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Tuesday, September 14, 2004

September 13, 2004

Can Ichiro win the MVP?  Should he?

The American League Most Valuable Player

With the National League being dominated like a Danny Almonte infected Little League, most of the award attention has fallen to that Japanese George Sisler, racing forward to capture a new record.  With that chase comes recognition, and with recognition comes awards. 

Is Ichiro a deserving candidate for the American League MVP?  Fortunately, his team is atrocious, or he’d be a runaway.  Is it irony if the one thing that usually gives undeserving players the award is the one thing that keeps an undeserving player from winning it?  What is that magical thing?  His teammates. 

But there I made a judgement – Ichiro is undeserving.  Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t.  And if he isn’t, who is?

I wrote about quantitating a player’s complete (offense and defense) contribution in 2001 in an effort to determine if a really poor hitter was worth his glove.  Generally, they aren’t.  But I did find that there are players that are/were (Pokey Reese in particular).

There’s even a link to MGL’s early work (2001) in the comments from Vinay Kumar.

While my methodology isn’t as granular as MGL’s, I think we’ll end up with very similar results.

This Complete Player Index (CPI) table is comprised of the top three players at each position, and any player with more than 10 runs above average.

Player             Tm    P    RS+    XR+    CPI
rowand
,aaron    CHA    CF    10    25    35
chavez
,eric    OAK    3B    15    19    33
guillen
,carlos    DET    SS    -1    33    31
ramirez
,manny    BOS    LF    -8    43    31
rodriguez
,alex    NYY    3B    12    19    31
guerrero
,vladim    ANA    RF    -2    32    30
suzuki
,ichiro    SEA    RF    -7    34    27
mora
,melvin         BAL    3B    -8    33    25
damon
,johnny    BOS    CF    6    19    25
rodriguez
,ivan    DET    C    -1    25    25
tejada
,miguel    BAL    SS    2    22    24
varitek
,jason    BOS    C    -3    27    23
sheffield
,gary    NYY    RF    -11    34    23
kotsay
,mark    OAK    CF    9    14    23
bellhorn
,mark    BOS    2B    6    15    21
martinez
,victor    CLE    C    0    19    19
teixeira
,mark    TEX    1B    2    17    19
huff
,aubrey    TB    3B    8    10    17
kennedy
,adam    ANA    2B    9    5    15
belliard
,ronnie    CLE    2B    3    11    14
delgado
,carlos    TOR    1B    3    11    14
lopez
,javy    BAL    C    -3    17    13
posada
,jorge    NYY    C    -3    15    11
roberts
,brian    BAL    2B    4    7    11
lee
,carlos     CHA    LF    -1    11    10
jeter
,derek    NYY    SS    5    6    10
hatteberg
,scott    OAK    1B    0    9    9
ford
,lew               MIN    LF    4    5    9 

RS is runs saved above average; XR is Extrapolated Runs above average

“+” indicates the RS are adjusted for a full season’s worth of chances and the player’s innings played and that the XR are adjusted to reflect what an average player would produce after making the same number of outs the player has made.  And the XR are park-adjusted – thanks to Studes for the Park Factors.

If you see two numbers that don’t appear to add up (like Melvin Mora), that’s because I don’t round numbers.  There are decimal places that make it look that way.

Roughly, the error in the metrics is a handful of runs.  Players within a few runs are just about equal.

There are some aspects to this that are questionable.  Catcher defense is largely comprised of errors, passed balls, stolen bases and caught stealings.  It’s not spectacular, but it better-than-ballpark’s their value.

I also don’t have an effective way to absorb runners held from advancing by outfielders.  I researched this through old STATS Scoreboard books (BTW, Jim Callis of Baseball America used to write these short research points) these are of the small effect variety.  Holding runners isn’t much: just about the best right field arm in this regard is Bobby Abreu (over several seasons).  He holds about 20 runners out of hundred more than the worst player.  Twenty extra bases is about 6 runs.  Centerfield has about a 5-run range and left field has a 4-run range.  That’s from the best to the worst, so ignoring that, around the average, isn’t very much.

Then there is Manny Ramirez’ defense.  It’s actually worse than what is in the table in the analysis.  I really don’t know how to treat the Green Monster.  Manny actually scores about a –23 RS+ defensively.  His defensive performance has been fudged (regressed?) toward average, because it is hard to believe he is that bad, and my historical work with the data lets me know a lot of the low rating is the wall.

What does all this mean? 

I think you can all read the chart – Ichiro is having a very good season, but he isn’t the MVP.  He’s certainly a top 10 player and having a hot month, so he may move up a slot or two.  Breaking Sisler’s record will enhance his chances - and he has a good shot at doing it.

There’s Alex Rodriguez within striking distance of the MVP.  He’s not being recognized by anyone for his play, but he’s been just about as good as any American League position player this season.

Who is the MVP?

