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  1. I don’t disagree with this article at all outside of implication that FanGraphs readers(and writers?) won’t admit to the the similarities – I think we’re all pretty aware of Bay’s limitations and that Willingham is the same type of player.

    Comment by TCQ — January 29, 2010 @ 12:06 pm

  2. Excellent analysis, Dave.

    A question for you: I’ve felt for some time that Jason Bay was one of the most overratted hitters around. I’ve owned him in Fantasy, and he has the annoying habit of going hot/cold, to the extreme.

    Do any of the metrics you clever folks use take any account for this. Finding a guy you can beat around for 4 RBI in a game is less valuable than getting 1 RBI in 4 consecutive games, since you are often “piling on” in the former case a game your team has already won.

    Comment by JayCee — January 29, 2010 @ 12:08 pm

  3. Dave: What interests me is why these perceptions exist. Willingham was actually the more revered prospect of the two, at least until 2003.

    I wonder if it isn’t because Bay debuted with a .950 OPS over 107 PA’s, where Willingham struggled immediately and took longer to break in as a regular. Are we really so locked into these perceptions from their first tiny sample? Isn’t this how Bloomquist made a career for himself?

    Comment by Bryan Smith — January 29, 2010 @ 12:09 pm

  4. Willingham is the right handed Luke Scott. Somehow these guys got tagged early in their careers as being just nice role players and no matter how much they keep on hitting (with or without a platoon advantage) nothing changes that perception. It’s wierd. Both should be great trade bait right now but you wonder who’s going to blink between their current teams (“look at his numbers”) and prospective buyers (“he’s just a role player”).

    Comment by ElJimador — January 29, 2010 @ 12:29 pm

  5. Willingham came up as a catcher, right? That would have boosted his prospect status a lot.

    Comment by Sky Kalkman — January 29, 2010 @ 12:30 pm

  6. Seriously, this passes for expert analysis? Let’s count the number of biases you’ve decided to included in this report.

    1 – Counting stats from after 2006. Shockingly, this includes the injury plagued 2007 year for Bay. Bay’s wOBA was .387 and .397 in 08 and 09. Willingham’s was .363 and .373. Prior to 2007, Bay’s LOWEST wOBA was .378 (his rookie year) which is better than any year Willingham has had. Yeah, 2007 was bad for Bay, but based on 6 years of production, I think we can safely say it’s an outlier.

    2 – Using the Fan’s projections rather than statstical projections. The fans are 0.010 higher than all three statistical projection methods for Willingham which probably makes them a bit optimistic. For Bay, the fans are in the middle.

    3 – Defensively, the fans knock Bay’s defense much more than Willingham. CHONE offers a 4 run advantage to Willingham.

    4 – Oh, by the way, Bay’s a much better base runner than Willingham. I don’t believe this was taken into account.

    Nice way to cherry pick stats Dave.

    Comment by chene — January 29, 2010 @ 12:32 pm

  7. Don’t think it’s fair to only look at 2006 onward, especially since Bay was playing hurt all of 2007. And even playing hurt, he logged more games, at bats and PAs in 2007 than Willingham has in any given year. Does wOBA give credit to at bats or is it strickly a rate?

    And with the exception of 2007, Bay’s worst wOBA is still better than Willingham’s best.

    I know it is in vogue to bash Bay on Fangraphs, but even with the injured 2007, he is a .896 career OPS with average speed. And he plays 150+ games.

    I know that Bay’s UZR knocks him back a lot in terms of WAR, but Willingham?!?!?!

    Comment by NBH — January 29, 2010 @ 12:33 pm

  8. So Sky, you’re saying his bad defense is a lot more identifiable, because he was relegated from a premium position to some of the least premium? Where as Bay just sort of sucked at the same positions, but never overtly enough where he got the ire of scouts?

    Yeah, I could buy some of that.

    Comment by Bryan Smith — January 29, 2010 @ 12:33 pm

  9. Maybe you should consider BABIP, too. Bay’s career number is 332, Willingham’s 302. Could be that in terms of true talent, they’re even closer than Dave states.

    Comment by diderot — January 29, 2010 @ 12:36 pm

  10. wOBA is strictly a rate. You want to look at something like wRAA to have playing time factored in(WAR does this, by the way).

    Comment by TCQ — January 29, 2010 @ 12:36 pm

  11. You can’t really credit the BABIP gap to luck over the sample size.

    Comment by TCQ — January 29, 2010 @ 12:38 pm

  12. I don’t know that the purpose here was to bash Bay, but to show that Willingham is closer to his talent level (how ever you want to describe it) than almost anyone would expect.
    There are a lot of pigeon-holed players who just need opportunity–see Russell Branyan.

    Comment by diderot — January 29, 2010 @ 12:38 pm

  13. While I don’t disagree with the assertion that someone like Willingham provides a value option to Bay, here’s Willingham’s wRC+’s since 2006:

    124
    122
    123
    129

    And Bay’s:

    143
    97
    138
    142

    Using Bay’s injury-plagued 2007 campaign against him without context is just wrong. His walk rate was down, his BABIP was down, his ISO was down, it was clearly not Bay’s talent level.

    Comment by Joe R — January 29, 2010 @ 12:43 pm

  14. Ham Solo also makes significantly less than Mr. Bay. Furthermore — and I don’t know if wOBA takes this into account — he earned the aforementioned moniker by having noone on base for his first dozen-plus home runs.

    Good article Dave. I hope the Nats either obtain value for him when the price is right — he is a great value that should add to his leverage.

    Comment by Big Oil — January 29, 2010 @ 12:47 pm

  15. When comparing their hitting, I don’t think we can ignore the fact that Bay’s averages are dragged down by on miserable injury-plagued year. Outside of 2007, Bay’s worst wOBA during that stretch is .387, which is double the difference as shown by the averages, so it’s more than just a difference in perception, it’s also a difference in how people treat his injury year. Willingham’s typical year is right around his average year during that span, whereas Bay’s typical year is around a .390 wOBA.

    Comment by WilsonC — January 29, 2010 @ 12:49 pm

  16. Bryan, wasn’t really trying to make a larger point, just explaining that Willingham’s shine was largely because of his position, not just bat. Maybe people thought he had a really good bat for his position, but Bay had a really good bat in general (and therefor better overall).

    Not sure how any of that relates to defense in left field, though.

    In terms of overall popularity, there’s always the Willingham was in Florida until recently, while Bay spend the past 1.5 years in Boston.

    Comment by Sky Kalkman — January 29, 2010 @ 12:51 pm

  17. Interesting you made the Luke Scott comparison. Having been able to watch both Scott and Willingam on MASN, I can totally see the fit.

    Scott is a world-beater when hot, as he single-handedly destroyed the Detroit Tigers over a two-week period in ’09, but is prone to make bad outs and lose plate discipline when cold. I didn’t have a chance to check his UZR numbers before responding, but I seem to recall that he actually was a better fielder than the ‘hammer (actually, he might have also been better than Reimold).

    Comment by O's fan — January 29, 2010 @ 12:51 pm

  18. Seriously, at what point is it all right to use a player’s injury year against him. That is, we know that Bay healthy is better than Willingham healthy, but considering that Willingham wasn’t injured in 2007, can we say he was the better player that year? Is it fair to say he’s less likely to be injured going forward? If so, how much can that factor into the WAR calculus?

    I said it before, but I think injury/health management is the next “Moneyball” market opportunity. Part of this is being able to quantify how much past injury can play into future healthyness. It’s an issue which should be recognized in analysis even as basic as this.

    Comment by Dan — January 29, 2010 @ 12:53 pm

  19. It’s worth noting that Bay has performed better for longer, and is a better HR hitter. This likely improves his perception as a middle-of-the-order bat. It also agrees with a market inefficiency of overvaluing sluggers.

