ALCS Preview: The Infields

Production from aging players a Yankee advantage
The other new Yankee Stadium

With plenty of time between the end of play Sunday and the start of the ALCS on Friday evening, we’ll take our time previewing the series. We’ve already done the managers and the starters. Now to the infielders.

Offensively, the Yankees have the best infield in baseball in 2009. Their weakest link, Robinson Cano, had a .370 wOBA and a 126 OPS+, absolutely insane numbers for the worst of a five-player group. The Angels also have a strong infield, made stronger by a second half Howie Kendrick surge. So let’s see how the two teams match up, head to head.

Catcher: Mike Napoli/Jeff Mathis vs. Jorge Posada/Jose Molina

PA BA OBP SLG wOBA SB CS% UZR
Mike Napoli 432 .272 .350 .492 .362 3 50 n/a
Jeff Mathis 272 .211 .288 .308 .267 2 60 n/a
Jorge Posada 438 .285 .363 .522 .378 1 0 n/a
Jose Molina 155 .217 .292 .268 .260 0 n/a n/a

Former catchers manage both teams, and both teams have chosen to use their backup catchers in the playoffs, an uncommon move. In both cases the backup is the superior defender, but they are also atrocious hitters. That’s to be expected of a backup catcher. At least in this series the disadvantage should even out — perhaps even favor the Yankees, because Scioscia tends to use Mathis more than Girardi uses Molina.

Both starters are below average defensively by anecdotal measures. A recent study in catcher defense, while imperfect, corroborates. It ranks Napoli dead last in the majors, of 114 qualified catchers, and ranks Jorge 109th. Jorge has a slightly better caught stealing percentage, 28 percent to 22, but that’s also an imperfect measure of throwing proficiency (i.e., it counts pickoffs).

Thankfully for their teams, they can both mash. Thankfully for the Yankees, Jorge mashes more. His .378 wOBA was second among catchers with at least 400 PA, to the mighty Joe Mauer. While Napoli and Jorge have comparable raw power — Jorge has a .237 Iso and Napoli is at .220 — Jorge gets on base at better clip and hits for a better average.

Edge: Yanks. The backups are about even, and Jorge edges out Napoli.

First base: Kendry Morales vs. Mark Teixeira

PA BA OBP SLG wOBA SB CS% UZR/150
Kendry Morales 622 .306 .355 .569 .382 3 70 4.4
Mark Teixeira 707 .292 .383 .565 .402 2 0 -2.4

Kendry Morales was always one of Anaheim’s most hyped prospects. They gave him a $3 million bonus as an amateur free agent in December 2004 after he defected from Cuba in June. Per Kevin Goldstein, he was “considered the best position player to ever defect from Cuba.” Morales mashed in the minors, putting up a slash line of .332/.373/.528 from 2005 through 2008. He got 407 major league plate appearances between 2006 and 08, but posted a pedestrian .249/.302/.408 line. As we know, he broke out in 2009.

The Angels were disappointed when they found out Teixeira was leaving, but Morales has done his part to replace the production from first base. It didn’t quite match Tex’s numbers, but it was close enough — and they have him signed cheaply enough — that the Angels have to be more than satisfied. That UZR says he plays good defense (and I haven’t heard any major knocks on his D) is an even bigger plus.

Teixeira had a slightly better year at the plate, and has the more favorable platoon splits. He had a .373 OBP and .576 SLG as a lefty vs. righties and a .400 OBP and .511 SLG as a righty against lefties. Morales has a much more pronounced split, a .366 OBP and .596 SLG as a lefty vs. righties and a .319 OBP and .481 SLG as a righty against lefties. If the series goes seven games the Angels will face a lefty five times, which does not bode well for Morales. It also might mean Damaso Marte stays in the bullpen.

Both players had better second halves than first, and both have pronounced home/road splits favoring the home end. Morales has a bigger difference, though, a 1.042 OPS at home vs. .814 on the road, while Teixeira has a 1.013 OPS at home vs. .882 on the road. Morales has the advantage in defense, but Tex still seems the better bet all around.

Edge: Yankees

Second base: Howie Kendrick vs. Robinson Cano

PA BA OBP SLG wOBA SB CS% UZR/150
Howie Kendrick 400 .291 .334 .444 .341 11 27 3.4
Robinson Cano 674 .320 .352 .520 .370 5 58 -4.9

Over the past few years, we’ve seen many comparisons of Cano and Kendrick. Both are young second basemen, and both are free swinging contact hitters. The comparisons seem to end there, though, as Kendrick falls short of Cano in power and durability.

Kendrick started off poorly in 2009, limited his playing time. Even though he spent plenty of time on the bench in the first half, he still set a personal best with 400 plate appearances. He also set a career high in walks…with 20. That’s one walk ever 20 plate appearances. That’s bad. Really bad, even. But then take a look at Cano, who walked 30 times in 674 plate appearances, or one every 22.5 plate appearances.

In terms of aggregate results, the two aren’t particularly close. Cano had better rate stats over about 60 percent more plate appearances. Our favorite counting stat, WAR (read about its awesomeness), has Cano destroying Kendrick, 4.3 to 2.1. Unfortunately, we’re not looking for season aggregates. We’re looking for who should play better in the ALCS.

