Monday, April 7, 2008

Let's Not Cream Ourselves When the Prime Minister Takes the Field (Just Yet)

The conventional wisdom around these parts is that John McDonald is a wonderful gloveman, and Eckstein stinks. The naked eye supports this, and (Canate told me on the phone tonight) so do the Baseball Prospectus writers. (Note: PECOTA can still blow me, after it finishes with Dr. K).

But let's take another look, using BP's own advanced stats. Bear in mind that Eckstein and McDonald are both 33 this season. According to BP's RAA2 (Fielding Runs Above Average, adjusted), over the past 4 years McDonald has registered 3, 6, 6, and 16. Over that same period, Eckstein scored -12, 11, 19, and -10.

What does that tell you? Honestly, it doesn't tell me shit, other than that fielding ability fluctuates a great deal year-to-year, and that it remains insanely difficult to measure. Mcdonald probably was a lot better than Eckstein with the glove last year, but he was also much better (at age 32!) than he had himself been in the past. What are the odds that he will be as Ozzie Smith-like going forward? I'd say they're slim. Players probably have career seasons in the field, just as they have career seasons at the plate. And it's likely we witnessed JMac's version of a Brady Anderson 50 in '07.

I'm not saying McDonald can't be a useful cog on this (totally awesome) team, or that he shouldn't form half of an offense/defense platoon with Eckstein. I'm just saying that the argument that he should get 140 starts, with Eckstein on the bench (despite giving up -- according to the career #s -- 80 pts of OBP and 50 pts of SLG to the scrapper), is not automatic.


Canate said...

Look I love stats. I've tried to love defense stats, but I can't. They just don't add up as Portnoy has mentioned. But McDonald is good, really he is, in the one game he played this year he made a play to throw out Pedroia at first that no one else in baseball makes. In the very same inning he basically ran out to Center field and nearly caught another ball except Vernon was in his way. (McD even had the presence of mind to try to take out Vernon on the play, hoping that 23 year 8 billion dollar contract was insured by the Jays.) Those are potentially two base hits he would of robbed from Boston. Okay, yes, I understand, it's anecdotal but the kid it good. Of course, I'm choosing to ignore the terrible throw to Overbay a couple innings later when he rushed his throw, cause he was probably concussed from his collision with VW's contract. So yes, I think he may be historically good at SS. Having said that the real the question is how much does defence matter and what can we expect offensively from the duo? BP suggests a .326 OBP and a .382 SLG for .708 OPS or a 4.8 Vorp for the Gamer. Though interestingly in the previous 3 seasons Eck's Vorp is a gamer 20.7, a gritty 8.5, and a awesomely workmanlike 32.9!!! McD is projected at .288 OBP and .333 SLG or .621 OPS. UGH. That's a -2.1 Vorp. Last three season Vorps -7.8, -10.4, 2.7. (BTW I believe, but not positive, VORP includes defence. So those numbers may already be slanted.)

I looked at these numbers while typing so ... the debate is over, There's no way that McDs even historic defense can overcome the difference in their bats. I'm actually impressed by Eck's numbers. And despite Pecota you have to think these SS VORP will be near their three year average, right? That's 20-30 Vorp difference.

Start the gamer. Or call up Tulowitzki.

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Razzer said...

Pecota can blow me too. Especially since it's creator Nate Silver picks the Jays to finish 5th in the East.

I liked the post, and everyone knows I love Gibby, but I still feel Johnny Mac has to be in there for Eck when we have the lead in the 9th. It just makes too much sense.

Portnoy said...

I think I overlooked one obvious point -- McDonald was a part-timer in years past, while the scrapper was a starter. This is what happens when I post after a late dinner and a bottle of wine.

If you use BP's fielding rate stats (same concept as OPS+, with runs above or below 100 showing variation from league average at the position), you can see that McDonald is clearly a better fielder than Eckstein: 112,120,108,118 over the past four seasons (McDonald), versus 91,107,116,90 (Eckstein). So McDonald's last year was not a fluke. I'm just amazed that Eckstein was that good in '06 and '07, since he throws like a pubescent.

I totally agree that Gibbons should use McDonald for late-inning subs when we have the lead, and to spot start on occasion. I just don't think he should be the everyday shortstop. I guess I'm really responding to Dr. K's post somewhere below.

Canate said...

Absolutely go with McD and porn star Buck Coates to close out a game. No reason not to.

Also Pecota projects Alex Rodriguez to blow Razzer. His fellating comps are: Gaylord Perry, Roy Face, Tony Suck, and Mike Blowers.

Dr. K said...

That's gold right there, Canate.

Now instead of bringing your funny boy antics into the comments section, how about doing a full post about how terrible VW is so I can rub your face in it when he's carrying us to glory in October?

On the topic of this post: Until they invent a stat that quantifies my blood pressure every time Eckstein does his stupid bat waggle (maybe a "blood pressure reading" of some sort, measured in numbers), this discussion will have to remain firmly rooted in the quicksand of the subjective. To wit: The Prime Minister is the King. The midget sucks.

Dr. K said...

One more thing: that correction of yours kind of swallows the whole, doesn't it, Portnoy? Maybe it belongs in italics at the start of the post: "This post has been corrected to reflect the fact that because of extreme inebriation I made a point that was off by approximately 180 degrees". Something artful like that.

Portnoy said...

Damn you, Dr. K. I knew that was coming. I thought about not correcting the post (none of the four people who read this blog -- you, me, Canate or Razzer -- would know FRAA2 from FRA from Frottage) but my conscience made me do it.

Canate makes the best point: even if McDonald is better defensively (which he is), Eckstein makes us better when he starts. McDonald is a defensive sub. That's just not as sexy as my initial theory, though, is it?

Portnoy said...

By the way, I've heard of like two guys in Oakland's lineup today. Let's win this fucker.