    Willingham: 21.75 AB/HR
    Bay: 17.91 AB/HR

    Another difference I noticed is that Willingham is a more patient hitter than Bay. He seems more willing to take the free pass than to swing away. This is manifested in Willinghams higher walk rate, and lower K-rate.

    PA/BB PA/K
    Willingham: 9.16 5.00
    Bay: 7.94 4.35

    Comment by Casadilla — January 29, 2010 @ 1:00 pm

  20. Agree that career BABIP can’t necessarily be attributed to bad luck. But it does baffle me as to how Willingham’s lifetime line drive rate is a point higher than Bay’s…but somehow his line drives don’t seem to fall in as often. Maybe because he hasn’t had a year and a half hitting them off the wall in Fenway?
    Also, Bay strikes out more often, which also closes the gap.

    So I don’t see any clear refutation that Willingham + opportunity = Bay.

    Comment by diderot — January 29, 2010 @ 1:07 pm

  21. I don’t think you can just gloss over the AL East/NL East thing.
    The AL east is the best division in major league baseball.
    The NL East is the best division in minor league baseball (+ The Phillies).
    Everyone hits the Mets.

    Comment by Matt — January 29, 2010 @ 1:09 pm

  22. You can take injuries into account, and probably assign a % of getting injured with projections of missed time and/or lower production to reduce the WAR estimate. However, in this case, Bay’s been healthy and productive the last two seasons. The type of injury he suffered is one that isn’t likely to reoccur and one he’s shown to have recovered from. I don’t think you can significantly reduce Bay’s value as to equate him and Willingham as equal value (contracts not withstanding).

    Comment by chene — January 29, 2010 @ 1:11 pm

  23. Bay’s walk rate is actually higher than Willingham’s. (For PA/BB, lower number means higher walk rate.)

    Bay was rookie of the year, which may help account for why he’s better known. I also wonder if being one of the big trade commodities in 2008 helped raise his profile.

    Comment by matt w — January 29, 2010 @ 1:15 pm

  24. Jason Bay looks nothing like Tyrone Willingham

    Comment by Sandy Kazmir — January 29, 2010 @ 1:17 pm

  25. Jason Bay career xBABIP(using Fenway as the home ballpark): .357. .352 using PNC and .343 using Citi.

    Willingham: .318 using Florida, .312 using Washington.

    This seems to be a matter of skill-set.

    Comment by TCQ — January 29, 2010 @ 1:29 pm

  26. Bay’s averages are dragged down for an injury in 2007, whereas Willingham missed significant time due to a back injury in 2008, so both players have some past injury on their record. I don’t know enough about the nature of their injuries to make an informed opinion on their risk going forward, but that’s really what would be needed to get a good picture here. It’s very possible that Willingham’s back injury poses more of a risk of becoming chronic going forward.

    I do agree that injury risk assessment is a field that still has a lot of work. We can’t just look at averages when there’s a past injury involved, we need to have a method of evaluating the nature of injuries to determine the degree to which they’re likely to affect future risk.

    Comment by WilsonC — January 29, 2010 @ 1:30 pm

  27. Err, very good point. Ignore that whole last part then.

    I should go back to making sandwiches. I’m better at that apparently.

    Comment by Casadilla — January 29, 2010 @ 1:45 pm

  28. The NL Central must then be the 2nd best division in minor league ball?

    Comment by schmenkman — January 29, 2010 @ 1:55 pm

  29. I think the next “Moneyball” market opportunity will come in the form of a time machine, constructed to see events in the future and adjust your present roster accordingly.

    Everyone will take advantage, except Theo Epstein, who, let’s face it, will have to figure out a way to refute this obvious solution in order to maintain his image as the smartest guy in the room.

    Comment by BagOfHammers — January 29, 2010 @ 1:56 pm

  30. Now if Dave made this article about money, sure, Willingham is a slam dunk better option. With Bay, you’re paying $10.4 mil (bonus + 2010 salary) for what, 1, MAYBE 1.5 marginal wins more? That’s a lot of money to go get a starting pitcher, or another good FA to fill a problem spot in the lineup with.

    Comment by Joe R — January 29, 2010 @ 1:56 pm

  31. The difference is counting stats – because Jason Bay plays much more – over the four years everyone’s talking about, it’s 89 games and 415 at-bats. Willingham best is 144 games over that stretch, Bay’s WORST is 145.

    155 games of Jason Bay is worth more than 130 games of Willingham and 25 games of whatever 4th or 5th outfielder you have to play when he’s out.

    Comment by Rob Moore — January 29, 2010 @ 2:03 pm

  32. Hahah. Awesome.

    Comment by scott — January 29, 2010 @ 2:06 pm

  33. That makes no sense. A run is a run. No player consistently bats in one run every game or 4 runs once every four games. Also, RBI’s don’t have anything to do with how valuable a player is.

    Comment by R M — January 29, 2010 @ 2:07 pm

  34. Also, do you play Roto or H2H? Not saying this is you, but I always kind it funny when people playing Roto complain about streaky players….it doesn’t matter how they get there as long as they have the numbers come season’s end!

    Comment by R M — January 29, 2010 @ 2:09 pm

  35. No one here is arguing that Willingham is better than Bay, just that the difference in perception is significantly larger than the difference in performance.

    Comment by Everett — January 29, 2010 @ 2:10 pm

  36. Bryan, Bay never sucked at defense until he injured his knee in 2007. Before that he was slightly below average to average.

    Comment by R M — January 29, 2010 @ 2:16 pm

  37. Jason Bay has hit over 30 hr’s and 100 rbi’s 5 times in his career. Willingham has never hit more than 26 hr’s and never had more than 89 rbi’s, and half his years he didnt top 60 rbi. Willinghams career average is 264 while bays is 280. And the fact that Willingham always gets hurt isnt something to brush over. Yea, lets not count the years Willingham couldnt stay on the field while bay had 30 and 100, yea, those years shouldn’t count.

    So you can use your little fractions all you want, but Bay is clearly the more productive player every single year. I’m not sure how you can say they are THAT close.

    Comment by Brad — January 29, 2010 @ 2:32 pm

  38. Let’s see –

    Josh WIllingham – 25 Home Runs, 85 RBI’s and below average defense for $5 to $6 million a year

    OR

    Jason Bay 25 Home Runs 95 RBI’s, average to below average defense for $15 million a year?

    Comment by ctownboy — January 29, 2010 @ 2:41 pm

  39. Line drive rate is actually a weak predictor of BABIP. It’s statistically significant, but that’s pretty much all I can say about it.

    Comment by Joe R — January 29, 2010 @ 2:46 pm

  40. With the rise in popularity of FanGraphs comes the rise in references to RBI. So sad.

    Comment by Michael — January 29, 2010 @ 2:53 pm

  41. How would Bay compare to Jason Werth?

    Comment by Gary — January 29, 2010 @ 2:56 pm

  42. Willingham also is under contract, therefore something would need to be surrendered to get him. It isn’t just Bay vs. Willingham.

    Comment by Joe — January 29, 2010 @ 2:57 pm

  43. After the 2008 season, the Reds were looking for a power hitting outfielder to play Left Field. A LOT of fans were saying to bring Adam “One Tool” Dunn back. Others wanted to trade for Jermaine Dye or sign Pat Burrell. I siad to go get Josh WIllingham.

    My reasons were as follows:

    1) The Marlins were going to dump salary AGAIN (WIllingham was up for Salary Arbitration).

    2) Unlike the other three, Willingham played his Home Games in a pitcher’s park.

    To prove my point that WIllingham was jsut as good a bet as the other three, I took all of their combined Road stats from 2006 – 2008 and compared them. What I found was the following; In fewer At Bats, Willingham had just as many or more HIts, Doubles, Walks, Runs, RBI’s, Batting Average, Slugging Percentage and OPS as the other guys did and was paid significantly less to put those stats up. Where Willingham was hurt was his Home production. Playing in a park less friendly to hitters, his Home Run production was hurt and thus his run creation was less.

