Posted Under: Stat of the Week
I have made many references to the great season Bryce Harper has put up for the Washington Nationals this year, but there is another prized prospect who has made a clear impact on the league, Mike Trout. Often mentioned in the same breath as Harper the past two years when people talked about the future of MLB, Trout was backlogged in the Angels’ system because they already committed huge amounts of money to Vernon Wells, Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu, while Peter Bourjos was proving to be one of the best defensive outfielders in the league. The Angels released Abreu in April and was replaced on the roster with Trout and when Wells got hurt, it was natural for Trout to slide in and he has not disappointed. He has a .337 Batting Average, 7 Home Runs, 29 RBI, 20 Stolen Bases, .399 OBP and .934 OPS in 50 games. It is a great start to a promising career and it will be interesting to see how far he, Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo can carry this team.
As I have referenced in the past two columns, I have been reading Scott Barzilla’s “The State of Baseball Management” where he researches what he believed to be the five best teams and five worst teams from 1993-2002, and view the decisions their General Manager made in personnel moves through trades and free agent signings. He lays down the groundwork for what statistics would be the most and least effective to evaluate these personnel decisions and comes to the conclusion that On-Base Percentage and On-Base Plus Slugging are among the best indicators of whether a team will be successful, while statistics like Batting Average do not tell the true story.
One idea that stuck with me was when Barzilla wrote that many unsuccessful GMs believed they must have a fast leadoff man. Barzilla made two points against GMs that saw speed as something necessary for a batter hitting first in their lineup. First, the primary criterion according to Barzilla for a leadoff hitter should always be OBP and secondly, GMs who like speedy leadoff hitters who will be able to steal bases and put pressure on the opposing defense have a flawed strategy on how to create runs. When looking for what statistics can predict whether a team will be successful, Barzilla wrote that “Stolen bases are the worst predictive statistic…They simply don’t predict anything when it comes to winning and losing.” Barzilla goes on to explain further that “There are some theories as why this is the case. Some believe that inferior teams have to resort to stealing bases to remain competitive. Others believe that incompetent GMs favor players with speed while ignoring their OBP and SLG.”
Thursday we will look at the top base stealers in history and also look at their OBP and SLG to see if they were effective leadoff hitters in the opinion of Barzilla and also look to see if stolen bases have become a better predictor of team success the past three years.