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— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Tuesday, September 03, 2002
One Giambi, two Giambi.
It’s inevitable that two brothers playing in the big leagues will be compared. For no one is that more true than the Giambi brothers—two hitters who lately seem to be as adept at making news as they are at getting on base. Besides the vague reports of Jeremy Giambi misbehaving on an airplane, and Jason Giambi’s nationally televised insult of his former team’s home city, each of the Giambi brothers has been involved in a transaction subject to a great deal of scrutiny. These are, of course, the signing of free agent and older brother Jason by the New York Yankees, and the trading of younger brother Jeremy from the A’s to the Phillies for John Mabry.
If nothing else, those two transactions collectively seem to represent one more yardstick by which the elder Giambi’s superiority is measured. Just about any comparison will yield the same results: Jason is inevitably mentioned as an MVP candidate; Jeremy struggles to get playing time. Jason’s triple crown stats include a .304 batting average, 32 home runs, and 102 RBI; Jeremy has posted a .270 average, hit 19 home runs, and driven in 42. Jason has an OBP of .432 and a slugging percentage of .572; Jeremy is getting on base at a .420 clip and slugging .520.
Based on that, it would be reasonable when speculating as to the difference between the two brothers that Jason has a fair amount more power, walks a little more often, and probably has a better batting average on balls in play than his younger brother. And if you looked at those stats so far in 2002, what would you find?
PLAYER HR/CONTACT TB/H BB/(AB+BB) BABIP Giambi #1 .896 1.93 .198 .316 Giambi #2 .814 1.88 .173 .313 HR/CONTACT = HR/(AB+SF+SH-SO) BABIP = H/(AB+SF+SH-SO-HR)
The surprising fact is not just that the two Giambis are fairly close in all these categories—it’s that Giambi #1 is Jeremy. He’s shown more power than Jason despite many arguments that he would never have that kind of power. And he’s been more likely to walk than Jason, despite Jason’s reputation.
Thus, there’s only one thing left that could account for the difference between Jeremy and Jason in terms on on-base percentage and slugging: strikeouts. Jeremy in 2002 has posted a K/AB rate of .287; Jason’s is only .187. That one fact is what’s keeping Jeremy’s batting average, OBP, and slugging percentage below his brother’s. Here is what each Giambi does when he doesn’t strike out:
PLAYER AVG OBP SLG Jeremy .379 .545 .730 Jason .374 .508 .704
There’s no clear answer as to what this indicates for the future. However, it’s clear that the difference between the two brothers is much less than some think. Given Jeremy’s age, his discipline, and his power (he’s 5th in the majors in BB/(AB+BB) and 11th in HR/contact), the chances seem reasonably good that he will be the more valuable Giambi before his brother’s current contract is up. However, it should be noted that while this is Jeremy’s worst year for strikeouts so far, he has always struck out more often than Jason.
Jeremy’s youth is important, as well. While it’s questionable to apply Jason Giambi’s development pattern to anyone else, it is notable that he did not attain the kind of power and walk rates currently associated with him until his age 29 season, whereas Jeremy has reached his high levels here in his age 27 season. Jeremy’s home runs per contact, home runs per hit, total bases per hit, and walk rate are all higher this year, at age 27, than Jason ever reached before age 29. It’s certainly possible for Jeremy to continue to improve in those categories.
Of course, he needs to be able to play, and that may mean finding a team on which his defense won’t be a liability or a team that feels his offense makes up for his lacking defensive ability. It’s hard to argue, though, that a team committing to Jeremy as a full time first baseman or designated hitter will not only benefit him but also the team.
If Jeremy can reduce his strikeouts, he may well find himself among the league’s most dangerous hitters. But even if he doesn’t, he still has a great deal of value—value which, unfortunately, has largely escaped the notice of not only the media but also his team. Hopefully, that will change, and Jeremy will get a full season next year to show us all what he can do.
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