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Monday, September 10, 2001

Oswalt, offense cruise as Astros pound Brewers

Can anyone remember a year in which two rookies have had such a great season? What a tough call between Oswalt and Albert Pujols for rookie of the year.

The Original Gary Posted: September 10, 2001 at 04:17 PM | 14 comment(s) Login to Bookmark

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   1. RichRifkin Posted: September 10, 2001 at 07:13 PM (#72591)

I don't think it's that tough a call. I recognize that Roy Oswalt has had a great Rookie year. He has the 2nd best ERA in the NL, afterall. And because it is so tough for most young pitchers to dominate in the major leagues, Oswalt's success is that much more pronounced. But Albert Pujols is the Rookie of the Year in the National League.

Rather than try and make the case with my own set of numbers, take a look at Keith Woolner's excellent system for making such judgments, VORP.

Among all major league hitters, Albert Pujols has the 14th best VORP, 65.5. That means that if Pujols were replaced this year with a typical replacement player at his position, the Cardinals would have lost 65.5 runs created.

How does that translate into wins and losses? Well, St. Louis is 78-64, 1 game out of the Wild Card, right now. They have scored 695 runs, and allowed 620. It happens that their Pythagorean record is exactly equal to their actual record. But, if they lost the 65.5 marginal runs created by Pujols, the Cards would have a Pythagorean record of 72-70. That's 6 whole games. And those games are huge. They are the difference between being in a very tight race for the post-season and being virtually eliminated already.

How have other Rookies done in VORP? Ichiro Suzuki, clearly the AL ROY, has a VORP of 55.2. That makes Ichiro the 25th most valuable hitter in all of major league baseball. (Note: VORP includes Ichiro's base-stealing and defensive contribution.) Oswalt is next with a VORP of 42.0, 18th best among all major league pitchers. (Note: for pitchers, VORP translates into Runs Prevented over a replacement player.) Jimmy Rollins, the shortstop of the Phillies, has a VORP of 34.4, making him the 53rd most valuable non-pitcher in baseball. Joel Piniero of Seattle has a VORP of 26.6, 48th best among all pitchers. Alfonso Soriano's VORP is 23.3, 85th among non-pitchers. And CC Sabathia's 20.5 VORP makes him 84th among all major league pitchers.
   2. RichRifkin Posted: September 10, 2001 at 07:33 PM (#72592)
By the way, in case you are interested in knowing how valuable Barry Bonds has been this year over a typical replacement player, his VORP is 123.3. (Note: Woolner's numbers do not yet include the games played this weekend. Because of Bonds's 3-home run game yesterday, I would guess that his VORP is up to 125.)

How many games has that 125 VORP meant for the Giants? 13 games! That is, instead of being on the cusp of a division title and leading in the NL Wild Card, a Giants' team with a replacement player taking Bonds's spot in left field would be below .500, battling with the Padres for respectability.

(Note: the Giants current Pythagorean record is 84-60. Their actual record is 80-64. By taking away Bonds's VORP, the Giants record falls to 71-73, not 67-77.)
   3. Robert Dudek Posted: September 10, 2001 at 08:57 PM (#72593)

I know that VORP takes position value into account, but unless I'm mistaken it does not attempt to measure Ichiro's RF defense as compared to an average RF.

Also, Pujols has played a number of positions (OF and 1B)- does VORP take this into account ? Or does he get listed as a third baseman and are his numbers therefore compared to other third basemen only ? I don't think Pujols is a very good fielder at 3B and playing him in the OF has probably cost the Cards some runs as well.

Here are the number of defensive innings at the various positions:

3B 423.2; RF 294.2; 1B 239; LF 211

A little more than 36% of his defensive innings have been at 3B.

His Zone Rating is only listed for 3B and it is 119/159 or .748 and the ML average is .762.

Pujols' VORP as a measure of his actual contribution to the Cardinals this year is suspect in my book.
   4. Fadeaway: The Baseball History Podcast Posted: September 10, 2001 at 09:24 PM (#72596)
I agree that Pujols would deserve the award if the season ended today. But, at 0.13 behind Randy Johnson, Roy Oswalt has an outside shot at winning the NL ERA title. (He has three starts left and would need two complete games and one eight-inning outing to get enough innings pitched.)

A pitcher who leads the league in ERA while playing in a hitter's park is, almost by definition, the best pitcher in the league. (Although this year, Randy Johnson's much higher innings count has made him more valuable than Oswalt.) If Oswalt were to pull off the ERA title, I would think he'd deserve consideration not only for ROY, but also for the Cy Young Award.
   5. Fadeaway: The Baseball History Podcast Posted: September 10, 2001 at 09:55 PM (#72597)
In all my years of following baseball, this is the best year I can remember for first-year players. (That is, players in their first full major league season, regardless of rookie status.)

This year we've had excellent seasons not just from Pujols and Oswalt, but also guys like Ichiro, Wade Miller, Lance Berkman, Paul LoDuca, Mark Buerhle, Barry Zito, C.C. Sabathia, Ben Davis, David Eckstein, Juan Pierre, Jimmy Rollins, Soriano, Cory Lidle, Aramis Ramirez, and Jarrod Washburn. All of these players are in their first full major league season.

