Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Also Really Good

There's been a lot of chatter on here recently about how good Adrian Gonzalez is. I think DV has even written two positive posts about him already, which might be a record for positive posts DV has ever written about a Red Sox, and Gonzalez has only been in Boston for a few months. That's when you know a guy has been good. And rightfully so, he's amazing. There is a reason I picked him to win the AL MVP this year.

A player that is deserving of equal praise, both in terms of his individual production and impact on his team, is Curtis Granderson. In certain ways he deserves more because 1. he wasn't elite entering this season and is playing elite, while Gonzalez is expected to play at an elite level and 2. he plays a far more premium, important, and demanding defensive position. He also deserves less in that he has other impact guys around him that can make an offense go, where the Red Sox really need Gonzalez to make them go.

Anyway, point being that anything positive said about Gonzalez also has to be said about Granderson. They are having similarly incredible seasons. In terms of WAR, Gonzalez is 3rd and Granderson is 4th in baseball. In terms of VORP, Granderson is 5th and Gonzalez is 6th in baseball. These stats are position adjusted, so you really get a sense of just how similar their seasons have been on the aggregate so far, and how they have each been two of the best players in the game.

Both are very good defenders, so it's even more impressive that they are providing the offense that they are. We aren't talking about big power bats here who are defensive liabilities. We are talking about above-average to elite defenders. Granderson also runs well, so he's been the total package this year. I'm sure the Sox are more than happy to live with Gonzalez's lack of speed for his overall production.

On that front, it's important to point out that this is not a direct compare as these players do play different roles for their respective teams. But they are providing incredibly similar value. We are roughly a week away from the midpoint of the season, and as the Yankees and Red Sox lock horns in the playoff race it will be interesting to see how these two players continue to factor in. To this point they've been the most important players for their team on the offensive side of the ball.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

PF

The big thing about Granderson is this--when he came to New York he was more or less a platoon-type player (in the same sense that JD Drew was) because his numbers against left handed pitchers were terrible. Granted, nobody ever actually platooned either Drew or Granderson, but that was where their skill sets were at the time.

Now? Granderson is really doing the job against lefties (and doing it with power). On the contrary, JD Drew is still not good and in fact probably is the worst everyday player in baseball right now, certainly for the money.

Granderson also gets the same mileage out of right field in New York that Johnny Damon did, only moreso. I could definitely see him being a guy who hits 300 homers for his career, something that nobody would have expected had he stayed in Detroit.

--the Gunn

Anonymous said...

Good point Gunn. As I've mentioned before, the turnaround really has been crazy. He has more homers off of lefties this year (9) than anybody in baseball, including both righty and lefty hitters. He's gone from it being the biggest weaknessess in his game to it being not just one of his biggest strengths, but to being one of the best in the game at it (so far this year). You don't see that too often. Crazy.

- PF

Anonymous said...

PF,

No doubt on Granderson. Deserving of a lot of credit and attention no doubt.

I differ from you a little bit as a far as the importance of position adjusted rankings for offensive stats. Personally I don't put a lot of weight into them (at least as I understand them). At some level, yes, it's interesting to see how players compare to others that play the same outfield position.

I think a better comparison though is to look at other players that hit in the same spot in the lineup, as that is really what matters when it comes to offense. Yes players can change position in the lineup but you would look at where they have been on average and do the comparison.

To me this makes a lot more sense. For example, does it really matter how well Derek Jeter is hitting compared to other shortstops? Or does it really matter how he's hitting compared to other leadoff hitters?

In any event, Granderson would fare well regardless of the metric- I'm not doubting that. This was more of just a general point.

Bandi

Anonymous said...

Bandi -

I am in total agreement with you that evaluating player's impact respective to their spot in the order is also important. That is part of why I referenced these players having different roles for their teams. By no means is position adjusted analysis the only important analysis.

To answer your question, I think the significance of position adjusted analysis is not to compare shortstops to other shortstops as opposed to leadoff hitters to other leadoff hitters. Rather, it is to create a baseline to compare hitters based on incremental value added depending on the amount of production available at that position throughout the game. That is, a 1B or RF may be a 9/10 offensively and a SS or 2B might be a 7/10. But that 7/10 may be more valuable than the 9/10 because you can replace the 9 with a 7 at 1B/RF but can only replace the 7 with a 4 at SS/2B. I place a good amount of weight on this, because I think the more you can fill light hitting positions with impact bats, the more competitive advantage you are getting over other teams who rely on more traditional offensive spots for their impact production.