Kendrick came on stronger in the second half, though he still didn’t play full time — or at least as full-time as Cano, who had 122 more plate appearances from the All-Star Break on. Kendrick edged out Cano in second half OPS, .948 to .922, but again, it was in far less playing time. It’s also a pretty small sample for Kendrick, who put up a .644 OPS in the first half over 226 PA.

Cano has an advantage in that he has no real platoon split. He gets on base a bit better against righties, but has better power against lefties, evening out his OPS. Kendrick gets on base about the same, but his power is greatly sapped against lefties, causing a nearly .090 discrepancy in OPS. Kendrick also features a .846 OPS at home vs. a .714 mark on the road, while Cano’s splits are just .912 at home vs. .832 on the road.

Edge: Yankees. Kendrick has come on strong, but Cano is still the better hitter, even though his defense measures a bit worse.

Third base: Chone Figgins vs. Alex Rodriguez

PA BA OBP SLG wOBA SB CS% UZR/150
Chone Figgins 729 .298 .395 .393 .358 42 29 11.8
Alex Rodriguez 535 .286 .402 .532 .405 14 12.5 -7.6

In terms of pure hitting, this isn’t even close. Then again, beyond Evan Longoria there aren’t many third basemen who can match rate and counting stats with A-Rod. Figgins might have an edge in batting average, but everything else is A-Rod. But, just for the fun of it, let’s take at the things that Figgins did really well and compare those to A-Rod.

Figgins had 729 plate appearances this season, 194 more than A-Rod, who missed the season’s first month and sat on the bench a bit more than he would normally. This helped give Figgins the edge in WAR, 5.9 to 4.6. Part of this has to do with Figgins’s 42 stolen bases(also defense), tied for third in the MLB. But on the flipside, he led the league in caught stealing with 17, leaving him with a 29 percent caught stealing rate. A-Rod stole only 14 bases this season but was caught just twice. So while Figgins swipes more bases, Alex is far more efficient in doing so.

Figgins also led the league in walks with 101, though Alex wasn’t far behind with 80. With Figgins’s 729 plate appearances, that means he walked once every 7.2 plate appearances. A-Rod walked once every 6.7 plate appearances. So in the two areas that Figgins excels, steals and walks, A-Rod is more efficient. Combine that with far superior power numbers and even Figgins’s defensive prowess can’t bridge the gap. And, as I’ve posited a number of times already, A-Rod’s defense has improved greatly from May and June, further closing the gap in that aspect.

Edge: Yankees

Shortstop: Erik Aybar vs. Derek Jeter

PA BA OBP SLG wOBA SB CS% UZR/150
Erik Aybar 556 .312 .353 .423 .339 14 33 6.3
Derek Jeter 716 .334 .405 .465 .390 30 14 5.3

Erik Aybar is a useful player. He had a good year at the plate this year and has a slick glove. If I were building a team, I wouldn’t mind having Aybar as my shortstop. But he doesn’t come close to Derek Jeter’s production. It’s not even worth diving further than the surface stats. Jeter has a better batting average, OBP, slugging, and wOBA. He stole more bases and was more successful in doing so. He also did it over 160 more plate appearances.

Aybar has a slight edge in defense, but it only goes a short way in bringing him close to Jeter. In some cases, like Teixeira vs. Morales, it’s worth going deep into the matter. Not in this. It’s Jeter in a landslide.

Edge: Yankees

Angels still have a defensive edge

While the Yankees have the superior offense across all the infield positions, the Angels edge them out in defense across the board. That ranges from small differences, like Aybar over Jeter, to huge gaps, like Figgins over A-Rod. While defense is important, I’m not sure that it compensates for the vast difference in offensive production from the infields.

The Angels infield defense is good, yes, but the Yankees are generally a fly ball hitting team. The Angels are more of a groundball team, setting up an interesting dynamic. The Angels have a great infield defense, but it might not factor in as much because the Yankees hit the ball to the outfield. The Yankees have a below average infield defense, and that could be exposed because the Angels hit the ball on the ground. Thankfully for the Yankees, they have a fly ball tilt on their pitching staff, which could help even out the differences.

While the infield match-up is closer than the offensive stats would indicate, the Yankees still have an edge. They have a powerful offensive attack from their infield, something the Angels just cannot reproduce.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the outfield, which gives a bit more of an advantage to the Angels.

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Production from aging players a Yankee advantage
The other new Yankee Stadium
  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    Morales has a much more pronounced split, a .366 OBP and .596 SLG as a lefty vs. righties and a .319 OBP and .481 SLG as a righty against lefties. If the series goes seven games…

    It won’t.

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    Former catchers manage both teams, and both teams have chosen to use their backup catchers in the playoffs, an uncommon move.

    However, the Angels aren’t carrying three catchers. Only two. An important distinction.

    • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

      So what you’re saying is the Yankees should aim to injure one?

      • A.D.

        Injure both!

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Let’s put Shelley Duncan on the ALCS roster.

    • A.D.

      They might carry 3, if their 3rd catcher had more than 3 at-bats this year and hit better than 223/304/366 at AAA

    • http://www.newyorkjets.com/image_assets/8997/052109_coach_rex_ryan_presser_320.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      It is an important distinction – because the Angels are being unwise.

