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The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals, and three run homers.
-- Earl Weaver

Josh Towers provided the pitching, throwing his first shutout as a Blue Jay and the second of his career. Alex Rios and Gregg Zaun hit the three-run homers. Zaun drove in five runs, Koskie and Hillenbrand also went deep... oh, it was brutal. And deeply, fundamentally satisfying.

All this and more, but they were talking about something else in both clubhouses after the game, as the good Dr Prison Fence reports in Battery powers Blue Jays to rout of O's.

Here's what John Gibbons thought of Daniel Cabrera throwing a 95 mph fastball towards Eric Hinske's head:

"I thought it was gutless."

As you can imagine, Hinske himself wasn't too pleased:

"It was a 2-0 pitch, and he threw a fastball right at my head. It definitely seemed like he tried to do it on purpose, which is why I was so upset... That's wrong. That's just wrong."

But they weren't too pleased in the other clubhouse, either. Cabrera had nothing to say, but manager Sam Perlozzo did:

"It certainly didn't look good. I'll talk to him later about that. It's not something that I like to see happen."

Catcher Sal Fasano was considerably more outspoken:

"He's going to learn the hard way because we're probably going to get somebody hurt tomorrow. And those guys are probably going to throw at somebody. And is it their fault? No. Whose fault is it?
It's unfortunate, but that's how baseball is played. And somebody on our team is probably going to get hit tomorrow."

Well, enough of that. I actually don't really expect Dave Bush to go head-hunting, although he's been known to hit the occasional batter in the head when that 65 mph curveball of his doesn't break. I seem to recall him hitting Miguel Tejada with one earlier this year.

Now I sure as hell wouldn't want to get hit anywhere by a baseball even at 65 mph, but major leaguers generally consider it beneath them to even rub the spot when that happens. So, on to other business.

The Rookie Rob mocks me, most recently under the guise of Edgar Allan Poe - see, if you haven't already, Tigers 9, Blue Jays 8: The Tell-Tale Table.

Yes, yes, he tasks me, and I shall have him, in the immortal words of Khan Noonian Singh. But let's face facts. I just can't help myself. And so here is a data table:

	        4/1   4/11  4/21  5/1   5/11  5/21  6/1   6/11  6/21  7/1  7/11  7/21  8/1  
Adams	        9.76  2.67  2.29 11.53  0.51  6.00  3.03  2.61  7.88  7.13  6.36  8.81 12.55
Catalanotto	5.87  6.84  1.87  9.73  3.04 13.50 17.34  3.89  3.23  6.46 26.25  6.56  1.02
Hill		----  ----  ----  ---- 27.00 11.48  4.89 17.88  5.06  7.52  0.48  0.45  7.50
Hillenbrand	8.28 14.06  7.72  5.21  6.77  3.33  2.87 13.67  3.40  8.24  4.35  7.84  8.73
Hinske	       14.00  5.83  5.33  5.44  5.18  8.74  0.63  3.05  3.18  4.15  5.40  7.74  8.52
Hudson	        4.55  3.81  6.26  3.68  5.76  4.07  1.64  1.78  8.46 25.75  5.93  6.06  3.64
Johnson	        7.35  6.72  7.49  8.72  6.71  9.01  3.30  1.29  1.41 11.17  4.63  8.18  6.74
Koskie	        4.09  4.86  6.14  5.47  4.25  ----  ----  ----  ----  ----  ----  4.70  3.47
Rios	       15.90  2.41  9.74  2.40 13.03  2.35  3.82  6.86  6.74  2.67 12.35  3.26  8.83
Wells	        5.46  1.75  3.86  2.76  9.87  8.44 10.40  3.84 11.12  6.53 12.02  8.42  8.45
Zaun	        4.78 15.72  6.86  ----  3.67  5.79  2.19  3.23  9.57 10.99 15.68  1.24  4.71
What on earth, you're asking yourself, do all these numbers represent? Well, they are the Runs Created per 27 Outs of all the Jays major hitters, broken into 10 day chunks.

There has been discussion off and on, particularly centred on Orlando Hudson, of "streaky" hitters. Everybody says this about Hudson, and no one bothers to actually look into it. I wanted to, but I couldn't think of a sensible method. (But it was always clear to me that there needed to be context - you couldn't just look at Hudson, you would at least have to examine his teammates in the same fashion.)

I didn't want to just see how batting averages rose and fell every 10 days. I wanted to see what happened within the ten days. This way, I thought, we could see who was streaky, who was slump-prone, who was steady. I'm thinking a streaky hitter is someone who might .140 for two weeks and then suddenly hit .450 for two weeks. Someone who was slump-prone might be rolling along fairly steadily, but then fall into a long (longer than 10 days) prolonged funk, and then return to normal.

