Thursday, March 15, 2007

Doping vs. Dopey

I have done my best to stay out of the blogger wars that have seen several of my favorite blogs flaming each other, being flamed by angry fans, and generally engulfed in chaos over Alex Rodriguez. I guess it pays to run a blog that gets an average of .07656 comments per post. For my part, I know that it's tabloid journalism that is behind the whole thing. The tabloids love to make someone their whipping boy because it sells papers, and there is an entire cross-section of fans that love the drama of the off-field news as much as they love the game itself. I love the game. The game is above all else the driving force for my work. I like to poke fun from time to time, and I like to keep it light. The A-Rod cult of personality issue is something that is hard to ignore or not chime in on, because it is pervasive. I debated long and hard about posting at COH about it again, but I think I've found a way to do it, while still keeping the focus on the game.

Where many people want to devote entire pages and columns on A-Rod's contract, his relationship with the Captain, or whatever other goofy thing he's said in the press, I want to keep it in perspective based on performance. I think Alex is an easy target. He's not particulary likable, and I would draw a parallel between his image and Kobe Bryant's. Both are supremely talented, and should be celebrated for their performances. Bryant comes off as arrogant and egotistical, where A-Rod comes off as fake or self-aggrandizing. Are these reputations deserved? Maybe, yes. I could care less actually. It's a matter of perception. I think the perception of a player is often unduly generated by his "likeability" factor. Since no one has found an accurate way to translate that statistically (except maybe Madison Avenue or Fire Joe Morgan), I'll stick to the on-field statistics to create my overarching perception of a player.

I've chosen two Yankees with monkeys on their backs as my test case here. "Doping" is Jason Giambi, who was on the outs with Yankee fans for his slow start in pinstripes and then his steroid scandal later. He seems to have regained his fan base to a degree thanks to improved performance on the field and a Rock and Roll personality that seems to draw people in. "Dopey" is A-Rod, who occasionally puts his foot in his mouth in the media, and has the big contract and the corporate image that doesn't sit well with the lunch pail crowd at Yankee Stadium. It's almost as though people have it in their craw that Alex thinks he's better than them. He won the MVP as a Yankee, but his poor October performances have made people forget about all that, and many fans revel in his failure. Let's see what each of these guys has done on the field, for the Yankees.

Jason Giambi

Games: 669
Batting: .270/.418/.535 (.953 OPS)
HR: 163
TPA: 2825
PA/HR: 17.33
WARP3: 33.9 (32.1 -2004 season)
WARP3/Season: 6.78 (8.10 -2004 season)

Alex Rodriguez
Games: 471
Batting: .299/.396/.549 (.945 OPS)
HR: 119
TPA: 2087
PA/HR: 17.54
WARP3: 30.3
WARP3/Season: 10.1

If you look at these numbers, you see right away that the batting isn't all that different. Alex hits better and slugs a bit more, but Giambi knows how to work a walk. I made an error in my HR/PA calculations, and I actually determined that the HR rates are almost identical for these two players in pinstripes. Both players hit home runs at a rate of roughly one every 17.5 times they stride to the plate with a bat in their hand. I also initially wrote the metric in reverse as HR/PA instead of PA/HR, which is not a useful measure of anything really. I must have been sleepy when I worked all that out.

The WARP numbers are interesting because it shows the value that a glove will play in raising someone's value to the team. A-Rod plays 3rd base, sometimes well, sometimes not so well, but he plays. Giambi plays 1st base poorly, and rarely at all these days. The average WARP3 numbers show that virtually equal batting success, plus a fair glove at a tough position is more valuable to the team. Take into account that Giambi has put up a better per season OPS+ number for the Yankees, Alex Rodriguez won an MVP award in 2005, Giambi missed half a season due to "physical problems" and spent the better part of two seasons struggling mightily at the plate, and A-Rod has been awful in the post-season. I don't see how one guy can be forgiven his performance enhancing drug use and another routinely booed for being self-absorbed. It makes no sense.

Both of these players wear Yankee uniforms and both of them are perennial MVP candidates. We need both of them healthy, well-adjusted, and focused to succeed. I leave the drama to All My Children, General Hospital, The Young and the Restless, and whatever new drivel Aaron Spelling has dreamed up. The Yankees are a baseball team out to win games. If they do that, and maintain the reputation of the team in their off the field life, I'm a fan. Go Yankees.


Travis G. said...

those HR/PA numbers must be wrong. if Giambi only homered in 1%, he'd have just 6 per season.

600 x .01 = 6

it must be somewhere around 7%, which would equate to 42 HRs per 600 PAs.

singlessss said...

Hey Mike -
I am personally sick of all the 'personal' press on ARod. I think this is a statement on 'professional' sports writers who choose to write stuff that is cheap, and takes no baseball knowledge or accumen.

I don't know how ARod stands it. It's pissing me off.

It is also a sad commentary on us fans, many who prefer to 'watch and read' about someone else's life, rather then live their own.

singlessss said...

You must sleep much getting not.
I mean, you must not be getting much sleep.

Chris V said...

I am big fans of Giambi and ARod. I admit I wasn't too impressed with Giambi early on (although he put up good numbers his first year here), and I wasn't happy about losing Soriano, but all things considered, I'm glad these two guys are on my team.

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