Friday, March 02, 2007


Via Jon at Dodger Thoughts comes a link to Baseball America's "Risk Factor" profile on James Loney. BA posits Loney's "Best Case Scenario" as John Olerud and his "Worst Case" Travis Lee. Am I the only one who finds this gimmick grating?

"Oh, I've got a good idea. Let's compare Loney to similar players!"
"Similar how?"
"Okay, they've got to be first basemen, obviously, and they should be lefties. And fairly recent."
"Uhh, that narrows it down."
"Okay, okay, how 'bout this - none of them can be legit power hitters, but they had to have been considered major prospects anyway."
"Okay. So wait - players who were considered major prospects despite not showing any power in the minor leagues? Like, Sean Burroughs, et cetera?"
"Yeah, but he's not a third baseman - no one will buy it. We need a first baseman."
"That's a tall order, obviously. I think that-"
"- Wait, I've got it! Travis Lee. Perfect."
"Lee? I don't get it, Lee was a power prospect. Didn't he hit a ton of homers in the minors?"
"Travis Lee? No way. He was notorious for not having power."
"Lemme look it up. ... No, you're wrong. After they signed him with that loophole thingy, he split the year with 225 at bats each in the Cali and the PCL - 18 at the former, 14 in the latter. Had doubles to match, too. For a pro debut, there's no way you can argue he was lacking power."
"Yeah, but didn't it decline before he hit the majors?"
"No, dude, went straight to the BOB the next year. Had an ISO of .160, which was kind of lame, but not bad; his problem wasn't lack of power at 23, it was that he never improved as he got older."
"Yeah, but I think people will get what we're trying to say if we use Lee. Because, you know, he was a first baseman without much power."
"I mean, sure, but how similar are they? For one, should we really be comparing Loney, a high school kid with years of injury hell in the minors, to big money college guy like Lee? And also, Lee never had anything remotely resembling what Loney did last year."
"All right, so who would you compare him to?"
"I don't know, probably no one. What's the big deal? Why would you expect him to be like someone else?"
"Yeah, but it's like, I'm trying to say we don't know who he'll end up being like."
"What, unlike all the other prospects, whose future we see with the clarity of Tru Davies?"
"Fair enough, but it's like, will he be a borderline hallafamer like Olerud or will he just be a guy who couldn't cut it because he didn't have any power like Lee?"
"Wait, I don't get that. Nobody really disagrees that he's a great pure singles hitter, which is something Lee wasn't. Lee's thing was that he was just average across the board - didn't draw a lot of walks, hit for a lot of power, or hit for a high average. Why try to make the point that Loney could end up like that when it's not something we have any particular reason to suspect? Isn't the bigger risk with Loney that he'll keep trying to replicate what he did in Vegas even though other hitting environments won't let him get away with just hacking away at other pitches? You know, the ol' 'What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas' crap."
"Yeah, but there's no real reason to think that'll be the case, he's so young."
"Well, yeah, I agree - why are we trying to think up these specific risk scenarios? Why don't we just say he's got a sweet swing, hasn't managed to put much pop in it yet, won't ever be a pure power hitter, obviously, has a very good shot at being an above average player but is a little hard to project because the data on him is a lot more unique than a typical first base scrub?"
"Well, what do you think about the Olerud ref?"
"Come on, Olerud? I mean, yeah, Loney could end up being as good as him, but that's kind of a weird comparison. Olerud didn't play the minors, and his OBP was heavy on walks, not singles. I mean, yeah, Loney might roll some .400 OBPs with a .470 slug, but you'd think he'd have like a .330 BA to do that, not an Olerudian .290. I'd say someone like Garvey is more similar."
"You're being too harsh, man, and no one will even know how valuable we think he is if we compare him to Garvey; some people will legitimately take that to mean we think he sucks, and some will take it to mean he's MVP. I mean, I know in your heart what you want to write is 'read Curve Ball, but we can't put that for every player. We've got a deadline."
"Do we? I forget how this thing works."


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