      • http://www.newyorkjets.com/image_assets/8997/052109_coach_rex_ryan_presser_320.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        Actually, I take that back. The Angels aren’t necessarily being unwise, since they don’t plan on employing their catchers how the Yankees do. When the Angels start Mathis they seemingly do so, as they did in Game 1 of the ALDS, with the intention of letting him catch the entire ballgame. On the other hand, when the Yankees start Molina, they most certainly do not do so with the intention of letting him catch the entire ballgame. To me, that’s the most important distinction between what the Yankees and Angels are doing with their respective catching situations. If the Angels, like the Yankees, plan on pulling Mathis from any game he starts, likely by the 6th inning or so, then they would be unwise to not carry a 3rd catcher. I won’t rehash the whole argument here, but here’s my opinion on why carrying Cervelli, given the Yankees’ gameplan re: their catchers, makes sense:

        http://riveraveblues.com/2009/.....ent-614716

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          I agree with you.

          Carrying three catchers is the appropriate solution to the horrendously retarded problem that we have needlessly manufactured for ourselves out of thin air, in direct contravention of calm logic and reason.

          • Chris

            You really think that having an extra pinch runner, or an extra backup infielder would be even moderately useful?

            • http://www.newyorkjets.com/image_assets/8997/052109_coach_rex_ryan_presser_320.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

              Yes. Why would having an extra pinch-runner not be moderately useful?

              More importantly… Assume you’re not going to give a start to your backup catcher, that you’re going to play your starter in every game. In that case, how is a third catcher more useful than an extra pinch-runner?

  • A.D.

    But he doesn’t come close to Derek Jeter’s production. It’s not even worth diving further than the surface stats.

    I enjoyed this.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      I’ve done the calculations… Derek Jeter is good.

      • All praise be to Mo

        Maybe he can pitch the 8th inning too.

        /Francesa’d

  • CapitalT

    Mathis always seams to get the big hits against NY

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Jeff Mathis v. NYY, career:
      .154/.241/.250

      • Tank the Frank

        That was such uber pwnage.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          In CapitalT’s defense, Mathis does have an inordinately high number of RBIs (11) for such a small number of hits (8 in 61 PA), so, perhaps Mathis does somehow manage to get “big” hits against the Yankees (while failing to get hits in most non-RBI situations), but the fact still remains: He doesn’t hit well against us. I’m not scared of Jeff Mathis.

          Confidence level: 27

          • Jose

            I found 3 games where you could argue he got big hits against the Yankees.

            3 RBI on May 1, 2009 in a 9-10 Angels Loss
            3 RBI on August 20, 2007 with bases clearing double in a 7-6 Angels Win
            1 RBI on July 7, 2007 in a 2-1 Angels Win that lasted 13 innings

            I’m not scared of Jeff Mathis at all.

  • JobaWockeeZ

    He had a .373 OBP and .376 SLG as a lefty vs. righties and a .400 OBP and .511 SLG as a righty against lefties.
    That should say 5.76 SLG.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      Or rather .576 -___-

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    With plenty of time between the end of play Sunday and the start of the ALCS on Friday evening, we’ll take our time previewing the series. We’ve already done the managers and the starters. Now to the infielders… Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the outfield, which gives a bit more of an advantage to the Angels.

    With so much time to kill, if we don’t wrap up the series with a thorough breakdown of the Yankees wives and girlfriends vs. the Angels wives and girlfriends, I’m gonna be very disappointed.

    • Tank the Frank

      I’ve looked into it. No one matches the Yanks in that category. Have you seen Joba’s little lady? Oh my.

      http://www.brobible.com/Story/18249

      • http://www.facebook.com/dougchu Doug

        “Bro Bible?”

        What an abhorrent website

  • http://kyivpost.img.com.ua/img/forall/a/355/5.jpg Rose

    Teixeira had a slightly better year at the plate, and has the more favorable platoon splits. He had a .373 OBP and .376 SLG as a lefty vs. righties and a .400 OBP and .511 SLG as a righty against lefties.

    Is that right?? Teixeira had only a .376 SLG% as a lefty?? That can’t be right…

    • http://kyivpost.img.com.ua/img/forall/a/355/5.jpg Rose

      Woops, see this was addressed above…

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

        Odd, too, because I edited it right after I saw JobaWockeeZ’s comment.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      It’s a typo.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        IT’S A TYPOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

        /AdmiralAckbar’d

        • The Ghost of Scott Brosius

          Many bothans died to bring us this information

  • The Ghost of Scott Brosius

    Why does the first base comparison conclude by saying morales has the edge in defense? Is that true? I’d have a hard time believing that and the comparison itself doesn’t actually seem to make that point…

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Quoting Joe, condensed version:

      First base: Kendry Morales vs. Mark Teixeira, UZR/150
      Kendry Morales +4.4
      Mark Teixeira -2.4

    • Doug

      statement is based entirely on the UZR/150 figure, a metric i think has been proven not to be a terrific judge of firstbasemen.

      • The Ghost of Scott Brosius

        yeah exactly. i think from what we’ve seen of tex it’s a pretty rash statement to say morales’ defense is better based only on UZR

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          i think from what we’ve seen of tex it’s a pretty rash statement to say morales’ defense is better based only on UZR

          I think from what we’ve seen of BOTH Tex AND Morales, it’s pretty rash to say that Morales ISN’T a better defender based solely on your doubts about UZR.