    As for 2009, Willingham spent the first month of the season on the bench because the Nationals had something like seven Outfielders on the team. Once a couple of those guys were traded, WIllingham was put in the fifth spot in the order as “protection” for Dunn. Also, WIllingham missed about a week during the middle of the season because his younger brother died.

    Even after all of that, WIllingham had 24 Home Runs, (once every 17.79 At Bats), a .367 On Base Percentage, a .493 Slugging Percentage and did this while getting paid $4.6 million dollars.

    So, let’s see; Dunn or Burrell for $8 million a year, Dye for $10.5 million or Willingham for $5 milliion…..

    Comment by ctownboy — January 29, 2010 @ 3:02 pm

  44. why are we taking willinghams best hr total and making it his year and 85 rbi’s which he has surpassed a total of 1 time, and then taking bay under 30 hr’s which he consistently hits and lower his rbi’s as well?

    yea lets inflate willingham and lower bay, makes sense

    Comment by Brad — January 29, 2010 @ 3:03 pm

  45. This article is ridiculous. Willingham’s career high WAR was 2.9 in 2006, a number which he hasn’t come within half a win of in any other season. To expect him to reach that height again as a 31 year old is just dumb. Bay’s career high WAR is OVER TWICE WIllingham’s. No wonder there’s a perception gap here….it’s because there’s a major talent gap. Now, with Bay’s decline in defensive prowess since his knee injury, the gap isn’t quite as large overall, but there is still a sizable gap on offense, which is the main focus of this article.

    To compare stats since 2006 is deceiving because Bay played through injury. His performance before and after that season show it was an anomaly and it should clearly not be included in projections going forward. The graph makes the two players’ numbers look a lot closer than they actually are.

    Bay’s wOBAs in healthy seasons: .378 (Rookie season), .413, .394, .387, .397

    Willingham’s: .364, .365, .363, .373

    Based on these numbers, it looks safe to predict a .365 wOBA for Willingham and a .390 wOBA for Bay, being conservative for both players, barring injury. That is a much greater offensive gap than the 10 point difference that seems to have been constructed for the sake of the article’s argument. So why is Bay regarded as a middle of the order slugger while Willingham is not? Because a .390 wOBA is cleanup hitter caliber (under the classic assumption that you put your big thumpers in the middle of the lineup), and a .365 wOBA would fit nicely in the 5 or 6 hole. That part of my argument is subjective though. It depends on which team we are talking about. Obviously Willingham could be a cleanup hitter on the Royals or Mariners, but not on any team fielding a competitive offense. So Willingham is undervalued…this could have simply been a nice article pointing that fact out. But to try to call him almost as good on offense as Bay is a slap in the face to Bay. The difference is more like 12-13 runs, which is over 1 WAW (Wins Above Willingham). With a good year from Bay like 2009, the difference is more like 1.5 WAW. You call that “minor”?

    Based on Seattle’s outfield situation, WIllingham would be primarily a DH, taking defense out of the picture. The difference then would be “potentially division race deciding”.

    Sure, Willingham makes more sense for the Mariners in terms of salary, but I am arguing purely from a talent standpoint, not a value standpoint, as the article does.

    Comment by R M — January 29, 2010 @ 3:05 pm

  46. are you suggesting that we compare their Werth to their respective teams?

    /couldn’t resist

    Comment by anon — January 29, 2010 @ 3:06 pm

  47. wOBA is a nice stat to use because it takes playing time out of the picture….makes comparing players with big differences in AB totals easier…

    Comment by R M — January 29, 2010 @ 3:07 pm

  48. For all the Red Sox fans who are puffing up Bay, try putting a winning team on the field for $80 million dollars or less (instead of $130 milion or more) and see what you think of Josh WIllingham then.

    I admit that Willingham isn’t a world beater but, as a Reds fan, for the production he gives and the amount he is (and has been) paid, I would take him in a minute. Especially compared to the $3 million Corey Patterson was paid and the two year, $6.25 million dollar contract Willy Taveras was given (BOTH thanks to that “great” Manager, Toothpick Baker).

    Comment by ctownboy — January 29, 2010 @ 3:23 pm

  49. Dave probably didn’t know Bay was hurt in 2007.

    Comment by rocco — January 29, 2010 @ 3:24 pm

  50. My understanding was that LD% was a *very* good predictor of BABIP(not as good as something like xBABIP, granted), just not very stable at all, Joe. Am I wrong here?

    Comment by TCQ — January 29, 2010 @ 3:31 pm

  51. When Bay was with the Pirates, he got to play his Divisional Road Games against the Reds (a hitter’s park), the Astros (a hitter’s park) and the Cubs (a hitter’s park in the SUmmer when it is hot and the wind is blowing out). Willingham didn’t have that luxury.

    When Bay was with the Red Sox, he was in a stacked line up, had an extra hitter to potentially get on base with (the DH) and had the Greeen Monster to pelt balls off of. WIllingham has NOT had those advantages.

    It is interesting to note that when David Ortiz was struggling and the Red Sox were looking for another hitter to tkae his place, Peter Gammons said they were looking at Willingham over Dunn.

    Comment by ctownboy — January 29, 2010 @ 3:34 pm

  52. That’s a joke, right? I mean, you can’t look at Dave’s graph and not suspect that something went awry in 2007.

    The bottom line is that, 3 years out of the last 4, Bay was worth 8-9 runs more than Willingham. That’s probably closer than popular conception, but it’s a lot bigger than what Dave’s trying to sell us.

    Comment by JRoth — January 29, 2010 @ 3:49 pm

  53. I do think rbi have some merit. The hit style of some guys just isn’t conducive to racking up rbi. For some guys it’s that the avg is too low. Not quite enough slugging, etc. Bay hits over a threshold and Willingham under. The aggregate of lower avg, less doubles and fewer homers is enough to make Willingham an inferior slugger in regards to knocking runners in.

    Regarding the run scoring side, the gap gets *a lot* wider. Both hitters have pretty good onbase. But Willingham, while only slightly lower, is clearly inferior in this arena. Willingham has extreme difficulty racking up any kind of run scoring, even with above average onbase. He probably has Giambi-like speed. Whereas Bay consistently scores 100+. He’s not hitting a monster number of homers and the hitters behind him aren’t utter beasts either. Bay has above average speed and is aggressive, allowing him to leverage his *slightly* better onbase into a serious lead in run scoring production.

    Hitters should be evaluated on the effect they have on the 2 hitters in front of them (rbi via avg and slg) and 2 hitters behind them (runs scored via onbase and speed). Using this method, Bay is clearly superior, a bona fide #3 hitter — a “bridge” that can enhance production both ahead and behind him. Indeed one of the rare kinds of hitters, like Bagwell or Bernie Williams, that consistently score 100 runs/rbi seasons.

    Comment by toshiro — January 29, 2010 @ 3:52 pm

  54. Nice try, but Bay hit 81 games/year in a pitcher-leaning “fair” park that hurts righties with alley power.

    The cherry picking, it must be Mariners fans….

    Comment by JRoth — January 29, 2010 @ 3:55 pm

  55. Note that the statistic used for comparison is wOBA, thus negating the applicability of RBIs as a counterpoint. The point is, over the past four seasons, all other factors being equal, Bay is only marginally better than Willingham, not $10 million better.

    Also, note that $10 million is not a “little fraction.”

    Comment by csteve — January 29, 2010 @ 3:59 pm

  56. These perceptions exist because Bay played for the Red Sox and Willingham played for FLorida and Washington.

    You guys should try and quantify some sort of hyperbole index for players that played for one team and than got traded/signed with the Red Sox/Yankees.

    I figure you can compare All Star Game apperances, MVP votes, endorsment deals, salary and amout of time baseball tonight gushes over, to the players preSOX/YANKEES days.