If the season were to end today – which it won’t – and you went solely by this (which you shouldn’t), then it is Aaron Rowand of the Chicago White Sox.

There are 20 more games, and so I think the AL MVP is Eric Chavez.

Chris Dial Posted: September 14, 2004 at 04:25 AM | 56 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Snowboy Posted: September 14, 2004 at 07:12 AM (#853653)
First of all, I hope your lead-in is correct. Bonds has been a giant this season. Leading the batting race by 30 points. .830 SLG is only 4th time over .800 ever. And, most impressively, his OBP is .614; before his own .582 in 2002, the previous single-season record was .553. He's about to better Ted Williams best season by 60 points in OBP. Bonds is going to beat his nearest competitor, Todd Helton, in OBP by more than 150 points! Absolutely incredible, perhaps the most incredible season Bonds has had.

Ichiro's chase of Sisler is interesting, in a kind of trivial way. It is "neat" to see him take a run at an alltime season mark. We need to insert the usual caveat "he plays 162 games, not 154". And note that Sisler had a much better season than Ichiro in 1920 when he had the 257 hits: he hit .407, slugged .632, and finished second in virtually every category in which he didn't finish first, including HR and SB. However, leaving that all aside, anytime a player takes a run at a record this old, it's cool to follow.

We don't have to get bogged down by comparing Sisler (and his era) to Ichiro (and his era). We can look at Ichiro in his own era when deciding the MVP. And although the batting title and the run at Sisler are impressive, they are not enough. Ichiro just doesn't get on base often enough, or score enough runs, for me to consider him an MVP. We can only assign so much blame to a bad team for his lack of run scoring. A good deal more attention has to be paid to the skills of the player himself, and an OBP that is only 40 points better than the BA is awful.

Like any sport, you win by outscoring your opponent. Ichiro's chances to contribute to the offense by driving in runs are reduced because he is a leadoff hitter; he has to contribute by scoring the runs. I don't think he does it well enough to be an MVP.

I had a question for Chris Dial: has Ichiro's defense (RS+) really been so poor this year that it ranks as -7? Who are the RF that are above average?

Methodologically, should we be adding these two values together, like equals? They don't seem to be on the same scale/range. Could someone like Pokey Reese score 43 in RS+, like Manny can for his hitting?
   2. Chris Dial Posted: September 14, 2004 at 11:14 AM (#853693)
Snowboy,
yes, the two values are equal - they are "runs", effectively linear weights.

Yes, a fielder like Pokey Reese could be 43 RS+, but none are - the defensive spread isn't that large.
   3. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: September 14, 2004 at 01:26 PM (#853740)
What's David Ortiz's Consumer Price Index?

In a recent thread,which I can't find at the moment, mgl mentioned that you should probably look at clutch performance (not ability) when doling out end of season awards. I'm not sure how to do this myself, but if we could look at a players runs scored and RBI and see how much they increase a teams win expectation, we might be on to something. I looked at Tango's win expectation chart, but it only covers the late und close situations.

What I'm trying to say, is if a player knocks in a run which turns his team WE from 40% to 50%, he should get credit for .05 wins, while the player who scored gets credit for .05. This system has warts, (it doesn't take into account hitters who move the runner along and theres no clutch fielding component) but it's better than GWRBI, VI-RBI, et cetera, IMO.

Of course, this should only be part of the equation. Something like CPI should be weighted more heavily; probably far more heavily.
   4. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: September 14, 2004 at 01:33 PM (#853749)
Oh, and nice article Chris. But I was hoping that you linked to Slade's runaway instead of Bon Jovi's. ;)
   5. studes Posted: September 14, 2004 at 03:46 PM (#853929)
Chris, good stuff. I need to go through your previous article to reacquaint myself with your exact methodology.

One comment, though. I think you're using averages as your baseline. I would propose that you should really use replacement levels as your baseline. (and I should be doing the same thing with WSAA). This will make a difference, particularly for your two top guys (Rowand and Chavez) because they've had less playing time than other players.
   6. Snowboy Posted: September 14, 2004 at 04:00 PM (#853957)
Thanks for the response, Chris. Interesting metric. I hope you can also post a response to my question about Ichiro's defense. If he's -7 below avg as a RF, who is average, and who is above-average? Thanks.

Also, just out of curiosity, what was the CPI for Carlos Beltran's half season?
   7. studes Posted: September 14, 2004 at 04:13 PM (#853982)
Snowboy, this is probably the easiest way to get your answer:

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/stats/fielding?groupId=7&season=2004&seasonType=2&split=85&sortColumn=zoneRating
   8. Chris Dial Posted: September 14, 2004 at 05:04 PM (#854061)
Studes,
I understand that average players have value. However, for our purposes, it doesn't matter where I draw the line because all players are drawn around it.

It may not have been clear, because my other methodology doesn't do it as much, but these specific CPI scores are adjusted for playing time. If Rowand had played the full season, at the same rates, he'd be at 56 CPI. Chavez would similarly be higher.

