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Rivalry Links

A couple of interesting notes to throw at you while we await the action this evening.

1. Since July, who's been the best shortstop in baseball? Troy Tulowitzki? Hanley Ramirez? Try Jed Lowrie.

To give you a real sense of just how good Jed Lowrie has been since returning from mono, I had Baseball Prospectus colleague Dan Turkenkopf bring up a list of all shortstop eligible players and their production since July 21, 2010. Using True Average, a rate stat that encompasses offensive production into one neat, tidy number, we can see who has been the best.

In a result so stunning that even Lowrie fanboys will be taken aback, Lowrie is the leading shortstop, via TAv, since his return. Lowrie has a .354 True Average over that stretch, while Tulowitzki – who has hit .331/.407/.672 in the same span of time – ranks second at .349.

Total Average is park adjusted, which is why Tulo's monster numbers take a back seat to Lowrie's.

2. Are the Yankees not as good as they seem?

If the pitching isn't going to get much better (with current personal it's hard to see, but the Yankees can certainly make mid-season moves), and with the offense likely to come back to earth a bit given the inflated HR%, it's hard to say that the Yankees are an elite team or a sure thing to win the AL East right now.

Of course, no team, no matter how good (or bad) they look on April 19, is a sure thing to win (or lose) anything. 


23 replies on “Rivalry Links”

“a sure thing to win the AL East right now”
Talk about a strawman (as you yourself note Paul). I don’t know a single Yankee fan let alone supposedly objective analyst who stated anything like this for the 2011 season. Not only that, most YFs I know said they have felt that the Red Sox, on paper anyway, are at least as good as the Yanks if not better.
As for the question “Are the Yankees not as good as they seem?”, if you’re looking at their record, they are a 9-5 team (.643 win pct). That projects to a 104-58 team. I don’t expect them to win 104 games with this rotation and – again – don’t know anyone who does. Could they? Sure. Will they? Probably not. And as long as they finish in front of the WC or division race, I don’t much care!

Right, Lowrie with half a season of at-bats is as good or better than the best SS in the game. Why do we see if Lowrie can stay healthy for a full season first before we start throwing these comps around?
I seem to remember Paps to Mo company. How are those looking? Why do you guys do this to yourselves?

Yes, over the last half season Lowrie has been the best offensively. That seems to be the statistical truth. As for what he will do going forward? Who knows. Paul made no assertions.

Do what? Make accurate comparisons over limited periods of time without any expectation or promise that these comparisons will continue to hold true over any significant period in the future?
The fact that Jed Lowrie has been slightly better with the bat than the hands-down best shortstop in the game since he returned from mono is interesting and pretty cool. If I need to explain that it doesn’t mean he’s a better shortstop than Tuloqitzki, then this blog is attracting some mighty dumb baseball fans.
Likewise, the fact that Papelbon in 2009-10 has been less than amazing does not take away from the fact that his 2006-08 was better than any consecutive three-season stretch Rivera had produced to that point (Rivera’s 2008-10 is nearly identical to Papelbon’s stretch, but is obviously irrelevant to your point since it hadn’t happened yet).
I remember saying pretty clearly multiple times that Papelbon had a loooong way to go before he could be considered to be anywhere near as good as Rivera.
I’m not sure what it is about these kinds of comparisons (Nomar vs. Jeter through 2003 is another one) that is so hard to understand. A player can be clearly better than another player over a limited period of time without being considered the better overall player for a number of reasons.
I think the case for these three comparisons is very strong, if not incontrovertible:
* Jonathan Papelbon 2006-08 > Mariano Rivera 1996-98 or Rivera 2006-08.
* Nomar Garciaparra 1997-03 > Derek Jeter 1997-03
* Jed Lowrie July 21, 2010-April 18, 2011 > Troy Tulowitzki 7/21/10-4/18/11
But, just to be clear, I will say these three comparisons are equally, if not more, incontrovertible:
* Mariano Rivera career > Jonathan Papelbon career
* Derek Jeter career > Nomar Garciaparra career
* Troy Tulowitzki career > Jed Lowrie career

