Creeping Inexorably Toward A Worthwhile Sub-Heading.
Tuesday, March 02, 2004
Jumping the Gun
I'll be doing a full preview of the Pirates for the Know Your Enemy series on Friday, but I couldn't let this pass without comment.
It's the work of Brian O'Neill of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, also known as The Stats Geek. In my previous, though limited, exposure to his work, I'd found him to be a welcome change; his occasional use of logic easily separating him from other fishwrap scribes. But this time, he left his logic in his locker.
The piece attempts to explore if Craig Wilson deserves a full time job. In it, O'Neill provides four reasons for his argument, which would be excellent if the reasons weren't contradictory with the argument resolving to a resounding maybe.
One of his rationalizations revolves around the acquisition of Randall Simon as a platoon partner, and another around Wilson's ability in the field. He concludes that Simon was a silly acquisition when you could have kept Matt Stairs around, and that Wilson isn't so bad with the glove. I'm not sure why the Simon jabs get in here (he fails to fully relate it to Wilson's status), but they are certainly appropriate, and while O'Neill uses the unfortunate Range Factor statistic to tell us that Wilson is a passable outfielder, I've seen other metrics, like those at Baseball Prospectus, that back up the assertion as well.
So, we have one point that may not belong, and one point in Wilson's favor. The other two argue against using Wilson full time, but I think I can help with that. Let's look at point the first:
Why sign right fielder Raul Mondesi, a right-handed batter like Wilson, if he is only going to take Wilson's playing time away?
The short answer can be found on the Web site baseball-reference.com. Borrowing on a concept developed by baseball numbers guru Bill James, this site allows you to punch in a player's name and find the player he is most like in baseball history. The match for Mondesi is Reggie Sanders.
O'Neill is, of course, referring to Similarity Scores. I like Similarity Scores. Similarity Scores are fun. Other fun things are Jenga, Waterslides, and Whirlyball, but you won't see me confusing them with objective analysis.
In the last three years, Raul Mondesi's batting line has been .251/.330/.456, while Reggie Sanders' has been .265/.335/.521. If you want Reggie Sanders, I would suggest getting the real deal.
Point the second finally deals directly with the subject of the piece. Here's the quote:
Unfortunately, most pitchers are right-handed, a species against which Wilson has considerably less success. His numbers in 202 at-bats against right-handers were .238/.320/.416. It's great that Wilson hit left-handers harder than Gary Sheffield hits them, but against right-handers, Wilson does a passable impression of Kevin Young.
Which is why you need Mondesi, because he'll hit better against right-handers, yes?
Ooops. Those are three years of numbers against righties, which tell us more than 202 at bats do, and Wilson comes out on top. It's awfully close, though, so maybe Mondesi does more damage against lefties.
Or, maybe not. Granted, Mondesi performs well against port-siders, but what Wilson does to them is illegal in seven states. You can learn the name of one of those states by seeing where Shawn Estes pitches this year.
The idea that anyone else on the Pirates roster deserves time over Wilson is patently ridiculous. Maybe Mr. O'Neill was handed an assignment by his editor and told to make some sense, any sense, out of Wilson's likely lack of playing time. I hope that's the case because he deserves a shot, at least according to this stats geek.