2009 NL OPD (Offense Plus Defense)
Everyone on the Stathead side of the aisle was pretty happy with the MVP awards this season. There was plenty of the usual hand-wringing over how much the BBWAA would screw them up. Then Statheads patted the BBWAA on the head and themselves on the back when Albert Pujols won. But should he have won? Don’t get me wrong, Albert Pujols is a fantastic player and is certainly an MVP candidate year-in and year-out. However, he wasn’t anything like Joe Mauer over in the American League.
The offensive portion of OPD is XR+AA, which is eXtrapolated Runs (XR), adjusted for park and outs (+), above average at position (AA). You can see how Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) is calculated here. The offensive statistics come from Baseball Reference and the defensive raw data comes from CNNSI.com. My park factors are based on a the last three seasons’ average, averaged with the last season. Please recall that all these are “Runs Against Average”, and the typical Replacement Level (RL) is in the 25-run range. So, if you want to compare these numbers to any other site’s Runs or Wins above RL, add 25 runs or so. For catchers, there is a ZR portion of up to one run, and then a standard rating from SB/CS/PB/E compilation.
The National League was fortunate to have three excellent MVP candidates:
When the race is this tight, there are other factors to consider - baserunning (outside of stolen bases), clutchiness, anything else that can tweak the needle, including additional positional considerations. There is a reason the offensive and defensive methodologies have enough error, as well as luck, can have an effect at least as large as three and a half runs. So while everyone was giddy with the Pujols selection, selecting any of these three is likely a fine MVP representative.
Pujols (53.3 XR+AA, 9 DRS, 62.3 OPD) did have the top mark, and he’s a good baserunner in general. He’s a great player, and the best fielding 1B this past season, and is a deserving candidate. Matt Holliday (23.2, 6.2, 29.4) only got 270 PAs, and still managed to perform at a high enough rate to tie for tenth in the league in OPD. Now Holliday has re-signed with the Cardinals and having two mashers could strengthen the St. Louis grip on the NL Central.
The second spot went to the most underrated player in the NL. Yes, those of you reading this know he’s terrific. Heck, even the media knows he’s good. Unfortunately, they constantly underrate just how good he is. Chase Utley (45.5, 13.4, 58.9) is the best second baseman in baseball, and one of the top three or four players overall. The last three seasons, Chase Utley has 174 OPD. That’s 9 runs fewers than Pujols, who has won two MVP awards. Utley is often thought of as the third best player on his team behind Jimmy Rollins (42 3-yr OPD) and Ryan Howard (36 3-yr OPD).
Hanley Ramirez (56.5, 0.9, 57.3) had the top offensive season in the league, but doesn’t have the defensive skils of Utley or Pujols. Ramirez is improving. A few years ago, people talked about moving him away from shortstop after a dismal defensive 2007, but 2008-2009, Ramirez has been average, with a slight trend upwards. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hanley improve a handful of runs on defense and wrest the MVP from Prince Albert. Ramirez has been the top offensive performer in the league (relative to position) over the last three seasons.
The Milwaukee Brewers are assembling one excellent team on the field. Ryan Braun (46.6, -3.8, 42.8) is definitely a star. He’s a great hitter and a solid fielder. He wasn’t great in left field, but he’s learning, and certainly capable. As of now, he’s the best left fielder in the NL. The Brew Crew had two other players make it to the top ten - Prince Fielder (39.3, -3.9, 35.4) at first base was seventh and Felipe Lopez (25.4, 4.1, 29.4) at second base tied for tenth. The Brewers have the makings of a team that can challenge the Cardinals, with a little more pitching.
The Padres have Adrian Gonzalez (32.9, 5.5, 38.4) stationed at first base and he’s one of the league’s best players. He’s a cut or two below Pujols offensively, but then almost everyone is, and he’s a terrific fielder as well - although a cut below Pujols there as well. He’s Duke Snider to Pujols’ Willie Mays. Okay, perhaps not quite that strong, but he’s a very good player that gets almost no recognition. He stepped it up in 2009, and at his age, he’s a good bet to continue to improve.
The Rookie of the Year award has a limit on experience. No more than 130 PAs to be considered a rookie. If the Giants had called Pablo Sandoval (37.4, 0, 37.4) up ten days later in 2008, Sandoval would have been a runaway ROY. He was the sixth best player in the league overall, and the top third baseman. He’s going to have to continue to produce at the position, as it is loaded in the NL with Chipper Jones, David Wright, Mark Reynolds and Ryan Zimmerman.
Speaking of which, the eighth best in the NL was Zimmerman (29.5, 5.4, 34.9). The Nationals third baseman has improved as he learns, and is one of the top fielders as well as a top hitter. Zimmerman is getting help in DC, and his efforts may turn the franchise around sooner rather than later.
Rounding out the top ten at number nine is the Rockies stellar shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (31.3, 2.2, 33.5). Tulo was terrific in his rookie season, and struggled in his sophomore year, but was superb in 2009. It’s harder to be the top SS when Hanley is in the league, but Tulo is certainly making his mark.
The most remarkable thing, to me, about this top ten was the age. The average age was just 26, and six of the top ten players were 25 or younger. That is coupled with the young pitching in the league. The entire set of 2009 NL OPD can be found at Google docs. Please enjoy, research, verify and ask all the questions you can.
Posted: January 11, 2010 at 02:54 AM | 37 comment(s)
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