The reason the others are so close to those two is because Rowand and Chavez have less PT. My first draft had a huge gap before I recognized the PT issue (AR 56, EC 50, Guillen 39)
   9. studes Posted: September 14, 2004 at 05:27 PM (#854103)
Thanks, Chris. I'll read your other article for your specific methodology. I don't mean to make you repeat stuff you've already written.
   10. Chris Dial Posted: September 14, 2004 at 05:38 PM (#854127)
I don't mind, Studes.
   11. CFiJ Posted: September 14, 2004 at 05:45 PM (#854135)
A good deal more attention has to be paid to the skills of the player himself, and an OBP that is only 40 points better than the BA is awful.

Not when that OBP is over .400.
   12. Chris Dial Posted: September 14, 2004 at 05:54 PM (#854152)
The shape of the runs generated (whether BA or walks) isn't very important - whatever it takes to get to a .400 OBP is fine. What you can assess is that if he doesn't walks, he may not age as well, but it doesn't matter for an MVP discussion.
   13. bob mong Posted: September 14, 2004 at 06:57 PM (#854279)
note that Sisler had a much better season than Ichiro in 1920 [...] an OBP that is only 40 points better than the BA is awful

In 1920, Sisler's OBP was 42 points higher than his batting average. And I know CFiJ commented on this, but I thought I'd echo: in terms of present value, how much higher OBP is than AVG is not important.

Also, regarding Ichiro!'s defense - for what it's worth, Win Shares doesn't show Ichiro! as a superlative fielder this year either.

I don't really trust Win Shares or ZR, so I'll wait to see MGL's 2004 UZR data.
   14. strong silence Posted: September 14, 2004 at 07:09 PM (#854313)
Chris and I are probably the exact opposites in our biases about Ichiro, FWIW. (The excitement and style he brought to the M's resurrected my excitement for baseball.) However, I agree with him that his offense is overrated in terms of qualifications for the MVP.

But his defense is not overrated. IMO, one could make a case that he is the greatest RF of all time (God rest ye, Clemente.)

How does one reconcile an RS+ of -7 with what one sees by watching him play? I don't know. I do know that Ichiro is extremely athletic and Vlad walks like a 60-year old man.

I also don't trust ZR. A simple glance forces one to ask why it is low when he has the highest range factor of the group.

Good article, Chris.

I look forward to seeing more of your writing.
   15. Ride On King Felix Posted: September 14, 2004 at 08:03 PM (#854447)
I also don't trust ZR. A simple glance forces one to ask why it is low when he has the highest range factor of the group.

And it's like that for all four years -- he's got the highest range factor and a relatively low zone rating. Does zone rating do weird things when a lot of balls are hit to a particular fielder?
   16. Chris Dial Posted: September 14, 2004 at 08:30 PM (#854506)
It literally means that there are tons of flyballs hit to RF.

Look at it this way (all numbers hypothetical, but typical):

Seattle has 400 FBs hit to RF zone. Ichiro catches 340 in 1460 IP for a RF of 2.1. His conversion of chances to outs is 340/400 = 0.850.

Minnesota has 360 FBs hit to RF zone. Jacque Jones 316 in 1460 IP for a RF of 1.95. His conversion of chances to outs is 316/360 = 0.878.

Jones is a better defensive RF - he just doesn't get as many BIP to prove it. Given 400 chances, Jones would convert 351, or 11 more than Ichiro, giving hi a higher RF. If Ichiro only got 360 balls hit to RF, then he would only convert 306 for a RF of 1.89.

This is why RF and non-pbp stats are *so* unreliable to me. Without regard to chances (BIP distribution), there is no good way to tell who is a better fielder.
   17. Ride On King Felix Posted: September 14, 2004 at 09:10 PM (#854590)
Could this also be something of a park effect? For instance, I assume right field in Safeco Field is larger than right field in the MetroDome. What is the effect of the larger field on zone rating?
   18. strong silence Posted: September 14, 2004 at 09:46 PM (#854634)
This is why RF and non-pbp stats are *so* unreliable to me.

Agreed.

And PBP data can be unreliable also for the reasons I mentioned in this thread: http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/files/primer/discussion/23235/

Anyone know more details on Boston's defensive rating system. Gammons wrote that it goes beyond Zone Rating. Who rates defenses: volunteers, professionals, ex ball players? What factors do they consider? What is the name of the service they use?
   19. Colin Posted: September 14, 2004 at 10:13 PM (#854659)
One minor point of writing protocol - seems like it would perhaps be better if, in an article about a player's current season, the writer links to not his baseball-reference page (where the stats do not include this year), but to a page that includes his current stats (say, from bigleaguers.com). Is the decision not to do so copyright-related in any way? Or is it just courtesy to the affiliated site?

