Picking a Nit

I get really aggravated whether people just simplistically take one player's stat and compare it with another and decree one thing or the other WHEN the player did not play, come rain, come shine, come left-hander, come right-hander. Surprisingly, I found this type of argument at a site that I like, Baseball Prospectus. In this Prospectus Notebook, written about one and a half months ago, the writer compares Snow's and Niekro's BP stats and says that the Giants may as well play Niekro since they are similar and save the money on Snow and use it elsewhere.

Well, here's the problem: Niekro's balance of ABs was skewed by him playing more against LHP than RHP. When you adjust his ABs to the true ratio of LHP to RHP, then you get a different picture. Using Feliz's ABs as a guide to the balance of ABs vs LHP and vs RHP, I recalculated all of Niekro's rate stats against the amount of PAs he would have faced in a normal season (like what Feliz faced), instead of being skewed towards LHP because he was semi-platooned with Snow during the season. Instead of the nice .755 OPS that he generated in 2005, he would have had a composite .691 OPS, if you applied his hit rates for each in a regular PA split season. That's like going from a Tucker (.763 career OPS) to a Neifi (.681 career OPS).

So while I agree with the writer that the Giants should not re-sign Snow, neither should they just hand the reins to Niekro either. They should get the lefty 1B that any Giants fan, even at the time of that article (back on Sept 22, slightly before the season ended and Sabean gave his post-season comment that he'll target a lefty power 1B), knew the Giants needed. Left-handed hitting (or rather, hitting against RHP) has been the Giants problem for the past three seasons, even with Bonds in the lineup, because players like Grissom, Santiago, Cruz Jr., hit LHP well but not RHP, and players like Neifi and Deivi, didn't hit either very well at all.

That's why we needed even a seemingly run of the mill player like Tucker. Fans are still upset over losing a draft pick over Tucker. However, he hit RHP at a .263/.339/.431/.770 rate in the three years prior to signing with the Giants and that was close to his rate over his career at that point in time. His career vs. RHP currently is .264/.346/.434/.781. That is not great hitting but that's pretty good for $1.5M and his expected platoon situation with Hammonds at that time. The two of them together would have had an OPS of around .800 as Hammonds hit LHP at a .800+ OPS pace, if I remember correctly.

That's not bad for $2.5M, especially when the Giants had no better alternatives for that price on the market. And it boosted the team's hitting vs. RHP, as they replaced Cruz Jr. meager .233/.353/.379/.732 hitting vs. RHP with Tucker's. It also helped run production because Tucker hit over his career average when men were on base while Cruz hit even worse. Thus, improved hitting and run production for less money (when counting the money saved on the draft pick lost). Plus now they picked up a promising prospect for Tucker in the trade, so they have gotten a good prospect and Tucker for the same money.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Snow's numbers are also primarily against only RHP. I think Niekro actually faced a higher % of RHP than Snow did LHP.

Now obviously there are more RHP in the league than LHP (hence the reason LHH are generally more valuable). Snow also benifited greatly from consistant playing time, whereas Niekro got the semi-jimmy-jack.

You really cannot predict Niekro's success vs RHP by his limited AB's last year. He never had a problem with them in the minors, and never had a chance to get consistant AB's against them in the bigs last season.

Overall, I'd bet on Niekro to be much more productive over the course of the year. Remember that Snow's sub-Niefi SLG makes him one of the least productive 1B the league has seen in years.

Luckily, it appears Sabean will not consider either of these options and is looking to aquire the mystery LH slugging 1B. Which will make Niekro a good cheap backup.

Tue Nov 08, 05:17:00 PM PST  
Blogger obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

Hi, thanks for the comment.

I reread my post and nowhere did I give Snow a vote of confidence. Yes, I know his AB's were skewed too - I did a composite on his and his OPS is still lower than Niekro and perhaps I should have added that to my post, but I didn't think of that, I was focused on "no on Niekro" for starter. Snow's composite was .671, so I will emphasize here I do not endorse getting Snow back, as much as I like him.

I don't recall if I posted here or elsewhere but I noticed that Snow's road hitting has actually been pretty good, PBP/SBC/AT&T has really screwed up his overall hitting, that is, until last season, when his road power finally faded. It is almost like the phenomenon of a person near death and in a coma, where he comes back briefly, then passes (happened to my dad and my culture recognized this last gasp of good-bye), with Snow's slow decline, then great 2004, then the final collapse in 2005. He's too risky even for $1-2M, and I wouldn't get him for $500K, I would rather go full-time with Niekro and take our chances on the trade market, than go into a platoon with the two of them.

I guess you say potato, but I don't feel like I'm predicting Niekro's success as much as saying that he has not had any success in the majors yet against RHP. If you are willing to go into the season with an unproven quantity in our last area of possible improvement in the batting order like the BP guy, that's your choice, but I would be unwilling to do that without first exploring our options first for a LH slugging 1B. We need that for the days that Bonds is not in the lineup, we need that balance in our lineup. Without that, I think the team might not make the playoffs.

I don't have Niekro's LH/RH stats in the minors so I don't know how well he hit RHP in the minors; please pass your source if you got one. I do know that PCL stats are inflated and Niekro only hit around .300 and at 25 he was already a bit old for the league for a legit prospect at that time. That's basically as good as Pedro Feliz hit in the PCL, and we know how good Feliz is as a hitter in the majors.

Overall, I agree, if we could simulate his performance, he would probably be more productive with a full year. But as you put it, it would be a bet to do it in real life, I would prefer him in a platoon situation as insurance, which is what the Giants envision since they said they are looking for a 1B/OF who would play 120 games or so.

Lastly, I agree, luckily, the Giants are looking to acquire a LH slugging 1B and Niekro would make a good cheap backup.

Wed Nov 09, 09:04:00 AM PST  

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