    Curtis Granderson can be your guinea pig. How many MVP votes do you think he would have gotten if he played for the Yankees in ’07?

    Comment by Brent — January 29, 2010 @ 4:11 pm

  57. *facepalm*

    Comment by Jason T — January 29, 2010 @ 4:12 pm

  58. While RBIs are not the most accurate indicator of the productivity of a player, they are not void of value all together. Remember, at the end of the day, runs are what actually matter in games.

    The fact that Bay’s counting stats are much higher than Willingham’s can also speak to Bay’s durability and his ability to make good contact over that time compared to Willingham.

    That’s not probably not worth $10M, but it’s worth something.

    Comment by Casadilla — January 29, 2010 @ 4:19 pm

  59. What the hell does the Red Sox status as a high payroll team have to do with any of this?

    No one’s disputing that Willingham serves as a good value option to Bay. The dispute is using Bay’s injured 2007 against him in a comparison between the two players. Go enjoy Dusty Baker for another year.

    Comment by Joe R — January 29, 2010 @ 4:30 pm

  60. Is it possible they are viewed so differently because Jason Bay was the best player on the Pirates for a few years and as a result was usually their sole representative for the ASG? Obviously the year and a half in a major market like Boston didn’t hurt Bay either.

    Comment by Steve — January 29, 2010 @ 4:33 pm

  61. In the post immediately above this ctownboy says he’s a Reds fan (presumably that would be “c” as in Cincy not “Sea” as in Seattle).

    Nice try. (There may be a disproportionate number of M’s fans here at Fangraphs, but not all of them are writing the comments you don’t like.)

    Comment by joser — January 29, 2010 @ 4:36 pm

  62. The hit style of some guys just isn’t conducive to racking up rbi.

    Yeah, especially when that style involves “not having a guys on base ahead of you.”

    Hitters should be evaluated on the effect they have on the 2 hitters in front of them (rbi via avg and slg) and 2 hitters behind them (runs scored via onbase and speed).

    They should? Why? Why two? Can you offer some data to support this, showing that this does a better job of capturing their value vs tools like wOBA that are based directly on run expectancy? (And do you realize that wOBA, as used by Dave in the post to compare Willingham and Bay, actually does capture much of what it sounds like you want to evaluate?)

    Comment by joser — January 29, 2010 @ 4:43 pm

  63. Please note that Willingham has suffered through his share of injuries as well during his time in Florida, injuries that could have dropped his level of production as well.

    Discounting injury seasons is awesome analysis.

    Having said that, I think the gap is likely a little higher than Dave states it to be. Dave mentioned the Fan projections, but probably should have also pointed out that CHONE (as an example) has Bay at .388 wOBA and Willingham and .361, a pretty significant difference. Nevertheless, the talent gap is probably much smaller than what most people believe, I agree with that.

    Comment by Michael — January 29, 2010 @ 4:44 pm

  64. I suspect the “little fractions” reference was an attempt at the whole “in your parents’ basement with a spreadsheet” jab, though any points for originality there are outweighed by the weakness of the post overall.

    Comment by joser — January 29, 2010 @ 4:48 pm

  65. Yes, runs are indeed what matters, which is why so many of the stats here at fangraphs (including wOBA) are calculated in terms of runs. When evaluating players we just choose not to spend much time looking at team stats that traditionally get awarded to players, like ERA and RBI (unless Bay has some secret skill for getting guys on base ahead of him that I’m not aware of).

    Comment by joser — January 29, 2010 @ 4:54 pm

  66. Opportunity and environment–I’ve been talking about the Mets trading for Willingham for two years. Give him the ABs and he’ll be a plus player. Bay is a better player but not by the difference in their salaries.

    Comment by Jared — January 29, 2010 @ 4:55 pm

  67. The deal with Boston being a high payroll team is that they can AFFORD to draft and sign TALENT to put in front of and behind guys like Bay in a batting order. How much EASIER is it to drive in 100 RBI’s and score 100 Runs when you have a short Left Field fence to pound balls off of (whereas in other parks they would go for Outs), a DH instead of a pitcher and guys around you who not only have high On Base Percentages but also high Batting Averages and Home Run power.

    Have these two players switch lineups and see what happens.

    Have Bay play his Home Games in a pitchers park and Willingham his Home Games in a hitters park or his Road Games in mostly hitters parks (which Bay did while playing in Pittsburgh) and see what happens.

    As Cameron is trying to point out in this article, Bay might be better than WiIlingham but, given all of the advantages Bay has had over Willingham during his career, that difference isn’t as great as what MOST people seem to think it is.

    On top of that, unless you are the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Phillies, Cubs or Dodgers, you can NOT make a $16 million dollar a year mistake on a guy like Bay whereas you CAN make a $5 million or $6 million dollar mistake on a guy like WIllingham.

    As I said back in 2008, when talking about and comparing Willingham to Dunn. Willingham will give you 80% of Dunn’s production at 1/3 the cost. The same goes for Willingham versus Bay. I think that will be proven this year when Bay goes to the cavernous new Citi Field and has trouble with his Home Run totals and the fact that he doesn’t have an All Star line up around him and a pitcher in there to boot.

    Comment by ctownboy — January 29, 2010 @ 5:17 pm

  68. Oh yeah, as far as “enjoying” Toothpick Baker, THAT will ONLY happen when he is in the unemployment line. I can not STAND him as the Red Manager and can’t wait until he is fired.

    Comment by ctownboy — January 29, 2010 @ 5:25 pm

  69. Bay has much better projection and more oppurtunities with runners on base – things which are much more condusive to hitting. That easily outweights the AL/NL disparity. Also, being that Bay was better in the AL, I don’t think we should put too much stock into said disparity.

    Additionally, Willingham is a slightly below average fielder while Bay is bottom of the barrel.

    Comment by JoeIQ — January 29, 2010 @ 5:42 pm

  70. Wow, so many questions.

    On the first point of “not having a guys on base ahead of you.”, I compared the “bases occupied” on baseball-reference.com between the two guys– they’re nearly identical. Don’t forget that Bay had his own gulag– the Pirates weren’t exactly a fountain of talent.

    On the 2nd point, two hitters because, given that there are 3 outs to work with, the majority of the time you’ll be working with the two hitters before you or after you (depending on when the inning started). I don’t know much about Dave’s stats — it’s a black box. So I’m not going to assume anything one way or another.

    I have notice that people tend to view onbase in isolation, rather than to connect it with it’s end goal — run scoring. Among guys who get high on base, there seems to be a class difference in run scoring, Guys with high onbase, even super high, but slow have an *extremely* hard time cracking 100 runs. Manny Ramirez, Giambi, Miguel Cabrera, Nick Johnson are cut from this cloth. Then there are the guys who combine that high onbase with base running speed and aggressiveness that kick up the runs to the next level– guys like Jeter, ARod and Damon (even with his slightly lower onbase, he scores prolifically). Unless you’re playing in a band box like Coors or Wrigley, onbase for the slower class should be discounted in value– it simply doesn’t equate to runs the way it does for the speedier guys. Bay is not lighting fast, but fast enough to land himself in the latter group, a feat precious few sluggers can achieve.

    I don’t use a lot of metrics. So discount me if you wish. I feel I’m onto something, so you might want to at least test the theory rather than discount it outright. But that’s up to you.

    I’ve run a gazillion sims using stratomatic baseball, which I find to be very accurate. You can change line ups around, put hitters in band boxes or pitcher’s paradise. This is where I tested the “2 batters before/after” theory (HRam is the best) as well as the baserunning speed theory (tho’ ignore stealing, which is not correlated to scoring).