          Tex is a good defensive first baseman. So is Kendry Morales. This year, Morales has been better than Tex in a quantifiable way. If you’re going to argue that that quantification is false, you’re going to have to show how Morales is much worse than Tex in the non-quantifiable portions of their respective defenses.

          Good luck.

          • The Ghost of Scott Brosius

            Just because there isn’t currently a readily available statistic measuring the percentage of balls scooped at first and accurate throw to home plate from first on relays and ground balls, doesn’t mean we can’t be aware of the existence of those factors. You’re right, it would be difficult for me to publish a scholastic paper proving Tex’s equivalence, but an argument isn’t invalid simply because there are clearly evident factors we don’t have great data on yet

            • http://www.newyorkjets.com/image_assets/8997/052109_coach_rex_ryan_presser_320.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

              “Just because there isn’t currently a readily available statistic measuring the percentage of balls scooped at first and accurate throw to home plate from first on relays and ground balls, doesn’t mean we can’t be aware of the existence of those factors.”

              Yeah, it just means we’re left with anecdotal and observed evidence, not a statistical record. Have you watched Morales enough to say that Tex is better at those things than Morales?

              • The Ghost of Scott Brosius

                No, I haven’t. But I have seen Tex enough, basically every inning, to feel that there are very few things someone else at his position could do significantly better than him. This notion of statistical analysis trumping anecdotal is completely correct, and I’m all for statistical analysis. But we have to be realistic about these stats, and we’re they are coming from. The defensive statistics are not currently on par with the offensive ones as tools for comparison, and may never be. Just because you have numbers in front of you doesn’t mean they automatically trump what you have repeatedly seen. The statistics are after all based on what is being seen, the oft-disparaged “observation”. It is possible to make evaluations based on what you have repeatedly seen and not be an ignorant baseball fan living in the past.

                • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                  The Honorable Congressman Mondesi says:
                  Have you watched Morales enough to say that Tex is better at those things than Morales?

                  The Ghost of Scott Brosius says:
                  No, I haven’t. But I have seen Tex enough, basically every inning, to feel that there are very few things someone else at his position could do significantly better than him.

                  That’s pathetically laughable and ignorant. You don’t get to say “I’ve seen every play player X made, therefore I know he’s better than player Y whom I haven’t seen simply because I ‘feel’ nobody could possibly be better than the player X that I know very well.”

                  Being an expert on English Lit does not qualify me to compare and contrast English Lit to French Lit if I haven’t similarly thoroughly studied French Lit. You have to study BOTH to compare and contrast. If you haven’t watched every play of both Tex AND Morales, your opinion is flawed and worthless.

                  Do you know who HAS watched every play of both Tex and Morales? UZR has.

                • http://www.newyorkjets.com/image_assets/8997/052109_coach_rex_ryan_presser_320.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

                  If you don’t have anecdotal or observational evidence regarding Morales’ defensive abilities, then the fact that you have watched Tex and think he’s really good and Morales probably isn’t much better than him is completely unsubstantiated. Even if you want to play in anecdotal land, you at least need to have anecdotal evidence on both sides.

                  “It is possible to make evaluations based on what you have repeatedly seen and not be an ignorant baseball fan living in the past.”

                  Nobody called you an ignorant baseball fan living in the past, that’s a straw-man. And yes, it is possible to make evaluations based on what you have repeatedly seen… But you have not repeatedly seen Morales nor have you consulted someone who has.

                • The Ghost of Scott Brosius

                  I am consulting my knowledge of the possibilites open to first basemen to field their position. If I know that Tex fulfills those possibilities almost entirely to the fullest in every way, and the same posiibilities are open to morales, then it doesnt matter what Morales does. Its like saying that the maximum is a ten, i know tex is a 9.97, and if morales is a ten, it really makes no significant difference

                • The Ghost of Scott Brosius

                  I have class, im not just ducking out. thanks for the discussion

                • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                  If I know that Tex fulfills those possibilities almost entirely to the fullest in every way, and the same posiibilities are open to morales, then it doesnt matter what Morales does.

                  No. It doesn’t work that way. Wrong.

            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

              Were you arguing that it’s impossible for UZR to say, BEYOND ALL DOUBT, that Morales is better defensively than Tex, I’d agree with that argument.

              That’s not your argument. You argued that Tex is actually BETTER than Morales defensively, in direct opposition to UZR evidence that says he’s not, and your argument is “that UZR evidence is incomplete.”

              While the evidence may be incomplete, it is still evidence, and good, powerful evidence at that. So, no, your argument is invalid.

              • The Ghost of Scott Brosius

                That is not my argument. Reread it, at no point did i say he was better. I believe he is essentially as good, to the point of any minor differences being negligible.

                • http://www.newyorkjets.com/image_assets/8997/052109_coach_rex_ryan_presser_320.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

                  Why do you believe he’s “essentially as good” as Morales?

                • The Ghost of Scott Brosius

                  Because he doesn’t do things poorly! He does them well! He handles every aspect of his position in a way that greatly benefits his baseball team and unless morales is somehow running to third base to grab those balls and then running alway back to first before the runner gets there, i dont understand how he could be a doing a significantly, game-impacting, better job.

