Saturday, 15 March 2008

The Scrappy Analysis

First off, I want to apologize to everyone. Lately I've been doing a lot of "reporting", and that's not really what I'm here to do. Johnny does a great job of it, but it's not really my forte. My strength here is in analyzing stuff. Crunch the numbers, go off on random tangents, and see where it leads me. It's when I do that, that I'm on top of my game.

So with that in mind, I thought I'd take a deeper look at the scrappiest, most dirtbaggiest player we have. Buckle your seat belts boys and girls, we're gonna find out all of David Eckstein's deepest, darkest secrets!

What we do know about Eckstein to date is that he's a slightly below average SS, both at fielding and offensively. Eckstein is a middle of the road SS in terms of ZR, so he'll be an upgrade over Clayton but an obvious downgrade over J-Mac. Offensively, he's got a career 89 OPS+ and last year he was at 93 with a batting line of 309/356/382.

This isn't really news to anybody. Eckstein's always been overrated by media and fans alike. Calling him a good hitter is being generous at this point, because he's below league average. He is a perfect fit for the Jays though, who need a hitter who can simply get on base against RHP. It's no secret the Blue Birds struggled against RHP last year. Last year we were 27th in the majors with a 715 OPS against RHP - the biggest problems were an inability to hit RHP (248 BA) and get on base as a result (315 OBP). Eckstein's strengths are BA and OBP, specifically against RHP. It's really a match made in heaven.

What is interesting, however, is that during the offseason many writers often suggested the Jays did not make a significant offensive upgrade. That couldn't be further from the truth, and here's why. Last season, Jays SS, be it Ray Olmedo, J-Mac, Clayton, or anybody else who logged time at SS combined the tune of a 598 OPS. That OPS was dead last in the majors, just behind Boston. For all we made fun of Lugo and the Red Sox SS's, they were .035 points better than us, with a 633 OPS at SS.

Now, if we use last season's base of how David Eckstein will perform, he'll have a 738 OPS. Even if he only plays 120-130 games, that's an incredible upgrade. In fact, compared to last year's SS, it'll be an upgrade of .140 points of OPS.

That sounds like a lot, doesn't it? Well, think of it this way...

Remember how much Wells sucked last year? Remember how Awesome Rios was last year? Last year Wells had a 706 OPS, and Rios had an 852 OPS. You know what the difference between these two guys were in terms of OPS last year? .146 is the difference.

I'll give you guys a sec for that to sink in....

Imagine if we were able to clone Rios last year, and replace Vernon Wells with Alex Rios. We essentially did that at SS, where we replaced the Vernon Wells of SS (Mac) with Alex Rios (Eckstein). It's really night and day.

A ton of Jays fans/bloggers, including some of us here wanted to get Jason Bay. Assuming we somehow got him, the upgrade between our combined LF in 07 (741 OPS...that's for anyone who played in LF, not just Stairs/Johnson) and Jason Bay's career #'s (890 OPS) would have been a .150 OPS difference.

In other words, adding David Eckstein to SS is nearly identical to adding Jason Bay pre-07 to play LF for us. No, Eckstein isn't going to suddenly start hitting HR or anything. But our SS position was so bad, that having a league average guy like Eckstein makes it seem like a tremendous upgrade. We would have given up tons of prospects, and millions of dollars for a LF of his quality (assuming we had the money of course). And yet for 4.5 million, we essentially got the same kind of upgrade in our lineup. They won't provide the same production, but the value you're getting, from upgrading a player is proportionately at the same.

When you look at the Eckstein signing this way, it is without a doubt the single best offseason move JP has done. Often times during the offseason, we were told that NY, Boston & the Jays didn't really make any big improvements, and for the most parts were just standing pat. What I'm hoping is that people start realizing that we didn't stand pat, and that out of the three teams listed, you can make the argument the Jays made the most improvements to their starting 9 during the offseason.

Alright, so now that I've proved that Eckstein is a huge addition, how can we maximize his value?

We know Eckstein's coming off an injured season, and considering how valuable he is to the club, we need to keep him rested. Also, we know that his defense is less than spectacular. So what needs to happen to keep him rested and healthy throughout the year?

The obvious answer to this is to have McDonald come in more often and play defense when we're winning. The other thing that Gibbons can do, is make a straight platoon between Eck & Mac.

I'm probably getting a lot of WTF stares at the screen, so I better act are their 3 year splits vs LHP

McDonald - 697 OPS
Eck -706 OPS

There really isn't any noticeable difference between McDonald or Eckstein, when they're facing a Southpaw. Mac shows he can take the occasional walk against LHP (283/333). Eck would probably be better if he hit for higher average against LHP, as his walk rates and I'd bet ISO would be higher than Mac. That being said, for a difference of .009 OPS, there is really no reason to stop Eck/Mac from going into a straight platoon to start the season. We lose a negligible amount of offense against lefties, which the Jays already kill to date. But the defensive upgrade from Eck to McDonald is sizeable enough that you do gain value starting McDonald against LHP.

I really hope I actually covered some new stuff, and didn't rehash the same old "scrappy" and "team player" ideas that have been circulating the media. Beyond that, I'm just hoping that people can appreciate how bad the SS position was, and that Eckstein is potentially a bigger upgrade than a healthy Rolen in this lineup (proportionately to their positions previously held by Jays, anyways).



Anonymous said...

Have to admit, I like finding blogs that validate my opinion. So no, I didn't really learn anything from this blog post, but you put it much more eloquently than I could have.

Rios39 said...

Hi very interesting blog. And I agree the difference between eckstein and what we had last year is HUGE. Even though Eckstein is league average I also bleive he's one of the better SS's. I mean Julio Lugo is ok when he's over performing. Otherwise he's crap.