I wasn't going to use batting average as my single number to track. I would use the old standby, Runs Created. Seeing as how not everyone gets the same kind of playing time, I would use Runs Created Per 27 Outs used. (While OPS would be convenient, and probably show much the same thing, OPS offends my sense of logic.)

So I made that data table, that you have briefly glanced at, groaning about the Magpie and his rows of numbers. "Whoop-de-dam-doo", you're saying. I feel your pain.

But last week, Rob the Rook (showing off no doubt), dropped a few pretty graphs into one of his pieces, tracking a few batting averages over the course of the season. And EUREKA! quoth the Magpie - this is the tool I require. Even an old dog can learn new tricks.

So this time I have more for you. I have provided a visual accompaniment to these dry and heartless numbers. Behold!

Well, that's confusing as all hell, isn't it? It will be much easier to look at everyone separately, no?

The average AL hitter has created 4.39 runs per 27 outs this year, which is the baseline you'll see running through each of these pretty pictures. We'll begin with Russ Adams:

Adams, as you can see, was very much up and down through the two and a half months of the season, although the downs generally outnumbered the ups. Three productive periods appear like spikes in his chart - but since the middle of June, he's been going from strength to strength.

Here's the Cat:

Now that looks like one streaky hitter, folks. He goes right through the roof in three of my 10 day periods (RC/27 of 13.5, 17.3, and 26.3. But it should be noted that in all three of those huge spikes he was playing considertably less than usual. Two of them overlap his absence on bereavement leave, and the other is during the All-Star Break. The sample size gets a little small on each occasion.

Next, we have the new kid on the block:

Among other things, this shows us what a real nasty slump looks like. Hill stopped hitting completely for a while there - he went 3-32 and 3-29 in the two periods beginning on July 11 and July 21 - and if you had nine guys in your lineup hitting like that, you'd probably get shut out more often than not. Imagine the other pitcher throwing a three-hitter every night. Basically, Hill was looking longingly at achieving the giddy and dizzying heights of Ken Huckaby-type production for three weeks. It's the worst stretch any of the regulars have had this year, by far.

Here is Aaron's new favourite player... have you collected the spoils yet? Enjoying the fruit of your winnings?

Shea has been fairly steady. He has a couple of major spikes, where he goes right through the roof - these are the April 11 and June 11 segments, when he got up to 14.1 and 13.7. Even his fallow periods have not been a total loss - he was able to contribute a little to the offense, if not always a whole lot.

OK. Time for the Dude.

No one is going to believe me, but... For most of the season, Hinske has been a steady and a productive hitter. I know he's everybody's favourite whipping boy, and I think it's because when Hinske makes an out, he's usually flailing helplessly at a breaking ball, and cursing loudly as he storms back to the dugout. Whereas other guys are at least hitting fly balls, or popping out to an infielder, or grounding into double plays. (I know you all remember the GDP from the other night - but Hillenbrand, Johnson, Koskie, Rios, Hudson, Wells, and Catalanotto all hit into more double plays per plate appearance than Hinske.)

However, like Aaron Hill so far in his very short career, Hinske appears to be vulnerable to the prolonged slump. And his slumps, off the evidence of this season, can be real doozies. (That's a technical term, don't worry about it.) At the beginning of June, Hinske suddenly started hitting like a pitcher, and it took him more than a month to get himself straightened out. June happened, and it counts - but when you take it out of his numbers, Hinske is hitting .283, .357, .471.

Next is the guy that everybody describes as a streaky hitter, the O-Dog himself:

Actually, Hudson's been a fair bit like Hinske. He's generally been fairly productive most of the time, although at a somewhat lower level than Hinske - Hudson doesn't hit for as many extra bases and he doesn't draw nearly as many walks. Also like Hinske, the O-Dog stopped hitting at the beginning of June. He was coming out of it when he tweaked his hamstring just before the All Star Break - that huge spike where his RC/27 skied to 25.8 covers just 15 at bats. Since the break, he's returned to normal. Generally steady and productive, with fairly normal ups and downs.

Reed Johnson plays on energy and enthusiasm, hustle and adrenaline. When it runs down, his production bottoms out.

After playing a lot, and playing very well, over the first two months, Johnson started to sag in June. The most at bats Johnson had over any 10 day period was in the segment beginning on May 21. Johnson played well over those ten days, but stopped hitting almost completely immediately afterward. But after his workload was reduced (Sparky batted just 16 times in the 10 day period begininng on June 21) - PRESTO! He was restored! And the Boston Red Sox were the guys that found out about it first...

The Anola Guy has spent much of the season on the DL, but here's his chart anyway:

This is interesting to me because his production has so far stayed within shouting distance of the league average baseline. Koskie has historically been a player who can get very very hot, one way or another - last year he was hitting his home runs in bunches, the year before he hit .408 in one month, and the year before that he had two different months when he hit better than .350. I think he's very close to starting one of those runs right about now.