                • http://www.newyorkjets.com/image_assets/8997/052109_coach_rex_ryan_presser_320.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

                  “Because he doesn’t do things poorly! He does them well!”

                  That doesn’t mean someone else doesn’t so some things better than he does. You can’t decide Tex is better than, or even as good as, someone else just because Tex is good.

                  “He handles every aspect of his position in a way that greatly benefits his baseball team…”

                  Except for the aspect measured by UZR, huh?

                  “… and unless morales is somehow running to third base to grab those balls and then running alway back to first before the runner gets there, i dont understand how he could be a doing a significantly, game-impacting, better job.”

                  Meh, this is silly. Mark Teixeira is not the best defensive first baseman in the history of the game, I understand how someone could be doing a better job than him. And, in any event, nobody said Morales is much better than Teixeira, or that his advantage(s) over Teixeira are so huge. Nobody said Morales is doing a “significantly, game-impacting, better job,” you made that up as a straw-man.

                • The Ghost of Scott Brosius

                  i don’t understand what “better than” even means if it doesn’t refer to some kind of impact on the game. That’s what I meant by “game-impacting.” if you’re not better in a way that impacts the game, not the outcome but the game itself, than you are simply not better

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        …the UZR/150 figure, a metric i think has been proven not to be a terrific judge of firstbasemen.

        False. It has been acknowledged to be an incomplete measure of the defensive prowess of a first baseman, because there are parts of 1B defense that it does not attempt to quantify (directly, scooping throws to 1B and making throws to start double plays).

        But, it hasn’t been “proven” to “not be a terrific judge of firstbasemen”. It does what it always does: tells you whether a certain player is above or below average in terms of converting balls hit to his vicinity into outs. Kendry Morales turns more balls hit to the vicinity of 1B into outs than Mark Teixeira does. That’s pretty straightforward.

        • http://kyivpost.img.com.ua/img/forall/a/355/5.jpg Rose

          Who has had more opportunities? Is there an easy place to see that number?

          • http://www.newyorkjets.com/image_assets/8997/052109_coach_rex_ryan_presser_320.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

            Why would that matter?

            • http://kyivpost.img.com.ua/img/forall/a/355/5.jpg Rose

              If UZR is merely based on “outs” made compared with opportunities…it would explain why his UZR was so low…perhaps he didn’t get that many opportunities to bring his score back up?

              If somebody has a batting average of .375 in 20 at bats and another guy has a .280 in 400 at bats…you wouldn’t think the at bats don’t matter…

              • http://www.newyorkjets.com/image_assets/8997/052109_coach_rex_ryan_presser_320.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

                “If somebody has a batting average of .375 in 20 at bats and another guy has a .280 in 400 at bats…you wouldn’t think the at bats don’t matter…”

                Right… But as explained below, there’s no great disparity here between Morales’ playing-time/opportunities and Tex’s, since they’re both regular starters.

            • http://kyivpost.img.com.ua/img/forall/a/355/5.jpg Rose

              This was answered below…sorry for the misunderstanding but thanks for the explanation.

        • Doug

          sorry i forgot to include “complete” or that i used “proven”. must remember to choose my words carefully around here.

        • The Ghost of Scott Brosius

          his statement is still accurate. he’s saying that this statistic alone should not be posited as evidence of morales’ defensive superiority, and he is correct. i wouldn’t use only batting average to compare the two as hitters, even though batting average is one way to compare the effectiveness of hitters.

          • http://www.newyorkjets.com/image_assets/8997/052109_coach_rex_ryan_presser_320.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

            Ok… Can you provide a metric that shows Tex is better at some aspect of defense than Morales is? This is one stat and you’re right, using one stat is probably not the best way to go about it.

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            Is UZR proof of defensive superiority? No.
            Is UZR evidence of defensive superiority? Good evidence of that superiority? Yes.

            Therefore, UZR doesn’t mean Morales is better than Tex beyond the shadow of a doubt, but it DOES mean that the preponderance of evidence says he is.

            Should UZR be cited along with other defensive stats to round out the picture? Absolutely, I agree. Problem is, the other stats by and large suck and actually decrease information, rather than add to the information.

            When discussing outfielders, I hope we list both UZR and ARM. ARM is an example of a stat that adds to UZR to round out a full defensive analysis. I don’t know of an ARM type-stat for infielders, do you? I don’t know of a scoop-type stat for first basemen, do you?

            • The Ghost of Scott Brosius

              Your one hundred percent right. I just wish we had those stats available, and i hesitate to make firm judgement s one way or another without them

              • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                Your hesitation is borne not out of detached, rational neutrality, but out of willful self-delusion. You don’t believe it not because you’re rationally skeptical, you don’t believe it because you don’t WANT to believe it.

                The fact that UZR does not include infield arms or scooping ability should not preclude you from making firm judgments about the totality of a player’s defensive ability one way or the other, because those other aspects of defense are exceedingly ancillary and moot when compared to converting balls hit to you into outs.

                UZR may not measure everything, but it measures far and away, hands down, the MOST IMPORTANT THING. So, whatever information is not included in it’s calculus rarely, if ever, changes the equation so much as to make it’s initial judgment incorrect.

                If UZR says Player A is better than Player B, you can feel confident that it’s right, because the other things that Player A and Player B do that UZR doesn’t address are insignificant enough or rare enough or universal enough that they won’t alter the basic UZR outcome.