    Comment by toshiro — January 29, 2010 @ 5:45 pm

  71. Besides, streakiness is fiction.

    Comment by Rick — January 29, 2010 @ 6:03 pm

  72. Wasn’t Bay a better fielder early in his career than he is now? Part of the perception difference is that Bay has aged into the player he is now, while Willingham has been that player from the start. And, from the labor relations standpoint, Bay’s earlier start makes him a more experienced journeyman.

    Comment by Alby — January 29, 2010 @ 7:41 pm

  73. My thoughts…

    Bay’s career before Willingham’s arrival seems decreasingly important moving forward, and it seems like it would be more of an explanation for the difference in perception.

    But the point he was making referred to fans’ perceptions, not projection systems. The point was about how we tend to think of each player, even if we don’t realize it. You may have a point that makes the difference between them bigger, but then that’s kind of counteracted by your next point.

    Hasn’t baserunning, except among the most elite runners, been shown to be of relatively little consequence?

    The attitude just seems unnecessary, given all that.

    Comment by Whartonite — January 29, 2010 @ 8:08 pm

  74. If only the Marlins had known this before they made that insane Bonifacio trade…

    Comment by Whartonite — January 29, 2010 @ 8:09 pm

  75. Also, Bay made All-Star teams virtually by default when he played for Pittsburgh and competed in the home run derby, which can be memorable for many fans.

    Comment by Facebook Status — January 29, 2010 @ 8:53 pm

  76. It seems unfair to ding Bay for having had a stacked lineup with the Red Sox unless we’re going to give him extra credit for the lineups he had to deal with with the Pirates. And he played for the Pirates three times as long.

    As for park effects, doesn’t wRC+ adjust for those?

    Comment by matt w — January 29, 2010 @ 8:56 pm

  77. Dave,
    Let me say firstly. This is not personal, I think this is a great site and you do a great job in general. As often as not I’ve been impressed by your perspectives. That said, I completely disagree with this post.
    This is terrible statistical comparison. Any fair comparison of Bay and Willingham would not include Bay’s injured and awful in 2007. Bay’s WAR that season was 0 and his w/OBA was .326. For his career the w/OBA is .384 (includes that .326). A three year sample is not better when it shows a statistical anomaly! Bay has been a full-timer for 5 years. The first two are his best according to value (not good statistics for a current comparison) and you throw those out because Willingham wasn’t established. Reasonable. But why you keep Bay’s injured season. Last year, in nearly prototypical years for both players, Bay’s w/OBA ranked 17th, whereas Willingham, in a typical year for him, ranked 59th. Ultimately, in this comparison, averaging those three years instead of 2 or 5 made all the difference and distorted reality.
    The fans projecting Bay and Willingham as nearly the same is just poor projection that should not be used to support a bad argument. At the same ages, the fans project Bay to have his worst offensive season next and Willingham to have his best. You didn’t mention that Chone does not project them to be comparable players. Historical record gives no reasons to suggest this significant change that Bay’s w/OBA will drop to 40th
    Seriously, it is examples like this where I lose respect for your judgement. Statistics are great when used for objective purpose. They fail when they are used with a bias or if not a bias, this poorly. Just to note, I am not a Bay fan. I expect/always hope to see that someone who commands such respect to offer good analysis.
    Look, I could go on. But basically I just want to say that based upon the stats, Jason Bay is not interchangeable with Willingham and this is an embarrassingly statistical analysis.

    Comment by Brendan — January 29, 2010 @ 9:59 pm

  78. “The difference in perception is significantly larger… than performance?” As Dave says, fans expectation for Willingham next year is similar to their expectations for Bay. You are right, Everett, no one is saying Willingham is better. But Dave and maybe others are saying that, “Josh Willingham is a substitute for Jason Bay. They’re practically the same player.”

    The argument going on here is whether there is a significant gap, a smaller gap, or if they are essentially the same player. Although many here are saying that the difference is less than many think, I think it would just as reasonable for one to write an argument that the difference between Jason Bay and Josh Willingham is greater than Dave and many Fan Graph commenters believe.

    Comment by Brendan — January 29, 2010 @ 10:27 pm

  79. Csteve, where did this comparison become one about $10 million. It is obvious that a good player who signed a free-agent contract is worth his contract less than a good player who is still in the early arbitration years. Dave is talking about the quality of the player, not the current contract value.

    The point Brad makes is that when we use complex statistics to argue something that is so obviously apparent with our eyes or simple statistics is wrong. It may not take into consideration the nuances of sabermetrics and because of this it is a partially flawed argument. But it doesn’t deserve Michael’s smug comments that don’t acknowledge the point that Brad is trying to say it’s obvious that Bay’s stats are better. Above all, that comment about salary that doesn’t relate to anything Dave or Brad makes it apparent that good baseball arguments cannot exist independently of context, good reason, and good stats.

    Comment by Brendan — January 29, 2010 @ 10:42 pm

  80. “Also, Bay made All-Star teams virtually by default when he played for Pittsburgh and competed in the home run derby, which can be memorable for many fans.”

    Apparently you missed Bay’s HR derby entry.

    El Zilcho.

    Comment by alskor — January 30, 2010 @ 12:01 am

  81. Well the M’s won’t be getting Willingham now that they have Byrnes.

    Comment by Taylor H — January 30, 2010 @ 12:33 am

  82. In regards to baserunning – it can be very relevant when you’re talking about Willingham and Bay(this works as a good parallel for any player comp, really). Since the differences are pretty small(and already in Bay’s favor) if Bay is a +7 baserunner and Willingham is a -3(just pulling numbers out of air here) that’s pretty important.

    Comment by TCQ — January 30, 2010 @ 12:52 am

  83. Well, using single year LD% to BABIP for 2009, you get an r-squared of somewhere between .21 and .23 (I don’t have the excel file in front of me). Maybe that increases a bit if I include more years, and the slope of LD% to BABIP is certainly positive, but there’s a lot of noise around the regression line.

    LD% is a good starting point, but you need more to start to come close to a real BABIP expectancy. If both Jacoby Ellsbury and Bengie Molina hit line drives on 20% of their balls in play, odds are they both aren’t BABIP’ing .320. In fact, I’d call it a lock that Ellsbury would be a good 50 points up anyway, for example.

    Comment by Joe R — January 30, 2010 @ 1:21 am

  84. Not to pile on here, but…the earlier posters did a fine job of dismantling Dave’s fairly ridiculous argument, but did anyone notice the scale of the graph? It was WAY to large. When you scale a comparison graph too large, it will minimize the difference between the two data sets, which the cynic in me says that’s exactly what Dave was trying to do. I mean really, when was the last time you saw a wOBA at anywhere near .500 or .150….So why are they on the graph?

    Comment by j36t — January 30, 2010 @ 1:27 am

  85. BABIP doesn’t need to be regressed much over 6-7 years, however, diderot is right that Bay has probably gotten a little lucky compared to Willingham.

    Comment by vivaelpujols — January 30, 2010 @ 1:47 am

  86. Holy crap, Willingham is consistent.

    Comment by vivaelpujols — January 30, 2010 @ 1:48 am

  87. In this case, yes, discounting an injury season is awesome analysis.
    Do you think I am going to get a more accurate projection for 2010 if I include Bay’s 2007 in my formula or if I leave it out? That is a rhetorical question.

    Maybe Willingham suffered some injuries during his time in Florida, but if you take a closer look, they obviously didn’t affect him unless he has never in his career played at 100%….his wOBA did not vary more than .001 from season to season from 2006-2008.

    Comment by R M — January 30, 2010 @ 2:55 am

  88. Yeah, I get you, Joe. That’s why xBABIP is such a fun stat…(and many thanks to whoever posted the google docs version of it in the saber-library a few days ago).

    Comment by TCQ — January 30, 2010 @ 2:58 am

  89. Ctownboy, wOBA has nothing to do with a player’s supporting cast. Also, nobody is talking about value…we are talking about it from a pure talent standpoint.

