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Just The Sports: 2007-06-17

Just The Sports

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Alex Rodriguez's Walk Years

If Alex Rodriguez so chooses, he can, after the 2007 season, terminate his ten-year, $252 million contract filled with numerous bonuses, in what is actually the first of three opt-out years for the current New York Yankee. Opting out of the contract will deprive him of $81 million over the next three seasons, but on the free agent market, with agent Scott Boras whispering in his ear, maybe he thinks he will be able to top that $27 million per year rate and sign another albatross contract. Since he can end his relationship with the contract, the 2007 season is, in essence, his walk year, his first since 2000 and one that is shaping up to look very much like what he did in 2007.

With all the attention and incredulity Rodriguez's current season's exploits have garnered coupled with the short attention span of today's media coverage, it is easy to forget just what Rodriguez accomplished in his last year with the Seattle Mariners.

In his first sixty-nine games of the 2000 season, Rodriguez hit .347 BA/.449 OBP/.649 SLG/.364 GPA, which is neither statistically significantly better nor worse than the .313 BA/.416 OBP/.688 SLG/.359 GPA line he has put up in the first sixty-nine games of this season.

As one can see, the differences between his batting average and on-base percentage in the two seasons is both a couple of points above .100, but Rodriguez compiled the differences in two ways. In 2000, he drew forty-nine walks in his first 314 official plates appearances; for this year, he has only drawn thirty-nine walks in 308 official plate appearances, but he has failed to get out of the way of nine pitches, making up for the lower walk rate. Also, his higher batting average for his first sixty-nine games of the 2000 season explains the higher on-base percentage and thus, the higher gross product average.

Not so clear to the eye by simply looking at the aforementioned cumulative statistics is the fact his slugging percentage, isolated power, and gross product average standard deviations are lower in his 2000 season so while Rodriguez may have reached higher power heights this year, he was more consistent with the ones he reached in 2000.

What comparing these two seasons demonstrates is not only the high level of play at which Rodriguez has been able to hit in seasons seven years apart, but that if a team so desires to give him a huge contract on the condition he does opt out, he will have earned it just like he did in 2000.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

National League Hitting Streaks

Just like the American League has had a slew of hitters who have amassed hitting streaks of at least fourteen games, the National League also has its share, fourteen to be exact, which includes Jose Reyes (14 games), Matt Holliday (14 % 15 games), Rich Aurilia (14 games), Rafael Furcal (15 games), Willy Taveras (15 games), Yadier Molina (15 games), Aaron Rowand (16 games), David Wright (17 games), Derrek Lee (17 games), Juan Encarnacion (18 games), J.J. Hardy (19 games), Alfonso Soriano (20 games), Randy Winn (20 games), and Brandon Phillips (22 games).

While on the whole, the National League's hitting streaks are incapable of inspiring much awe, Aaron Rowand of the Philadelphia Phillies and J.J. Hardy of the Milwaukee Brewers managed to set themselves head and shoulders above their junior circuit brethren. Rowand did it by hitting .435 BA/.493 OBP/.790 SLG/.419 GPA over sixteen games and Hardy accomplished the feat by hitting .418 BA/.459 OBP/.835 SLG/.415 GPA during nineteen straight games and his .418 isolated power was the highest among the fourteen players.

When it comes to the most anemic hitting streak, Taveras ran away with the distinction by "only" cobbling together a batting line of .366 BA/.370 OBP/.437 SLG/.276 GPA, no small feat when three other players had gross product averages (GPA) that only hovered around .300.

In that battle of his own hitting streaks, Matt Holliday's fourteen-game hitting streak (.467 BA/.484 OBP/.717 SLG/.397 GPA) narrowly edged out his fifteen-game hitting streak (.419 BA/.446 OBP/.661 SLG/.366 GPA), but both of them were impressive unlike Jeter's two hitting streaks where only one was memorable.

As I did the other day, here are the other hitters' numbers which I have not already given you in the body of the post: Jose Reyes (.381 BA/.426 OBP/.540 SLG/.327 GPA), Rich Aurilia (.368 BA/.383 OBP/.526 SLG/.304 GPA), Rafael Furcal (.462 BA/.507 OBP/.585 SLG/.374 GPA), Yadier Molina (.373 BA/.389 OBP/.471 SLG/.293 GPA), David Wright (.343 BA/.413 OBP/.597 SLG/.335 GPA), Derrek Lee (.400 BA/.451 OBP/.613 SLG/.356 GPA), Juan Encarnacion (.304 BA/.351 OBP/.580 SLG/.303 GPA), Alfonso Soriano (.372 BA/.407 OBP/.616 SLG/.337 GPA), Randy Winn (.388 BA/.409 OBP/.565 SLG/.325 GPA), and Brandon Phillips (.351 BA/.366 OBP/.588 SLG/.312 GPA).


