This is the end of a three part series detailing head-to head positional advantages in a hypothetical Dodgers-Rangers World Series.
Yasiel Puig has certainly had one of the better rookie years in recent memory, but his flashy style of play and clutch hits don’t mask an inherently lousy player. ZIPS has his WAR for the rest of the season at a healthy .7. His bat is expected to deteriorate, but mainly because of sheer luck. In other words, so many of the balls that he puts into play turn into hits that eventually a few more of them have to find gloves. While I mentioned last week that batters have vastly more control over their BAPIBs than pitchers do (the fact that Miguel Cabrera’s is higher than Justin Smoak’s is no fluke), some luck still comes into play. Puig’s current BABIP is .426. Dexter Fowler lead the whole league in BAPIP last year-with .389. Obviously, Puig will regress significantly from the ungodly peak he is at right now, but he should still be an above average right fielder. Rios, bluntly, isn’t so good. He certainly isn’t bad, but he really epitomizes (at this point) a solid average outfielder. ZIPS expects his bat to be one percent above average. According to Fangraphs, a WAR of 2 indicates a league average player. Rios’ is expected to be 2.6. While you could argue that that extra .6 is a 30 percent increase over league average, I don’t think (I have to use that word-I can’t find confirmation of that hunch anywhere in cursory searching) it really works that way. After all, the only thing he does solidly above average is base running, which is probably where the most of the .6 comes from. I can’t imagine that decent base running makes a player 30% above average. Prove me wrong. And I don’t mean that in a cocky way. I mean actually prove me wrong. Find an article by an established source saying that I’m wrong and .6 WAR does represent a 30% better than average player and I’ll fix my article. But no matter whether or not Rios is 30% above average or not, it doesn’t really matter. Puig is significantly better.
Here we have a dichotomy of centerfielders: Martin, a slap-hitting centerfielder who isn’t great at the slap part (but is at least average against righties) but makes up for it in defense and speed, and Kemp, a typically excellent bat but a consistently poor fielder. Gentry is a similar story to lefties. Usually, Kemp’s bat would win out and that would be that. But this hasn’t been a typical Kemp season. After posting (scaling to 650 at-bats) All-Star seasons the last two years, his WAR is actually below replacement lever. In other words, his UZR is so bad that his mediocre bat plays well below mediocre. Granted, UZR isn’t reliable on a year to year basis, but over his career his defense still hasn’t been great. ZIPS still expects him to pick it up, dropping his K% from elevated to closer to his career average and a similar story with his wOBA. Not quite old Kemp but not unbelievably far from it either. That’s enough for me to give him the edge, but it wouldn’t shock me if his season never positively regresses back to his career mean.
Carl Crawford has found his career-somewhat revitalized in Los Angeles. David Murphy hasn’t quite had his career revitalized this year. I could say more. I could mention how Crawford is expected to finish out the season with an above average wOBA. I could mention how David Murphy is not. I could mention how Carl Crawford, he of an expected 6 home runs on the year, is expected to have a higher slugging percentage than David Murphy. But I don’t really need to. All of you- those of you who clicked on this article and got the gist of what it was about- knew what the result of this match-up was before you scrolled down.
Though Pierzynski has significantly more power and contact ability, his complete inability to walk negates a thorough portion of his value. Ellis, on the other hand, is a more defensive-minded catcher who is willing to walk more than Delmon Young. On the season, their wRC+ (basically, mow much better than average is your wOBA, weighted as “percent better than average “) is basically the same, both now and in the ZIPS-predicted universe. So while Pierzynski has a better bat, offensively they are about equal because of plate discipline differences. Pierzynski has a poorer arm, throwing out almost a third of would-be base stealers to Ellis’ almost half, but he is a better pitch framer. I would say it’s a tie, the only one I’ve given in the whole exercise. **
*Completely random fact about Alex Rios-his 2009 season was the epitome of a replacement level player. Literally. His WAR was literally zero.
**WAR was deliberately not used because the stat doesn’t include things like pitch framing or other catcher-specific skills, and is therefore considered less accurate than it is for all of the other positions (except arguable pitcher.)