    Comment by R M — January 30, 2010 @ 3:06 am

  90. Yeah, I noticed that, and I completely agree. You could chop off half the height of the graph (1/4th on the top, 1/4th on the bottom) and still have all of the data displayed.

    Comment by R M — January 30, 2010 @ 3:07 am

  91. Why must you be so high-nosed and try to cheaply degrade an argument that is actually true no matter which metric you use? Just a thought. It’s not like you were born quoting wOBA and WAR. If you were, pardon me.

    Comment by R M — January 30, 2010 @ 3:19 am

  92. The fact that the Fans projected them to be basically the same next year pretty much shows that.

    Comment by vivaelpujols — January 30, 2010 @ 3:30 am

  93. I agree that RBI’s and Runs contain *some* skill-based information that wOBA and other context neutral stats do not. Essentially, that information is the skill to alter your approach somewhat to maximize the opportunities that you are presented with.

    I think it’s incorrect to say that hitters have no context dependent skills. At the same time, it’s very, very, very easy to confuse such a skill with luck – given that the same occurrences could occur just by random variation and without the presence of an underlying skill fairly easily. For that reason, it’s nearly impossible to tell whether or not a player has a true skill in that regard, or whether or not it is just luck.

    Comment by vivaelpujols — January 30, 2010 @ 3:55 am

  94. I don’t understand all the defensiveness about this article. Dave isn’t trying to imply that Willingham is better than Bay but rather than they are similar players — one a notch better – but not too terribly far off.

    It’s pretty interesting to point out given their respective contracts — Would you rather trade for Willingham or sign Bay to his contract? HMMM.

    Now, we can’t approximate what the trade value required to pick up Willingham would be– hell; That’s a entirely different can of worms.

    Call it bias against Bay– but this is exactly what Theo did in picking up Cameron. The emphasis of this piece should have been on value and performance

    Comment by PatrickB — January 30, 2010 @ 4:14 am

  95. How is this even a comparison, Bay has hit at least 30 HRs and driven in 100+ RBI as well as scored 100+ runs 4 of the last 5 years, Willignham hasn’t done a single one of those even once in his career. His career highs in each category are 89 RBI 75 runs and 26 HRs. They both will be 31 at the start of the season so to try and make the comparison is just plain stupid.

    Comment by 4545ajd — January 30, 2010 @ 10:38 am

  96. Two out of Bay’s three All-Star seasons occurred when he was with the Pirates. He posted a combined WAR of 11.9 in those back-to-back All-Star seasons of 2005 and 2006. He was probably underrated for that time by virtue of playing in Pittsburgh (although a ridiculous campaign managed to get him enough votes to start in the ’06 game in Pittsburgh). Since then though he hasn’t been the same player, but he has moved to the more popular market since then.

    Comment by mickeyg13 — January 30, 2010 @ 1:28 pm

  97. I very much agree. As you said though, it’s easy to confuse that skill with luck, so I imagine that we are usually better off pretending that this skill doesn’t exist.

    Comment by mickeyg13 — January 30, 2010 @ 1:45 pm

  98. Hurray for runs and RBI!

    This comment is just plain stupid.

    Comment by Not David — January 30, 2010 @ 3:00 pm

  99. Is this a gathering of flat earthers?

    Since when are RBI stupid? If you check baseball-ref.com, you’ll see that over their careers, both Bay and Willingham have the *same* % of people on base when they hit. Yet, in the 162 game avg over their career, Willingham gets 83 rbi vs Bay’s 107. Willingham’s career line is .264/.362/.478, Bay’s is .280/.376/.519. The principle variation there seems to be slg, which would have a direct effect on run scoring (aka rbi). Sure the two guys are “almost the same”, but this is baseball, which is played over 162 games and is measured in inches. Bay and Willingham have big differences in terms of baseball and it’s disingenious to say otherwise.

    And toss out the onbase argument. If you’re stranded, who gives a crap if you got on? Both had schleps batting behind them for most of their careers, yet Bay’s 162 game avg for scoring is 30% higher than Willingham (102 runs vs 78– baseball-ref.com). Willingham’s onbase is mostly wasted, so toss in a factor there when you’re comparing, will ya?

    One guy is a premium product and the other is (possibly) above avg. That’s it for the head to head comparison. Toss in some money/contract factors and you might have a better argument. But keep in mind the Mets want to *win* not be efficient. They have a core of young pitchers, but Johan only won 13 games with a 3.13 ERA. Pathetic. Hitting needs help. They could bring in a cheap Willingham, but if he’s not enough to tip the scales, not only do they throw away his salary, but the time/salary of Wright,Beltran,Reyes and Johan. If I’m the Mets, I’m tired of being the red headed stepchild, especially after last season. I’m gonna go full guns, even if I have to pay more.

    Comment by toshiro — January 30, 2010 @ 3:20 pm

  100. I agree that it is difficult to figure out which factors are causing what. In the book ‘Blink’, Gottman identified 20 negative factors in marriages, but only 4 were closely correlated to divorce. And of those 4 only 1 was *highly* correlated. I’m sure that was hard for him to determine. But he’s got the truth now. And that makes it worth it.

    Be wary of the black box. At least test it. And don’t be too sensitive to those who wish to test it.

    There is a major problem with trying to boil down players to a single universal number (runs created, win shares, etc). Context means a lot. Willingham would be great in a home run park, where he can trot home frequently with all his onbase, as Adam Dunn frequently does. But, please don’t put him in Seattle, where he’ll strand at a very high rate. It’s like when the Red Sox hired JD Drew when they really needed a Reggie Sanders 35 hr guy to bat behind Big Papi and Manny and leverage their .400 OBAs. Sure Drew’s ‘universal number’ is better than Sanders, but Drew’s a #3 hitter and there’s not enough fire power in the bottom half of the Sox line up to leverage Drew’s .400+ onbase. So he scores less than 100 runs and his 20 something homers isn’t enough to turn Manny into a 120 run beast. With Sanders, you don’t pay for a higher onbase (which is no loss since he can’t leverage it anyways), but the 35 hrs is a pretty solid bet to make Manny and Papi, who couldn’t score on a double from 1st if their life depended on it, into 120 run beasts. That’s a situational call where the ‘universal number’ fails to serve.

    It would have been detrimental for the Mets to pick up the slow footed Willingham. Their stadium is difficult to homer in and the slugging of too many of their guys is loaded more in doubles than homers, so Willingham would be good for less than 80 runs once again. So, instead you pick up the much faster/more aggressive Bay who can score from 2nd on a single or 1st on a double– he’ll score 100+. At the same time, his superior mix of singles and doubles, which can plate fleet footed guys like Wright, Beltran and Reyes, on top of the homers, makes him a lock for 100+ rbi. You’d never make that bet on Willingham.

    Comment by toshiro — January 30, 2010 @ 3:53 pm

  101. If willingham had played for a team with less than 6 corner OFs last season he would probably have had over 600 ABs rather than 427. With 600 ABs you could easily add 10-15 home runs to his total.

    Comment by PhD Brian — January 30, 2010 @ 4:08 pm

  102. If you don’t want to include Bay’s injury plagued 2007 season, or at least put it into context, then to be fair, you shouldn’t include (or contextualize) any portions of seasons where Willingham was injured, such as when he missed 50 games in 2008 due to a back injury or the time he missed in late 2007 because of back injuries. You cannot conclusively say that this injury did not affect his numbers in 2008. If Willingham had played those 60-70 more games, his wRC+ would certainly be higher.

    It’s a double standard to argue that Bay is getting short changed by Cameron because he’s not putting Bay’s 2008 season into context while disregarding how injuries may have affected Willingham’s offensive production.

