Wednesday, July 16, 2008

First Half Value: Position Players

Nearing the 100 game mark, let's take a look at the first half of the season and try to figure out how much each Oriole has been worth this year in terms of runs saved and runs allowed. Today I'm going to evaluate the position players, starting with their offense, which I'll evaluate using BattingRuns, a linear weights style system available at Baseball Reference. Later in this post I'll look at their fielding, and hopefully I'll look at the pitchers in a subsequent post.

Here are every Oriole position player ranked by Batting Runs.
Markakis        21.3
Huff 17.1
Roberts 15.7
Scott 8.3
Salazar 0.7
Moore -0.3
Torres -1.1
Cintron -2.1
Millar -2.4
Jones -3
Fahey -3.9
Quiroz -5.2
Mora -5.6
HernandezL -5.6
Payton -7.4
HernandezR -9.9
Bynum -13.2
TOTAL -1.3
First of all, the values here are the number of runs above or below average a player has been offensively this season. A value of '0' indicates that a player has performed at exactly the league average. This number has been adjusted based on league and park, but it does not account for positional differences (we'll look at that later), nor does it account for the difference in competition between leagues. It is a counting stat, which means that the absolute value of the statistic will tend to increase as playing time does.

The results here should not be particularly surprising. The entire team rates as being very slightly below average offensively with about 98% of the positive contribution coming from Luke Scott, Brian Roberts, Aubrey Huff, and Nick Markakis. In fact, the ONLY other player of the remaining 13 that has generated positive value is Oscar Salazar who had just 18 PA before being send back to Norfolk.

The SS production has been terrible, as expected, with a combined contribution of about -25 runs from the four primary SS options. Freddie Bynum and his .444 OPS over 121 PA has been the worst offender at -13.

So that's interesting. Now let's look at fielding value. This is based off of The Hardball Times' Revised Zone Rating (RZR) and converted to a runs saved estimate using the method used by Justin over on his excellent Reds' site (I also used his method for evaluating catcher defense) to convert to a "+/-" number of plays above or below average before converting to runs using the fact that 0.8 runs are saved for each play made.

What IS included in these rankings: runs saved on balls in and out of zone for non-catchers, relative to the average at their position; runs saved on stolen bases and errors for catchers.

What IS NOT included in these rankings: runs saved based on throwing arm for outfielders or double plays for infielders; runs saved on errors for non-catchers; runs saved on passed balls and wild pitches for catchers.

I hope to expand these numbers at the end of the season by including some of those other aspects of defense, but for now, I'm more interested in a quick-n-dirty look at defensive value.

Markakis 7.49
Roberts 5.63
Jones 2.80
Bynum 2.46
Quiroz 1.20
Millar 0.62
Huff 0.44
Moore 0.40
Torres 0.37
Cintron 0.13
Salazar -0.66
Fahey -0.87
Payton -1.33
HernandezL -4.03
HernandezR -4.22
Scott -6.07
Mora -15.24

First, a note. Ideally, we want to have a larger sample size of data. And even more ideally, we would want to use UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) rather than RZR as UZR takes a much more granular approach to analyzing the data, or at least another more advanced defensive system. However, RZR does bring us a reasonable approximation of defensive value and indeed correlates very strongly with UZR.

So, how about Melvin Mora? He turns in an absolutely terrible performance at over 15 runs below average. This is mainly as a result of making 15 fewer plays out of zone than would be expected from the number of chances he has had in his zone this season. When someone says that Mora has no range anymore at age 36, it's hard to look at these numbers and argue. He'll likely regress towards the mean somewhat, but there's a good chance that he is the worst fielding regular at 3B in the league.

Nick Markakis rates as the teams best fielder, even without the benefit of accounting for his excellent arm. Adam Jones also rates very well, as we would expect, though perhaps a touch lower than you would guess.

And going back to SS once again, look at those defensive values! The Orioles aren't trading offense for defense; they're punting offense just to get average defense. The numbers rate Bynum as a plus fielder, but his contributions are more than zeroed out by Luis Hernandez poor performance in the field. Is there any question he was the worst Opening Day starter in the league?

[To be fair, Hernandez' error and double play rates look solid at a glance, so perhaps factoring those into the analysis would push him back toward average. Still, average fielding from Luis Hernandez means he isn't particularly close to being a major league starter.]

So now let's add these two values up to get a complete rating system for all the Orioles, right? Nope. We still have to make a positional adjustment to account for the fact that Adam Jones playing CF is more valuable than Aubrey Huff playing DH. That's what our numbers so far don't show. There are a number of run values that are floating around the internet for positional adjustments, but I'll just a variation on the one floating around on Tom Tango's blog.

Markakis      26.16
Roberts 21.88
Huff 10.82
Jones 2.03
Moore 0.12
Salazar -0.04
Torres -0.85
Scott -0.91
Cintron -1.32
Quiroz -2.54
Fahey -4.05
Millar -6.99
HernandezL -8.70
Bynum -9.57
HernandezR -9.58
Payton -10.07
Mora -20.35
So there it is, our midseason estimate of player value, in terms of runs above or below average.

Melvin Mora has been, by far, the worst player on the team, in terms of cumulative value. While folks talk about the need to upgrade SS (total of about -24), the situation is almost as bad at 3B with Mora accounting for a -20 at the hot corner. That will happen when you play a power position and don't provide offense or defense to the team.

Another interesting observation is that after adding defense and our positional adjustment to the equation Luke Scott moves to the negative side while Adam Jones moves to the positive side. I think this is one of the areas where crunching the numbers is really instructive. It's sometimes hard for folks to look past a difference of over .100 points of OPS that exists between Scott and Jones, even if those people are fully aware that Jones plays CF very well and Scott plays LF mostly adequately. It should also be noted that Scott has been platooned somewhat with Jay Payton and also plays DH occasionally, leaving him far behind Jones in PA as well as innings in the field.

Did we learn anything here? I'd like to think we did, but if not, there are plenty of pretty numbers to look at. Stay tuned for more updates on this. I'm planning to at least do a final results post when the season is over.

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