Table of Contents

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Player Value, Part 4: Position Player Wrap-Up

To view the complete player value series, click on the player value label on any of these posts.

Let's go over the main principles we've covered thus far:

1. A run saved is worth the same as a run scored. Therefore, estimates of player value require one to consider both offense and defense.

2. We often find it useful to compare players to replacement players, who we assume will hit at 73% of league average and play league-average defense at a given position.

3. A player's total offensive contributions can be estimated using linear weights, relative to replacement player offensive production levels.

4. A player's fielding performance can be best estimated using the combined estimates of several different statistics. Because replacement players can be assumed to be league-average fielders, we simply report all fielding statistics as +-average at a position.

5. We also need to add a position adjustment to a player's fielding estimate to signify the differences in value (i.e. average difficulty) of playing one position vs. another. This should be pro-rated for the player's playing time (defensive innings).

Now, let's put it all together and look at a case study.

The 2007 Reds Position Players


While I've already posted offensive value estimates for the '07 Reds, I haven't yet posted fielding data, so let's start there.

Below I've used combined data from the Fans' Scouting Report, ZR, RZR, and the catcher statistics (C-Runs below) to estimate fielding runs saved vs. average. Methods are as described in my previous posts. ZR and RZR data are the summed values across all positions a player played. FSR data are calculated using Tango's custom weights for each position a player plays, pro-rated for his defensive innings at each position (Player innings out of 1440), and summed. I've also added a position adjustment (using Tom Tango's numbers) to the data to get an estimate of total fielding value.

Here are the data (sorry about the missing cells--nature of the beast). Fielding is the +-Fielding value relative to a player's position. TtlFldVal is a player's total fielding value, which is the sum of Fielding and the position adjustment (PosAdj). All values are reported as +-runs.
Name PriPos Inn FSR ZR RZR C-Runs Fielding PosAdj TtlFldVal
D Ross C 837 6.9

6.3 6.5 5.8 12.3
B Phillips 2B 1371 15.3 -0.8 15.1
9.2 0.0 9.2
N Hopper CF 607 0.6 4.3 11.2
6.0 0.9 6.8
A Gonzalez SS 872 2.2 3.2 5.4
3.8 2.4 6.2
R Freel CF 577 -0.7 -4.7 7.8
1.0 1.5 2.5
J Ellison RF 82
1.8 3.5
2.1 -0.2 1.8
D Wise CF 13
0.4 0.6
0.5 0.0 0.6
M Bellhorn 3B 14
0.2 -0.1
0.0 0.0 0.0
R Hanigan C 20

-0.1 -0.1 0.1 0.0
J Keppinger SS 509 -3.4 2.9 -3.2
-1.0 1.0 0.0
R Jorgensen C 34

-0.2 -0.2 0.2 0.0
J Valentin C 472 -4.4

-3.1 -3.4 3.3 -0.1
J Hamilton CF 663 2.0 2.3 -8.4
-1.8 1.6 -0.2
C Moeller C 87

-0.9 -0.9 0.6 -0.3
B Coats RF 68
0.0 -0.5
-0.3 -0.1 -0.4
P Lopez SS 93
-2.6 1.2
-0.7 0.3 -0.4
E Cruz SS 2
-0.7 -0.7
-0.7 0.0 -0.7
J Castro SS 178 0.0 1.0 -4.9
-1.5 0.2 -1.3
J Cantu 1B 112
-1.7 0.1
-0.8 -0.6 -1.4
J Conine 1B 435 -1.9 1.4 -2.8
-1.0 -2.4 -3.4
J Votto 1B 188
-0.7 -5.7
-3.2 -0.9 -4.1
S Hatteberg 1B 772 0.6 7.4 -11.1
-1.2 -4.3 -5.5
E_Encarnacion 3B 1168 -1.1 3.0 -21.9
-7.4 -0.8 -8.2
K Griffey
RF 1163 -1.0 -1.2 -17.1
-7.1 -3.2 -10.4
A Dunn LF 1189 -14.2 -4.1 -17.5
-11.6 -3.3 -14.9

According to these data, the Reds' most valuable fielders in 2007 were David Ross, Brandon Phillips, Norris Hopper, and Alex Gonzalez. Phillips was the best at his position of any Red in terms of runs saved vs. average, but Ross (who was ranked the 8th most valuable catcher in MLB) played a more valuable position, and this pushed his overall ranking to the top. Strangely, Phillips was rated as merely average by ZR, which speaks to the differences between the BIS and STATS hit location datasets.

