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Saturday, August 09, 2014

Posnanski: It’s been a trying year for Bryce Harper

I deduce that Poz started off writing about Strasburg and couldn’t find a new angle, but I dunno, you tell me.

the Washington Nationals are in first place. It is easy to miss that when you’re inside the beltway. More than that, at this moment the Nationals are in first place by 4 ½ games, which is the biggest lead in the National League. More than that, the Nationals have the best run differential in the National League… The Nationals have the best record in baseball when scoring four or more runs – 53-6. But they have one of the worst records in baseball when failing to score four runs (9-45). This schizophrenic tendency drives Washington’s most extreme impulses…

[Stephen] Strasburg… leads the National League in starts and strikeouts and his 177-to-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio is fantastic. But he also is posting the highest ERA of his career so far (3.39) and the Nationals are just 12-12 in games he starts. He has honed his change-up into one of the most devastating pitches in the game, but his velocity slowly comes down and hitters have teed off on his fastball for much of the season. Even teammates have commented on how aggressively hitters attack his fastball. He could get to 200 innings for the first time this year, but he does not have a complete game and has only twice even started the eighth inning…

If he was any 26-year-old pitcher leading the league in strikeouts … but he’s not. He’s Stephen Strasburg. This is Washington. The pontificating never ends.

There’s only one player who feels it even more.

So, here’s what seems to have happened in Harpergate. Nationals manager Matt Williams went on a radio show Tuesday morning and the hot topic was Bryce Harper because Bryce Harper is always the hot topic…

You can’t go on the radio as the manager of the Washington Nationals, tell someone that sending Bryce Harper to the minors is NOT a stupid idea, and then expect Washington to sit still. It’s WASHINGTON for crying out loud…

Thursday afternoon, in the 13th inning against the Mets, Bryce Harper mashed a long walk-off home run to extend the Nationals lead.

“I haven’t felt like that in a long time,” he said afterward, and for a few hours all was all right in our nation’s capital.

The District Attorney Posted: August 09, 2014 at 05:43 PM | 78 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: bryce harper, joe posnanski, matt williams, nationals, stephen strasburg

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   1. Bhaakon Posted: August 09, 2014 at 06:26 PM (#4767827)
Remember a couple years ago when someone would ask "Who is going to have a better career, Trout or Harper?" and you could find some people willing to argue for Harper?
   2. Misirlou has S.C.M.O.D.S Posted: August 09, 2014 at 06:42 PM (#4767831)
They are both still extremely young. I wouldn't bet on Hatper, but it's far from certain it will be Trout. Trout is after all, in his second straight year of decline. He might not break 8 WAR.
   3. The District Attorney Posted: August 09, 2014 at 06:53 PM (#4767833)
Remember a couple years ago when someone would ask "Who is going to have a better career, Trout or Harper?" and you could find some people willing to argue for Harper?
On a surface level, it doesn't seem impossible that a 20-year-old could end up worse than a 19-year-old with an OPS 150 points lower. 19 vs. 20 is a very big deal.

However, I would agree that it never really held up to extended scrutiny. For one thing, Trout was in a very tough hitter's park (park factor 91), while Harper was in an average one. And Trout was much faster, with more defensive value. Their post-rookie season comparables (Harper, Trout) would certainly have suggested that it's still more promising to be the best player in the sport at age 20 than it is to be very good at age 19.
   4. valuearbitrageur Posted: August 09, 2014 at 06:54 PM (#4767834)
When Jacob Turner disappointed for a season, the Marlins cut him and got twice as many players back.

Just a suggestion, Mr. Rizzo. For both Strawsberk & Harper.
   5. Misirlou has S.C.M.O.D.S Posted: August 09, 2014 at 06:59 PM (#4767835)
Who would you have bet on in 1961: McCovey or dependable? Of the famed 1986 rookie crop, in 1988 it was obviously going to be Canseco. In 1989, it looked like it might be Sierra or Clark. It wasn't until 1992 or 93 that it was obviously Bonds
   6. DKDC Posted: August 09, 2014 at 07:02 PM (#4767838)
A year ago, Os fans were excited when Machado was included in the best young player in baseball conversation with Trout and Harper.

At this moment it looks like he doesn't really belong in the conversation with either one, for different reasons.

Baseball is funny, and it could always boomerang in the other direction, faster than we all expect.
   7. Bhaakon Posted: August 09, 2014 at 07:44 PM (#4767848)

Who would you have bet on in 1961: McCovey or dependable? Of the famed 1986 rookie crop, in 1988 it was obviously going to be Canseco. In 1989, it looked like it might be Sierra or Clark. It wasn't until 1992 or 93 that it was obviously Bonds


I'll assume that this is in reference to my original post, and simply say this: Trout's performance so far has been unprecedented, at least in modern times. He's basically built up half a HOF resume already. That's a pretty enormous lead. The guys you mentioned had an edge over the rookie classmates, sure, but Trout has lapped the competition.
   8. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: August 09, 2014 at 07:53 PM (#4767852)
Considering that both Trout and Harper will be in the Yankees' outfield in 2019 or so, it's kind of a moot point.
   9. bobm Posted: August 09, 2014 at 07:59 PM (#4767854)
[7] Mike Trout

Similar Batters through 21 [...]