Just a thought. Good article, btw.
   20. Chris Dial Posted: September 14, 2004 at 10:27 PM (#854691)
Strong,
not that thread. ;-)

Colin,
acknowledged. It's just courtesy.
   21. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: September 14, 2004 at 11:46 PM (#854905)
This is why RF and non-pbp stats are *so* unreliable to me. Without regard to chances (BIP distribution), there is no good way to tell who is a better fielder.

All well and good, but how do you compare fielders of earlier eras?
   22. Chris Dial Posted: September 15, 2004 at 12:12 AM (#855033)
I've stated many times, GGC: anecdotally.
   23. Chris Dial Posted: September 15, 2004 at 01:00 AM (#855301)
Which thread, strong? I think I can answer most of the criticisms of ZR.
   24. Danny Posted: September 15, 2004 at 03:22 AM (#855895)
Why no Hafner, Ortiz, or Durazo?
   25. Chris Dial Posted: September 15, 2004 at 03:48 AM (#855938)
They sound like Designated Hitters, Danny.
   26. Chris Dial Posted: September 15, 2004 at 04:08 AM (#855952)
Historically, DHs are negative fielders, and thus don't "qualify" in the field. Any idea how to rate them?

Here's what those three look like when compared to other DHs:
hafner,travisCLEDH 33
ortiz,davidBOSDH 20
durazo,erubielOAKDH 18

DH's hit about 8 runs better than 1B. I don't recall any other DH performing so well - I think Hafner should also be considered.

I'll look into his defense.
   27. Erik, Pinch-Commenter Posted: September 15, 2004 at 06:32 AM (#856075)
If He's a DH what does his defense matter? Except for the time that he's in the field.
   28. Chris Dial Posted: September 15, 2004 at 11:06 AM (#856163)
An inability to play in the field shortens your roster. It's a negative.

I have employees who say "If you want me to make fewer mistakes, I'll do less work." That counts against them - they aren't more valuable than someone who does more work with some mistakes.

That's a DH. They suck.
   29. Danny Posted: September 15, 2004 at 01:25 PM (#856221)
DH's hit about 8 runs better than 1B.

According to Prospectus, AL DH's have hit .264/.345/.444 this year. That's slightly worse than AL 1B and far worse than NL 1B. Where do those 8 runs come from?

As for DH defense, it's the old Edgar debate. The question is whether you judge fielding against average or replacement level. If it's replacement level, I can't see how you rate a DH as below replacement level defensively. That would mean there's value in just standing at 1B, which I have a problem with.
   30. Chris Dial Posted: September 15, 2004 at 04:21 PM (#856522)
Sorry, Danny, I didn't clarify. I compare starters. Sample size always matters to me.

The starting DHs in the AL (~350 PAs) hit about 8 runs better than the starting 1Bs (~700 Defensive Innings) in the AL.

Effectively that says that the guy DHing for a given team is considered to be a worse fielding 1B (or OF) than the guy playing for the team. For Hafner, that's Broussard, who rates below average (-3). For Ortiz - well, he's just awful.

And it's a good Edgar debate. If you don't think there is value in just standing at 1B, then, you need to watch Mike Piazza.

1B defense is more important than you seem to think it is - otherwise, why wouldn't Ortiz play 1B? Why wouldn't every team simply get two DHs and "have him just standing at 1B"? That's a terrible appeal to authority, I know, but I have studied this - 1B defense is not a throwaway. It is more valuable than you think it is.
   31. Chris Dial Posted: September 15, 2004 at 04:22 PM (#856525)
Oh, and I judge fielding against average.

Replacement level players field better than the starters. The only thing that gets replacement players playing time is their ability to play defense.
   32. Snowboy Posted: September 15, 2004 at 08:37 PM (#857194)
whatever it takes to get to a .400 OBP is fine
an OBP that is only 40 points better than the BA is awful....[but] Not when that OBP is over .400

I can't agree with this. Obviously Ichiro does a decent job of getting on base, if he's over .400. But can't we hold him to the same standards as everyone else? i.e. that your OBP should be at least +60 over your BA, and +70 or more if you want to be called a truly elite leadoff hitter?

I think that if Ichiro has the ability to hit .370, then he should be getting on-base at a .430 clip, or better. Scoring runs is directly related to getting on base, and Ichiro doesn't do it well enough. How can Bernie Williams hit .110 points lower than Ichiro, but score more runs? The short, dumb answer: Williams plays for the Yankees. The more in-depth answer: Williams gets on base much more often than a .260 BA suggests.

Yes, the Mariners are one sorry-ass team this year. Some of Ichiro's lack of runs scored can be blamed on poor hitting teammates who leave him stranded. On the other hand, we've seen this before. In 2001, playing for the record-breaking 116 win ballclub, Ichiro didn't lead the league in runs scored. Was it because he is a bad baserunner, or the Mariners were bad hitters? No, it's probably because Ichiro was 18th in the league in OBP. You gotta get on base before you can score a run.