In contrast, the Reds' worst fielders were Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey Jr., Edwin Encarnacion, and Scott Hatteberg. Dunn got hammered by all of the fielding statistics, so there's clear consensus that he's Not Good in left field. In contrast, Griffey was rated as roughly average by both Fans and ZR, but was hammered by RZR. This is largely because the latter statistic places far more weight on plays out of zone, which is where Griffey's performance really fell short. Edwin was also rated differently by the two datasets, though in his case it's not clear why RZR dislikes him so much more than ZR.

Overall, I really like how total fielding value ranks these players. Compared to rankings that are strictly relative to positions, the total fielding value rankings recognize the inherent differences in value among different positions, which results in appropriate looking boosts to guys playing hard positions (C, CF, SS) and penalties to guys playing easier positions (1B, LF, RF).

Total Value

Now, the moment we all (or, at least, I) have been waiting for: let's put together our offensive and fielding numbers and rank the '07 Reds non-pitchers based on their total value!!!

In the table below, RAR represents a player's offense (runs above replacement), while TtlFld represents a player's defensive value (+- fielding and a position adjustment). Total_Value is the combined value of offense and defense!
Name POS
B Phillips 2B 30.2 9.2 39.4
A Dunn LF 51.3 -14.9 36.4
K Griffey Jr. RF 36.4 -10.4 26.0
J Hamilton CF 25.2 -0.2 25.0
S Hatteberg 1B 26.9 -5.5 21.4
A Gonzalez SS 13.3 6.2 19.5
J Keppinger SS 17.1 0.0 17.1
N Hopper CF 10.8 6.8 17.6
EEncarnacion 3B 24.8 -8.2 16.7
D Ross C -4.6 12.3 7.7
J Valentin C 3.2 -0.1 3.1
J Cantu 1B 3.8 -1.4 2.4
J Votto 1B 7.3 -4.1 3.2
R Freel CF -0.2 2.5 2.2
D Wise CF 0.3 0.6 0.9
J Conine 1B 4.6 -3.4 1.2
R Jorgensen C 0.4 0.0 0.4
R Hanigan C 0.3 0.0 0.3
J Ellison RF -1.8 1.8 0.0
E Cruz SS -0.2 -0.7 -1.0
M Bellhorn 3B -1.4 0.0 -1.3
B Coats RF -1.4 -0.4 -1.8
P Lopez SS -3.6 -0.4 -4.1
C Moeller C -4.8 -0.3 -5.1
J Castro SS -8.2 -1.3 -9.4
Isn't that exciting? Seven long articles worth of methods just to produce this little table!!!! :)

After all of that work, I'm quite comfortable saying what many would probably have been willing to say from the get-go: Brandon Phillips was the most valuable position player on the Cincinnati Reds in 2007! He was their third most valuable hitter, and the second most valuable fielder. Overall, it was an outstanding season by the Reds' second baseman. Hopefully he can continue that success next year.

For all my concerns about Adam Dunn's defense, he still came in a close second as the Reds' second most valuable position player thanks to his tremendous offensive performance. Josh Hamilton also had a strong showing, especially when you consider that he only had 337 PA's. Just think of where he'd be if he could get 650-700 PA's next season while maintaining this level of performance. I get misty-eyed when I think about it.

Without going back to repeat the math throughout his career, Alex Gonzalez may well have had the best all-around season of his career despite getting only 430 PA's. And Hopper and Keppinger may have had what will, in fact, turn out to be the best seasons of their MLB careers (though I'm obviously hoping they have more in the tank).

On the flip side, despite early-season struggles offensively, Edwin Encarnacion did manage to come out with positive value over replacement in this analysis, which is probably an improvement over 2006. His hitting slipped a bit this season overall, but he did show some improvement in his defense. If he can continue to improve on defense, while getting his offensive production back to his '06 rates over a full season, he could be a force to be reckoned with. But if he can't get his offense back on track for a full season, or his fielding slips to '06 levels of misery, he might not keep his job much longer. The kid's only 24, but the Reds will only wait so long for him to put things together. Next season might be his make-or-break season, at least as far as the Reds are concerned.

Finally, David Ross shows up better than I expected thanks to his strong showing on defense. Nevertheless, 8 runs above replacement-level is not acceptable performance from someone who got ~350 PA's on this team. Catching was very clearly the biggest hole in the Reds' lineup, and the place where they could potentially gain the most ground via an acquisition. ... not that the free agent market for catchers is particularly rich.

Coming up next: pitchers!
Brandon Phillips Photo by AP/David Kohl
Edwin Encarnacion Photo by Cincinnati Enquirer