Frank Robinson (957) *
Mickey Mantle (939) *
Orlando Cepeda (929) *
Al Kaline (924) *
Jimmie Foxx (922) *
Vada Pinson (922)
Ted Williams (918) *
Hank Aaron (917) *
Ken Griffey [Jr] (915)
Tony Conigliaro (907)
* - Signifies Hall of Famer
   10. tshipman Posted: August 09, 2014 at 08:05 PM (#4767855)
However, I would agree that it never really held up to extended scrutiny. For one thing, Trout was in a very tough hitter's park (park factor 91),


Trout is after all, in his second straight year of decline. He might not break 8 WAR.


This is where "decline" is a silly concept. Trout has played in the same park 3 years. His OPS has varied from .958 to .988. However, his park factor has varied much more, from 91 to 97.

Perhaps we should be a little less confident in his first year being his best. He had 21 runs of defensive value that year, compared to negative totals his next two years.

The entire variance in his performance comes from defensive stats and park factors, despite playing in the same park.
   11. BDC Posted: August 09, 2014 at 08:16 PM (#4767859)
And a slightly different way of looking at Trout: comps using a lower limit of 200 PAs and 10 points of OPS+ below him, no upper limit, first four seasons of career:

Player          WAA/pos OPSRbaser dWAR   PA   Age      Pos
Ted Williams       26.2  190   
-0.1 -2.3 2613 20-23   *79/H1
Albert Pujols      21.0  167    3.5 
-2.3 2728 21-24 37/59HD6
Mike Trout         19.8  167   15.4  1.1 1995 19
-22  *87/9DH
Johnny Mize        18.0  173    2.1 
-3.1 2368 23-26    *3/H9
Stan Musial        17.9  169   
-1.7  1.6 1953 20-23   *97/8H
Eddie Mathews      16.5  157   
-0.3  0.0 2490 20-23    *5/7H
Ralph Kiner        15.3  157   
-1.8 -1.8 2582 23-26    *7/8H
Dick Allen         15.2  161    7.3 
-1.0 2040 21-24   *5/7H6
Benny Kauff        14.7  161   14.1 
-0.7 1895 22-26    *8/97
Frank Thomas       14.6  177    2.1 
-5.9 2328 22-25    *3D/H
George Stone       11.4  163   
-3.0 -1.9 2023 26-30       *


Of course, Trout's fourth season has a few weeks to go.

Most of these guys were simply sluggers, though young and in the best shape of their lives. Musial is emerging as the best comp: all-round player, strong defense, and it's pretty clear that if he'd come up in a different era he'd have stolen more bases, if not perhaps Troutish numbers. Now, just stay in Stan Musial shape and you'll have a Stan Musial career, young man.

Benny Kauff is an interesting comp. He was doing it half in the Federal League, which means that Trout has made 2011-14 MLB look like the Federal League :)
   12. Misirlou has S.C.M.O.D.S Posted: August 09, 2014 at 09:56 PM (#4767871)
Who would you have bet on in 1961: McCovey or dependable?


WTF? That will teach me to not post from an iPad. McCovey or Cepeda. Stupid autocorrect.

And the "two years of decline" was obviously tongue-in-cheek.

Still, the list in #9 gives 20% cautionary tales. As I said, I would not bet against him unless given heavy odds, but still...
   13. Ziggy Posted: August 09, 2014 at 10:07 PM (#4767876)
There's obviously still lots of time for this to shake out, but what are the odds that Harper will put up as many WAR as Trout has already? He's 17.6 WAR behind, per bb-ref. That's not insignificant. More than one quarter of a (border-line) hall-of-fame career. Now, of course I expect Harper to put up more than 17.6 WAR from here on out, but I'm curious about the odds that he won't.
   14. Ray (RDP) Posted: August 09, 2014 at 10:20 PM (#4767878)
I don't think it's a ridiculous notion at all that Harper will be better from here on out. I wouldn't bet that way , but I don't think it's absurd
   15. bobm Posted: August 09, 2014 at 10:23 PM (#4767880)
Spanning Multiple Seasons or entire Careers, From 1901 to 2014, Younger than 21, Played 50% of games at LF, CF or RF, (requiring At least 1000 plate appearances), sorted by greatest WAR Position Players

                                                         
Rk                Player WAR/pos   PA From   To   Age   G
1             Mike Trout    20.3 1490 2011 2013 19-21 336
2                Mel Ott    17.9 2064 1926 1930 17-21 539
3                Ty Cobb    15.7 1835 1905 1908 18-21 439
4            Ken Griffey    15.5 1805 1989 1991 19-21 436
5              Al Kaline    15.4 1939 1953 1956 18-21 473
6         Frank Robinson    13.4 1344 1956 1957 20-21 302
7          Mickey Mantle    13.2 1552 1951 1953 19-21 365
8           Ted Williams    13.0 1336 1939 1940 20-21 293
9            Vada Pinson    12.4 1523 1958 1960 19-21 335
10          Sherry Magee    12.0 1686 1904 1906 19-21 404
11          Cesar Cedeno    11.8 1651 1970 1972 19-21 390
12          Andruw Jones    10.9 1211 1996 1998 19-21 343
13         Jason Heyward     8.9 1079 2010 2011 20-21 270
14          Bryce Harper     8.7 1313 2012 2014 19-21 312
15      Rickey Henderson     7.9 1120 1979 1980 20-21 247
16       Tony Conigliaro     7.5 1657 1964 1966 19-21 399
17            Hank Aaron     7.5 1174 1954 1955 20-21 275
18   Claudell Washington     6.6 1402 1974 1976 19-21 355
19          Rick Manning     5.9 1141 1975 1976 20-21 258
20          Justin Upton     4.2 1157 2007 2009 19-21 289
21        Miguel Cabrera     4.0 1031 2003 2004 20-21 247
22          Ruben Sierra     2.4 1107 1986 1987 20-21 271
23      Roberto Clemente     2.0 1073 1955 1956 20-21 271
24           Rusty Staub     1.7 1375 1963 1965 19-21 370
25           Boog Powell     1.3 1002 1961 1963 19-21 268
Rk                Player WAR/pos   PA From   To   Age   G


Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/9/2014.
   16. bobm Posted: August 09, 2014 at 10:30 PM (#4767881)
Spanning Multiple Seasons or entire Careers, From 1901 to 2014, For players in the saved report : (Spanning Multiple Seasons, From 1901 to 2014, No older than 21, Played 50% of games at LF, CF or RF, (requiring At least 1000 plate appearances), sorted by greatest WAR Position Players: Results), From Age 22 to 99, sorted by greatest WAR Position Players
                                                           
Rk                Player WAR/pos From   To   Age    G    PA
1                Ty Cobb   135.3 1909 1928 22-41 2595 11249
2             Hank Aaron   135.1 1956 1976 22-42 3023 12767
3           Ted Williams   110.1 1941 1960 22-41 1999  8452
4       Rickey Henderson   102.9 1981 2003 22-44 2834 12226
5          Mickey Mantle    96.5 1954 1968 22-36 2036  8355
6         Frank Robinson    93.8 1958 1976 22-40 2506 10398
7       Roberto Clemente    92.4 1957 1972 22-37 2162  9138
8                Mel Ott    89.9 1931 1947 22-38 2191  9284
9              Al Kaline    77.1 1957 1974 22-39 2361  9657
10           Ken Griffey    68.0 1992 2010 22-40 2235  9499
11        Miguel Cabrera    53.5 2005 2014 22-31 1525  6574
12          Andruw Jones    51.9 1999 2012 22-35 1853  7453
13          Sherry Magee    47.0 1907 1919 22-34 1683  6856
14           Rusty Staub    44.1 1966 1985 22-41 2581  9854
15           Vada Pinson    41.7 1961 1975 22-36 2135  8879
16          Cesar Cedeno    40.9 1973 1986 22-35 1616  6482
17           Boog Powell    37.7 1964 1977 22-35 1774  6807

18          Justin Upton    15.1 2010 2014 22-26  700  2973
19         Jason Heyward    14.8 2012 2014 22-24  370  1565
20          Ruben Sierra    14.2 1988 2006 22-40 1915  7675
21   Claudell Washington    12.8 1977 1990 22-35 1557  5965
22            Mike Trout     6.0 2014 2014 22-22  111   505
23          Rick Manning     5.9 1977 1987 22-32 1297  4691
24       Tony Conigliaro     4.8 1967 1975 22-30  477  1933


Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/9/2014.

ETA: Seems pretty likely for Harper to get 18 additional WAR
   17. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: August 09, 2014 at 10:59 PM (#4767890)
A year ago, Os fans were excited when Machado was included in the best young player in baseball conversation with Trout and Harper.

At this moment it looks like he doesn't really belong in the conversation with either one, for different reasons.


You must mean Machado belongs in the middle of that group, because he's way outperformed Harper since he came back from his suspension: .916 OPS while playing hurt for several of those games, and still the same GG-level third baseman in the field. He still can look totally lost one day and then come back and put up six hits over the next two.

Meanwhile, Harper's looking like he might be the next one to face the Brown Diaper Baby's firing squad, after they cart away Strasburg's remains.
   18. bookbook Posted: August 09, 2014 at 11:18 PM (#4767892)
Nothing wrong with Harper that a trade to the Mariners won't fix.
   19. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: August 09, 2014 at 11:23 PM (#4767894)
I'd consider swapping Ichiro or Beltran for him.
   20. Scott Ross Posted: August 09, 2014 at 11:34 PM (#4767897)
I deduce that Poz started off writing about Strasburg and couldn’t find a new angle

I enjoy Poz, but as a friend once noted, he is a notorious "throat clearer," which is to say he regularly circles his prey for 6 or 8 grafs before going in for the kill.
   21. Ray (RDP) Posted: August 10, 2014 at 12:27 AM (#4767904)
It was a trying PA and trip around the bases just now for Harper. He appeared to re-aggravate the thumb injury on a check foul. Trainer came out, he stayed in the game. Took another swing, sort of released the left hand off the bat quickly, foul ball, it hurt him a bit. Stayed in, got a looping hit to LF. Next batter drives one to deep CF, the bad Upton with the catch, but despite there only being one out Harper was on his horse and near 3B and got easily doubled off.

Clearly this means Trout will have the better career from here on out.
   22. Rennie's Tenet Posted: August 10, 2014 at 12:58 AM (#4767912)
Stupid autocorrect.


I was wondering why you were trying to compare McCovey and Tommy Henrich.
   23. PreservedFish Posted: August 10, 2014 at 01:21 AM (#4767913)
I don't think it's a ridiculous notion at all that Harper will be better from here on out. I wouldn't bet that way , but I don't think it's absurd


Agreed.

