Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Four Teams, Two Spots (and the NL RoY Race)

Buster Posey and Jason Heyward (and Jaime Garcia) are incredible rookies. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus on Heyward and Posey. Why? Well, I think they’ve done enough to be considered the top two candidates for the RoY award, and both are still in contention. This will help their chances, right or wrong. Furthermore, if only one of the two makes the playoffs that’s also really going to help either Heyward’s or Posey’s chances. This is still a really possibility, too, though both would get in if play ended at the end of yesterday – but to be fair, the Giants’ lead over the Padres is merely a ½ game advantage having played (and won) an additional game.

Each one of these rookies has been phenomenal in their own right. Heyward has played a nice right field and is hitting for solid average (.286), moderate power (.475 SLG) and is getting on base like a mad man (.401 OBP), something that rookies have rarely done. Buster Posey is hitting for an extremely high average (.324), getting on base at a very nice rate (.373) and hitting for much more power than could have been expected (.522 SLG), both this soon and also in terms of his long term potential. Furthermore, Posey is playing the integral position of catcher, and catching the staff with the best ERA in baseball no less. What’s more, the Giants have amassed an astounding ERA thus far in the pivotal September pennant race. Posey is thus far out OPS’ing Heyward .895 to .876, but this could change within a matter of days. Plus, Heyward has the slight wOBA edge given his higher OBP, 3.85 versus .382.

Counting stats wise, Posey has 15 HR and 61 RBI to Heyward’s 17/71. It should be noted, however, that Heyward has played in 35 more games than Posey (132 versus 97). The RBI’s are not of particular use in my opinion, but rest assured; they’ll be a factor in the voting. Also, Heyward has already struck out 118 times to just 46 for Posey. What I decided to do was to take their respective WAR’s from both Baseball Reference and Fangraphs to determine the relative value they’ve provided to their team. There seems to be consensus about Heyward but less so about Posey – this is common between the two sites as they use slightly different methods to arrive at their WAR figures.

BR = 4.6 WAR in 132 G
FG = 4.6 WAR in 132 G
WAR Average = 4.6
1 W per 29 games played according to Baseball Reference
1 W per 29 games played according to Fangraphs
1 W per 29 games played, average

BR = 2.8 WAR in 97 G
FG = 3.9 WAR in 97 G
WAR Average = 3.35
1 W per 35 games played according to Baseball Reference
1 W per 25 games according to Fangraphs
1 W per 29 games played, average

Isn’t this interesting? On a per game basis, if we give 50% weight to baseball reference’s and 50% to Frangaphs’ figures, Posey and Heyward have provided the exact same WAR on a per game basis with 1 win every 29 games. Heyward has provided more cumulative WAR because he’s played in more games. My conclusion is this: Right now it’s more or less a dead heat. The voters are going to focus on counting stats and batting average. They are also going to put a great deal of weight on where their teams ended the season, in postseason or at home watching. Both of these players will have a great deal to do with how their teams finish. Still, they could both play horribly and both still get in, or both play phenomenally (a word that suits them both) and it end up that neither the Braves nor Giants get in. But this seems unlikely to me. In my humble opinion, if there was ever a year where a Co-NL Rookie of the Year award was appropriate, it would be 2010 with all the talent that has flushed the league this season. There’s probably (if not certainly) no right or wrong answer. I won’t hesitate to say it should be Posey – a biased opinion no doubt – but they’re singing a different tune down south, and have been so since their guy started breaking windshields in Spring Training. The fact that they played one another in the 2005 Georgia AAAA State Championship back in high school only adds to the intrigue.

Playoff Picture …

It’s probably (really) safe to say the Reds and Phillies are in, and there are four teams fighting for the final two spots. Here are the opponents’ average run differentials (OARD), etc. for each of these teams.

Giants (OARD = 0.36), 6 Home 5 Away - @ CHC for 2. Lead division by ½ game, potentially ½ back of WC
Braves (OARD = 28.30), 6 Home 4 Away - @ PHI for 1. Trail division by 5 games, 1 game up in WC
Padres (OARD = 19.33), 7 Home 5 Away - @ LAD for 2. Trail division by ½ game, 1 game back in WC
Rockies (OARD = 21.50), 6 Home 6 Away - @ AZ for 2. Trail division by 2 ½ games, 3 ½ games back in WC

The Giants have themselves in nice position. For one, they currently lead the division. Also, they are only ½ back from the Braves (and zero in the loss column), which is another path to the playoffs should SD or COL catch them. That being said, position means nothing if they don’t play well and continue to pitch great while praying for a few runs.

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