Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Tale of Two Hitters

One of my favorite television shows for the past 10 years or so – or so because I don’t know how long it’s been on – is Baseball Tonight. I love the highlights and I can never get enough baseball. And who doesn’t love WebGems? I’ve noticed that at least this season and perhaps for much longer, BBTN has often been featured on with columns written by one of the team members of the show. Seems like a good idea, right? Well, I don’t mind reading them for the most part but I can’t help but chuckle more often than not. At the risk of being (extremely) critical – for which I will apologize in advance, I’m sorry – I must include the latest write-ups that sent me sprilaring into a good chuckle.

Steve Berthiaume:

Gonzalez is my new favorite player to watch. I realize Albert Pujols could come just a few batting average percentage points away from winning the NL Triple Crown and that Joey Votto will get a paddleboat-load of MVP votes & but I'll take Carlos Gonzalez over both of them. I know, pass on Pujols?


Pujols might win the Triple Crown, but Gonzalez is on his way to a home-field Triple Crown. With his 2-for-4 and two RBIs in the Wednesday afternoon comeback, CarGo is leading all NL hitters with a .377 home batting average, 20 home-field home runs and 54 home-field RBIs. Granted, it's Coors Field, but the numbers are what they are and the runs driven in and produced count the same as anywhere else.

Pointing out that CarGo is a “home-field Triple Crown” candidate is so beyond ridiculous, I can only laugh at it. That’s like saying I’m a really great swimmer, but only in the bathtub. What Steve is really saying – and I don’t think he realizes it – is that CarGo’s been a REALLY good hitter at home, and a REALLY bad hitter on the road. He thankfully points out that “home” for Gonzalez is Coors Field. I will point out that Coors is one of the best places to hit in Major League Baseball – even post-humidor. I will also point out that Coors Field has an enormous outfield, and that any player who relies heavily on BABIP, like Mr. Gonzalez, will benefit from the expansive real estate outfield defenders must cover in Colorado.

FanGraphs is a wonderful place to figure this stuff out. Gonzalez’s overall wOBA is .395 and he’s posted a 3.9 WAR thus far in 2010. He’s been a fine player but no MVP candidate. But by looking at his splits, you can extrapolate quite a lot. This is going to get shocking. Like, perhaps he’s as afraid of flying as John Madden is and sends a terrible hitting look alike on the road for him, shocking. Carlos’ wOBA at home is a robust .488 (.421 OBP/ .735 SLG/ 1.156 OPS) to go with those 20 jacks and I’ll omit the RBI’s that bring next to nothing to the discussion. He’s walked 18 times and struck out 36. This isn’t surprising when you understand his tools have nothing to do with patience. And how is his light-hitting look-alike doing on the road? He’s got a wOBA of .302 (.286 OBP/.411 SLG/ .697 OPS). More startling is probably the fact that he’s struck out 73 times while walking only 7 times and hit a wimpy 6 HR. We won’t be blaming any of this on luck either, because his .358 road BABIP is way above average and a mere 16 points off his home BABIP.

A more compelling argument for Gonzalez’s MVP candidacy probably would have been that he’s playing a premium position, centerfield, and Votto (6.0 WAR) and Pujols (5.8 WAR) just play first. I might have bought that. Probably not, but unfathomably more compelling it would have been. Again, I want to make it clear that overall I think Gonzalez is a good baseball player. He’s just not MVP. Not yet, at least. Perhaps he’ll someday learn to jump on a plane.
If CarGo wins the MVP – and he will not – he’ll deserve it about as much as Jeter deserves most of his gold gloves.

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