I think that people underestimate how outrageously unpredictable baseball is.
   24. Russlan is fond of Dillon Gee Posted: August 10, 2014 at 01:57 AM (#4767917)
For a little while, I thought that both Jason Heyward and Bryce Harper were going to play as well as Trout is right now.
   25. Bhaakon Posted: August 10, 2014 at 06:12 AM (#4767932)

Agreed.

I think that people underestimate how outrageously unpredictable baseball is.


Sure. Trout could get hit by a semi while crossing the street tomorrow. But in the many branches of the multiverse in which Trout doesn't suffer come kind of career-ending injury in the near future, the odds are long in his favor.


For a little while, I thought that both Jason Heyward and Bryce Harper were going to play as well as Trout is right now.


I wouldn't have. A big part of the argument in Trout's favor is that the chances of anyone putting up a 10 WAR season, no matter how touted or how young the break into the majors, is absurdly low. Many of the best players in the history of baseball went their entire careers without doing that. I'm not even sure I'd bet on Trout to do it again. It's the kind of thing that usually only happens when the player is both lucky and exemplary.
   26. bobm Posted: August 10, 2014 at 08:48 AM (#4767941)
[25] For single seasons, From 1901 to 2014, (requiring WAR_bat>=10), sorted by greatest Seasons matching criteria

                                         
Rk               Name Yrs From   To   Age
1           Babe Ruth   9 1920 1931 25-36
2         Willie Mays   6 1954 1965 23-34
3      Rogers Hornsby   6 1921 1929 25-33
4         Barry Bonds   3 2001 2004 36-39
5       Mickey Mantle   3 1956 1961 24-29
6        Ted Williams   3 1941 1946 22-27
7             Ty Cobb   3 1910 1917 23-30
8          Cal Ripken   2 1984 1991 23-30
9    Carl Yastrzemski   2 1967 1968 27-28
10         Lou Gehrig   2 1927 1934 24-31
11       Honus Wagner   2 1905 1908 31-34
12         Mike Trout   1 2012 2012 20-20
13         Sammy Sosa   1 2001 2001 32-32
14     Alex Rodriguez   1 2000 2000 24-24
15        Robin Yount   1 1982 1982 26-26
16         Joe Morgan   1 1975 1975 31-31
17    Rico Petrocelli   1 1969 1969 26-26
18        Ernie Banks   1 1959 1959 28-28
19           Al Rosen   1 1953 1953 29-29
20        Stan Musial   1 1948 1948 27-27
21       Lou Boudreau   1 1948 1948 30-30
22        Jimmie Foxx   1 1932 1932 24-24
23       Tris Speaker   1 1912 1912 24-24
24      Eddie Collins   1 1910 1910 23-23
25         Nap Lajoie   1 1906 1906 31-31
Rk               Name Yrs From   To   Age


Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/10/2014.
   27. Ray (RDP) Posted: August 10, 2014 at 09:20 AM (#4767953)
Agreed.

I think that people underestimate how outrageously unpredictable baseball is.


Yeah. They think that what they saw last is what will come next.
   28. Curse of the Andino Posted: August 10, 2014 at 10:07 AM (#4767961)
You must mean Machado belongs in the middle of that group, because he's way outperformed Harper since he came back from his suspension: .916 OPS while playing hurt for several of those games, and still the same GG-level third baseman in the field. He still can look totally lost one day and then come back and put up six hits over the next two.


More importantly, Brooksie gave him the nod. Manny's a keeper.
   29. Ziggy Posted: August 10, 2014 at 10:51 AM (#4767968)
What's with the skepticism about induction around here? The reason the past is useful is that the future tends to be like it. Harper COULD outperform Trout, but it's not a smart bet.

Of course baseball is hard to predict, but defeatism about it isn't warranted. One of the main directions of sabrmetric research is precisely into predicting what will happen. There's still a lot of uncertainty around our projections, but they're not useless, and they're going to tell you that the future is brighter for Trout than for Harper.
   30. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: August 10, 2014 at 10:55 AM (#4767970)
Anyone who looks as much like John Elway's younger brother as Mike Trout does is destined to get to the HoF. Harper can fend for himself.
   31. Jeff R., P***y Mainlander Posted: August 10, 2014 at 11:07 AM (#4767972)

Yeah. They think that what they saw last is what will come next.


Yep. It's over. It's always been over.
   32. BDC Posted: August 10, 2014 at 11:24 AM (#4767975)
There's still a lot of uncertainty around our projections, but they're not useless, and they're going to tell you that the future is brighter for Trout than for Harper

I agree. Take the list in #11: it's all exceedingly great players, except for Kauff and Stone, who are oddball cases from a century or more ago. Injury can always happen to Trout: Dick Allen was slowed by injuries as much as by being difficult. But there are basically no precedents for starting a career that well and declining to mediocrity.

Harper simply hasn't been as good a player. He obviously projects to be awesome because of his age. But if you run a similar search for first three years of a career, no upper bound but a cutoff much more sharply below Harper's OPS+ and PAs, you get 132 comps. In terms of their eventual achievement, they range from Willie Mays to Ben Grieve. The closest semi-recent players to Harper, by age and by WAR so far, are Cesar Cedeño and Vada Pinson. Not bad company, but instructive for extrapolators.
   33. BDC Posted: August 10, 2014 at 12:19 PM (#4767993)
In other news, I wandered past Mike Trout's stat line to bask in its awesomeness and noticed he wasn't leading the AL in runs scored for once. He's second. I guessed that somebody like Josh Donaldson or Ian Kinsler might be ahead of him – an OBP guy on a big offensive club – or maybe Brett Gardner because I've never seen Gardner not get a hit this year. To reveal the answer to this uninteresting trivia question, it's Brian Dozier of the Twins. I don't entirely understand how. Dozier is batting .240, though with decent power and walks, and the mightiest hitter behind him is Trevor Plouffe. But that's the way baseball go.
   34. Hank G. Posted: August 10, 2014 at 02:04 PM (#4768032)
And a slightly different way of looking at Trout: comps using a lower limit of 200 PAs and 10 points of OPS+ below him, no upper limit, first four seasons of career:

Of course, Trout's fourth season has a few weeks to go.


