Monday, June 18, 2007

Good Lord

I have come to expect that, in a format such as this, it's almost impossible to avoid having one's case stated for you when you write something that is even remotely vague. But it's still shocking when I have my case stated for me, and I haven't written anything at all ... instead, I had a booze-addled conversation with a friend of mine on my porch Saturday night that hit on, among other things, Ichiro's relative value. Unbenownst to me, apparently, my friend was also either half-asleep or suffering from Horchata-induced brain freeze, because he's managed to completely misrepresent my argument in re: Ichiro's relative value, or at least overstate those points I actually did (try to) make.

Things I actually did say or argue:
- Ichiro's overrated;
- Ichiro's OBP isn't as good as it could be;
- Ichiro's defense is probably not as good, in reality, as his reputation suggests;
- Ichiro's going to make waaaaaaaay more money as a free agent that he's worth.

Things I did not actually say or argue:
- Ichiro's OBP is sub-.350, or "terrible";
- Ichiro's a bad defender;
- Walking is the "right way" to get on base;
- Adam Dunn is my Lord and Savior (we all know that's Pronk).

Also: accusing other people of the use of straw men, in your case, is throwing stones from a house almost completely made of straw. Or would it be that you're building me into a straw house? Whatever: The point is: Pot + Kettle = TGWNA.

But here's the important part: Upon further review, you're right. I thought there might be a chance that more advanced statistics than the ones you cite would contradict your point, but it's actually the opposite; Ichiro's the best CF in 2007 in terms of VORP, and he's on pace for one of the best seasons of his career in his age 33 season (10.2 WARP3), which is remarkable. Furthermore, he's trending toward his second-highest season walk total, a career-high slugging percentage, and is sporting the highest EqA of his career (.311)*.

The defensive stuff is so difficult to quantify in any authoritative way that I'm not sure it's even worthwhile trying to compare his defense to contemporaries. I will absolutely concur, however, that one is not likely to realize a large uptick in defensive efficiency by going with the Camerons, Hunters of Joneses of the world over Ichiro, who appears to be as effective in center as he was in right field. And even if one believed that those three were vastly better than Ichiro with the glove, his offensive value advantage is great enough to render defense meaningless.

I did not expect to make that last statement when I first looked into Ichiro's numbers, to be honest. If you had asked me a day ago if Ichiro was more valuable than Andruw Jones, I would have said "no" without hesitation. Silly me:

2006 WARP3: Ichiro 9.2 - Jones 8.6
6-year WARP3: Ichiro 55.5 - Jones 48.3

2006 EqA: Ichiro .281 - Jones .299 (One area of advantage for Jones)
However ...
Carrer EqA: Ichiro .289 - Jones .283

Plus, Ichiro's having such a better season than Jones this year, it's fairly silly.

If we're talking about what available centerfielder I want on my team next season, almost regardless of need, I would take Ichiro without hesitation (though, in some cases, Jones' massive advantage in power might be more important to a team than Ichiro's superiority in every other offensive category of import).

About the only reason for pause is going to be the length of any contract with Ichiro, considering he's in his age-33 season and a large amount of his value is tied up in speed. However, there are lots of contemporary examples of older players managing to retain a good deal of their speed into the late 30s. There's also the issue of Ichiro's likely skills consolidation as his career progresses; it's entirely conceivable that, as Ichiro's speed and athleticism decline, he will start hitting for more power and draw more walks, a career arc consistent with many other hitters of his caliber. So, there's a good chance that, unlike the Lees, Sarges and Pierres of this world, he could actually sign a longer-term contract that won't almost certainly be an albatross for his team within three years. But, considering that he's likely going to pull in more than $15 million a year, he'll still be overvalued, perhaps the only one of my original arguments I'm willing to stand by in any way, shape or form.

There is one thing, however, that you're totally and utterly wrong about, Justin: Ichiro and Rickey aren't really comparable. Henderson had more power, got on base way more, and was a superior base stealer. Probably the only thing that makes the careers appear as close as they do is that Henderson played well into his late 30s/early 40s, and managed to do some real damage to his career numbers (most particularly his slugging percentage).

But, other than that and a lot of the things you accused me of saying, you're pretty much dead-on. Good job!


* Obviously, by "career" I mean major-league career; I don't have anything of use from Japan.

3 comments:

Pepe B. Secessionist said...

You did say that Ichiro's OBP was .350 or lower. I promise you you said that. You also scoffed vociferously when I said that Ichiro was better than Mike Cameron defensively. And you know you adore Adam Dunn.

Other than that, I'm good.

Pepe B. Secessionist said...

Oh, and how was Ricky so superior as a base-stealer? Their career SB% are exactly the same, and Ichiro never stole a bag in the majors until he was almost 30. If he'd played in America through his 20s (not to mention if he'd played in an era that valued the steal), he could have made a run at Ricky's record.

Diesel said...

I know the vagaries of OBP too well to think a guy who routinely hits in the .330s could possible have an OBP of .350 or lower. The only thing I can think of is that it's a mixup, and I was talking about someone else. I'm willing to cop to saying outrageous things, but I'd need to be drinking absinthe to believe Ichiro was EVER sub-.350. I really would confess here if I thought I was guilty, as I would think the rest of my post proves.

The Cameron thing I can definitely cop to, but there's a big difference between me verbalizing my Mike Cameron man-crush and saying Ichiro was "terrible" defensively.

Neither of these issues are important, and I don't want to make it sound like it's a big deal. My indignity was feigned in the original post, as I'm sure anyone who can read could tell.

As for the base-stealing thing ... I might be going out on a limb, but I believe it's way more impressive to sustain a +.80 success rate when you're attempting at least 80 attempts per season, versus Ichiro's average of roughly 45. Yes, I believe in a different era Ichiro steals more, but I don't think he's exactly got the red light right now, either. But it's also beside the point; even if I were to allow that Ichiro's as good of a baserunner, that wouldn't outweigh Henderson's other advantages as a hitter.