    Comment by Will — January 30, 2010 @ 4:14 pm

  103. Last season Willingham lost at bats to Adam Dunn. Had the Nats not signed Dunn then Willingham would have had over 600 ABs and had easily 10-15 more home runs. But because of Dunn playing LF 2/3 of the season, Willingham benched and finished the year with only 427 ABs and 24 home runs (rather than over 600 and 35-40 home runs). The Nats were and are a really poorly managed team that thinks Dunn is waaay better than Willingham which based on WAR is not even close to true (Dunn 1.2 WAR in 668 ABs while 2.3 WAR in 2009 in 427 ABs ).

    Comment by PhD Brian — January 30, 2010 @ 4:20 pm

  104. He isn’t dinging Bay for being in hitters parks as much as he is pointing out that Willingham has spent nearly his entire career in homerun reducing pitchers parks, so you need to facto that into your thinking. Put, Willingham in on the Red Sox and with 600 ABS he hits 40 homeruns most years.

    Comment by PhD Brian — January 30, 2010 @ 4:26 pm

  105. If Willingham was to match Bays At Bats, then they would be interchangeable most seasons in terms of WAR. Willingham is a better defender (I did not say good), and most projections show he has the power to easily hit 40+ home runs playing everyday in a hitters park like Fenway. The knocks on Willingham is he has never played a full season healthy and last season the Nats felt Dunn was a superior player and Willingham benched most of the first half of the season.

    Bay has been without question the healthier player getting many more at bats during a season.

    Comment by PhD Brian — January 30, 2010 @ 4:39 pm

  106. Ok everyone on here that used counting stats such as Home runs to argue Bay is better is clueless. Counting stats are more a function of chances than ability. Over the last 4 years Willingham has been to the plate 573, 604, 416, 502 times (2095). Whereas Bay has had 689, 614, 670, and 638 plate appearences (2611). 2611-2095 = 516 more plate appearences means much higher counting stats for any player. For example Bay hit 37 more homeruns over those 4 years which seems like alot. Yet Willingham has hit homeruns 4.2% of the time and Bay 4.7% of the time or 1 home run every 200 plate appearences more. This is probably accounted for in park effects and the fact that Winngham consistenctly plays for real bad pitching teams (he does not get to face).

    Bay has spent his career hitting in many more friendly parks (and with far more protection in his lineups) than Willingham. Here is some proof: Willinghams parks have been less friendly to runs (park adjustments for runs per year 2006 .898, 2007 1.068, 2008 .954, 2009 1.008) for the Hammer whereas Bays have been 2006 1.008, 2007 0.945, 2008 1.077, 2009 1.072. So it is really hard to argue that Bay is much better once you adjust for park effects and the Hammers slightly better glove. I wonder if he was even better at all.

    It is fair to say: Had the Hammer been actually healthly and playing full seasons in someplace like Cincy or Philadelphia he would likely have put up better all round numbers his entire career than Bay.

    Comment by PhD Brian — January 30, 2010 @ 5:21 pm

  107. OK I double checked my numbers because they looked wrong and they were very slightly off:

    Bay 123 home runs from 2006 to 2009 with 2611 PAs = 4.7% home runs.

    Hammer 86 home runs from 2006 to 2009 with 2095 PA is 4.1% home runs, so the difference is .6% not .5%. That translates to 1.2 homeruns per 200 plate appearences. Still not a huge difference, but still more and does not change my point. Most of that is likely park effects and luck,

    Comment by PhD Brian — January 30, 2010 @ 5:34 pm

  108. It is not true that, if Willingham matched Bay’s AB’s, they’d be equal in WAR. For their respective careers, Bay has been worth 21.6 WAR in 3,897 PA’s (0.00554 WAR per PA) while Willingham has been worth 9.7 WAR in 2,152 PA’s (0.00451 WAR per PA). Therefore, Bay has been worth 23% more WAR per PA than Willingham.

    Comment by hk — January 30, 2010 @ 8:36 pm

  109. IF, willingham had been healthy…IF he’d had more at bats….IF…IF…IF.

    Don’t get me wrong – I’ve always liked Willingham. But park factors do not make up for the 30 to 40 points of wOBA. And plate appearances don’t affect it at all. And almost all of the time, when players who don’t quite play full time get a chance to play more regularly, their production goes down because they are playing against the toughest matchups in which they had formerly sat against.

    So before you come in here and start calling people clueless, maybe you ought to sharpen your own arguments, GED Brian.

    Comment by j36t — January 30, 2010 @ 10:09 pm

  110. I wouldn’t say that. A run in a 10 run game is not as valuable as a run in a 1 run game. But, I can’t imagine why we would think Willingham is more likely to “pile on” runs than another player.

    RBI’s do have something to do with how valuable a player is. Willingham is valuable because he drives in runs and scores runs. The problem is using the RBI statistic as a value stat, when it depends on many more things than player skill.

    So, I guess what I’m saying is, Jay’s comment made sense, but it is probably wrong.

    Comment by Steven Ellingson — January 31, 2010 @ 1:03 am

  111. Rick, what evidence do you have that streakiness is fiction? Hot streaks cannot be proved because there is too much noise in the data, but you cannot prove they don’t exist for the same reason.

    Comment by Steven Ellingson — January 31, 2010 @ 1:05 am

  112. He showed the fan’s projections to show that we actually do think they are similar players. It was pretty clear when reading the paragraph.

    Comment by Steven Ellingson — January 31, 2010 @ 1:11 am

  113. True, but given his consistency, it’s an extremely tough sell to say he’s near Bay’s talent level. There’s not much to base anything with Willingham on.

    His BABIP splits:
    .303
    .309
    .289
    .289

    His ISO splits:
    .219
    .198
    .217
    .237

    And his RC/G on b-r
    6.3
    6.2
    6.2
    6.4

    He’s been exactly the same thing for 4 years as a hitter, which is: pretty good. Bay had 3 excellent and 1 mediocre season. In the value department, Willingham is still a good bet (Mets overpaid on Bay). But as players, I don’t find them comparable. Bay is across the board a little bit better than Willingham.

    Comment by Joe R — January 31, 2010 @ 3:50 am

  114. This is a ridiculous collumn. w/OBA is one stat, and no one stat cna accurately portray a players entire worth! Bay hits more homers, higher average, more rbis/runs, annually than does willingham. also, the reason willingham’s OBA is so high is that he has the deserving perception as a platoon player who mashes lefties but not a starter, so teams have used him in that capacity. w/OBA factors in the number of plate appearances players have, so willingham is not at a disadvantage there, but yet he gets the benefit of having nearly all his plate appearances against the lefties he mashes, since he’s platooned! bay, on the otherhand, has the disadvantage of being viewed as a superstar, so he must face both righties and lefties. also, save last year he was on a shitty team with nobody to protect him, allowing pitchers to pitch around him; willingham does not inspire such fear and gets more to hit. so the very public perceptions that the author of this post attempts to debunk are responsible for much of his case against those perceptions!

    Comment by Andrew — January 31, 2010 @ 3:26 pm

  115. not to mention the NL west

    Comment by phil — January 31, 2010 @ 6:58 pm

  116. Yeah, counting stats are a joke– especially that “runs” statistic I always see on the scoreboard. Let the outcomes of games be decided by player WAR values. Baseball needs to make changes to get more people interested in the game.

    Comment by Risto — February 1, 2010 @ 3:55 am

  117. Yay let’s totally bastardize the purpose of statistical analysis because it’s all about wins!

    Of course when you say that things like walks and stuff matter, it’s all about batting average.

    Comment by Joe R — February 1, 2010 @ 9:04 am

  118. Is this a gathering of flat earthers?

    Since when are RBI stupid?

    These comment reeks of irony.

    David Ortiz had more RBI’s than Joe Mauer, Carlos Lee had more than Matt Kemp, Mark DeRosa had more than J.D. Drew, etc

    Comment by Joe R — February 1, 2010 @ 9:11 am

  119. “Operation: Devalue Bay” has to be nearing its end.

    I think fair points have been made on both sides, but the activity has to be running its course.