That’s kind of an unfair comparison, considering that Trout’s “first” season was only 135 PA, and he didn’t even qualify as a rookie.
   35. Hank G. Posted: August 10, 2014 at 02:09 PM (#4768036)
They are both still extremely young. I wouldn't bet on Hatper [sic], but it's far from certain it will be Trout. Trout is after all, in his second straight year of decline. He might not break 8 WAR.


FanGraphs has Trout’s 2013 as being better than his 2012.
   36. The District Attorney Posted: August 10, 2014 at 02:09 PM (#4768037)
To reveal the answer to this uninteresting trivia question, it's Brian Dozier of the Twins.
That actually was interesting, I felt.

Don't wanna give this its own thread, but meh.
   37. BDC Posted: August 10, 2014 at 02:11 PM (#4768039)
That’s kind of an unfair comparison, considering that Trout’s “first” season was only 135 PA, and he didn’t even qualify as a rookie

Sure, but the same will be true of other players' as well. I'm just taking a fuzzy picture to see what looms largest: feel free to focus!
   38. BDC Posted: August 10, 2014 at 02:12 PM (#4768040)
That actually was interesting, I felt

Thanks! I thought nobody was interested in Runs Scored anymore. But Brian Dozier? Good for him, I say.
   39. Hank G. Posted: August 10, 2014 at 02:15 PM (#4768043)
That’s kind of an unfair comparison, considering that Trout’s “first” season was only 135 PA, and he didn’t even qualify as a rookie

Sure, but the same will be true of other players' as well. I'm just taking a fuzzy picture to see what looms largest: feel free to focus!


I didn’t check them all, but both Pujols and Williams had 675+ PA in their first years. Trout is ahead of everyone else.
   40. Hank G. Posted: August 10, 2014 at 02:38 PM (#4768056)
So far, Harper’s career feels more like Pete Reiser than Mike Trout.
   41. bobm Posted: August 10, 2014 at 02:48 PM (#4768060)
[33] From BR:

Most Driven In By: Self 19, T Plouffe 13, J Mauer 8, J Willingham 8, K Suzuki 8, C Colabello 7, K Morales 4, O Arcia 3
   42. bobm Posted: August 10, 2014 at 03:10 PM (#4768070)
Trout, 2014 YTD -

Most Driven In By: Self 26, A Pujols 20, J Hamilton 14, H Kendrick 8, D Freese 3, R Ibanez 2, C Cron 2, E Aybar 2
   43. Ziggy Posted: August 10, 2014 at 03:57 PM (#4768102)
Trout hasn't been running as much as in the past couple years, but he's been making it count when he does. He's 12 and 0 in stolen base attempts this year. (98 and 12 for his career.)
   44. zachtoma Posted: August 10, 2014 at 10:20 PM (#4768296)
I'm a little worried about Trout's future durability. I don't love his body type, he's kind of compact and bulky, very muscle-bound, just look at that neck. If he adds any weight as he gets older, I could see his athleticism declining sharply or him starting to miss time with injuries. Trout at age 30 might be a corner OF who doesn't run or field particularly well but is still a great hitter. Of course, he's been durable so far so these may be unfounded concerns. Harper has hardly been a picture of health himself, I really hope we get a chance to see what he can do when he's actually healthy for a full year because '13 and '14 have both kind of been lost seasons for him.* The way things have gone for him reminds me a bit of Matt Kemp's extremely frustrating '12 and '13 seasons.

*Even though I'm a Braves fan, I like Harper a lot and want him to succeed, I get irritated by the way the Braves' announcers are subtly and not-so-subtly putting him down all the time.
   45. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: August 10, 2014 at 10:32 PM (#4768300)
I don't love his body type, he's kind of compact and bulky, very muscle-bound, just look at that neck.


Is there any evidence that this body type indicates a lack of durability? I've never seen any.
   46. PreservedFish Posted: August 10, 2014 at 11:17 PM (#4768313)
Thanks! I thought nobody was interested in Runs Scored anymore. But Brian Dozier? Good for him, I say.


My favorite stat as a youngster, and still one of my favorites.

Trout is just one behind Dozier and seems likely to lead the league for the third time. That's impressive.
   47. Ziggy Posted: August 10, 2014 at 11:20 PM (#4768315)
I don't know anything about the durability of Trout's body type, but Trout moving to a corner spot when he's in his 30s and still being a great hitter seems pretty likely. That's usually what happens, and it usually isn't a result of injuries, it's just a result of getting old. Center field is tough to play.
   48. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: August 10, 2014 at 11:28 PM (#4768317)
*Even though I'm a Braves fan, I like Harper a lot and want him to succeed, I get irritated by the way the Braves' announcers are subtly and not-so-subtly putting him down all the time.


