Thursday, July 20, 2006

Kendall - Most Upgradeable?

Here's part of an email I sent earlier to THT's Bryan Tsao regarding his article today, "Contending Holes: American League." It's a great concept for an article, done in a format I don't recall having seen before. Instead of going around the rumor mill and looking at which contending teams were looking to upgrade on which players, Tsao just asked the simple question of which positions left the most room for improvement. I found this a refreshing take, and I thought the choices were about right.

I did, however, find some nits that I picked for irrational reasons beyond my comprehension. The nit in question was Jason Kendall's batting average on balls in play, a subject that I think I was more acutely aware of because I wrote a probably ill-advised advocacy of Los Angeles trading for him after the 2004 season, back before I really knew what I was doing, IMO. Anyway, here's what I wrote to Bryan:
I have to take issue with something you wrote in today's article, since it
just looks very sloppy. In your capsule on Jason Kendall, you write that
"Even his strong 2004 season is marred by a flukishly high batting average
on balls in play, meaning that he was probably hit lucky that year." While
certainly a .337 BABIP will often appear flukish, in Kendall's case that's
far from accurate. Kendall had HIGHER BABIPs in 1998-2000 and 2003, and
his lesser numbers in 2001-2002 can likely be chalked up to his
well-documented injury struggles. Even including his first two seasons and
the injury-riddled years, his career BABIP coming into Oakland was .322.

While you are correct that his batted ball data has been essentially the
same in 2005 and 2006, it was also the same in 2003 and 2004. Indeed, it
is interesting that you mention in Sexson's capsule that he is strongly
underperforming his PrOPS when Kendall (and Crosby as well) is a couple
spots behind him on the same list. (Edit: I'm not sure what I meant by
"interesting" here; I guess I just meant to imply that the article would
have benefited from more consistency in looking at batted ball numbers.)

And furthermore, I don't think it's very useful to compare Kendall to the
AL average catcher through four months of the season. While generally
comparison to league average at a position is useful, using this small of
a sample reduces its effect to a novelty. The AL has what could even be an
historic consolidation of offensive talent at catcher right now, and we're
only looking at 60% of a season's production from a position that likely
tends to decline in later months (speculation on my part, I haven't
researched that). In any event, while I generally prefer average as a
baseline, that's in part because the relation between average and
replacement stays relatively constant; using the current AL half season
numbers aborts that relationship.

Now, I don't mean to imply that Kendall is a savior or anything, but he
is, IMO, precisely the kind of player where a desperate trade to upgrade
will accomplish roughly nothing. The only obvious 'upgrades' who may be on
the market - Michael Barrett, Ramon Hernandez, Damian Miller - aren't
really significantly better than Kendall, they're just having better
seasons; in any event, none of them could be acquired for something with
less value than the less than 1 win improvement they would cause.


At 3:21 AM, Blogger Antonio said...

Really enjoyed your work before Tom. Sorry about my running 4th OF slowly into the ground. G'luck with everything, and hope this finds you well.



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