Obviously inherent to this analysis is comparing guys at the same position, and I realize that was a big part of your point. But when you take that analysis one more step up the ladder and apply it to relative value added it gets you someplace good. It levels the playing field based on how much offense is available at a given position, and thus how much value is actually getting added.

Anonymous said...

PF,

I get what you are saying and it makes sense. I'm not saying that those types of measurements are useless by any stretch. I think overall we are on the same page.

I guess what I'm more saying is that I think that if you're not careful you can give those types of comparative statistics too much weight.

Let's say hypothetically that the average shortstop in MLB hits .270 with 10 home runs and 40 RBI and an OBP of .750 (totally making these numbers just for the example).

Now let's say that you bring in a shortstop that hits .285 with 15 hr and 55 RBI per year and an OBP of .800.

Is that technically a lot better than average and clearly it's an advantage for your team over what a lot of people have at that position.

But is a guy that hits .285 with 15 home runs a really difference maker in your lineup? No. That's where I think that type of measurement falls short.

bandi

Ross Kaplan said...

Cashman doesn't get enough credit for trading for Granderson. All he gave up was Coke who will end up being a decent lefty specialist at best and A-Jax who was always projected to be a Granderson type player, but without the power. Besides his game he just also seems to be an all around genuinely good guy. I'm not a big believer in the effect of clubhouse chemistry so that probably doesn't make a huge difference but it's nice having a guy who even Red Sox fans can respect.

Anonymous said...

bandi -

i understand the concern in giving those measurements too much weight. thankfully, the metrics seem to have advanced to the point where they are providing a pretty accurate baseline. that is, they aren't overvaluing the hypothetical shortstop you created in your comment, boosting him up too much because he's just a little better than average at a bad position.

if you looked up and down the list of WAR and VORP, the names being in the slots they are would generally make sense. it's just a nice way to supplement traditional numbers that don't give any weight to position. we can always go and look at the list of traditional numbers to see how has the best ops and most homers, and these other metrics just give us an idea of how the right fielder with a .900 ops/30 homer right fielder matches up with the .830 ops/20 homer shortstop. that's a significant discrepancy, but not so much so that it's ridiculous to see how their position ties into it (if these metrics put the .900 ops/30 homer right fielder on a similar playing field with a .720/10 homer shortstop, i think we'd all agree that would make no sense). i think it's mostly close enough where, with a little consideration for position, you look at it and say "that makes sense".

Anonymous said...

and really, granderson and gonzalez are actually a perfect example of that to date. granderson has more homers, and gonzalez has more rbi's and better rate stats across the board. all of granderson's numbers are still outstanding despite not being as good as gonzalez's. in terms of pure contribution to the lineup taking position out, gonzalez has been the better player. that's an important analysis too, as we discussed how roles factor into this earlier.

but in taking a look at value, there are 10 outstanding first basemen and 5 more really good ones. there are 2 outstanding center fielders and 5 or 6 really good ones. so to me, it makes sense how granderson's numbers are similarly valuable to gonzalez's in terms of competitive advantage despite not being as good in terms of straight up production.

Anonymous said...

PF,

Good points as usual. As you point out I think the difference is really about relative value vs. role in a particular lineup which are similar but still different things. You do need both. You can have a lineup with a lot of good value guys but still have a weak lineup if you don't have a good balance and the ability to fill out the different roles in the lineup. By the same token, it's clear that value over what the rest of the league has at a given position is not a bad thing, and can give you a significant advantage where the gap is really big.

the gm at work said...

Yeah, I'm back with Internet access again. Here we go.

I'm happy for you guys regarding how Granderson has actually panned out to be a good acquisition. As someone who couldn't even sit over what I saw out of AJax in AA, I thought that was going to be a bad trade. Also, especially seeing the way everything started with Granderson in terms of health and overall poor performance, that looked pretty bad. As a baseball fan, it's good to see that he's vindicated himself a little bit. He's just taken it to a completely different level.

Anonymous said...

agreed on all fronts bandi.