Next - well, his name is Rios, and he dances on the sand:

Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is a streaky hitter. That is what it looks like. We have located and identified the species. Everything in Rios' line is either a peak or a valley. There's no prolonged rut, like what happened to Hinske, or Hudson, or Hill. Rios is up one week, down the next, up the next. But all this come with a big so far - like Hill and Adams, Rios is still a developing hitter. And in some ways, he may be even more of a work in progress than Hill or Adams, who strike me as having already more or less defined what type of offensive players they're going to be. Well, at least more than Rios has, anyway.

Vernon Wells. The best hitter on the team, OK? No argument accepted.

We all know about Vernon's season. He didn't do much in April, as usual, and since then he's been super. Basically, since the first of May, he has been consistently hitting the crap out of the ball. Even his worst period is pretty decent.

And finally, Going Going...

Zaun has been a streaky offensive player as well. The rhythm of it is not nearly as radical as what we see from Rios, but the basic pattern is quite similar. Great big peaks, and pretty deep valleys - it's just that in Zaun's case, both the peaks and valleys last a bit longer than they do for Rios.

I left out the bench guys, because the sample sizes over 10 day periods just get way too small. The highest RC/27 figure posted over a 10 day period by any Blue Jay was actually posted by Frank Menechino over the 10 days beginning on June 10. Mouse was creating runs at the rate of 274.6 per game. That's right. If you had nine guys in your lineup hitting like Menechino did during that period, you'd score 275 runs in a game.

You're all wondering what the hell Menechino did from June 11 to June 20, aren't you?

He batted .800, which will keep the innings going and going for quite some time. His OBP was .900, and his slugging perentage - 2.000. Yes, he went 4-5, with 2 home runs, was hit by a pitch, and drew 4 bases on balls. He reached base in 9 of 10 plate appearances, and had 10 total bases in his five at bats.

Now that's bench production!

Anyway, it seems fairly clear to me that the streakiest hitters on the team this year have been Rios, especially, and Zaun. The steadiest have been Wells and Hillenbrand. The guys who have run into extended slumps have been Hinske, Hill, and Hudson.

My work is done.

Jays 12, Orioles 0 (Updated) - Quoth the Magpie, "Data Table" | 50 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Mylegacy - Friday, August 12 2005 @ 10:28 PM EDT (#125416) #
You heard it here first, Rios hits at least 30 dingers next year. Effortless, smooth power.

My oh my!!!
R Billie - Friday, August 12 2005 @ 10:29 PM EDT (#125417) #
The Jays showed me something important in this game. Outside of the good performance by Towers who seems to love pitching in Camden, they put up 4 runs taking advantage of an error in the 1st inning but then did not fold up the offence for the rest of the game.

Each inning thereafter they continued to grind Cabrera until he was out of the game and when he was they ground the relief pitchers and hit a lot of mistakes hard. I was somewhat shocked that Rios was able to hit that low splitter out on an 0-2 count but I think we're getting hints of his power in fits and starts.

Towers did exactly what he had to do eventhough I don't think he was at his best tonight. The O's hit a lot of balls hard in the early going and a lot of drives reached the warning track.

Josh improved his location enough to start setting them down consistently until the 9th when he started hanging sliders. And the Orioles finally realized that opposite field hitting might be more effective than front foot hitting.

But as soon as that linedrive went to right field in line with Rios and the runner was sent I knew there would be a play...and it's nice to have a right fielder who can give you that. I'm not sure if the O's made the right call by sending the runner trying to break the shutout or the wrong call by sending the runner in a 12-0 game with Rios the arm you're challenging. I would go with the latter.
John Northey - Friday, August 12 2005 @ 10:29 PM EDT (#125418) #
Now that was fun to watch. Especially Rios thowing out the runner to end it. Who'd have thought the Jays would score 12 runs with the 1-2-3 hitter going 0-13?
the mick - Friday, August 12 2005 @ 10:39 PM EDT (#125419) #
Commentators have the interesting habit of always trying to establish a game as one that could define a team's season. A turning point. It's a bit absurd to think that within a 162 game season, one game could make a difference. I know when Gross nailed the Devil Ray runner at the plate in extra innings, and the Jays went on to win that one, that game was the flavour du jour. For me, I don't think it's a defining game, but I'm pretty proud of how the Jays have played after Monday's night game against Detroit, a game they were that close to winning (Zaunie doesn't swing at the 3-1 in the 9th, they win), a loss that could have deflated them, but they've battled on. For them to now be five games over five hundred with Doc still on the sidelines, bravo to each and every contributing player on that roster.
Rob - Friday, August 12 2005 @ 11:11 PM EDT (#125420) #
My God, that was brutal baserunning by Chris Gomez tonight.