Maybe I was spoiled, growing up watching Rickey and The Rock leading off, guys who were always +80, and often +100, over their BA. Chuck Knoblauch in 1996, a leadoff hitter for a bad team who truly got the most out of his abilities: hit .341, was on-base .448, and scored 140 runs.

To me, saying "whatever it takes to get to a .400 OBP is fine" is like saying "whatever it takes to get to 35 HR is fine." Sure, 35 HRs is nice, but if it comes with a .211 BA, 190 Ks, and 35 GIDP, then is it still okay? We have to look at the whole picture, and I say a .410 OBP coming off a .370 BA is just not as productive as it could be.
   33. Chris Dial Posted: September 15, 2004 at 08:59 PM (#857279)
But can't we hold him to the same standards as everyone else? i.e. that your OBP should be at least +60 over your BA, and +70 or more if you want to be called a truly elite leadoff hitter?
Snowboy, I don't think we hold anyone tothose standards.

We hold people to the standard of "high OBP". We don't know if Ichiro altered his pitch selection (so he was a +70) that he would continue to hit .350. So, the *shape* of his OBP is not important. In fact, given the same OBP, the higher BA is more productive.

Yes, Ichiro may be better if he hit .350 and walked +70, but to get +70 he may only hit .310. That's trading hits for walks, and that's a bad thing. You have to trade *outs* for walks - we don't know Ichiro can do that. So we don't complain as long as he hits .330-.350.
   34. replacement level Posted: September 16, 2004 at 03:05 AM (#858049)
In fact, given the same OBP, the higher BA is more productive.

Exactly. OBP is important because of its direct correlation on runs, not for its empashis of a traditioanlly undervalued stat/skill. If salary was based more on walks than hits, you could make a fine economically disadvantaged team with impatient players. BA may be more fluctant, but it's very hard to criticize someone with a .338 career BA.
Likewise, how to value DHs rests upon the assumption that they can or can't play the field. Does it decrease Manny's value that he's a sucky fielder? Yes. Is that in reality minimzed becuase of the wall? Yeah, making him more valuable than he would be otherwise for half his games. Do we hold this against Manny? Yes if you're talking about him in the scheme of great individual players, but no if you're assessing his value to his team this season. Those runs he would have helped with his glove are hurt by the wall. There not there, and the MVP award is more about the actuality of the season more than the hypthetical.
   35. Chris Dial Posted: September 16, 2004 at 02:29 PM (#858508)
replacement level,
your second paragraph is almost to garbled for me to read. Sorry.

Manny's value is *increased* over Ortiz' because he can play LF - even if he plays he less well than other AL LFs.
   36. Snowboy Posted: September 16, 2004 at 07:48 PM (#859061)
Hmm, hope this isn;t a double-post?

So, the *shape* of his OBP is not important.

In terms of this question (MVP), I can see your point, .410 is .410, it's a high AL number this year. (It's better than the .381 Ichiro had in 2001. But of course his other numbers are lower - R, RBI, SB - than 2001.)

However, in the broader context, I think the shape of the OBP is important for every player, because it shows a skill set. Hypothetically, I would be more impressed by a player of 330/410/440 than I would of 370/410/440. The 330/410 player shows more skill, more ability to get on base. If they both hit 370 the next year, it would be 370/450/440 vs 370/410/440. If they both fell back to 320 the next year, it would be 320/400/440 vs 320/360/440.

In fact, given the same OBP, the higher BA is more productive.

Isn't this an old trap, dating back to the 19th century, when they thought BA was the best proof of a man's mettle, and they didn't even know how to score a walk?

I'm joking, Chris. Appreciate your work and putting yourself out like this. But aren't we falling too much in love with BA here, and neglecting the rest of his game? Let's look at a couple examples, using players with similar ABs and OBPs:

Player A: 263AB, 274/308/403; 43 runs, 31 RBI, 6 HR, 5 SB, 4 CS
Player B: 277 AB, 256/310/477; 38 runs, 61 RBI, 16 HR, 1 SB, 0 CS

Player A has the higher BA. Is he more productive?

Player C: 480 AB, 248/332/444; 66 runs, 56 RBI, 20 HR, 7 SB, 3 CS
Player D: 473 AB, 233/332/436; 66 runs, 72 RBI, 20 HR, 9 SB, 6 CS

Player C has the higher BA, is he more productive? This one's trickier. Maybe Player C is the better hitter, but Player D has had more RBI opportunities? Hard to know. The XR formula doesn't account for runs or RBI, but sometimes those old-school stats are still meaningful.

Or how about this one, where OBP is similar, but ABs are not.

Player E: 626 AB, 370/410/462; 90 runs, 55 RBI, 8 HR, 34 SB, 10 CS
Player F: 457 AB, 313/410/584; 90 runs, 106 RBI, 27 HR, 3 SB, 2 CS

Player E has the higher BA, is he more productive?
   37. Chris Dial Posted: September 17, 2004 at 12:20 AM (#859531)
Snowboy,
I hope I'm first to tell you, but you changed the subject.

