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Posts Tagged ‘Most Valuable Player’

Jorge Posada’s retirement got me looking at the Yankees all-time catcher’s statistics. One thing that stands out in particular is Posada’s on base percentage, which is second only to Bill Dickey, which is 101 points above his career average. Also, each of these catchers played their entire career with the Yanks except a few at-bats for Berra with the Mets and Howard’s last two seasons were with Boston.

Accolades of Note:

All of them have their number retired with the Yankees.

Yogi Berra:  10 WS rings, 3 time MVP, HOF and did it all while standing 5’7” tall

Jorge Posada: 5 WS rings, 5 time All-Star

Bill Dickey: 7 WS rings, 11 time All-Star

Elston Howard: 1st African American player on NYY, 1963 MVP, 9 time All-Star, 4 WS rings

Thurman Munson: Captain, 2 WS rings, 1973 ROY, 1976 MVP

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One of the highlights of the early off-season is MLB’s handing out of various post-season awards. This year, several Yankees have taken home some hardware. Robinson Cano, as befitting his MVP candidate status, laid claim to his first Gold Glove and second Silver Slugger awards. Joining Robbie as Gold Glove recipients for 2010 are Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira. It’s Jeter’s fifth selection and Tex’s fourth.

As usually happens when these things are handed out, there’s been quite a bit of hew and cry that these are merely fan favorite awards and don’t really represent the best player at that position. I have to admit, as much as I love Jeter, his Gold Glove award this year surprised me. I certainly didn’t think Jeter had his best year defensively, nor did I think he was the best defender I saw during the course of the season. But these awards are voted on by managers and coaches, so…

Is there a chance the voters got this wrong? Unfortunately, baseball hasn’t really come up with a defensive metric that can really measure a player’s defensive contributions. UZR comes close, but it takes 3 seasons to come up with an accurate measurement – sort of a rolling measurement that is useless in determining a single-season award. Old school fans still cling to fielding percentage, even though it cannot account for a player’s range. For infielders, FP cannot account for errant throws that are converted into outs by an exemplary first baseman. So, a player like Jeter gets a big lift – while Cesar Izturis of the Orioles gets penalized for playing on a bad team with a substitute first sacker for most of the year.

Perhaps the best defensive metric we can use is the defensive portion of WAR – Wins Above Replacement. The theory is this: a player’s true value is best measured by comparing him to the mythical league average player and determining how many wins (or losses) his individual effort contributed. As part of the calculation, a player’s defensive statistics are measured, not only fielding percentage, but also things like range factor and runs prevented, then compared to the league averages in each category. (You can read much more about the calculation process here). Is it perfect? No, but it may be the most accurate method for determining defensive ability in a given season.

So I charted the defensive WAR for players at each position. I specifically selected players with a minimum of 1000 innings played at that position, which works out to 8 innings over 125 games (I dropped the innings requirement to 960 for catchers, or 120 games). I did this to avoid the Alvaro Espinoza syndrome (before you ask, Espinoza was a defensive whiz who turned that ability into a 13 year career, but was only a full time starter on 3 really awful Yankee teams in the late 80’s). Here’s the results for the top 5 at each position:

Catcher

First Base

Second Base

Name dWAR   Name dWAR   Name dWAR
Wieters (Bal)

0.7

  Barton (Oak)

1

  Cano (NYY)

0.8

Mauer (Min)

0.4

  Teixeira (NYY)

0.7

  Hill (Tor)

0.4

Kendall (KC)

0.3

  Overbay (Tor)

0.7

  Hudson (Min)

0.2

Pierzynski (ChW)

0.1

  Butler (KC)

0.1

  Kendrick (LAA)

-0.4

Buck (Tor)

0.1

Konerko (ChW)

-0.4

Figgins (Sea)

-0.7

               
Shortstop*

Third Base

Outfield**

Name dWAR   Name dWAR   Name dWAR
Pennington (Oak)

1.2

  J. Lopez (Sea)

1.8

  Pierre (ChW)

1.9

Al. Ramirez (ChW)

0.9

  Longoria (TB)

1.5

  Gutierrez (Sea)

1.6

Izturis (Bal)

0.6

  Inge (Det)

0.8

  Choo (Cle)

1.5

Andrus (Tex)

0.2

  Beltre (Bos)

0.6

  Gardner (NYY)

1.4

Scutaro (Bos)

0.1

Kouzmanoff (Oak)

0.5

Ichiro (Sea)

1.1

*Gold Glove, Derek Jeter (NYY): dWAR -1.1

**Gold Glove, Carl Crawford (TB): dWAR 0.1

The players highlighted in gold represent the Gold Glove winners at each position. A difference under .5 between players is probably negligible, given that amounts to 3 innings over the course of the season – not likely to affect much more than a manager’s intake of Rolaids. That being said, a difference greater than 1 is significant – it means an average player at that position would have contributed at least 1 more win. In that light, the voters seem to have basically gotten things right at C, 1B, 2B and 3B. But at short and in the outfield, it seems they voted purely on reputation, since neither Jeter nor Crawford finished in the top 5 in dWAR at their respective positions. In fact, Jeter finished dead last among AL shortstops and 1.3 wins behind Cliff Pennington. Crawford finished 11th among AL outfielders, 1.8 wins behind the league leader and 1.4 behind 3rd. Ichiro’s gold glove, in fact, is borderline on reputation. It’s not that he had a bad year defensively – a dWAR of 1.1 is excellent – but he did wind up in 5th place among outfielders. Net-net: Pennington, Shin-Soo Choo and Juan Pierre fans have a good reason to wail a bit about the Gold Glove awards this year. (Personally, I really like Choo. I just have no idea where the Yanks would play him. But that’s another post for another day.)

So, what do you think? Did the voters get the Gold Gloves basically right? If not, to who would you have given the award?

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  Robinson Cano #24 Of The New York Yankees Looks

Robinson Cano spent a part (223 AB’s) of last season in the fifth spot in the lineup, but coming into this year he was considered the Yankees full-fledged #5 hitter. The major concern about Robbie was whether or not he could he could hit with runners in scoring position. This season, he has had plenty of opportunities to hit with runners in scoring position and he’s done a mighty fine job.

Cano leads all of Major League Baseball with a .371AVG, and he ranks at the top of the league in HR’s (14) and RBI’s (49). I don’t think it’s crazy to say that he’s an early favorite for the AL MVP. (more…)

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