Maybe he just wanted to get it over with, but still...even if he might have scored, it's still a "Rios To Zaun And You Are Gone" situation.

StephenT - Friday, August 12 2005 @ 11:41 PM EDT (#125421) #
I still think the 3-1 pitch to Zaun was a strike (Monday).
dr. haque - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 12:00 AM EDT (#125422) #
Great win for the Jays tonite, if only those Yankees or those damn Red Sox would lose. Its so good after years of suffering to watch the Jays play meaningful games in August. I love those Fightin Jays. I am gonna start enquiring bout Jays playoff tickets!!!!!!
WOOO HOOOO!!!!
Mark J - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 12:53 AM EDT (#125426) #
A bit offtopic, sorry... but does anyone know how they decide which network is used for the Extra Innings broadcasts of particular games. I.e. last night it was YES for the Yankees game and tonight was the Rangers' crew (Fox / WXXA?).
Alexander - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 03:23 AM EDT (#125433) #
Dear MyLegacy,

I assume you have good intentions, and optimism can be a good thing, but the odds of Rios hitting 30 dingers next year are about as likely as Roger Clemens, David Wells, and Barry Bonds all demanding trades to Toronto.

Regards,

Alex
CeeBee - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 09:52 AM EDT (#125434) #
The more I see Rios play and slowly develop the more I think there could not only be a star lurking in there but maybe even a superstar. It may be a small chance but he has ALL the tools and its my honest believe that one day he will be a 30-30 man and lead the league in outfield assists, at least if they keep running on him. His only drawback may be himself, and how far he wants to push his game.
CeeBee - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 09:55 AM EDT (#125435) #
Magpie, You did a great job on the charts. Thank you so very much for your hard work as they really do provide a perfect window into the Jays offence and how even 2 players struggling for an extended time (june) can drag the rest of the team down.
hugh - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 10:29 AM EDT (#125437) #
Magpie, that was great reading. Keep up the good work.
VBF - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 10:38 AM EDT (#125438) #
Hislegacy, Rance Mulliniks also believes the same thing. Not like his opinion is the be all and end all, but if you believe that power is the last tool to develop, then a 30 homer Rios is quite possible.

Excellent graphs Magpie, I knew you'd prove my 'O-Dog is a streaky hitter' theory wrong (although maybe one day we could see a career RC graph). I was sort of hoping for a Ken Huckaby graph, just to have something to mercilessly laugh at for an extended period of time.
VBF - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 10:40 AM EDT (#125439) #
I assume you have good intentions, and optimism can be a good thing, but the odds of Rios hitting 30 dingers next year are about as likely as Roger Clemens, David Wells, and Barry Bonds all demanding trades to Toronto.

I think that sounds like an NFH challenge if you ask me. Err, I mean about Rios hitting 30 dingers....not the latter. NFH?

Craig B - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 10:56 AM EDT (#125440) #
A Huckaby graph? No problem!

_________________________________________ League






_________________________________________ Replacement





















_________________________________________ Huck

I love the Huck as much as anyone, but let's face it - this year has been an offensive disappointment, even for him.
Flex - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 11:06 AM EDT (#125441) #
Wow, what a great piece of analysis. Let me tell you, it held my attention even as my wife was in my office trying to talk to me about packing for our two-week holiday starting tomorrow. So that's some pretty stellar work.

Take care of my Jays while I'm gone.
Flex - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 11:09 AM EDT (#125442) #
BTW, though yours is interesting too, Craig B, I want to make clear I was referring to Magpie's charts.
VBF - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 11:10 AM EDT (#125443) #
I love the Huck as much as anyone, but let's face it - this year has been an offensive disappointment, even for him.

Haha. Imagine what his kids have to go through at school.

Bully: What does your dad do.
Kid: He's a Major League Baseball player
Bully: What's his name?
Kid: Ken Huckaby
School: HAHAHAHAHAHA.

Pistol - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 11:12 AM EDT (#125444) #
"No one is going to believe me, but... For most of the season, Hinske has been a steady and a productive hitter"

Unfortunately he plays 1B and the chart includes all positions. Among his peers he's not so hot:

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/statistics/sortable/index.php?cid=34926
westcoast dude - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 11:16 AM EDT (#125445) #
I would be nervous about betting against Rios hitting 30 dingers next year, coming off a 3 homer week, so far. Ten 2-out RBIs for Our Boys last night is encouraging, as well.
How about Mr. Dinger himself? Vlad launched a couple solo Saturn moon shots at Safeco last night, on the way to destroying my latest harebrained theory on how to beat the Angels: just pitch around him or limit him to solo shots.
That next series is going to be playoff baseball. I predict good things from our young guns from California, Hill and Adams.
Pistol - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 11:22 AM EDT (#125446) #
And while I'm in VORP numbers, here are the Jays this year with a min of 200 PAs:
#	NAME	        VORP
1.	Vernon Wells	28.5
2.	Sh Hillenbrand	28.5
3.	Russ Adams	21.0
4.	Gregg Zaun	18.6
5.	Aaron Hill	13.0
6.	Frk Catalanotto	12.7
7.	Reed Johnson	 9.5
8.	Alexis Rios	 9.2
9.	Orlando Hudson	 8.2
10.	Eric Hinske	 6.1
11.	Corey Koskie	 1.5
For all the talk that LF needs an upgrade Freed Johnalanotto has been quite decent at 22.2 VORP combined which would be 5th in the AL. Nothing special, but it's not killing the team.
Chuck - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 11:38 AM EDT (#125447) #
It's the guys who look like athletes that'll break your heart every time, or at least a lot of the time. Long and lean, great arm, great swing (sometimes)... Will Rios continue developing? I don't pretend to know.

His age-23 numbers: 286/338/383

His age-24 numbers: 287/334/437

He has added 50 points of pop without sacrificing OBP. That has definitely been positive. But he's going to have continue his growth, be in OBP, SLG or both, in order to become an effective corner outfielder.

What I'd like to see is for him to now show an improvement in his command of the strike zone. And this is where my pessimism lies. Surely it's not unprecedented for a young player to make great strides in this area, but I think it's far from a given that he will. That said, there was another rightfielder in these parts, a guy named Green, who had a similar profile to Rios' before seriously elevating his game.

I will concede that when Rios looks good, he looks good and its easy for emotion to rule the day in forecasting his potential.

mistermike - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 12:33 PM EDT (#125450) #
You heard it here first, Rios hits at least 30 dingers next year. Effortless, smooth power.

I also read an offseason comment on this site saying that Dave Bush would be an AL All-Star in 2005 (!!), so I'll let this little bit of unfounded homerism slide as well ;-)

Magpie - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 01:07 PM EDT (#125451) #
Here it is, then, by popular demand, Ken Huckaby. Accept no substitutes:

Where did those spikes come from? Very small smaples. From April 21-30, Huck went 1-2 (it was a double). And from July 1-10, Huck went 2-5.

The two periods beginning May 21 and June 1 are unprecedented in their badness. He made outs in every plate appearance. The June 11 figure represents only 2 plate appearances - he went 0-1 with a walk.

The figure for May 11 is the only one where Huckaby has more than 20 at bats.

Mylegacy - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 01:15 PM EDT (#125453) #
I have to be honest about Rios...power really comes on starting at 25 years, usually, remember, Fred McGriff only came up to stay when he was 25. It's possible Rios will only hit 25 dingers next year BUT in 07 that kid will hit 30+ dingers or I'll eat his autographed jockies. ECK!


TJ Caino - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 01:16 PM EDT (#125454) #
""I also read an offseason comment on this site saying that Dave Bush would be an AL All-Star in 2005 (!!), so I'll let this little bit of unfounded homerism slide as well ;-)""

It's not just homerism though. If you watch the highlight of his dinger last nite on MLB.com, the Baltimore guys seem to be convinced of Rios having found his swing.

Also, courtesy of AN, pics of the new stadium:
http://www.athleticsnation.com/

It's is truly a goegeous building.

Magpie - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 01:22 PM EDT (#125455) #
Unfortunately he plays 1B and the chart includes all positions. Among his peers he's not so hot:

The chart Pistol links to shows Hinske in 31st place among 36 first basemen. Which is not so hot at all.

I'm honestly somewhat uncertain about the usefulness of comparing a player to his "peers" - that is, the guys who play the same position - when you're looking at his performance. Obviosuly, it is extremely useful and important on what we might think of as the GM level, the team-building level.

But at the "game" level, I'm not so sure. Here he's just another hitter out of nine in the lineup. Nobody goes to the plate as a shortstop or a first baseman. Everybody goes to the plate as a hitter. So I don't quite know what to think.

And that makes me crazy...

Anyway, my original thought was that for most of the season Hinske has been steady and productive. He just hit a Slump From Hell at the beginning of June. His numbers without June look a fair bit like Palmeiro's, who stands 16th out of the 36 first baseman.

Those excuses made, the fact is... June happened. And it counts.

Mike Green - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 01:50 PM EDT (#125457) #
By a number of measures, Shea Hillenbrand has actually been the most productive Jay offensively. They're neatly summarized here.

I was skeptical that he could produce a full season like this, but the fact is that he is almost there. He has been an above average defensive first baseman, and an above average offensive one, as well.