“I think the case for these three comparisons is very strong, if not incontrovertible:
* Jonathan Papelbon 2006-08 > Mariano Rivera 1996-98 or Rivera 2006-08.”
Whoa, Paul! The stridency of your statement is not deserved. Just for the simple fact that you included 1996 and 2008. In 1996, Mo pitched 107 innings in the regular season and another 18 in an amazing postseason run. That’s around 35 more innings than any season of Papelbon’s. I mean, that’s a significant amount of innings that added a lot of value. You might point at rate stats, but you have to acknowledge cumulative value. I’m not sure any of Papelbon’s years match that in value alone.
In 2008, Mariano pitched a similar number of innings to what Papelbon did except his k:bb was almost 13! That’s better than anything Papelbon has done in his career. Papelbon put up better numbers certainly for a season or two, but I don’t know why you inluded 2008 and 1996.

You’re setting yourselves up for major disappointment. Why can’t a player just be valued for who he is? YFs don’t feel this need and esp not with ridiculously small samples.
As for the other historical comps you are just proving the folly of the exercise. No player can be examined with a cherry picked year set. It’s misleading.

Actually, ANY player can be examined with a cherry picked data set, and in fact baseball lends itself to this type of player comparison. As long as we keep the greater context in mind then the bigger stories will bracket and keep these smaller comparisons in check.
These are the discussions that make baseball intriguing from year to year. To dismiss them as irrelevant shows no deep respect for the great debates of this sport.

It makes sense to run these comparisons when we have a few years of data and they’re still playing. It is what makes comps between Cano and Petey interesting.
But half a year? That’s so absurd as to be meaningless.
As for Mo and Jeter they’re first ballot. Lets keep the comps in that rarefied class.

Come on, Michel, people can’t have some fun?
To restate SF’s point above: “Actually, ANY player can be examined with a cherry picked data set, and in fact baseball lends itself to this type of player comparison. As long as we keep the greater context in mind then the bigger stories will bracket and keep these smaller comparisons in check.”
In ther words, I think everyone here is smart enough to take these cherry-picked comparisons for what they are. No one in his or her right mind would suggest that Paps can be reasonably held alongside Mo. A couple of comparative seasons? Sure. Career? Not a chance. We all know better than that. Hell, even this minute I’d rather have Mo than Paps.
Let me put it this way, I learned the other day that the player with the Red Sox team record for the most RBI in a month (40-something) is someone I’ve never heard of.
Or, Kevin Maas had a great year once. Once.
That’s baseball.

“I think the case for these three comparisons is very strong, if not incontrovertible”
Id certainly say it is arguable in the case of Rivera v Papelbon:
WAR during this 3-year stretches (from baseball-reference)
Rivera 96-98: 12.7
Rivera 06-08: 9.9
Papelbon 06-08: 9.6
Also, as an aside about Rivera, unrelated to the above, an amazing fact is that his career WHIP as a relief pitcher is currently under 1.00. Truly insane if you havent seen that already.

Wow, that’s a crazy stat, Andrew YF. He also has a 1.00 WHIP on his career. I will never get tired examining the great Mariano. The best of all-time and I’m really hoping we get to see Eck kiss his ass this year on the mound and in front of 50,000. Of course, if he keeps this up, he’ll get that well-deserved Cy Young.
As for Jeter v Nomar, it’s worth noting that those were the only productive seasons of Nomar’s career, excluding 2001.

Its sam-YF, not Andrew!
Yes indeed there is nothing like Mariano. And for the record, after watching both of them for the years mentioned in the comparison, Id take either version of Mo in any given game over Papelbon. (who was indeed dominant for most of that 3 year stretch.

