Think Blue

Obsessing over the Dodgers' minor league system so you don't have to.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

VORPies, A Rod vs Miguel Tejada and the 2005 CY Awards

Now, I know my last post discussing sabermetrics earned rave reviews and all (both) of my regular readers have long awaited its sequel. Unfortunately, I'm not Stephen Colbert and will have to resort to the boring, straight-forward commentary that best suits my thought process.


As I have previously covered, many Baseball writers have vigorously defended Jimmy Rollins' win of the National League MVP award and insulted sabermetrics while doing so. Enter Jon Heyman. Apparently, someone over at sent a letter to Sports Illustrated, questioning the selection of Rollins as NL MVP. Well Heyman shot back by coining a new derogatory term for the stathead community: VORPies!

Rollins acknowledged that his brash "team to beat'' prediction probably helped him win the MVP. Of course, it didn't hurt that he hit 30 home runs, scored 139 runs and slugged .534 while batting leadoff and playing a superb shortstop for a division champion.

First, I'm not sure why saying "we're the team to beat" would help someone win the MVP. Anyone can say it. Maybe Rollins REALLY meant it?

Second, Rollins did have a very good season: 38 Doubles, 20 Triples, 30 HR and 41 SB is impressive. However, his home park and low OBP prevent him from being in the highest echelon of hitters.

And third, the real reason I'm writing this, is the last statement made above. Rollins was playing for a division champion. Does that make him a better player? Does that make Abraham Nunez a good third baseman? Or Adam Eaton a good pitcher? Why should a player (singular) be credited with his team's (plural) performance?

The Rockies' great slugger, Matt Holliday, finished second, but even a Rockies person told me in the playoffs last October that Rollins deserved the MVP, just as that Rockies person believed their shortstop Troy Tulowitzki deserved the Rookie of the Year (the Brewers' Ryan Braun wound up winning a close vote for that award). That person believed that great offense combined with stellar shortstop play should have been enough to take the awards, not a bad thought at all.

Sorry, but one "Rockies person" does not a valid argument make. Matt Holliday was definitely a contender for the award, posting an impressive 150 OPS+ (park-adjusted OPS). However, his playing left field in Coors takes away some of the prestige.

I, like the fellas at, believed David Wright should have won the award. However, Mr Heyman believes differently. After assuming that Hanley Ramirez was written off for playing for a bad team, instead of the real reason (playing terrible defense), he says:

I assume the stats guys favor Wright because he played for a contending team. I guess the rule is this: Highest VORP wins unless the VORP champion is playing for a loser.

Funny, coming from a guy who worked the fact that Rollins played for a "division winner" into his intro. But it gets weirder, as Heyman continues to sneak team records into the conversation.

If Wright's offensive stats were slightly better than Rollins', and I will accept that they were, especially considering the respective ballparks they play in (VORP accounts for ballparks), shouldn't Rollins get points for playing a superb shortstop compared to Wright's slightly-above average third base?

Not sure what Heyman's basing their defense on. It's not Dewan's plus/minus, which has become a staple of the sabermetric community. John Dewan, working with Bill James, has developed a system where every player gets a point for a play that another player at the same position cannot make. If said player doesn't make the play and another does, the first player loses a point. Hence, plus/minus.

In 2007, David Wright scored a +13, whereas Jimmy Rollins scored a +7. So Wright made almost twice as many extra plays as Rollins. I'd say, including the difference between shortstop and third base, that makes them nearly even.

And shouldn't Rollins get credit for showing extraordinary initiative and leadership? For helping his team barrel into the playoffs from seven games back with 17 to go, as opposed to Wright's team, which perpetrated a historic choke?

And here it is. Rollins should get credit for showing extraordinary initiative and leadership for muttering three words that any player on any team can say. Not only that, but Rollins helped his team barrel into the playoffs, when Wright's team suffered a catastrophic meltdown.

But who helped their team more when it came down to the wire? Rollins did play well down the stretch, OPSing .908 in the second half and .875 in September/October. But Wright was even more impressive, OPSing 1.061 in the second half and 1.034 in September/October.