You started discussing his SLG, and that's not what anyone was talking about.
   38. Andre Posted: September 17, 2004 at 06:18 AM (#859978)
As for predicting future performance, the shape of OBP is important and we'd like to see a higher Iso discipline (OBP-BA).

When it comes to judging a player's contribution for the team, however, it's true that given the same OBP, the higher BA is more productive.
   39. Bream's Knees Posted: September 17, 2004 at 10:00 AM (#860149)
The shape of OBP is important to understand his skill set but...BB shouldn't be over-rated simply because they have been under-rated for so long.

And another well-worn caveat: a lead-off hitter is mis-named. He will most likely lead-off in the first inning only. Especially in a DH league, where you can expect to clear as many tables as you set.

And to suggest that Bernie Williams is a better lead-off hitter because his OBP-BA is higher than Ichiro's is kind of silly. Ichiros OBP is still higher, Bernie's run total is contextual...and Derek Jeter sucks.
   40. Chris Dial Posted: September 17, 2004 at 01:08 PM (#860186)
Bream's Knees - I missed that - who said Bernie was a better leadoff hitter?
   41. Snowboy Posted: September 17, 2004 at 03:37 PM (#860428)
you changed the subject
Yeah, there are many subjects here. Ichiro the player (great or not?), Ichiro the 2004 MVP, Ichiro the leadoff, Ichiro's production, Ichiro's OBP, etc. I didn't start talking about SLG, but if I mentioned it as part of an argument, it was in consideration of a player's production.

And to suggest that Bernie Williams is a better lead-off hitter because his OBP-BA is higher than Ichiro's is kind of silly.
I mentioned Bernie, and what I was getting at is that he exhibits skill at getting on base, in addition to his hitting. If they ever hit .310 in the same year, Bernie would be the better player, because his OBP would be .390, and Ichiro would be .350. Bernie is not a better player than Ichiro this year, but he gets the most out of his abilities.

When it comes to judging a player's contribution for the team, however, it's true that given the same OBP, the higher BA is more productive.
If everything else was equal: same RBIs, same ABs, same runs, same HR, etc. then yes...the higher BA is better.
But I can't see how anyone would compare Player E and Player F (post 36) and say the guy with higher BA is more productive. Same OBP, but it's taken him 150 more ABs to score the same number of runs as Player F, and he only has half as many RBIs.

My position, in sum: Ichiro is a good player, but I can’t consider him the MVP because he hasn’t been productive enough. He only has 55 RBIs. He only has 90 runs scored. Some of that can be blamed on a cruddy team. But he also has a very low OBP for a .370 hitter. If he got on base more than .410, and was leading the league in runs scored, in addition to his batting title, then he would deserve more consideration.
   42. tom strong Posted: September 17, 2004 at 05:14 PM (#860609)
Seattle has 400 FBs hit to RF zone. Ichiro catches 340 in 1460 IP for a RF of 2.1. His conversion of chances to outs is 340/400 = 0.850.

Minnesota has 360 FBs hit to RF zone. Jacque Jones 316 in 1460 IP for a RF of 1.95. His conversion of chances to outs is 316/360 = 0.878.

Jones is a better defensive RF - he just doesn't get as many BIP to prove it. Given 400 chances, Jones would convert 351, or 11 more than Ichiro, giving hi a higher RF. If Ichiro only got 360 balls hit to RF, then he would only convert 306 for a RF of 1.89.


This seems off to me -- mostly because I don't trust a static "zone" to provide an accurate estimate of fielder chances. Different baseball parks have very different dimensions, and thus different "zones". Moreover, the interactions of ballplayers on the field are too dynamic to fit easily into a zone. Fielders back each other up, call each other off, relay throws, and adjust their positioning based on who they're playing with.

I know UZR corrects for this somewhat, and Mike Emeigh suggested some further corrections in his series about Jeter's defense last year. It may be that similar corrections are needed for Ichiro. Just as Emeigh found it difficult to believe that Jeter is the Worst Shortstop Ever, I find it difficult to believe that Ichiro is anything less than a very good right fielder. The visual evidence just isn't there. He's sure handed, has a good arm, is mechanically sound, very fast, and reacts quickly.

This is not to knock Jones, who is also a very good defensive player, or to suggest that defense cannot be accurately measured and evaluated through statistics. In the case of Ichiro's ZR, though, I expect that we're missing some important data.
   43. Chris Dial Posted: September 17, 2004 at 08:44 PM (#860916)
Tom,
Ah.
I trust static zones, because they aren't a static zone. They are a group of zones. Ballparks vary in fence depth, but that is all. And they really don't vary that much except for Colorado and Fenway.

The depths at which zones of responsibility are covered don't go so deep as to bring that extra depth into play. So static zones really aren't a problem, IMO. See my glossary description in my main linked article (It's at BBBA). Those depths mean that field size doesn't matter too much.