The number of good young pitchers is particularly astounding. In addition to the 7 pitchers mentioned above, there have also been flashes of brilliance from Bud Smith, A.J. Burnett, Joel Piniero, Tim Redding, Carlos Hernandez, Josh Beckett, Luke Prokopec, Eric Gagne, Shawn Chacon, Jason Johnson, Josh Towers, Juan Cruz, Tony Armas, and Brad Penny.

Nine of the 40 best ERAs in baseball belong to first-year players, not counting guys like Oswalt and Piniero who don't have enough innings.

Has there ever been another season with as many good first-year players as 2001?
   6. The Original Gary Posted: September 10, 2001 at 10:20 PM (#72598)
If Pujols does win the award, he certainly earned it. At the same time, I don't think Oswalt should be dismissed out of hand. Eric made my point already regarding the ERA race. I am not saying Oswalt should win, but to just hand over the award to Pujols without seriously looking at Oswalt is a mistake.
   7. Robert Dudek Posted: September 10, 2001 at 10:39 PM (#72599)

You didn't mention Brandon Lyon, who has been fairly impressive considering he is in his 2nd year as a pro.
   8. Robert Dudek Posted: September 10, 2001 at 10:48 PM (#72600)

Wolverton's Support-neutral W/L and Woolner's VORP factor in quantity of play. They try to estimate how many runs/wins a player/pitcher has been worth to the team over a replacement level player/pitcher.

They combine quality and quantity in exactly the way that is most useful in discussing MVP, ROY and Cy Young awards.


Doesn't Oswalt have 4 starts left ? Or is he going to skip a turn in the rotation ?
   9. RichRifkin Posted: September 10, 2001 at 11:46 PM (#72602)
Robert asks me above, "Pujols has played a number of positions (OF and 1B)- does VORP take this into account?

Keith Woolner says this on the above link: "Each player's positional average is now weighted for games at multiple positions, rather than using just his most frequent position."

However, I don't know the answer to Robert's other very good point, "I know that VORP takes position value into account, but unless I'm mistaken it does not attempt to measure Ichiro's RF defense as compared to an average RF."

If VORP assumes defensive neutrality - that is, a left fielder has X amount of value, a shortstop has X+3 value - and it does not discriminate between a great fielder, an average one, and a poor one, then it needs to be improved in this regard. I would think that Zone Rating or Adjusted Range Factor would be good measures for this, once enough defensive innings have been accumulated for the player in question.

So as to comparing value for Ichiro and Pujols, if VORP is flawed in the way Robert suggests, then the Runs Created over a replacement player figures need to be adjusted up in the former case and down in the latter.
   10. Fadeaway: The Baseball History Podcast Posted: September 11, 2001 at 12:26 AM (#72603)
Robert, the way the Astros rotation looks right now, Oswalt would pitch on 9/15 @St. Louis, 9/21 at home against the Cubs, and 9/26 at home against St. Louis. After 9/26, the Astros have only four more games. In the event that there is a 163rd game, that game would fall in Oswalt's regular turn in the rotation. So it looks like he's on track to start either game #163 or, more likely, the first game of the playoffs.

Of course, Dierker may not want to start him in the first game of the playoffs. If that's the case, then it wouldn't be out of the question for Oswalt to tune up with a few innings in relief on the last day of the season. That might be an especially good idea if he has, say, a 2.38 ERA and 159 innings pitched.
   11. Justin Binek Posted: September 11, 2001 at 02:29 AM (#72604)
Responding to EricEnders' question about great first-year crops:

While this year's group is impressive, the class of 1982 is difficult to top: four future Hall-of-Famers (Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken, Ryne Sandberg), a two-time batting champ and an MVP winner (Willie McGee), two Cy Young winners (Steve Bedrosian, Frank Viola), several careers that included All-Star moments (Jesse Barfield, Tom Brunansky, Brett Butler, Chili Davis, Gary Gaetti, Von Hayes, Jay Howell, Kent Hrbek, Tim Laudner, Johnny Ray, Steve Sax), and some other useful guys to have around (Steve Balboni, Dave Dravecky, Tim Laudner, Bryn Smtih). For what it's worth, Don Mattingly made his major league debut late in 1982 as well.

One other great group comes to mind as well, for quality more than quantity: 1954 gave us the rookie seasons of Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, and Al Kaline (as well as one Tom Lasorda, pitcher). The Rookies of the Year that season? Wally Moon and Bob Grim. Just some food for thought...
   12. Robert Dudek Posted: September 11, 2001 at 06:32 AM (#72606)
I don't know what Dierker plans to do, but since the Astros rotation is not deep, it makes sense to start Oswalt on every fifth day, rather than giving him an extra day off because the Astros have 2 off days coming up (the first one was tonight).

So that would be the 14th, the 19th, the 24th and the 29th of September.

The 29th is the next to last day, so Oswalt could be given one extra day somewhere in there and thus could start on the last day of the regular season - September 30th.
   13. Fadeaway: The Baseball History Podcast Posted: September 11, 2001 at 01:54 PM (#72607)
   14. Fadeaway: The Baseball History Podcast Posted: September 11, 2001 at 06:57 PM (#72609)
Rob Neyer's column today is on the subject of this thread:

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