Ur doin it rong.
   49. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: August 10, 2014 at 11:29 PM (#4768318)
I don't know anything about the durability of Trout's body type, but Trout moving to a corner spot when he's in his 30s and still being a great hitter seems pretty likely. That's usually what happens, and it usually isn't a result of injuries, it's just a result of getting old. Center field is tough to play.


I can see his body type moving him off CF as he ages. I don't know that it moves him out of the top tier of hitters. Miggy Cabrera ain't exactly a specimen Adonis like chiseling.
   50. Mom makes botox doctors furious Posted: August 11, 2014 at 02:13 AM (#4768334)
Ignoring defense for a moment - really, LET'S - Trout's 2013 was the superior season offensively. I love a 300+ TOB *: )

Now back to defense: was Trout's 2013 REALLY so inferior to 2012? Dude had negative dWar - anyone here take exception to that?
   51. Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos Posted: August 11, 2014 at 05:43 AM (#4768340)
In other news, I wandered past Mike Trout's stat line to bask in its awesomeness and noticed he wasn't leading the AL in runs scored for once. He's second. I guessed that somebody like Josh Donaldson or Ian Kinsler might be ahead of him – an OBP guy on a big offensive club – or maybe Brett Gardner because I've never seen Gardner not get a hit this year. To reveal the answer to this uninteresting trivia question, it's Brian Dozier of the Twins. I don't entirely understand how. Dozier is batting .240, though with decent power and walks, and the mightiest hitter behind him is Trevor Plouffe. But that's the way baseball go.

You could have just asked me!
   52. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 11, 2014 at 08:43 AM (#4768368)
zach

i think you are projecting your experience with andruw jones onto trout. ha, ha.

   53. The Good Face Posted: August 11, 2014 at 09:13 AM (#4768376)
I don't love his body type, he's kind of compact and bulky, very muscle-bound, just look at that neck.

Is there any evidence that this body type indicates a lack of durability? I've never seen any.


I dunno about durability, but guys who are built like Trout at the age of 20 tend to put on a lot of weight once they hit their 30s. That doesn't mean Trout will, he's a professional athlete after all, with all the perks and access to top level training/dietary assistance that entails, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if he's off CF by the time he's 30 and essentially done as a base stealing threat.
   54. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 11, 2014 at 09:36 AM (#4768388)
Ignoring defense for a moment - really, LET'S - Trout's 2013 was the superior season offensively. I love a 300+ TOB *: )

Now back to defense: was Trout's 2013 REALLY so inferior to 2012? Dude had negative dWar - anyone here take exception to that?


Yeah, I'm not buying the 30 run swing in fielding value.
   55. vivaelpujols Posted: August 11, 2014 at 10:42 AM (#4768440)
[Stephen] Strasburg… leads the National League in starts and strikeouts and his 177-to-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio is fantastic. But he also is posting the highest ERA of his career so far (3.39) and the Nationals are just 12-12 in games he starts. He has honed his change-up into one of the most devastating pitches in the game, but his velocity slowly comes down and hitters have teed off on his fastball for much of the season. Even teammates have commented on how aggressively hitters attack his fastball. He could get to 200 innings for the first time this year, but he does not have a complete game and has only twice even started the eighth inning…


This kind of article pisses me off. I can't exactly put me finger on why though. It's kind of like "Strasburg is having a great season and the criticisms of him are idiotic... but they exist and that matters for some reason." Just seems really wishy washy or something.
   56. Chris Needham Posted: August 11, 2014 at 10:44 AM (#4768444)
I'd rather have that wishy-washy assessment than the typical "It's just luck" hand-waving/BS that a lot of the PitchFX sort tend to resort to.
   57. Ziggy Posted: August 11, 2014 at 10:46 AM (#4768447)
Are you not buying the 30 run swing because you think that fielding value doesn't change much year-to-year, because there's a problem with dWar's calculations, or because there's something about Trout in particular that makes dWar mis-value his performance?

(And if it's the latter, shouldn't the same bias have had the same effect on both 2012 and 2013, preserving the 30 run difference?)
   58. vivaelpujols Posted: August 11, 2014 at 10:58 AM (#4768460)
So PitchF/X, which is a literal record of every pitch Strasburg has thrown in his career, is BS, but complaining from a bunch of entitled fans is worth listening to?
   59. vivaelpujols Posted: August 11, 2014 at 10:59 AM (#4768462)
Are you not buying the 30 run swing because you think that fielding value doesn't change much year-to-year, because there's a problem with dWar's calculations, or because there's something about Trout in particular that makes dWar mis-value his performance?


It's likely that the 30 run swing was actually a 20 run swing with measurement error. It's always a good idea to regress extreme values in either direction.
   60. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: August 11, 2014 at 11:05 AM (#4768465)
Yeah, I'm not buying the 30 run swing in fielding value.


Did you "not buy" Brady Anderson's HR totals in 1996? Not to say, "I don't buy that he'll repeat this." That would be perfectly reasonable. But to "not buy" he hit way more HRs than he ever has before" would not be. It would be counter to the facts of the world. Defenders have peak and trough years, just like hitters.
   61. Chris Needham Posted: August 11, 2014 at 11:06 AM (#4768467)
[58] Yes, that's precisely what I'm saying. Good job. I'm sure there's a graph someplace that'll thoroughly explain everything.
   62. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 11, 2014 at 11:11 AM (#4768472)
Are you not buying the 30 run swing because you think that fielding value doesn't change much year-to-year, because there's a problem with dWar's calculations, or because there's something about Trout in particular that makes dWar mis-value his performance?