I don't agree with anyone that thinks ther eis an overlap of fielder interactions in zones of responsibility. That doesn't happen as much as is suggested. Look at the Cardinals' infield. Rolen *and* Renteria are tops in ZR. The gap between the two positions is sufficient that they don't steal from each other. That's a myth (regardless of what Mike and MGL say). There are some discretionary plays in the OF, but it isn't a significant portion of plays, and they usually even out (sometimes the RF takes it, sometimes the CF takes it). The only player I know of that pads his ZR with discertionary outs is Andruw Jones. He's the most over-rated player in the history of the game. ;-)

As for relay throws and backing each other up, that is *less* of a problem in my system than in a system that uses the actual value of a hit. I use league averages. Therefore, the player interactions for backups and relays aren't an issue.

I also don't believe players "adjust for who they are playing with" significantly. Players stand where the batter is going to hit the ball, and where the scouting report and pitching strategy says. They don't shade more to a bad player. They shade to the average BIP location for a given hitter.

Why would ZR under-rate Ichiro? Here's a circle that more than 50% of balls by RF are turned into outs. In that circle, Ichiro turns 85% into outs. Other RFs turn them into outs 86%. If Ichiro is getting balls outside of that circle, then he must also be missing some inside that circle.

Maybe Ichiro is bad at catching line drives (which AJones excels at). Maybe he doesn't go back on the ball well. Whatever the case, there is teh same prescribed zone, and Ichiro stands near the middle of it when he plays defense. For whatever reason, he catches fewer balls hit into that region than the average RF.

If you want to offer me a reason why Ichiro specifically does, I'll listen, but I don't see any of your generic complaints applying to Ichiro.
   44. Chris Dial Posted: September 17, 2004 at 08:52 PM (#860934)
If everything else was equal: same RBIs, same ABs, same runs, same HR, etc. then yes...the higher BA is better.


Snowboy, this is all I was saying (in response to whether Ichiro should walk more). because we were talking about how Ichiro got his *OBP* not his OPS.

An OBP with a BA of 370 is more productive than an OBP with a BA of 270. Of course that's all other things equal.
   45. Taverna Posted: September 18, 2004 at 01:55 AM (#861763)
When I saw the word "quantitate", I thought to myself, "How pretentious. What's wrong with good ole 'quantify'"? Is this some Sabremetric Newspeak? Then I checked out http://www.merriam-webster.com/cgi-bin/wftwarch.pl?080404, and realized, with a grumble, that "quantitate" is indeed a word - though it still sounds to me like nails scratching a blackboard.

Good article though.
   46. dcsmyth1 Posted: September 18, 2004 at 10:46 AM (#862622)
---"Maybe Ichiro is bad at catching line drives (which AJones excels at). Maybe he doesn't go back on the ball well. Whatever the case, there is teh same prescribed zone, and Ichiro stands near the middle of it when he plays defense. For whatever reason, he catches fewer balls hit into that region than the average RF. "

I am with some others as being skeptical of Ichiro as a mediocre RFer. He has more of the essential OF range skill--speed--than any other RFer. There have been very fasr players who were poor fielders, but in those cases there is almost always a visual observation that they get bad jumps. etc. In Ichiro's case, observers don't seem to spot anything like that. This is not really a match for the Griffey debate of the mid-90s, because Griffey did not have great speed, and fooled people with his smoothness and flashiness.

I wish MGL's past SLWTS ratings were still up on this site. Does anyone have them printed out to check on Ichiro's UZR?

Chris tosses out a few possibilities for why Ichiro is bad, but doesn't seem to have any personal knowledge of whether they are true. When UZR gives a bad rating for a player regarded as a good fielder, MGL is quick to acknowledge that the rating could be wrong, and that UZR *will* be wrong a certain percentage of the time. Chris seems to me to be a bit too trusting of his stat.

And BTW, I liked the old title of DPI better. The system is certainly "Dial", but it's not obvious that the system is "Complete".
   47. CFiJ Posted: September 18, 2004 at 01:08 PM (#862639)
My position, in sum: Ichiro is a good player, but I can’t consider him the MVP because he hasn’t been productive enough.

I'm generally with you here. A very good case can be made that Ichiro is not MVP-worthy this year.

He only has 55 RBIs. He only has 90 runs scored.

Whoa, you lost me! Those are so team-contextual it's not even funny.

Some of that can be blamed on a cruddy team.

How much? How little? We have no idea, so it's best to not even think about it.

But he also has a very low OBP for a .370 hitter.

And. That. Makes. No. Difference. At. All.

Ichiro's slugging being low, his OPS being low, these are all good arguments for him not being MVP. His OBP is not. His OBP is very good, and that fact that the difference between BA and OBP is not big is nothing but a point in his favor.

If he got on base more than .410, and was leading the league in runs scored, in addition to his batting title, then he would deserve more consideration.

