It’s impossible to watch baseball without an eye towards the romantic, but analyzing baseball is all about the math. A player’s value on the field has nothing to do with how they play the game, and everything to do with their production. Here’s a link to a puff piece on ESPN that fails miserably in assessing new Dodger left-fielder Shane Victorino.
The most entertaining excerpts, with my thoughts in bold:
“Shane Victorino is the kind of guy you want on your team…”. This is true if you like players who maintain the league average for OBP and OPS. As a Dodger he is below average in both categories.
“It’s not just what he does, though, it’s how he does it. Physicists in the last century discovered that matter is only energy frozen for the time being, and Victorino blurs the line between the two.” I don’t know what to say to this.
“It helps to have above-average speed, but Victorino isn’t just active, he’s hypercompetitive. The Dodgers badly needed a guy with those traits because their last leadoff hitter, Dee Gordon, wasn’t getting on base before he got hurt. Left field had been a quagmire for four months.” So hypercompetitive spirit will make Victorino a better leadoff than Dee Gordon? I myself would rather have someone who wants every participant to get a trophy but gets on base a lot. Above-average speed? Gordon is much faster than Victorino. Left field was a quagmire? The Dodgers demoted Abreu, a left fielder who was forty points above the league average in OBP and replaced him with Victorino, a player who is at the league average.
“The theory is that Victorino can create the spark for the explosion that comes when the bigger guys in the middle of the order come to the plate. He got off to a surprisingly sluggish start after the trade, but in the Dodgers’ past three games, he was on base eight times. He woke up the Dodgers’ offense, scoring three runs Wednesday.” Here’s how you create a spark for a team – hit for a high average, get on base a ton, hit for lots of power. Victorino does none of these. When Victorino ‘woke up’ the offense, which follows that irritating sportswriting tradition of giving excessive credit to a single player for the accomplishments of a team, he did it by reaching base safely three times, something he rarely does, not by being hypercompetitive or speedy. It’s a bit repetitive at this point, but you score more runs when more players reach base safely. Boring but true.