Well. DRS has a 30 run swing (+21 to -9) UZR only has a 9 run swing +13 to +4. I'm guessing reality is closer to the latter than the former.

Did you "not buy" Brady Anderson's HR totals in 1996? Not to say, "I don't buy that he'll repeat this." That would be perfectly reasonable. But to "not buy" he hit way more HRs than he ever has before" would not be. It would be counter to the facts of the world. Defenders have peak and trough years, just like hitters.

Zone based fielding doesn't work that way, as you should well know by now. It is very possible for a fielder to get an easier or harder subset of balls of a given type in a given zone.

Since fielding stats are based on degree of difficulty, it is not a simple case of what happened happened. Whether a play was made or not is known (analogous to the HR) but, the likelihood of an average player making that play is also an input into the value. That likelihood is an estimate, and is subject to bias.
   63. Ziggy Posted: August 11, 2014 at 11:19 AM (#4768485)
Strasburg will be fine. Major league pitchers (+ major league defenders) just don't give up .350 BABIP over extended periods. His other peripherals are excellent. It's just a few balls falling between defenders, there's nothing to worry about.
   64. BDC Posted: August 11, 2014 at 11:20 AM (#4768487)
Is there any evidence that this body type indicates a lack of durability?

I'd say it's hard to generalize. Ken Griffey Jr. was downright skinny at times in his youth, but later on injury-prone (though he played a very long time). OTOH both Willie Mays and Jim Edmonds had massive upper bodies – albeit on a somewhat smaller scale overall than Trout – and they not only played till 40 or more but played a good CF till 40 or more. The individual differences in wear and tear may wash out any general effects, given basic fitness to start with (IOW if you are downright fat, you're not going to be playing a good CF at 40, but then odds are you never did. Unless you're Andruw Jones … you see how hard this gets).
   65. vivaelpujols Posted: August 11, 2014 at 11:23 AM (#4768494)
Strasburg will be fine. Major league pitchers (+ major league defenders) just don't give up .350 BABIP over extended periods.


Yeah especially pitchers who strike out 11 per nine and walk 2 per nine.
   66. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: August 11, 2014 at 11:25 AM (#4768498)
Since fielding stats are based on degree of difficulty, it is not a simple case of what happened happened. Whether a play was made or not is known (analogous to the HR) but, the likelihood of an average player making that play is also an input into the value. That likelihood is an estimate, and is subject to bias.

Right. We don't have two different services saying that Anderson hit either 50 or 42 home runs in 1996.
   67. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: August 11, 2014 at 11:28 AM (#4768501)
Right. We don't have two different services saying that Anderson hit either 50 or 42 home runs in 1996


Well, some of them were Baltimore homeruns, right? They count less.
   68. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 11, 2014 at 11:29 AM (#4768503)
Right. We don't have two different services saying that Anderson hit either 50 or 42 home runs in 1996.

It's amazing people still don't get this.

Fielding stats are not a record of what happened, they are an estimate based on likelihoods.
   69. The District Attorney Posted: August 11, 2014 at 11:42 AM (#4768515)
I feel like this argument misstates what "small sample size" means. Small sample size means that if we had more results than we do, they would tend to deviate less. It doesn't mean that the sample that we actually have has less deviation than we think it does.

It's consistent to maintain both that fielding runs are accurately stated as varying wildly from year to year, and that true fielding talent is in fact much more stable than that fact would imply. And if this is the case, then it's perfectly logical to use the fielding runs when measuring the value of a season. We don't measure the value of a season by whether what the player did is reproducible.
   70. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 11, 2014 at 11:50 AM (#4768525)
I feel like this argument misstates what "small sample size" means. Small sample size means that if we had more results than we do, they would tend to deviate less. It doesn't mean that the sample that we actually have has less deviation than we think it does.

It's consistent to maintain both that fielding runs are accurately stated as varying wildly from year to year, and that true fielding talent is in fact much more stable than that fact would imply. And if this is the case, then it's perfectly logical to use the fielding runs when measuring the value of a season. We don't measure the value of a season by whether what the player did is reproducible.


It has nothing to do with whether it's repeatable; that is a separate issue.

DRS or UZR takes a ball of a certain type hit to a certain zone. If Trout catches the ball, he gets compared to what % of balls of that type in that zone are converted to outs. So, if 75% of balls in that zone are outs, he gets credit for +0.25 plays. If he misses it, he gets debited -0.75 plays.

But, a given ball could be relatively easier to catch than a normal ball in that zone. If the real likelihood of an average fielder catching the ball is 90%, Trout is being over credited, or under debited.

Given that we're only talking about 200 plays per year, most of which are routine, a deviation in the average difficulty of chances can majorly skew results.
   71. BDC Posted: August 11, 2014 at 12:01 PM (#4768536)
I have a technical question on defensive metrics that is truly open, I'm just wondering.

Offensive metrics are developed in isolation from scoring, in the sense that all doubles are the same whether they drive in three runs or none. The sample sizes are larger, and we assume it will all equal out and a guy who slugs a certain percentage is as valuable as a guy who slugs the same (accounting for park and other factors) somewhere else, even if their RBI and R totals are quite different. Any translation to runs created or batting runs is a bit of an abstraction, but a useful one.