If he slugged over .500, he'd deserve more consideration. His OBP is fantastic. His runs scored are irrelevant.
   48. Chris Dial Posted: September 18, 2004 at 05:25 PM (#862804)
Taverna,
I'm a research chemist - it's the word we use. I didn't realize it sounded pretentious. (No, I'm not insulted or anything, just explaining why I used the word).

Alfonse,
I don't disagree that that Ichiro's rating could be off - I'm simply saying it doesn't *have* to be. I've seen Ichiro quite a few times. From personal observation, I see an average RF with a good arm. Being fast doesn't mean you get good jumps on balls, or read them properly off the bat. Because of Ichiro's arm, people assume he must be above average - he doesn't *have* to be. While my rating *may* be wrong, I don't think it is likely to be.

And you know the grief Gleeman got - I didn't feel like going through that. ;-)
   49. dcsmyth1 Posted: September 18, 2004 at 10:46 PM (#863216)
---"From personal observation, I see an average RF with a good arm."

Fine, that suggests a slightly + overall fielder, rather than a M Ramirez clone.

You still think that there is no reason to question those ratings?

And yes, I did see that nice over the wall catch by Manny yesterday...
   50. Chris Dial Posted: September 18, 2004 at 11:23 PM (#863242)
Well, an average RF will have seasons when he fields slightly above average and some where he fields slightly below average. And my personal observation has no level of precision.

He "looks" average. In reality, I see by the ratings he's slightly below that.

What I see as average (because I usually watch NL games) may be +5 one way or -5 the other way - just "around average". And a good arm is just a few runs - and that's not an "always".

As noted in the article, Ramirez plays LF - which is a different level of defense. And Ramirez plays in front of the Green Monster, so his rating is far more suspect. He's probably more like -12 to -15.

Could Ichiro really be a 0 on defense? Sure. Is he a "good" RF? Not a chance in my book. He is around average.
   51. tom strong Posted: September 19, 2004 at 06:07 AM (#863405)
Chris,

For starters, I apologize for the ignorant belligerence of my previous post. It's been a while since I've posted here, and I seem to have forgotten my manners. I should have reread my zone ratings definitions before starting an argument. Thanks for providing a link to that.

Before I retreat, though, a question: Why are outfielder zone ratings so high? I understand that in the STATS system, many infielder opportunities go uncounted, but from your description it doesn't seem like many outfielder opportunities do. Yet clearly some opportunities must not be counted, or outfielder zone ratings would be closer to .700 than .850 on average. Are the mass of those uncounted opportunities hits down the line, or are there others?
   52. Chris Dial Posted: September 19, 2004 at 01:59 PM (#863451)
Tom,
you are too generous. No apology is necessary. I hope the tone of my response indicated as much.

OF ratings are so high because STATS defines the zones as regions where at least 50% of balls are turned into outs.

This is true for the IF and the OF.

I need to provide a much better description of teh zones, and will generate a couple of GIFs so we can all understand better.

BIP that are hits and do not count as ZR chances are almost all line drives and FBs that get to (almost) the warning track.
   53. MLB Posted: September 20, 2004 at 02:13 AM (#864216)
New subtopic:

You left a few people out of the picture of potentially deserving AL MVPs. At the top of that ignored group is Johan Santana. As long as we're debating the merits of various defensive metrics and assessing the value of offensive and defensive contributions, let's compare the value of pitching as well. If it's to be a "complete" player index, I suspect Santana may deserve a spot at the top of the overall list.
   54. Chris Dial Posted: September 20, 2004 at 03:01 PM (#864542)
MLB,
that's a good point. I don't know who else (maybe Schilling) I may be leaving out.

The player rating is "complete" in that it includes offense and defense (VORP, RC/27,etc don't).

As CPI is runs above average, I am comfortable defaulting to VORP (Did I mention I love Keith Woolner's work?) for pitchers. Of course, some margin has to be made for RP vs Avg.

I like Santana, but I'd be surprised if he were that far above average.

But thanks for the reminder pitchers need to be included.
   55. Walt Davis Posted: September 20, 2004 at 07:43 PM (#865014)
As for predicting future performance, the shape of OBP is important and we'd like to see a higher Iso discipline (OBP-BA).

In another Ichiro thread, I looked at other players who had a BA of 300+ and an ISO of 120 or lower through age 29 (and enough PA to matter). They generally aged quite well, maintaining their high average and OBP (and low power). I didn't see any particular reason to think that Ichiro wouldn't keep up this general level of play for another 5 years and quite possibly longer (barring injury).
   56. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: September 20, 2004 at 08:50 PM (#865159)
What Mr. Davis said seems almost intuitive to me. If all you're trying to do is slap it over the infield and in general "hit 'em where they ain't," you aren't strength-dependent, so I would think you could lose some of that and still keep your level.

Let me not be construed as saying intuition is a substitute for decent research. I'm just saying it makes perfect sense to me.

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