                • Chris

                  If UZR says Player A is better than Player B, you can feel confident that it’s right, because the other things that Player A and Player B do that UZR doesn’t address are insignificant enough or rare enough or universal enough that they won’t alter the basic UZR outcome.

                  That’s not true. It just means that the things UZR doesn’t measure are too difficult to measure with the data that is fed into the calculation of UZR. It says nothing about how significant or insignificant those contributions are.

                  Just look at catchers. UZR doesn’t even attempt the measure their performance, but they certainly have a tangible defensive value.

                • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                  Tangible, yes.
                  Important? Not very. Not nearly as important as converting balls in play into outs.

            • RichYF

              I am pretty sure this will get lost in the shuffle, but I think this is faulty logic.

              UZR is one measure of defense. Probably one of the only ones available. Does that make it entirely accurate? I guess that depends on how you feel about other statistics that are available that weren’t 20 years ago that are respected today (wOBA, the +’s, etc.).

              I would have to defer to someone much older than myself, but if I said that standard counting statistics were the best way to measure a player’s worth, would you agree (AVG, HR, RBI, R, etc.)? Probably not. Mostly because there are other metrics available that look deeper into the actual value of a player.

              UZR is all that is available at the moment. It is thought of as one of the best (although I think ZR has some merit amongst statisticians). The point is that UZR shouldn’t be the tell-all statistic. And citing it shouldn’t guarantee anything. It obviously has merit and it obviously gives an argument support, but to think that (as an early metric of defense) it isn’t flawed, is faulty logic.

              UZR tells us that Morales is a probably better fielder than Teixeira, but it’s just one portion of the equation. To say that Brandon Inge has as much power as Matsui or Dye because he has similar HR/2B numbers is flawed. We obviously know that SLG is a better judge of power, so we look there and see how low he really is.

              I honestly don’t know if Morales (along with 15 other qualified 1B) are better than Teix at first, but if UZR is correct then it seems that Teix is actually not very good at all at first.

              One question I have about UZR is how does it deal with shifting? Does it take in to account where the player is positioned? Jeter shades up the middle more this year and I think Teix plays more off the line. Does this matter? I don’t have answers, I’m just not 100% sold on any ONE statistic as a measure of ability (without any doubts).

  • Doug

    i think our biggest advantage at 1B is the speed factor. morales got caught 7 out of 10 attempts, while tex never gets thrown out. if we can somehow turn this into a track meet of the first baseman, we have this series in the bag.

    • The Ghost of Scott Brosius

      I mean i know when i think of the key factors in a baseball game the first thing i always ask is “how fast are the first basemen?”

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Things that the 2009 Yankees v. Angels ALCS will most definitely NOT be:

      “A track meet of the first baseman”

      • The Ghost of Scott Brosius

        Is there a possibility it’ll be a pie-eating contest? because id like our chances with CC….

      • http://kyivpost.img.com.ua/img/forall/a/355/5.jpg Rose

        Really? The “Golden Girls” on Lifetime it is then…

        • JMK aka The Overshare

          I love that show.

          • Ferb

            Yup, me too. Loved watching it on lifetime with my mom all the time. And then Designing Women came on… ugh.

    • Zack

      “while tex never gets thrown out” because he doesnt steal?

      The Yankees biggest advantage at 1B is that Morales struggles against LHP and the Yankees will throw a lefty starter 5 out of 7 games.

      • Doug

        was joking with the post

        • Zack

          ah alright

  • JMK aka The Overshare

    Joe, you say Morales has the advantage in defense over Tex. Maybe he does. But is using UZR a good measure of a 1st baseman’s defensive ability? It would seem not. Tex is fantastic on defense. I’m just curious if there are other measurements that factor into your statement or if it’s reliant upon UZR.

    • JMK aka The Overshare

      Fucking refresh. Nevermind.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      But is using UZR a good measure of a 1st baseman’s defensive ability?

      Yes.

      The fact that UZR does not capture all of what a player does defensively does not mean that UZR is invalid. It just means it’s not the whole picture.

      But it is still an important part of the picture. You can’t just throw the information away just because it doesn’t tell you everything. It’s still telling you something.

      • http://kyivpost.img.com.ua/img/forall/a/355/5.jpg Rose

        Just curious…it’s kind of easy to find the sample sizes for a batting average…but it’s not all that common to find “opportunities” as a first basemen. Would that be a factor in this?

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          No. More opportunities would increase the accuracy of the UZR stat, as it’s a rate stat, but both Tex and Morales have similar innings totals. It’s moot.

        • http://www.newyorkjets.com/image_assets/8997/052109_coach_rex_ryan_presser_320.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          Only if there was reason to believe there would be some sort of incredibly wide disparity that would cause the comparison to be irrelevant, but there’s no reason to expect that when dealing with 2 full-time starters for their respective teams.

      • JMK aka The Overshare

        I didn’t say it was invalid. I made note that it perhaps doesn’t measure their defensive ability very well. And then I asked if there were other factors in his assessment other than the uzr stat.

        Also, I’m going to miss the World Series because of a business trip. So I’m super bummed now. Don’t compound my misery. Whisper sweet sabermetric nothings to me. But you don’t have to whisper — my hearing isn’t great.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          I didn’t say it was invalid. I made note that it perhaps doesn’t measure their defensive ability very well.