I assume the same is true of defensive metrics: make a difficult play, or don't, with the bases loaded, or empty, and it counts exactly the same. The translation to "runs" is an abstraction. But with the sample sizes so much lower, couldn't this add yet another skewing to the results? Some CF might make (or not) an unusual number of plays critical to actual scoring, while the results of another CF's sample might have much less effect on scoring and thus on game outcome.

I have less than no axe to grind; it's just perhaps that the impression we get that a fielder has done well or poorly is going to be influenced (understandably) by times when he saved or allowed actual runs in bunches or at critical moments, and thus be farther from his abstract (and more reliable) value than is the case with a hitter.
   72. dlf Posted: August 11, 2014 at 12:07 PM (#4768545)
Just as a sanity check on the much more advanced stats, Trout's (unadjusted) Range Factor / 9I in Center has gone from 2.70 in 2012 to 2.60 last year to 2.55 this year.

Given that we're only talking about 200 plays per year


Not that this really changes your point, but you are off by about 75% here. A full time CF will ordinarily get over 350 chances in a season with the league leaders routinely well over 400.
   73. GuyM Posted: August 11, 2014 at 12:18 PM (#4768554)
64: there's massive and then there's massive. Listed weights:
Trout 230
Edmonds 190
Mays 170

Yes, listed weights have many problems. But these are probably about right for each player in their early 20s.

I don't know of a good study on weight or body type and player aging curves. But it is true that players over 220lbs have not put up a lot of great seasons after age 30 (compared to lighter players). I suspect there is something to this.
   74. The Good Face Posted: August 11, 2014 at 12:19 PM (#4768557)
OTOH both Willie Mays and Jim Edmonds had massive upper bodies


I actually ran into Jim Edmonds when he was vacationing in Mexico during the off season (probably around 2003 or 2004ish). He was a pretty impressive physical specimen, but was no taller than 5'11, maybe shorter, and looked to be around 200-215lbs. 20 year old Mike Trout was WAY bigger than 33 year old Jim Edmonds was.

   75. Steve Treder Posted: August 11, 2014 at 12:29 PM (#4768567)
Mays 170

Yes, listed weights have many problems. But these are probably about right for each player in their early 20s.


For Mays, yes, but with this caveat: he was probably somewhere around 170 in 1951 (age 20), and perhaps early 1952 as well. But he was still growing and still filling out, and the contemporary reports on his return from the Army in early 1954 (age 23) invariably comment on how much thicker and stronger his upper body had become. Through most of his career, Mays was listed at 180 or 185, and those figures were probably accurate beginning in '54 or so.
   76. GuyM Posted: August 11, 2014 at 12:49 PM (#4768584)
Edmonds and Mays were indeed impressive humans.

But Trout looks like a cartoon Popeye (post-spinach).
   77. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 11, 2014 at 01:01 PM (#4768595)
Hey Guy,

Since you're here, I'm bumping a discussion (sort of) on the origins of lefthanded hitting/righthanded throwing ballplayers we had a few years back, following up with some research I did. It will be hitting Hot Topics in a second.

   78. The District Attorney Posted: August 11, 2014 at 05:13 PM (#4768849)
DRS or UZR takes a ball of a certain type hit to a certain zone. If Trout catches the ball, he gets compared to what % of balls of that type in that zone are converted to outs. So, if 75% of balls in that zone are outs, he gets credit for +0.25 plays. If he misses it, he gets debited -0.75 plays.

But, a given ball could be relatively easier to catch than a normal ball in that zone. If the real likelihood of an average fielder catching the ball is 90%, Trout is being over credited, or under debited.

Given that we're only talking about 200 plays per year, most of which are routine, a deviation in the average difficulty of chances can majorly skew results.
So you're theorizing that the stats are bouncing around because a guy is getting the difficulty of his chances overrated one year, and then getting them underrated the next? It is indeed very possible. But I think it could also be because he simply is happening to make the plays one year and happening not to make them the next year, even as his "true talent level" remains about the same. As you mention, it all boils down to a few chances that each swing the rating a large amount. It's kinda like backup catcher hitting stats... many of them legitimately do hit .350 one year and .200 the next, just because it's a small sample. I dunno how to tell which one of these possible explanations is occurring in any given situation.

This kind of article pisses me off. I can't exactly put me finger on why though. It's kind of like "Strasburg is having a great season and the criticisms of him are idiotic... but they exist and that matters for some reason." Just seems really wishy washy or something.
I don't read Poz as trying to put Strasburg down here. I think he is legitimately interested in why the Washington fanbase is having such a mixed reaction to Stras's performance. Poz reels off the reasons he can think of why fans might feel this way (loss of velocity, not going far into games, mediocre W-L), but he seems to remain mum about whether he thinks those are good reasons.

Insofar as Poz is trying to say this reaction reflects something special about the Washington fanbase, I mostly disagree. I do think that, given the dire history of Washington baseball, it's a little surprising that it took relatively little success for them to start taking winning for granted. But, I mean, it has been a really good team on paper for a few years now (there were many 100+ win predictions for them last year.) And Strasburg and Harper were both tremendously promising as rookies. I'm not that shocked that the fanbase expects to win, and that they expect Strasburg and Harper to keep improving.

Insofar as Poz is trying to say that the Washington fanbase reacts a certain way because Washington is the political capital, I think that holds no weight at all.

Anyway, the Nats waived Strasburg and Harper.

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