Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hello and Salutations

I had been waiting for a brief break in the flurry of postings marking the return of Humma to blogdom. He recruited me to write some extra blogs to fill in because he was only going to be able to post sporadically this year. Perhaps his definition of sporadic and mine are different, some sort of Websters vs. American Heritage sort of thing.

Actually if I am being honest with you, and let me assure you I seldom will be, another reason I waited until today was that the blogspot invitation was swallowed by my junk email sorter. Apparently Mac email doesn't believe Humma Kavula is a real person.

I am hoping one of the signatures of my entries will be decidedly less venom accompanying my Pierre cogitations. On the basic question of who should start, Juan Pierre or Andre Ethier, I am in firm agreement with Humma. Absolutely Ethier should start while Pierre rides the pine, but I try not to let hyperbole run amok with my emotions. Pierre is not worthless. Nor is he the worst outfielder playing baseball.

For instance, let me revisit something I talked about in the comments at the very end of the last season. Juan Pierre had the lowest OPS of any batting title qualified outfielder last season, at .685. This is not good, but not entirely fair for two reasons:

First, only 20 center fielders qualified out of 30 teams, so there were a lot of center fielders running around all year that probably should be included. If we just take all those with 300 PA, Juan is 32nd of of 37, the worst being poor Jerry Owens of the Chicago White Sox (.636). Again, not good, but not the absolute worst.

Second, OPS does not take into account speed. While speed is often over-rated, it is not worthless either. We can use EqA instead, a stat which does include stolen bases and also has the advantage of being normalized for league difficulty. Juan's EqA in 2007 was .248, below the league average of .260 (by definition). Out of the 20 batting qualified CFs, that puts him tied for 16th. Out of the 37 players with 300 PA, Juan
ranks 26th. Again not fantastic, but instead of the worst player at his position, you can see he is actually in the 3rd quartile. Maybe not someone you pay 9 million a year, but not the millstone dragging us into the depths either.

So bottom line, Juan has no power but makes up for it a little bit by stealing a lot of bases. He doesn't walk enough, but I strongly suspect that has a lot to do with his extreme deficit in power: If the worst he can do to me is hit a single, I am not going to tip toe around the strike zone. His defense is a similar story: Weak throwing arm partly made up for by his good range. All and all I rate him a mediocre center fielder. Andruw Jones should be a big step up in both defense and offense (although last year he was awful, EqA=.251), so playing him over Pierre is a no brainer.

All great and good. We got Jones so Pierre should go play center field for one of those 5-10 teams for which he really would be an improvement. Except this is where I get off the reasonable train and onto the Kavula Rant Express. We are being told Pierre is going to play left field.

One of the top offensive positions on the field.

The typical >300 PA left fielder has an OPS of .813 and an EqA of .271 (compared to CF OPS=.747 and EqA=.255). No batting qualified LF (or RF for that matter) has an OPS or EqA as low as Pierre. While I can find a handful of terrible LFs (about 5 out of 35) with lower EqAs than Pierre, it is unquestionable that Pierre would be well below the offensive output the typical left fielder brings to the table. This truly would be a terrible decision, especially when we have Ethier (2007: EqA=.269 OPS=0.802) as a better option. And, oh yeah, Ethier was 25 years old last year, so he might have some upswing left. Pierre is likely on his way down.

To summarize: Last year I grumbled about a mediocre center fielder. This year I will scream every time he starts in left field.

I return you to your regularly scheduled Humma.