As for Rios, it's been a useful development year for him. He's only 24, and it's quite clear that he has the ability to make contact and to hit for power and play right-field well. What is important is that he continues to grow, and not how that growth occurs. If he hits .315 with 16 homers and 45 walks in 2006, that would be great. His hero Roberto Clemente did that at age 25.
Craig B - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 01:57 PM EDT (#125459) #
Unfortunately he plays 1B and the chart includes all positions. Among his peers he's not so hot

I'm sorry, but nobody hits as a shortstop, outfielder, first baseman or DH. Hitters are just hitters. The only reason Eric Hinske hasn't played shortstop is that John Gibbons hasn't asked him to.

The fact that a few extremely productive hitters happen to play first base this year, or right field or what have you, doesn't make one iota of difference when you are analyzing a hitter's contribution. The fact that a group of other catchers have an off year doesn't make any particular catcher's performance any better.

Comparing him to the other hitters on his team, that does make a lot of sense. Yes, the positional-average comp is the kind of consideration that might be (secondarily) important for a GM to make but 95% of the time, I think it's an irrelevant standard of comparison. Why not compare Hinske to other lefthanded hitters, or former third basemen?

When people make the positional-average comparison, they are trying to make some sort of adjustment for defensive value. But that's a completely terrible way of doing it - it actually provides much more distortion than it corrects for, because players at the same position are not even close in defensive value. I know that we sometimes pretend that just standing out at shortstop has defensive value, but it doesn't - only a player's actual contributions with the glove to making outs and preventing runs have defensive value.

Argh. Forgive me this rant, crucial though my point is. I'm frustrated because John Gibbons is playing his best defensive first baseman at DH half the time, because he's stuck in the doldrums with the bat. Which makes almost no sense to me.

Magpie - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 01:57 PM EDT (#125460) #
Shea Hillenbrand has actually been the most productive Jay offensively.

I can see that, but I have no doubt whatsoever that by the time the season is over (and the further away we get from April), Wells will have passed him.

Craig B - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 01:59 PM EDT (#125461) #
And I just realized that Magpie and I said exactly the same thing. I should read the whole thread before hitting "reply". Anyway, Magpie is right.
Magpie - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 02:07 PM EDT (#125463) #
Well, you said it better. And with considerably more vigour!

I know that we sometimes pretend that just standing out at shortstop has defensive value

Well, I suppose it does in fantasy ball. Is it possible that this approach sometimes distorts the way people look at the real games? Or am I just channelling Griffin or someone.

Jim - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 02:10 PM EDT (#125465) #
I agree with Magpie, especially since Hinske could move back to third, not be so horrible relative to his 'peers' and he's been a better offensive player then Koskie this year. It's been a decent year for JP, he's gotten great work from Hillenbrand and the team has been very competitive even with Halladay injured, but the Koskie signing was just plain bad.
Mike Green - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 02:11 PM EDT (#125466) #
Well, how about putting it this way. Eric Hinske has been a below average hitter, and has made no little defensive contribution, so that in the result he has made just above replacement contributions to his club each of the last 3 seasons. That is summarized here.
Magpie - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 02:14 PM EDT (#125467) #
I also read an offseason comment on this site saying that Dave Bush would be an AL All-Star in 2005.

I didn't say that! No way!

I said he reminded me of Jimmy Key and Bret Saberhagen.

Go ahead. Mock me.

Jim - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 02:20 PM EDT (#125468) #
I think it would be a bigger deal if Hinske was actually taking at-bats away from a player who would be more productive. It's not like Eric Crozier or Simon Pond deserved his at-bats.
Craig B - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 02:33 PM EDT (#125469) #
Jim's point is the key one here. "Replacement" by whose definition, Mike? Who is the replacement?
R Billie - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 02:53 PM EDT (#125471) #
In the sense of your lineup production once your roster is set, it does not matter where you get your production from...80% of could come from your middle infielder, catcher, and centerfielder. Or 80% could come from your corner players and DH.

But there's a major problem in ignoring position when judging what a player's offensive value is...different positions require different levels of defensive ability. Centerfield and middle infield require a lot of athleticism to play well. Catching requires a lot of agility, stamina, and intangibles. Therefore players who can both hold their own defensively and offensively at these positions are relatively rare.

So in theory it should be easier to find players who can hit at the corner positions because there should be more supply of players who can play the position at an acceptable level. And they should generally be cheaper in relation to production (though in reality the good hitters aren't that much cheaper).
R Billie - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 02:57 PM EDT (#125472) #
So to expand, within the roster no there is no suitable replacement for Hinske. But if supply and demand along the defensive spectrum holds true then there should be a real opportunity to improve the offensive production of the player occupying 1B.