    All that’s left is for Bay to have a big season in counting stats while being average or below in certain advanced metrics so that the repetitive discussion/debate continues into 2010-11. That’ll be great.

    My interest focuses in on just how many “Jason bays” could be ‘mostly replaced’ with the Josh Willingham’s of the world? Certainly there are not that many Major League stars that have no peer equal that is relatively unknown. So, much of the general fan’s value of a player is based on things like all-star games, espn highlights, playoffs, etc …. that it just goes to show that Agassi was right and “image is everything” and as others have said throughout history “perception is reality”.

    The situation occurs, and I see this first-hand quite a bit, because most fans don;t ralize when a player suffers a significant drop-off. Bay made a big name for himself in PIT and since then has “not sucked” (he’s actually been pretty good), so his reputation keeps going. There are likely A LOT of major league players that enjoy this type of situation … had a few big years, and then have been just pretty good, and enjoy all the bonuses that come from reputation. My guess is we could “pick on them” quite a bit if an author were so inclined.

    Now, it’s time to get off Jason Bay. All that’s left to do is mine for stats where he and is Y.Betancourt are “similar” and then make that leap.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — February 1, 2010 @ 11:49 am

  120. Somebody else made a GREAT point about the scale of the graph.

    Let’s see it in increments of .20 wOBA, instead of .50.

    I’m surprised it to so long for someone to point out the misleading nature of the scale used in the graph. Go ahead and scale it using .20 and have .200 as the basement and .400 as the ceiling and see how “close the lines” are.

    Maybe throw in the highest wOBA and lowest wOBA’s obtained by season-long starters for addition scale/reference.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — February 1, 2010 @ 12:47 pm

  121. Wow joser. Does Dave pay you to follow him around gushing over every word he writes, and skewering anyone who would dare imply that his is anything but the Word? In some cases, it is a fair criticism to imply that he massages the data to fit some hyperbolic perspective. And not everyone who tires of his childish behavior in defense of those perspectives is an idiot that needs to understand the nature of the ‘classroom’ dynamic he would have everyone adhere to. People complain and take shots at Dave because of his attitude and behavior, not because they don’t understand the complexities of having to deal with the masses when you are a genius.

    Comment by CaR — February 1, 2010 @ 5:19 pm

  122. “The bottom line is that, 3 years out of the last 4, Bay was worth 8-9 runs more than Willingham. That’s probably closer than popular conception, but it’s a lot bigger than what Dave’s trying to sell us.”

    1. The fact that Willingham has been exceptionally durable and Bay’s had a leg problem that derailed one of his most recent seasons (and there were murmurs about the RedSox losing interest in signing him long-term after some medical issues came to light) should definitely (at least to some extent) be held against Bay.

    2. Willingham (from what I recall, without looking at his numbers) is a slightly better defender than Bay, so even if Bay is a true-talent 15 runs better than Willingham with the bat, recent UZR numbers would certainly suggest their total value will be much closer than that.

    All that said, I probably agree with the basic premise of your argument(s), that Bay is possibly a good win or so better than Willingham, although it’s closer than people think…

    Comment by Felonius_Monk — February 2, 2010 @ 11:14 am

  123. “Among guys who get high on base, there seems to be a class difference in run scoring, Guys with high onbase, even super high, but slow have an *extremely* hard time cracking 100 runs. Manny Ramirez, Giambi, Miguel Cabrera, Nick Johnson are cut from this cloth. Then there are the guys who combine that high onbase with base running speed and aggressiveness that kick up the runs to the next level– guys like Jeter, ARod and Damon (even with his slightly lower onbase, he scores prolifically).”

    Please tell me if this is a crazy comment, but could it be that the guys who score more runs are the people who bat in lineups that have really great hitters hitting directly after them (like, say, the three New York Yankees whose “speed” and “aggressiveness” you seem to suggest is the reason for their run totals, rather than, say, having A-Rod and Mark Teixeira hitting directly after them)?

    And could it be that guys like Manny Ramirez, Jason Giambi and Nick Johnson have a hard time breaking 100 runs because they don’t always play that many games, and don’t hit in the middle of the order for the New York Freakin’ Yankees? Manny’s comfortably broken 100 every year since he joined the RedSox when he’s passed 600 plate appearances, whereas he’s been in the 80s in the years he’s only made 500-odd PAs. Spooky stuff.

    “I have notice that people tend to view onbase in isolation, rather than to connect it with it’s end goal — run scoring”

    Could you not have said “I have noticed people tend to view players’ solo accomplishments, instead of looking at factors that are heavily affected by the quality of their teams”?

    Comment by Felonius_Monk — February 2, 2010 @ 1:13 pm

  124. Hey toshiro, facts are your friend

    Fast guys
    Jeter, career: 96.28 Runs Scored / 600 PA
    Damon, career: 94.33 Runs Scored / 600 PA

    “Base cloggers”
    M. Ramirez, career: 95.75 Runs Scored / 600 PA
    Giambi, career: 85.48 Runs Scored / 600 PA
    Dunn, career: 86.39 Runs Scored / 600 PA

    And 1-2 hitters scoring is 8.4% higher than 3-6 hitters anyway according to 2009 MLB splits, because 1-2 hitters have better hitters to score them vs. 3-6 hitters. So, factoring that in and you get…pretty much no real difference.

    Comment by Joe R — February 2, 2010 @ 4:48 pm

  125. Joe,

    That’s interesting. I would have been one to say that having Adam Dunn might have just as many positives as negatives. But, if what you say is true, then I would need to rethink that.

    My primary train of thought is that a base-clogger gives the defense more options than if it were someone with reasonable speed. I was thinking in terms of middle infielders being able to play a ittle further from the bag in DP situations and/or 3B’s having 2B as an option for a force out on a ranging play where they might not have a great shot at the runner at 1B. But, those situations might not be very frequent.

    There would also be the issue of wanting your big bat to hit the ball and try to score a runner on base, versus taking a walk on an open base. But that too has the potential to be a positive, perhaps more so than any negative that our/my perceptions might dream up.

    The key factor would seemingly be the quality of batters that hit behind them. Regardless, neither a sped guy nor a base-clogger is going to score from 1st on a routine single, while both likely score on a double (especially if the throw is cut off to prevent the runner from going to 3rd on the throw home) may even make the difference even less.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — February 2, 2010 @ 6:10 pm

  126. There is a metric that measures consistency week to week. It is in the Baseball Forecaster by Baseball HQ. It measures the weeks a players has a dominant week, a disaster week and a neutral week. Then puts them together in what they call a Quality Consistency grade.

    The goal is to find players who exceed 50% in dominance and are at 20% or lower in disaster fir the year. Those numbers mean that in 50% of the weeks you’ll love him and in 20% of the weeks he’ll kill you.

    Bay is the clear winner here. He has a Dom of 67%, a Dis of 26% and a QC of +30. Willingham has a Dom of 52%, but a Dis of 37% for a QC of -44.

    Despite the evenness of the season’s performance, There will be two more weeks that Willingham kills you than Bay. Some of the disaster from Willingham was due to personal issues and a virus in June and a low BABIP in September. He should get more at bats this year which could even things out.

    I’m in a head to head, weekly scoring, snake draft league. Do you feel that Jason Bay will benefit more by a move from Fenway Park to Citi Field, a field that killed David Wright last year than Willingham will with a year free of the personal issues with more playing time.

    In our league, Jason Bay is a second round pick; Willingham 27th. I’ll take my chances that Willingham will straighten out his disaster rate with more playing time. He has the rest of the tools.

    Comment by Lightning Rod — March 14, 2010 @ 1:42 pm

  127. I remembered this argument today. I checked the wOBA comparison graph and as of today, Willingham is crushing Bay.

    Willingham has an insane BB/K ratio.

    Comment by Lucid Judas — May 8, 2010 @ 5:08 pm

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