And look at the wording. " opposed to Wright's team." Why should Wright receive blame for his team's disappointment? He was clearly a dominant hitter down the stretch, better than Rollins.

Though the Mets' collapse was no fault of Wright's, for the MVP to come off the all-time choke team, he'd better have a greater advantage in stats than this

Now Heyman simultaneously exonerates and condemns Wright for his team's performance.

Wright outhit Rollins .325 to .296, but both hit 30 home runs and Rollins beat Wright in Runs Created by 13.

Batting average, home runs and runs created? The first two are correct, but the third is off. The boys over at figured out that Heyman was using Runs + RBI - HR. That is not the actual formula for Runs Created. Runs Created uses linear weights for singles, doubles, triples, etc. In reality, Wright created 11 more runs in 67 less PA's than Rollins.

Wright's big advantage apparently comes down to the fact he got on base more often (his on-base percentage was significantly higher, .416 to .344), usually via a walk (he had 94 walks to Rollins' 49). To the stat guys, walking is more thrilling and much more valuable than actually winning the pennant.

Now here's an argument I recognize! "Sabergeeks like walks more than wins!" Of course that's not true. And of course no one in the history of mankind has ever suggested that walking is more thrilling and much more valuable than actually winning the pennant. Stat guys prefer guys who walk more because, on average, they create less outs. Less outs = more opportunities to score runs, more runs = more wins. It's pretty simple, really.

But Heyman ends with a snide remark that once again refers to the outcome of the team, not the player. And it got me thinking: what other controversies have occurred in MVP/CY voting?

2002 AL MVP - Alex Rodriguez vs Miguel Tejada

A season after Barroids broke Big Mac's short-lived homerun record, Alex Rodriguez was playing out the second year of his 10 (7) year contract. And he was looking like a $25 million player. In his first season with the Rangers he batted .318/.399/.622 with 52 HR and 135 RBI. In '02, he was nearly as good, hitting .300/.392/.623 with 57 HR and 142 RBI. But there was a problem: the Rangers weren't winning. In 2001, the Rangers finished 16 games below .500. In 2002, they were 2 games worse.

Meanwhile, in Oakland, Billy Beane's moneyball experiment was working to a T. The budget was low, the win percentage was high and the team had a three-headed monster in their rotation. The A's were coming off a 102 win season in '01, their second straight reaching the playoffs, and despite losing Jason Giambi to the Yankees in the offseason, the team was even better in 2002. However, their 103 win season was wasted as the Athletics lost in 5 games in the divisional series to the Twins.

After the postseason concluded, it seemed like a sure thing that A Rod would win the MVP. 57 HR by a shortstop? 142 RBI? How can you not like that? Well, as it turns out, the writers found something to pick on: the standings. Where Oakland tied the Yankees for the most wins in the league, the Rangers won just 72 games and finished well short of playoff contention. But surely you can't hold A Rod responsible for that...can you? I mean, the guy led the majors in HR, RBI, Total Bases. His VORP was second only to Bonds.

But as it turns out, that wasn't enough. Rodriguez was punished for being on a bad team and lost the MVP race, garnering only 5 of the 28 first place votes. Even though he out-OPS'd Tejada by .150 points, saved 9 more runs on defense and contributed 3.5 more wins to his team. Was it Tejada's ability in the clutch? On the surface, it looks like Tejada edged A Rod with RISP (.375 BA to .364 BA). But delving a little deeper, it was actually A Rod who did more with runners in scoring position (1.224 OPS to .997 OPS). Tejada did lead A Rod with RISP and 2 outs (.969 to .885), but A Rod's Close and Late OPS (.921) was higher than Tejada's (.859).

So the only real reason Tejada won was because his team made the playoffs and A Rod's didn't. Luckily for A Rod (and the integrity of the system), he won the award the following season. My hope had been temporarily restored...temporarily...