The supply of very good hitters is actually low though so I understand it's not as easy as going out and signing or trading for a good player at the first opportunity. I think the only real issue with Hinske right now is how much of the payroll he takes. More than anything it speaks to the risk of signing a player after an unexpectedly productive rookie season.
Joseph Krengel - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 03:18 PM EDT (#125473) #
When people make the positional-average comparison, they are trying to make some sort of adjustment for defensive value.
There is more to it than that. When we look at Eric Hinske's numbers in a vacuum you can argue that they're not that bad. But the fact that there are 30 1B's better than him means that there are other players who perform better, and COULD REPLACE HIM. Obviously Derek Lee isn't out there for the taking, but the fact remains that every team has a more productive 1B, including the Jays.
King Ryan - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 03:33 PM EDT (#125475) #
Jim's point is the key one here. "Replacement" by whose definition, Mike? Who is the replacement?

Kevin Barker.

Chuck - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 04:36 PM EDT (#125476) #
When people make the positional-average comparison, they are trying to make some sort of adjustment for defensive value.

Craig, do you really believe that's what they are doing? Or is it actually much simpler than that? Aren't they simply trying to lump players together at the same position for purposes of comparison? Hinske gets compared to the 29 other first basemen to see where he stacks up.

Certainly offensive numbers alone at any position are not the final word on the rankings. Defensive ability must be factored into the mix. Perhaps Hinske's defense at 1B moves him up in the rankings.

Likewise, a player who hits well at a key defensive position, like a Soriano, shouldn't just get a free pass because he's compared to much weaker hitters. His defensive numbers presumably bring him down while those of his fellow second basemen bring them up.

Jim - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 05:41 PM EDT (#125477) #
Oh yeah, Kevin Barker

236 AB in the majors - 246/331/343

Please, let's not get crazy over a couple hundred good AAA at-bats. Especially when the last few years at AAA are

2001 IL 189/285/296
2002 PCL 251/333/400
2003 only 24 at bats
2004 286/367/528 in AA 194/256/389 in AAA
King Ryan - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 05:50 PM EDT (#125478) #
Huh?

Who's getting crazy? I'm just saying that he is the one defined as the Replacement Level Player.
Jim - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 06:10 PM EDT (#125479) #
Barker is no improvement on Hinske. That's the point, Hinske isn't all that useful, but until there is something better there aren't any options.
Jonny German - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 09:30 PM EDT (#125488) #

Fred McGriff only came up to stay when he was 25

Fred McGriff hit 20 homers in 295 at-bats at age 23 and 34 homers at age 24 in 536 AB. If youíre looking to cast Rios in a good light by comparing him to a Hall of Famer, try Mikeís choice, Roberto Clemente.

The fact that a few extremely productive hitters happen to play first base this year, or right field or what have you, doesn't make one iota of difference when you are analyzing a hitter's contribution. The fact that a group of other catchers have an off year doesn't make any particular catcher's performance any better.

Comparing him to the other hitters on his team, that does make a lot of sense.

Iím generally in the camp that says positional comparisons get taken too far, and I agree that if youíre looking at why your team isnít scoring enough runs you have to look at who the worst hitters are, regardless of position. But itís a whole different story looking forward, because itís very persistent that the best hitters are generally corner infielders and corner outfielders. Suppose Iím looking at how to improve my offence for next year, and my current best first baseman and best catcher are both average defenders at their position and both are established .260 / .330 / .420 hitters. The chances of finding a better first baseman through trade or free agency are exponentially greater than finding a better catcher.

This is very relevant to the case of Hinske Ė maybe heís been pretty decent compared to other Jay hitters, but thereís a very large number of players who could potentially be acquired to replace him who have been better hitters, and better players overall even after accounting for Hinske being a good defensive first baseman.

More than anything it speaks to the risk of signing a player after an unexpectedly productive rookie season.

Iím going to keep harping on this one as long as Hinske is a Jay Ė signing a player after his rookie season may indeed be a bad risk to take, but there was nothing in Hinskeís minor league career to suggest his rookie season was a fluke. Good progress from AAA, yes, but nothing bizarre.

It's been a decent year for JP, he's gotten great work from Hillenbrand and the team has been very competitive even with Halladay injured, but the Koskie signing was just plain bad.

If Koskie was on pace for 500 AB at .290 / .380 / .500, would the signing be any better or worse?

jvictor - Saturday, August 13 2005 @ 11:41 PM EDT (#125489) #
Is this an apple oranges argument.

Granted within the small confines of the Jays offence, Hinske is a moderately productive hitter. Yet when compared to the league, Hinske's production leaves something to be desired, in particular when compared with his peers at first base.

I am a Hinske detractor. I feel he has a replacment already within the confines of the Jays offence. I also believe that a less rigid faith in Hinske's potential would be the best for the team, Hill, and quite possibly Eric Hinske.

