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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Josh Hamilton brought sizzle to Texas, but Lance Berkman could offer just as much substance

If you’ve seen one Q-switched laser shot you’ve seen them all.

Let’s start with what’s not so crazy. A semi-healthy Berkman is not so different from the semi-healthy Hamilton this team has featured.

Over the last five seasons, Berkman’s OPS (on base-plus slugging — the single most defining offensive stat in the game) was .913. Sixth in the majors.

Hamilton’s .912 over that span ranked eighth.

While Hamilton hit for more power (142 home runs to Berkman’s 101), playing home games in Arlington certainly aided his numbers. And Berkman made up for some of that difference with superior on-base percentage. As a two-strike hitter, it’s not even close, with Berkman batting 57 points higher with men in scoring position.

Drawing walks, working counts — these are Berkman’s strengths, whereas Hamilton is a hit-or-miss free swinger.

On top of that, Berkman loves trying to educate the younger Rangers in the ways of the game.

“I get the biggest enjoyment from helping the other guys,” Berkman said. “I’ve been around great pitchers, great base runners. Even if I can’t do those things, I have a wealth of knowledge to pass along.”

Repoz Posted: March 10, 2013 at 09:08 AM | 9 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: rangers

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   1. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: March 10, 2013 at 10:22 AM (#4385436)
So Berkman's going to play CF again? Cool.
   2. BDC Posted: March 10, 2013 at 10:36 AM (#4385441)
Meh, Hamilton should never play center again, either. In Anaheim he won't have to.

Lance Berkman is a great hitter; the key things to remember about him are the "semi-healthy" qualification and the fact that he's 37. There's a non-zero chance he'll have a better 2013 than Hamilton, but I wouldn't bet on it. There's a substantial chance Berkman will miss 100 games and hit .250 with only occasional power. He's basically one last roll of the dice.
   3. Bourbon Samurai in Asia Posted: March 10, 2013 at 11:32 AM (#4385465)
Hmm, it is easy to forget how good a hitter Berkman is.
   4. Walt Davis Posted: March 10, 2013 at 05:37 PM (#4385688)
Yes it is:

Berkman, 7500 PA, 296/409/544, 146 OPS+
Edgar, 8700 PA, 312/418/515, 147 OPS+

If Berkman can squeeze two more full years out without much decline, he's right there.

Which brings us back to your DH penalty test.

Berkman 49 WAR, -11 dWAR
Edgar 64 WAR, -10 dWAR

Berkman is not particularly hurt by Rfield (-19) but he's still considered a worse "defender" than a guy who had to be taken out of the field after age 31.

Edgar is also getting a boost of about 4 wins from the league differential which bWAR thinks has been heavily in favor of the AL for 20 years. But most of the difference is in Rbat which I guess is the OBP difference.

   5. Greg Pope Posted: March 10, 2013 at 07:02 PM (#4385822)
the fact that he's 37

Saying a guy's age 32-36 seasons are comparable to a guy's age 26-30 seasons is fine and all, but for the following season I'd have to bet pretty heavily on the 31-year old maintaining more of that hitting ability than the 37 year old.
   6. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 10, 2013 at 07:04 PM (#4385825)
In Hamilton's defense, I thought the whole point was for him NOT to bring substances to the clubhouse.
   7. Sleepy Self-Identifies as a Flying Monkey Posted: March 10, 2013 at 07:31 PM (#4385862)
If Berkman can squeeze two more full years out without much decline, he's right there.

I'm surprised the gap is so large between Lance and Edgar; after watching him abuse the Cardinals for all those years, then picking up the swan song in 2011, I'd have guessed Lance was the more valuable player. Losing last year really hurt, since he could have added on 4 WAR easily- he was in top form, looked great, did everything right, just got hurt.

Wonder if Lance is at all bitter about not being brought up earlier? He put up Pujolsian numbers in the minors (.307/.425/.546 over 1277 PA's, no single OPS under .937), and was probably ready for MLB at age 22, maybe 21, just no room on the 106-pythag astros that year. But just imagine how awesome that team would have been. And 1000-1500 PA's of .800ish OPS would have really padded his resume (he only got 106 PA's at age 23).

Anyway, fangraphs has it a bit closer, 60.1 for Lance and 69.9 for Edgar.
   8. Walt Davis Posted: March 10, 2013 at 07:43 PM (#4385871)
I'd have to bet pretty heavily on the 31-year old maintaining more of that hitting ability than the 37 year old.

Sure, but then the headline says "could".

By today's standards, Hamilton has not been a free swinger but closer to average. Until last year when his K/PA skyrocketed to 25%. That might end up being a fluke but it can't possibly be a good sign. His walk rate also took a bit of a jump. Also a sizable jump in FB rate and HR/FB (50% jump!) He's gone old man on us already. My cunningly inaccurate crystal ball puts him on 260/330/510 (some of that is made-up park effect), a little better than 2012 Trumbo.

Hey, not bad, ZiPS puts him at 267/333/481. Nasty whack on the ISO.
   9. Walt Davis Posted: March 10, 2013 at 08:01 PM (#4385887)
I'm surprised the gap is so large between Lance and Edgar

Me too but Edgar does have about two full seasons of PAs on him and given these guys averaged about 5 WAR per 650 PA, most of the gap is that. But even a lot of that is pretty tangential stuff. Edgar is about 8 wins ahead on Rrep rather than 4 -- that's the presumed league difference. While Lance's defensive rating is not extreme, Edgar is rated as an above-average 3B when he did play so that's another 4 wins difference. (I have no particular reason to think either player is rated inaccurately, it's just that both of these guys are pure hitters and nobody cares much about their defense).

It is a comp that tests your faith in the fringes of WAR. Edgar with 560 starts of above-average fielding and 1450 games at DH provided as much defensive value as a guy with nearly 1700 starts of basically average fielding in a (mostly) corner? Edgar, by virtue of being in the AL picks up about 4 wins. Heck, Edgar comes out as a slightly better baserunner -- no, Lance is not a good baserunner but Edgar was pretty much under strict orders to jog between bases. :-)

So, yeah, if Lance puts up two more seasons like 2009 and 2011, you'd think he'd be a dead ringer for Edgar. But he'll still be about 8 wins behind -- league difference and dWAR. I don't think I buy it. Granted, that's maybe half a win per year which is mighty thin and can't be ruled out.

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