To be continued...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Preseason Draft Preview

Even though the 2008 First Year Player Draft is about 4 months away, it's never too early to talk about the prospects who could make their way into the Dodgers' system. Division 1 colleges have a uniform start date, February 22nd, and High School seasons should begin around that time as well. Many players will see their stock rise and fall, so this is more speculation rather than determining what will happen in June.

The Obvious Choices

The Dodgers will pick in the top half of the first round for only the second time since 1994, when they took a prep catcher by the name of Paul Konerko. Selecting with the 15th overall pick should provide the Dodgers scouting staff with plenty of options, and the expected candidates will be found in the high school pitching class. The following players could be found near the top of LA's short list.

Jarret Martin, LHP (Centennial HS, CA)

A scouting report on this southpaw caught my eye and led me to tag him as the likeliest pick for the Dodgers in June. At 6'3 200 lbs, he has plenty of size to go along with a good amount of projection and watching video of him convinced me that he should add muscle (and velocity) down the road. He models his delivery after Scott Kazmir's, though Martin comes more over the top. His arm action is compact and clean and there's very little effort in his delivery. His fastball has plus velocity for a lefty, sitting in the low 90s with good natural movement. His curveball is his best pitch, with depth and sharp, late break. Jarret's changeup is remedial but it could be a dependable pitch for him in the future.

The downside for Martin isn't too serious, though he has some work to do. In the Cape Cod High School Classic, he struck out the first batter he faced, but the batter reached on a wild pitch and it all went downhill from there. His release point is inconsistent, which leads to erratic command. Still, only two players put balls in play during the game and neither of them reached base safely, which is a testament to his pure stuff. With some refinement, the Dodgers could have something close to another Clayton Kershaw on their hands.

Brett DeVall, LHP (Niceville HS, FL)

Another lefty, DeVall is more a finesse pitcher but that's not to say his stuff isn't good. DeVall's fastball sits around 90mph, but his ability to spot it where he wants is advanced for a high school pitcher. Like Martin, DeVall also owns a plus curveball that he has no problems locating. His changeup has the potential to be a third above average pitch due to his pitchability and command.

The difference between DeVall and Martin is ultimate ceiling. DeVall reminds me of current Oakland A's prospect Brett Anderson, in that he has a big frame, great command and a limited ceiling. Brett is already pretty big in his lower body and doesn't offer a ton of projection down the road. However, like Anderson, DeVall should have no problems early in pro ball and could sail through the lower levels with ease.

Scott Silverstein, LHP (St John's Prep, MD)

Silverstein is a bit of a sleeper at this point, but there have been rumors that a growth spurt has this lefty pumping mid 90s heat from a 6'6 frame. Silverstein has a strong delivery, though it's not high effort. It reminds me a little of Randy Johnson's. He knows how to add and subtract velocity from his heater, as well as sink and cut it. His curveball is his go-to breaking ball and his changeup is usable as well.

There hasn't been confirmation of his stuff from draft experts, and pitching the northeast will force scouts to wait to see for themselves. However, if his fastball is sitting in the mid 90s and he can maintain that type of velocity throughout the spring, he'd definitely be in contention to be one of the first prep players taken come June.

He Wouldn't, Would He?

To assume that Logan White and the Dodgers would take anything but a prep pitcher with their first overall pick would be crazy. Or would it? If White decides to buck the trend and take a high school hitter, the following could get the nod.

Aaron Hicks, OF (Wilson HS, CA)

As a potential 5 tool CF, there may not be a player in the draft that can match Hicks' skillset. Hicks offers pure hitting ability and power potential from both sides of the plate. His speed grades out as well above average, allowing him to fly around the basepaths and cover tons of ground in center. But Aaron's best tool might be his arm, which allows him to pump mid 90s fastballs off the mound.

Hicks could improve his approach at the plate, as well as his balance from the left side. While he can generate pretty good bat speed, Aaron's power doesn't profile well if he doesn't add muscle to his lanky frame. Still, Hick's ceiling is considerable and he could be gone by the time the Dodgers pick.

