Examining the Bats

Monday, May 02 2005 @ 11:10 AM EDT

Contributed by: Pepper Moffatt

I'm stuck with a valuable friend
"I'm happy, hope you're happy too"
One flash of light
but no smoking pistol

Standings as of May 2nd, 2005

1. Baltimore    17- 7 .708        144 RS/113 RA
2. Toronto      14-12 .538 4.0 GB 130 RS/124 RA
2. Boston       13-11 .542 4.0 GB 136 RS/109 RA
4. New York     10-15 .400 7.5 GB 129 RS/137 RA
5. Tampa Bay     8-17 .320 9.5 GB 111 RS/160 RA
Since 95% of the readers here follow the AL East closer than any other division, it's hard to come up with things you might not know. So instead of telling you what happened in games you probably watched, I thought it would be interesting to compare the 5 teams position by position. Here we go.

Note: The statistics contained in this section were as of the morning of May 1st, as that is when most of this was written. The VORP (value over replacement position) data comes from Baseball Prospectus.


CATCHER                    AVG/ OBP/ SLG SB VORP
1. Javy Lopez       (BAL) .338/.382/.575  0 11.6
2. Jason Varitek    (BOS) .394/.541/.616  0 10.9
3. Gregg Zaun       (TOR) .299/.410/.537  0 10.1
4. Toby Hall        (TAM) .317/.359/.350  0  3.8
5. Jorge Posada     (NYY) .240/.329/.320  0  1.9
Poor Gregg Zaun. Although he's been the third best catcher in baseball so far, he's only the third best in the division, as Lopez and Varitek also call the AL East home. On the bright side for the Jays, at least they're not paying Zaun a fortune.

Who would have thought that Jorge Posada would be the worst performing starting catcher in the AL East?

FIRST BASE                 AVG/ OBP/ SLG SB VORP
1. Eric Hinske      (TOR) .291/.371/.456  2  5.4
2. Travis Lee       (TAM) .288/.365/.364  1  2.1
3. Kevin Millar     (BOS) .253/.394/.307  0  1.3
4. Tino Martinez    (NYY) .246/.343/.377  0  1.2
5. Rafael Palmeiro  (BAL) .247/.298/.325  1 -1.0
That's right: Eric Hinske has been the best first baseman in the AL East. It hasn't even been close. Potential future hall-of-famer Rafael Palmeiro has been worse than replacement level so far this season. Ouch!

1. Brian Roberts    (BAL) .375/.455/.719 10 23.3
2. Jorge Cantu      (TAM) .274/.278/.400  0  1.3
3. Orlando Hudson   (TOR) .280/.317/.366  0  1.1
4. Tony Womack      (NYY) .287/.337/.338  2  0.9
5. Mark Bellhorn    (BOS) .229/.325/.357  1  0.8
If you hadn't heard, Barry Bonds is playing second base for Baltimore under an assumed name. There's no other possible explanation. Every other second baseman in the league has been playing at mere-mortal level, and there's been little difference between them.

When discussing a journeyman player, you often hear that he "isn't a championship quality first baseman". I think it's a pretty silly distinction; is Tony Womack really a championship quality second baseman? How about the 2005 version of Tino Martinez at first? But I don't think there are too many people out there that would say the Yankees aren't a championship caliber team. You don't have to be great at every position; you can carry a guy like Shane Spencer in left and still win championships. In fact, I would say that every team has at least one player the fans would consider not to be of "championship quality". Except the Red Sox. They're freaks.

SHORTSTOP                  AVG/ OBP/ SLG SB VORP
1. Miguel Tejada    (BAL) .347/.394/.684  0 17.2
2. Derek Jeter      (NYY) .349/.473/.477  2 13.6
3. Julio Lugo       (TAM) .281/.324/.354  8  5.9
4. Edgar Renteria   (BOS) .228/.283/.359  1  0.8
5. Russ Adams       (TOR) .214/.290/.321  1  0.0
The only real surprise here is the complete bust that has been Edgar Renteria. I have to accept responsibility for this as I overdrafted him in the BBFL. I still think he'll come back and have a great season, but I'm not sure what I'm basing that on.

Russ Adams has been around the quality of a replacement level shortstop which shouldn't be too surprising as that's what he is. He'll get better, though.

THIRD BASE                 AVG/ OBP/ SLG SB VORP
1. Alex Rodriguez   (NYY) .306/.352/.633  2 11.7
2. Melvin Mora      (BAL) .306/.361/.500  2  8.7
3. Corey Koskie     (TOR) .253/.327/.407  0  2.3
4. Alex Gonzalez    (TAM) .276/.333/.397  0  2.1
5. Bill Mueller     (BOS) .255/.397/.309  0  1.5
For all the worrying about Corey Koskie around these parts, he's around the median when it comes to AL East third basemen.

I wonder how much of A-Rods 11.7 VORP is due to that one big game last week?

1. Gary Sheffield   (NYY) .344/.404/.478  2 10.1
2. Trot Nixon       (BOS) .281/.429/.474  0  6.2
3. Aubrey Huff      (TAM) .271/.350/.412  2  4.7
4. Sammy Sosa       (BAL) .281/.317/.469  1  4.5
5. Alexis Rios      (TOR) .309/.326/.444  2  2.8
Rightfield is a surprisingly weak position in the AL East, particularly since Sammy Sosa has stopped taking pitches. A .317 on-base percentage while batting .281? This can't be the same player we saw 5-10 years ago. Anyhow, he's not the only player on this list with a hollow batting average, as Jays fans know too well.