Well I wasn’t originally going to comment on this thread, but yeah, that’s sam, not me!
And really, Paul? Suddenly the Sox win a few games and the Yankees are now doomed? I know it’s not what you said in the comment, but just by posting it you’re stirring the pot. I think I understand it this is your way of wanting to make fun of Sox doomsaying earlier. Otherwise, it smacks of a topic someone would start at SOSH, which is in no way a good thing.
In any case, how can someone say the Yankees’ pitching, as it stands, is as good as it’s going to get without a midseason trade? People really think Hughes is finished as a major league pitcher? They think Nova can’t improve on 4 innings and a 7 ERA? That all the pretty highly-touted Yankee prospects at the upper levels are complete garbage and can’t contribute anything?
And also, hitting homeruns now is a BAD thing? Why do people say this? Nothing could be further from the truth. Hitting homeruns in the BEST thing. Why is it that people think that if someone is hitting homeruns at an absurd rate, suddenly they’ll just start making outs instead to make up for it? No, it’s more likely they’ll just hit more doubles, or take more walks when pitchers realize they’ve been really good at hitting homeruns.
Come on, dudes.

“And also, hitting homeruns now is a BAD thing? Why do people say this? ”
This is the biggest canard being propagated by the “analysts”. As you said, its not as if they are just gonna turn into outs instead of long balls. In fact, one could argue that the high HR rate is quite good right now considering the problems the offense is having as a whole. A few big swings can make up for the lack of production from the others. Its not as if the team doesnt have a track record for having a high power offense as it is comprised.
In the comments from that article the author hedges and says he just isnt ready to put the Yankees in the league’s “elite” whatever the hell that means as Im not sure other than maybe texas who would qualify for this categorization in his world.

no andrew, hitting home runs is not a bad thing…rbi’s are bad… ;)
i see nothing wrong with cherry-picking data to make a casual observation, as long as it doesn’t approach the absurd…if i said, clearly derek jeter is the best shortstop of all time, because in 200X he had the best single season for a shortstop in major league history…that would be an absurd assumption on my part based on cherry-picked data…but, you don’t have to wait until a career is over to begin making comparisons and drawing conclusions about a player’s ability…i don’t see anything wrong with paul’s pointing out that lowrie has had a remarkable stretch, better than the best, for that one isolated period of time…he never said lowrie was the best shortstop in baseball, just that he’s been the best since july…he also never said he expected that to continue, never once projecting lowrie to be the best going forward…
what petti glossed over is that the yankee offense, despite the homers is underperforming…sure, the odds are that they’ll suffer a power outage at some point, but i also expect more non-homer production from jeter, tex, posada, and gardner…i’ll even toss in granderson…i agree that the yankees situation seems tenuous right now, despite being in first place, but it starts and ends with the pitching, not the offense…so petti doesn’t think they’re an elite team…cc’s still the man, and burnout’s starting to make a believer out of me, so they might be 1 or 2 other consistent starters away from elite status…the offense will come around…

Good points on the Mo vs. Paps comparison. “Incontrovertible” is a bridge too far on that one, though in my defense, these are the numbers I eyeballed before saying it:
Paps, 2006-08: 196 IP, 278 ERA+, 0.837 WHIP, 10.8 K/9, 6.56 K/BB
Mo, 1996-98: 240 IP, 234 ERA+, 1.068 WHIP, 8.8 K/9, 3.30 K/BB
Mo, 2006-08: 217 IP, 213 ERA+, 0.917 WHIP, 8.5 K/9, 7.10 K/BB
I didn’t look at innings, where Rivera has a big advantage, particularly in 1996-98. There’s definitely an argument to be had between those who would say Rivera was more valuable because he threw more innings at an elite level between those who would say Papelbon was the more dominant closer when he was on the mound. Both those statements are true, so then it gets into which is your definition of “better.”
I’d still say Papelbon has/had a “strong” case, but not an “incontrovertible” one.

Paul, I need to hire you as my agent! You can find a stat to make just about anyone look good. Lowrie is a nice player, but to even mention him in the same class as Tulo just seems forced, regardless of the stats backing up the statement. I am the best HS coach in NJ on Tuesdays this year…I haven’t lost a game. (In fairness I also haven’t played a game either.)
As for the Yankees: Who’s playing beyond their means right now? Gardner has been awful, by all estimations he can only improve. If Granderson had 10 HR’s and was hitting .460 I could understand the “offense likely to come back to earth a bit given the inflated HR%” comment, but there’s not one player on this team currently doing something they can’t still be doing in July or August. Sure they might stop hitting HR’s at this frantic pace, but that doesn’t mean the offense will fall off.

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