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« Ann Althouse's aging advice | Main | Shouldn't our allies have extradition treaties with us? »

July 10, 2004

Comments

B.C.

As I said in my original response, it seems unlikely that there are many players out there with a comparable career SLG to Thome's .568. In fact, no one has come within 30 pts of that mark with the examples put forth. I think it's safe to call the bet.

My original argument was more about situational hitting and how a batter's value depends on their role. It may be worth considering that Gwynn hit mostly out of the 2 or 3 hole on some pretty bad teams, while Thome has batted 3-5 on some pretty strong lineups. (I hope this is correct as it is from memory and I have no numbers to back it up.)

Ultimately I still don't think Gwynn is being fairly evaluated, and it signifies the difficulty with baseball analysis across the board. Everyone will have a stat they prefer or a way of looking at the players they love/hate in a favorable light (I'm certainly no exception). If one thinks Gwynn is overrated, there is certainly a way to reinforce that view in a statistical comparison. Precisely what makes baseball so great, of course. My opinion on Gwynn is formed largely on the little things done on and off the field that are so difficult to quantify, whether it be advancing a runner with a ball to the other side of the infield or working to improve the other hitters on the team. He will be remembered as one of the best pure contact hitters in the game, and I'd say that's exactly how it should be.

Anyway, if this bet can wait a couple years, I have a player for you. .411 OBP, .612 SLG, and if he hits at that rate for two more years and then drops off the face of the earth, he'll be exactly the guy you're looking for. Any guesses?

Brian

Professor,

Have you ever read Moneyball? I enjoyed it, although I did not agree with all of it. I don't like the stat or value-based arguments in real baseball. Fantasy baseball is one thing, real life is another.

The Abreu-Thome comparison proves my point, at least to me. While Abreu has better overall stats, I'll take Thome in a New York minute over him. Last year, when the Phillies were still in contention during the last 6 weeks, Thome was a man posessed, clutch hit, after clutch hit, as usual for him. Abreu, as usual for him, did nothing when it counted most. Believe me, thanks to TiVo and the satellite dish, I rarely miss a Phils game. I have total confidence in Thome when it counts, and none in Abreu.

I'll add this comparison too: Who has been the top SSs over the past decade? In fantasy, I'd want A-Rod, Nomar, and Renteria. But, in real life, I'd take Jeter over all of them. Jeter by himself destroys the Moneyball system as applied to real life. That system is the equivalent of "warning-track power."

Anyway, it's all Bill James' fault we are having this argument. Thank God for him, because I still love baseball as much as I did when I was a boy walking to the Vet to see the Phils play for a buck.

Tung Yin

I haven't read "Moneyball," but I think I'd be sympathetic to what it says. By the way, by stats, Thome is clearly better than Abreu.

Brian

According to my fantasy league stats, Abreu is #5 overall, and Thome is #19. Not a huge difference, but Abreu does add more categories, like SB and better average.

Tung Yin

Brian, my mistake. I thought you were talking about career stats, where Thome's SLG is much higher than Abreu's (and their OBPs are equal).

By the way, did Abreu earn a little bit of confidence with the walk-off HR the other night?

Salieri

I would agree that the "Moneyball" strategy is only one of a few good ones, and the best teams are those who (to use a cliche) can beat you in so many ways. I think that this is why the A's have done so well in the regular season the past few years, and not so well in the playoffs: Moneyball works well on average, but when you absolutely have to win one game, it helps if you have more offensive and defensive dimensions.

Brian

I have to admit, Abreu has really earned his all-start slot lately. But, unlike Thome, Abreu has not been there when it has counted late in the season. I am praying that he proves me wrong time and again. Nothing would make me happier.

Scott

First, as a devout Phils phan, I'm glad you are using Thome as the subject of the bet, because he is just plain awesome (except when he chokes in the Home Run Derby).

Second, I want to echo those who defend Gwynn because of certain things that may not show up on the stat sheet. Tony Gwynn is a smart, pure hitter, who studied the game and pitchers in order to improve his play. Sure, he didn't hit for power, etc., but he was/is one of the greatest contact hitters of all time. He could "place" his hits; e.g. I bet you could put a target down just behind the SS and say "hit one here" and Gwynn could get it with a couple feet. He is also a great instructor. As someone mentioned, he worked with his teammates to improve their hitting. Now, as coach of San Diego State's team, he is working on developing future ballplayers (and according to reports, doing a fine job).

Gwynn is not overrated if he is given credit for what he really was: a solid, consistent player who hit for average. All things considered, he belongs in the Hall.

Tung Yin

I've never disputed that Gwynn belongs in the Hall of Fame, especially given the presence of very good but far from great players like Robin Yount. I do think that Gwynn is overrated because so much emphasis is placed on his .338 career BA, given his much less impressive career OBP, SLG, OPS, and adjusted OPS+. The example of his skills that you bring up -- studying pitchers, control of where the ball goes -- are all part of what allowed him to hit .338. But, while I wouldn't say it's an empty .338 (he did hit a lot of doubles), I also think there are a bunch of players today who are much better *hitters* than Gwynn despite lower batting averages. For example, is there any real dispute that both Thome and Abreu have been far more valuable hitters on a rate stat basis than Gwynn was? Gwynn is in the Hall because of his .338 average and his longevity -- the longevity I agree with, but his rate stats just aren't that special.

Brian

Scott,

You don't have to sell Gwynn to me. SOLD.

Thome did hit two rockets that went foul in the derby. Unlike most of the other guys, he had to hit to right field. Look at switch-hitting Lance Berkman. He chose to go at it from the right side. Left field at MM Field is a joke.

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