Kyle Skipworth, C (Patriot HS, CA)

A towering HR in the AFLAC All American game and a strong showing in the World Wood Bat Association tournament sent Skipworth soaring towards the top of most draft lists. Skipworth's projectable defensive skills and offensive prowess garner comparisons to Joe Mauer, and Kyle has plenty of athleticism to boot. His best defensive tool is his arm.

Skipworth still needs to work on blocking balls in the dirt and the nuances of being a receiver behind the plate. Given his size (6'3 190), there is a chance he could outgrow catcher and have to move to third base or the outfield, which would lessen his value. But his bat should play anywhere and he should be a top 10 pick this year.

Isaac Galloway, OF (Los Osos HS, CA)

Another 5 tool CF, Galloway had problems with injuries over the summer that limited his exposure and caused his draft stock to drop. But he shows a solid approach at the plate with power potential, which along with his speed and arm strength should see him become a sure-fire first rounder. He has plenty of experience playing in tournaments and showcases.

Galloway has some holes in his swing. He tends to like the ball down around the knees and struggles when it's elevated. There's also the concern about his injuries, though there hasn't been much talk of it in draft circles. With a healthy spring, Galloway could contend with Hicks to be the first prep centerfielder from CA taken in the draft.

Harold Martinez, SS (Braddock HS, FL)

A personal favorite of mine, Martinez was robbed of two hits in the AFLAC game by Robbie Grossman. Still, Martinez shows the tools to be a first round pick. He generates very good bat speed with a wide base and projects to fill out his lean frame which will add lots of power projection down the road. A good athlete, Harold currently plays shortstop and has played second base in some events. His arm rates as plus-plus.

Martinez' frame is perfect for a prep hitter, in that he has current lean muscle and should add more as he physically matures. That could lead to him moving off of shortstop, but he does profile well at third base. His speed is only average. As a shortstop with good pure hitting ability and power projection, Martinez could be drafted in the top 10 this summer.

He Couldn't, Could He?

After the Luke Hochevar fiasco, it's almost unimaginable that Logan White would elect to draft a college player with his first pick. But stranger things have happened. Here are some possibilities.

Brandon Crawford, SS (UCLA)

From a pure tools perspective, Crawford is in an elite class. He has plus bat speed and generates plus power from the left side of the plate. He has plus speed which he uses well on the basepaths. And he's a good defender at short with a rocketlauncher attached to his shoulder. He improved from .318/.378/.500 in his freshman season to .335/.405/.504 last year.

Even as a college junior, Crawford remains very raw. He swings and misses too often and has struggled mightily to hit with wood during the summer. At shortstop, he'll make an extraordinary play and commit an error on a routine one. But the tools are undeniable and his ceiling is that of an All Star.

Gordon Beckham, SS (Georgia)

Another 5 tool shortstop, Beckham led the Cape Cod league in HR and RBI last summer. His bat is legit from both sides of the plate and he could profile as a middle-of-the-order type down the road. His defense at shortstop is fine and he can run the bases well.

Beckham's glove will not garner him any awards and there's question about his ability to stay at short. He could make the transition to second base, which would still leave him as a middle infielder with a live bat. Either way, he's bound to be a high pick this June.

Christian Friedrich, LHP (Eastern Kentucky)

While Eastern Kentucky is not known as a prospect breeding ground, there's a good chance that they produce a first round pick this year in Friedrich. The big lefty should garner comparisons to Barry Zito thanks to his strong frame and ridiculous curveball. Christian's bender should be the best in the draft class and is easily a plus-plus pitch. His fastball has average velocity for a lefty, sitting in the high 80s. He showed his ability to dominate hitters last summer in the Cape Cod league, striking out 52 in 37 innings.

The main knock on Friedrich is his command, or lack thereof. He walked 24 hitters in the Cape and 36 in 81 innings as a sophomore. He'll need to cut down on those to solidify his position in the first round, though there's little chance that he'll drop out of it altogether. He could be the second college pitcher taken, after Brian Matusz, if he continues to dominate inferior competition this spring.

That's all for know. Be sure to check back once the amateur and pro seasons start up, as there will be content added regularly.