1. Johnny Damon     (BOS) .365/.404/.479  4 11.2
2. Luis Matos       (BAL) .319/.402/.420  7  7.2
3. Alex Sanchez     (TAM) .275/.310/.375  1  1.1
4. Bernie Williams  (NYY) .244/.330/.317  1  0.6
5. Vernon Wells     (TOR) .200/.257/.389  0 -2.3
Right now Vernon Wells is the worst player in the American League East. Double ouch!

Alex Sanchez hasn't been all that bad filling in for the injured Rocco Baldelli. Like other players we've mentioned his batting average is pretty hollow, so should it drop at all, he'll be on the wrong side of replacement level.

LEFTFIELD                  AVG/ OBP/ SLG SB VORP
1. Manny Ramirez    (BOS) .274/.386/.607  1 11.1
2. Carl Crawford    (TAM) .262/.304/.437  6  4.9
3. Hideki Matsui    (NYY) .261/.343/.432  0  4.4
4. Frank Catalanotto(TOR) .265/.320/.382  0  1.1
5. Larry Bigbie     (BAL) .268/.305/.357  1  0.5
If you combined Frankie Cat and Reed Johnson, they'd be right around the level of Crawford and Matsui. None of these guys are off to an exceptionally hot start. Manny's numbers are excellent, but they're not too different than what he's done over the last few seasons.

1. Shea Hillenbrand (TOR) .396/.427/.542  0 13.4
2. David Ortiz      (BOS) .256/.306/.556  0  6.4
3. Josh Phelps      (TAM) .290/.364/.406  0  4.3
4. Jason Giambi     (NYY) .231/.398/.385  0  4.0
5. Jay Gibbons      (BAL) .232/.280/.420  0  0.5
Shea Hillenbrand is mopping the floor with the competition, thanks to his flirting with .400 all month. Josh Phelps is quietly putting together some decent numbers in Tampa, though he's not hitting for a whole lot of power. Has his swing changed at all this year?

Jay Gibbons has really fallen off of a cliff.

Bench Players

CATCHER                    AVG/ OBP/ SLG SB VORP
1. Charles Johnson  (TAM) .235/.409/.353  0  1.4
2. Doug Mirabelli   (BOS) .188/.316/.375  0  0.4
3. John Flaherty    (NYY) .154/.214/.231  0 -0.8
4. Geronimo Gil     (BAL) .241/.241/.276  0 -0.9
5. Greg Myers       (TOR) .083/.154/.083  0 -1.8
That's right kids: If your backup catcher plays at replacement level, you're doing fine. Unfortunately Greg Myers wasn't and he's since been replaced by Ken Huckaby.

None of these guys have performed well, though Charles Johnson's .409 on-base relative to a .353 slugging and a .235 batting average is interesting.

CORNER BAT                 AVG/ OBP/ SLG SB VORP
1. Eddie Perez      (TAM) .344/.400/.656  0  4.7 (1B)
2. Ruben Sierra     (NYY) .269/.296/.692  0  3.1 (DH)
3. Kevin Youkilis   (BOS) .571/.625/.714  0  2.2 (3B)
4. Frank Menechino  (TOR) .167/.348/.167  0 -1.0 (DH)
5. B.J. Surhoff     (BAL) .200/.200/.371  0 -1.5 (LF)
The position in brackets is the position at which the player has played the most games. Kevin Youkilis has had all of 8 plate appearances, which explains how he can have a line like that and still only be 3rd in VORP. Eddie Perez is putting up some big numbers acting as Travis Lee's caddy. Also impressive is Ruben Sierra's .692 slugging percentage.

Father time has not been kind to B.J. Surhoff.

1. Nick Green       (TAM) .324/.375/.459  0  3.2 (3B)
2. Chris Gomez      (BAL) .500/.571/.500  1  2.4 (1B)
3. John McDonald    (TOR) .308/.321/.346  1  1.0 (SS)
4. Rey Sanchez      (NYY) .364/.417/.364  0  0.8 (2B)
5. Ramon Vazquez    (BOS) .194/.219/.258  0 -2.2 (3B)
You can tell which infield position each team is weakest at by examining which position their utility infielder has played the most at.

Chris Gomez is back to being a 1st baseman. Way to go, Chris! I don't think those numbers are sustainable. As a matter of fact, neither are John McDonald's numbers.

How much longer will it be until Nick Green and not Alex Gonzalez, is getting the bulk of the starts at 3rd?

1. Reed Johnson     (TOR) .279/.415/.419  0  2.7 (LF)
2. Joey Gathright   (TAM) .333/.391/.476  3  2.6 (CF)
3. Jay Payton       (BOS) .235/.250/.412  0 -0.3 (RF)
4. David Newhan     (BAL) .200/.200/.267  1 -0.8 (CF)
5. Bubba Crosby     (NYY) .167/.231/.167  0 -1.1 (CF)
Reed Johnson is one of the best fourth outfielders in baseball, which is why I cringe every time I hear somebody suggest that the Blue Jays trade him.

Bernie Williams' troubles in center don't look too bad when you compare him to his understudy.

The End

With Lopez, Mora, Tejada, and Roberts bashing the ball, it's no surprise that the Orioles are scoring so many runs. The Jays are scoring their fair share as well. Despite the many complaints we've had, nobody on the team is performing terribly save Vernon Wells.

Your thoughts?