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

American League Hitting Streaks

As of today, fifteen American League hitters (Chone Figgins-14, Dustin Pedroia-14, Jermaine Dye-14, Mike Lowell-14, Mike Napoli-14, Dan Johnson-15, Jorge Posada-15, Orlando Cabrera-15, Alex Rodriguez-18, Derek Jeter-19 & 20, Yuniesky Betancourt-20, Kevin Youkilis-23, Torii Hunter-23, Ichiro Suzuki-25, and Casey Blake-26) have strung together a hitting streak of at least fourteen games, or for the baseball history buffs out there, one-quarter of the way to DiMaggio's MLB record fifty-six game hitting streak. Yet, not every hitting streak is equal, a fact most media outlets ignore since they are still obsessed only with hits regardless of what kind they are, and these year's hitting streaks should be ranked in at least one locale.

Although Alex Rodriguez is not the possessor of the longest American League hitting streak this season, he has by far the most impressive overall hitting statistics of any of these hitters. In fact, the start he had in the first eighteen games of this season was historic, as he had a line of .400 BA/.453 OBP/1.053 SLG, giving him an otherworldly .467 GPA, most of that due to the fourteen home runs he hit in the eighteen-game span.

On the other side of the spectrum, it was Rodriguez's teammate, Derek Jeter, who had the least impressive hitting streak out of the fifteen hitters. Throughout his twenty-game hitting streak, Jeter hit a toothless, compared to the other players, .364 BA/.418 OBP/.466 SLG with a .305 GPA. Of course, this twenty-game hitting streak is not to be confused with what he did in nineteen straight games when he hit .417 BA/.517 OBP/.597 SLG with a .382 GPA, making that the streak he will probably remember more fondly.

As far as highest batting average during the respective batting averages, that honor goes to another Yankee, Jorge Posada. If it had not been for Rodriguez, Posada's batting line of .473 BA/.517 OBP/.764 SLG with a .423 GPA would have made him the leader in the hitting streak clubhouse, but instead he just places and does not win.

Dan Johnson and Derek Jeter both deserve honorable mention for reminding us all that a player can draw walks and still keep a hitting streak going. During Johnson's fifteen-game streak (.411 BA/.514 OBP/.714 SLG/.410 GPA) and Jeter's nineteen-game streak, each had an OBP at least .100 points above their batting averaging, showing that even when they were not hitting, they were still getting on base by other means.

Each of the other hitters should be given their due as well and their hitting statistics are as follows: Chone Figgins (.452 BA/.469 OBP/.516 SLG/.340 GPA), Dustin Pedroia (.462 BA/.482 OBP/.654 SLG/.380 GPA), Jermaine Dye (.333 BA/.339 OBP/.649 SLG/.315 GPA), Mike Lowell (.370 BA/.417 OBP/.667 SLG/.354 GPA), Mike Napoli (.354 BA/.411 OBP/.708 SLG/.362 GPA), Orlando Cabrera (.426 BA/.446 OBP/.590 SLG/.348 GPA), Yuniesky Betancourt (.368 BA/.402 OBP/.500 SLG/.306 GPA), Kevin Youkilis (.426 BA/.468 OBP/.733 SLG/.394 GPA), Torii Hunter (.372 BA/.394 OBP/.660 SLG/.342 GPA), Ichiro Suzuki (.411 BA/.445 OBP/.500 SLG/.325 GPA), and Casey Blake (.317 BA/.408 SLG/.606 SLG/.335 GPA).


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Burnett's Second Year

When Toronto Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi rationalized the signing of oft-injured A.J. Burnett to a five-year, $55 million contract by saying that he was not paying the money based on only the first year of the deal but on all five years of the contract, he was technically correct. Even though the likelihood of Burnett pitching 200 regular season innings for the Blue Jays is infinitesimal, the possibility Burnett pays back the Blue Jays in $55 million worth of production is remains as long as the contract is still valid.

Of course, one would hope that Burnett would be able to provide an improved second season in Toronto to make his case stronger that he is worth his money and on the day of Burnett's annual stint on the disabled list, this time for a shoulder injury, we are all provided with a perfect break in his season during which we can compare the pitching statistics he compiled last year to the ones he has for this season.

Not desiring to lead the reader astray, it is worth nothing that Burnett actually had one of his best years last season, control-wise. His K/BB ratio of 3.03 was the best it had ever been during his career, which is made even more impressive by the fact he did that in the American League East, home to two of the most discriminate hitting teams in the major leagues in the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

Unfortunately for Burnett, he has been unable to maintain his K/BB ratio and it has dropped 2.50. At the same time, Burnett's home run rate (HR/9 IP) has risen from the 0.93 mark it was last year to this year's 1.30 level so of the three aspects of baseball the pitcher has full control over (walks, strikeouts, and home runs), Burnett is doing worse in his second season as a Blue Jay. This has resulted in his fielding-independent ERA increasing from 3.84 in 2006 to 4.45 this season.

As his statistics look now, it appears that Burnett was only able to master control of the strike zone for one season and that the Blue Jays will probably not get better production out of him than they got in the first year of his contract, rendering Ricciardi's rationalization moot.

However, in this day and age, maybe $11 million a year will only get you an A.J. Burnett.