I remember his rookie season, and the ease with which he would swing the bat. An almost effortless swing which sent the ball all over the field. Now he appears to be swinging from his heals with each and every swing. Maybe he can find that swing again - this approach aint doing him any favours.
Jim - Sunday, August 14 2005 @ 09:15 AM EDT (#125496) #
'If Koskie was on pace for 500 AB at .290 / .380 / .500, would the signing be any better or worse?'

Obviously it would be better, but I don't see your point. Did ANYONE besides Riccardi think there was a reasonable chance that Koskie could get to 500 ab with a 290/380/500 line. I personally didn't think there was a chance that either would happen, never mind both.

It was a bad signing when it happened, and it's even worse now.
Craig B - Sunday, August 14 2005 @ 01:09 PM EDT (#125506) #
Suppose Iím looking at how to improve my offence for next year, and my current best first baseman and best catcher are both average defenders at their position and both are established .260 / .330 / .420 hitters. The chances of finding a better first baseman through trade or free agency are exponentially greater than finding a better catcher.

Which is all well and good, but *we're not looking at that*. Anyway, where's the free agent you're going to sign in August that's an improvement on Hinske? This discussion has descended to the level of the ridiculous. At any rate, the subject under discussion wasn't "should the Jays replace Hinske", but whether Hinske was a productive hitter.

Craig, do you really believe that's what they are doing? Or is it actually much simpler than that? Aren't they simply trying to lump players together at the same position for purposes of comparison?

Why? Why would you want to do that? What useful information can be gained from that comparison? When you're looking purely at a guy's hitting, who cares which position he's playing? You may as well look at lefthanded hitters - they're his peer group too.

So yes, when people are making positional comparisons for the purpose of analyzing whether "Hinske is a steady and productive hitter" (which if you'll remember was the point at issue) I think they're trying to make an adjustment for defensive value. What other possible purpose could there be? Pistol decided to introduce a COMPLETELY irrelevant standard into the discussion, in order to make a negative point about Hinske.

I think whatever Albert Pujols and Todd Helton and Mark Teixeira hit is totally and completely irrelevant to the discussion of Hinske and his value. Irrelevant in almost every case, no matter what the context of the discussion is. (There is one exception which I will discuss below). Straight positional comparisons between players is sloppy analysis, pure and simple. I used to make that mistake too, and I should have realized long before I did that it was a useless standard of comparison.

There are four main questions we might be asking about a player when they make a cross-positional comparison.

First - how good a hitter is he or what kind of hitter is he (quantitatively or qualitatively)? That was what we were looking at before. In answering this question, all defensive aspects including position should carry zero weight.

Second - should I replace this player? In this case, cross-positional comparisons are positively dangerous. Take the case of the first basemen. There are usually, in any given year, about 15 first basemen who are among the 45 or so best hitters in baseball, and a bunch of young, strong hitters who play some first base as well. These players are all practically unobtainable. Using these players' ability to judge your asset is a really dumb thing to do - because they are the prime assets in all of baseball.

The question of whether you're getting "enough" offensive production out of your first baseman needs to be answered by looking at the subset of players who are reasonably available - a very different population from the whole class of actual first basemen - and are able to play first base.

Third - am I playing the right players? This is the worst case for a cross-positional comparison can be made, even worse than the first question. This is for obvious reasons - you don't have access to the whole body of first basemen, but a very restricted group of players.

Fourth - how good is this team compared to others, or what kind of team is this? Here, you might indeed want to make the comparison, since every team plays one player at each position at any one time. Obviously, if you're just comparing how good the offenses are, you don't bother with this. If you're comparing the whole team, you will want to use defense, but positions (since they stay consistent for most players through a given year) can be a useful way to divide individuals up.

Anyway, I've gone on too long. Suffice it to say that the original point was about the kind and quality of hitter Hinske is - and his defensive position(s) is totally irrelevant to that point.

Craig B - Sunday, August 14 2005 @ 01:57 PM EDT (#125509) #
Maybe he can find that swing again - this approach aint doing him any favours.

I'd dispute that - it's a darned sight better than how he was doing with the old swing, which netted him a disappointing 2003 and a bad 2004.

Once the league figured out how to pitch to Hinske (pitch him "backwards", tempt him outside, let him beat himself, don't challenge him) a lot of his power fell away and over time, his batting average did too.

Every player goes through this give-and-take process of uncovering weaknesses, adjusting, re-adjusting, etcetera. Hitters with good mechanics have fewer weaknesses. Hinske shifts his weight too early (the "front foot" hitter) and doesn't use his very powerful legs enough, but he's quite patient and has a good batting eye. Still, his mechanical flaw makes him vulnerable and the changes he has made have been an attempt to compensate. At times it's been successful, but a swing change is a constant work in progress.

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