot eventually.  So in theory, he could have played right, I guess, if they wanted an arm that wouldn’t thrown any base-runners out.  And he couldn’t have played left, because that spot was locked up, and has been locked up during Damon’s current contract. 

The Yankees valued Damon more, they got him.  Are we really getting to get on the Red Sox organization for not wanting to pay Johnny Damon?  His play at this age has been somewhat of a surprise to anyone around baseball, I’m sure.

Derek Jeter or Mark Teixeira?

Please comment at my new site. Thanks.

Many across the blogosphere, across the message boards, across the
baseball world, have acknowledged that Derek Jeter might be more
valuable than Mark Teixeira this season.  This all of course is in
response to the original “Tweet” put out by Tyler Kepner, writer for the New York Times.

Joe Mauer is the MVP.  That is pretty obvious to me, Joe Po, and Rob Neyer.  Two that I have learned a lot from over the years.

But as far as more deserving out of the two Yankees players?  Both
are having great seasons, and both should finish in the top ten.  With
the market they play in, there is little doubt that they will finish in
that top ten.  But aside from the market, they both deserve it.

But who has been more valuable?

Let us start with the most telling metric/statistic:  WAR.  ‘WAR’
likes Jeter more, although not by any significant margin.  Jeter’s is
4.9, Tex’s is 3.9.  So according to that, Jeter’s been worth an extra
win compared to Teixeira.  Okay, so maybe a win is pretty
“significant.”  But that isn’t the only metric that should be taken to
heart.

WARP1 actually suggests that Tex has been more valuable.  5.4 “Wins
above replacement player.”  That is superior to Jeter’s 4.2.  Of
course, David Aardsma is ahead of Jeter, so I don’t know how seriously
WARP should be taken in the first place.

Another look, another flaw in WARP.  There is no way that Jeter
is less valuable than Aardsma.  I’m sorry, but I cannot be convinced. 
Jeter plays every day, while Aardsma appears a few innings a week.

Just for the record though, Joe Mauer’s WARP is 7.0.

Runs created you say?  Jeter trails by a mere four runs.  Tex with 83, Jeter with 79.

Look, metrics give us some perspective based on positional
adjustment.  Something that isn’t so easy to discover based on simply
watching.  Jeter plays SS, so the value in that is great, much more so
than Tex’s quality play at first.  If Jeter was sub-par at short as in
past seasons, then a different case would be made.  But Jeter’s glove
has actually been worth quite a bit this season, more than Teixeira’s.

Anyway, to simplify the batting, here are the line’s:

Jeter:  .320/.387/.463

Tex:  .288/.385/.562

Tex has a huge edge in Slugging.  But couldn’t the difference very
well be made up in positional adjustment?  Couldn’t the fact that Jeter
plays short close that gap by a wide margin?  And remember, he’s played
a solid SS according to every metric out there, so it isn’t like he is
hurting his team in the field.

I guess the point is, both are having great seasons for the best
team in baseball–as much as it pains me to say the “best team”
statement.  The first part would never “pain” me.  I don’t care how
many “MVP’s” the Yankees have if the Red Sox are the better team.  But
as of now, the Yankees are clearly better.

So Joe Mauer is my MVP, obviously up until this point.  And Jeter
and Tex are close as to who is the more viable candidate in terms of
Yankees players.

I guess this all stems from Kepner’s tweet being seen by Rob Neyer,
who in turn wrote a post.  Then Poz decided to write a post, then
another…

The blogosphere is a funny place to be sometimes.

Jumping up and down *on* the bandwagon.

Tyler Kepner posted a “tweet” that stated that Mark Teixeira is the AL MVP, no question.

That is when Rob Neyer and Joe Posnanski went off.

Please comment at my new site. Thanks.

Look, Teixeira is a great player.  A Gold Glove caliber first
baseman.  And a switch hitting beast at the plate.  But is he more
valuable than Joe Mauer?

According to ‘WAR’–probably the best metric out there–no, he
isn’t.  Mauer has a 5.7 ‘WAR’ and that is tops in the American League. 
Tex fares significantly worse in that category, with four wins over a
replacement player.  So according to this, Mauer has been worth nearly
two extra wins to the Twins, than Tex has to the Yankees.

Granted, the metric isn’t perfect.  For Marco Scutaro to me, does
not have the impact that Tex has had, and for some reason he is above
Teixiera.  But he IS ****, and has had an above-average bat this season.

Do people understand the value of a great hitting catcher?  One that
is batting .375 nonetheless?  It is quite ridiculous how much one can
underrate this position for the guy with the most home runs.  And of
course, Tex gets all the love in the media because he is in the
spotlight all the time.  He plays in the largest market, he is on
television all the time, is great of course, and surrounded by great
players, giving him more of an opportunity than Mauer to succeed–from
a team standpoint.

Statistics aren’t everything.  But Joe Mauer is the best player in the AL.  Period.

What is a great hitter?

Please comment at my new site. Thanks.

“Just a bit outside.  The first pitch sails just wide of the strike zone.  And I mean just wide, may even be a generous call by the ump.

And the windup…a tad inside with the breaking ball.  Ausmus was
set up away, chose to go with the breaking ball in the 1-0 count.  But
the ball chose a different direction out of the pitchers hand.

…A fastball clocked at 91, on the outer half of the plate.  3-1. 
Great pitch in a hitters count.  Location, Location, Location.  If he
misses on the inner half there, that ball is probably rocketed.  If not
rocketed, then the pitcher would have been extremely lucky.

The pitcher comes to the plate, and that ball is scorched into the
left-center field gap!  The center fielder was playing for the lefty to
pull the ball.  But the pitch, which was middle-middle, was lined into
the gap for a double.  A great piece of hitting.  Worked the count into
his favor, got his pitch, and didnt’ miss…”

What is a great hitter?  Is it a Victor Martinez?  Someone that
posts a high batting average, can hit to all fields, and can hit both
lefties and righties (switch hitter).  Or is a great hitter, one that
is considered great, more just a great “offensive player.”

Tony Gwynn was a great hitter.  He batted .338.  And because of that, he was also a great offensive player.

Placido Polanco has a career .304 batting average.  One could say he
is a great “hitter” if that is their definition of what it entails to
be a great hitter.  But many will say he isn’t, as well.  He doesn’t
draw many walks, and his power is far from spectacular.  Actually, his
career Slugging percentage is sub-par when compared to a league-average
bat.

So does “great hitter” and “great offensive player” mean the same
thing?  I mean, Adam Dunn is a great offensive player, but is he a
great hitter?  His defense, and positional adjustment make him less
than great, but his bat is very, very good.  I take that bat over
Polanco any day of the week.  (Polanco does possess skills that Dunn
doesn’t have in other facets of the game though).  But do I want a
lineup of nine Adam Dunn’s?  Or nine Placido Polanco’s?  Take defense
out of that equation for a second, simply concentrate on offense.

I watch a player like JD Drew, or Adam Dunn work their walks.  They
hit for some power.  They do what they do, and reach base often.  But
they aren’t Tony Gwynn, they aren’t Victor Martinez.  They can’t cover
the plate like those two.  They cannot hit the ball to all fields as
well.  They both, Dunn and Drew, have more weaknesses.  But all are
considered pretty good.  They just do different things.

A great hitter is definitely more intriguing, more entertaining.  I
love watching a hitter that can take pitches just out of the strike
zone, and recognize they are balls.  But watching a ball hit on a line
into a space where the outfielder is not, is more fun to watch.

I guess the simple answer is that a hitter that can take pitches, work walks AND hit over .300 is where it’s at.

But that would be too obvious I guess.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.