          The note you made is wrong. UZR does measure first basemen’s defensive ability well. Range on getting to balls hit to you to make plays on them to convert them into outs is still the primary and central job of every defensive player (excepting catcher). UZR does not measure all things that defenders must do, but it does measure the CENTRAL, MOST IMPORTANT THING that all defenders must do, and it measures it accurately and well.

          • The Ghost of Scott Brosius

            One could argue that it is more important for a first basemen to field throws to his position, when considers canos ability to range to balls that may make the first basemen getting them unnecessary on some plays

            • The Ghost of Scott Brosius

              sorry should read “especially when one considers”

            • http://www.newyorkjets.com/image_assets/8997/052109_coach_rex_ryan_presser_320.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

              Just a personal observation… But it seems like you’re looking for reasons to substantiate your belief that Tex is better than Morales rather than looking at the available evidence and then making your decision.

              • JMK aka The Overshare

                The only evidence seemingly available is UZR, and he thinks it to be inadequate for a number of reasons. You make it seem like there’s a ton of evidence out there and he’s totally deluded in his thought.

                • http://www.newyorkjets.com/image_assets/8997/052109_coach_rex_ryan_presser_320.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

                  All I meant in this comment is that he seems to be searching for reasons to substantiate his preconceived notion that Tex is better than Morales defensively.

                  I don’t make it seem like there’s a ton of evidence out there that he’s ignoring, I make it seem like the only evidence he has is that he thinks Mark Teixeira is good and that’s a completely invalid argument in a comparative context.

                • http://www.newyorkjets.com/image_assets/8997/052109_coach_rex_ryan_presser_320.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

                  “The only evidence seemingly available is UZR, and he thinks it to be inadequate for a number of reasons.”

                  Also… You make it sound like this is his only argument, but he also thinks Tex is as good as Morales, if not better, because he thinks Tex is really good. I’m not exaggerating or trying to paint his argument in a bad light, he made that argument.

                  See: http://riveraveblues.com/2009/.....ent-626043

                  I’m sorry, but that’s just invalid. (Trying to not use a mean word to describe that argument.) He’s searching for reasons why Tex is as good as Morales, not looking at the evidence in front of him and then deciding. He’s rooting for one entity over another and it’s coloring his analysis.

                • JMK aka The Overshare

                  I hadn’t read all of the arguments he put forth. Yes, some of them are a bit silly, but the point remains: the UZR “evidence” is unsubstantial. Is Morales possibly a better defensive first basemen? Totally. Will any statistic change his mind that Tex is better? Probably not.

                  Does this mean that Tex is not a better defensive player? No. UZR simply doesn’t measure significant portions of the defensive responsibilities, so half the picture does not tell the whole story, thus making it an unreliable metric. The SSS is also an issue here, as Moshe noted.

                  Ultimately, we need more than one defensive metric for us to make any sort of judgment here. If we only judged an offensive player by average, we’d fall into the trap of thinking that Delmon Young is a far more valuable offensive player than Nick Swisher. I’m not saying that Tex is better than Morales — it’s entirely possible that he is better. But I also won’t concede that we have the evidence needed to make that determination at this point.

            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

              One could argue that it is more important for a first basemen to field throws to his position…

              One could argue that. One would be wrong, however. Fielding throws is like outfield arms: It’s important, but there’s not a great disparity amongst the data.

          • JMK aka The Overshare

            I take objection to that. A significant part of the first baseman’s job is not fielding his position on balls that fall into his range. It’s about making the put-out and holding the running game. Scooping balls, stretching for balls, holding runners, etc. Other than Catcher, 1st base seems worst for UZR. Yes, a significant, perhaps largest responsibility, is his range on balls hit to his area, but there could also be a reason his numbers aren’t great for that; a reason that includes positioning. Say a ball is hit to his “area” but he’s holding a runner on and can’t get to the ball. This doesn’t mean he’s a poor defender, even though the ball is technically in his range.

            • JMK aka The Overshare

              Maybe it weighs heavier in certain sections of range and Cano gets to those balls more often, reducing his statistical value. Just because UZR is the statistic cited, does not mean that it accurately assesses a player’s actual defensive ability.

      • Ed

        The fact that UZR does not capture all of what a player does defensively does not mean that UZR is invalid. It just means it’s not the whole picture.

        But it is still an important part of the picture. You can’t just throw the information away just because it doesn’t tell you everything. It’s still telling you something.

        I agree with your stance completely, but, I don’t agree with the way you’re explaining it.

        If I take that text I quoted, and replace UZR with Fielding Percentage, everything you said still holds. Fielding Percentage certainly is telling you something, but it’s such an incomplete picture that it isn’t very meaningful. It doesn’t even pass the laugh test, as it rates Jason Giambi as an amazing fielder.

        I don’t know the details of UZR well enough to make a good argument for it, but if you want to defend it, you probably want to argue that the things it measures are more significant than the things it doesn’t measure. The larger the difference in significance, the better UZR is.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          but if you want to defend it [UZR], you probably want to argue that the things it measures are more significant than the things it doesn’t measure. The larger the difference in significance, the better UZR is.

          I have said that all over this thread, and countless others. UZR measures the most important part of defense. It has flaws, but it’s flaws are not significant enough to remove it as the central and predominant way for evaluating defense.

          • Ed

            Yeah, you did give explanations all over this thread. But they came while I was reading the older comments and writing that.

  • http://www.newyorkjets.com/image_assets/8997/052109_coach_rex_ryan_presser_320.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

    Does anyone else feel like the conversations about UZR are getting as hackneyed as the Joba/starter/’pen debate?

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      The terriosts are winning.

      • http://www.newyorkjets.com/image_assets/8997/052109_coach_rex_ryan_presser_320.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        Mo forbid a metric should tell us that Mark Teixeira might not be the best first baseman ever, huh?

    • http://theyankeeuniverse.com Moshe Mandel

      Yes. The problem is that both sides are wrong. Seriously, generally I agree with you and TSJC, but I think you guys put a lot more credence in a season of UZR data than the creators of the stat do. Mitchell Lichtman has said very often that there are plenty of measurement errors in the data and that depending on it is tough to do without very large samples (preferably 3 seasons or more). In regard to first basemen in particular, because their zone is highly limited to their left and because their defense has so much to do with other skills, UZR does not measure 1B defense well.

      • http://www.newyorkjets.com/image_assets/8997/052109_coach_rex_ryan_presser_320.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        Ok… So how do you react if someone puts the following hypothetical to you?

        – 1bX’s UZR is 6 runs better than 1bY’s UZR in 2009. 1bX’s career UZR/150 is 5 runs better than 1bY’s career UZR/150. There is no anecdotal evidence that either player has any deficiencies in other defensive areas not measured by UZR. If you had to choose which player, 1bX or 1bY, is the better fielder, who would you choose?

        • http://theyankeeuniverse.com Moshe Mandel

          How long are the careers? I would probably take 1bX unless the careers are short. However, the problem is that we have begun disregarding anecedotal evidence for UZR. It is not meaningless, but it is best used as a rough guideline. I’m not sure how much you know about how UZR is calculated, but if you do know about it, correct me if I am wrong: but my rudimentary understanding is that the field is split into literally hundreds of bins. As such, it is very difficult to make judgements based on one season, because one or two measurement errors throw off the entire bin. Anecdotal evidence, while flawed, should not be discarded for UZR unless the source is dubious or there is enough data that conflicts with the anecdotal evidence.

          • http://www.newyorkjets.com/image_assets/8997/052109_coach_rex_ryan_presser_320.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

            “I would probably take 1bX unless the careers are short. “

            Right, me too. I’ll leave the rest of the conversation to you and TSJC, my only point really is that: (1) we have evidence that 1bX is better than 1bY and we have no evidence to the contrary; (2) while that evidence may be incomplete, it’s still all we have; (3) so the only reasonable conclusion, based on the available evidence, is that 1bX is the better defensive player.

            • http://theyankeeuniverse.com Moshe Mandel

              The anecdotal evidence here cuts against your point, as many observers, including many former firstbasemen, believe that Tex is one of the two or three best defensive firstbasemen in the game. Also, Morales has something like 200 starts at 1B, so the UZR sample is small. To me, the evidence is at worst equal- I have anecdotal evidence on one side, a small sample of a statistic that is flawed as to firstbaseman and is particularly susceptible to SSS on the other. To me, the reasonable conclusion is that we probably cannot use the evidence to reach a conclusion, and the best option may be to say that neither piece of evidence is partuclarly strong in either direction, and to split the baby and say that they are probably pretty close defensively.

              • http://www.newyorkjets.com/image_assets/8997/052109_coach_rex_ryan_presser_320.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

                Do you have anecdotal evidence that Morales is not seen by observers as being a good defensive first baseman? I don’t put much faith in the argument that since some “observers” say that Tex is one of the 2 or 3 best first basemen in the game, then he must be as good as or better than Morales.

                • http://theyankeeuniverse.com Moshe Mandel

                  All I have are scouting reports from newspaper writers and such and anectdotal evidence that suggest that Morales has changed positions a number of times, had a tough time adjusting at first, but has turned into a plus, but not top of the league, caliber defender. Like I said, it is not great, but neither is a small sample of UZR over one season. I recently saw, and I can’t find it now, that the standard error on Tex’s (and Morales) UZR this year is +/- 8-10. That is huge.

                • Chris

                  Is that +/- value a one sigma, 3 sigma, 95% confidence limit? I’m just curious how accurate the data really is.

                • http://www.newyorkjets.com/image_assets/8997/052109_coach_rex_ryan_presser_320.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

                  Fair enough, this is a much better argument than “UZR sucks” and “Tex is good so Morales can’t be better.” I still discount anecdotal evidence heavily and prefer the statistical evidence, though. I’ll take the relatively small UZR sample on Morales and the large UZR sample on Tex over a bunch of sportswriters and “baseball people” telling me their opinions.

                • http://theyankeeuniverse.com Moshe Mandel

                  Fair enough, and quite frankly, I would probably lean in your direction if forced to make a judgment on defense. I just wanted to point out that it is not as clear as some would make it.

                  Chris, I can’t find it now. If I do, I will post it here, but it may not be until tomorrow.

            • Chris

              (1) we have evidence that 1bX is better than 1bY and we have no evidence to the contrary;

              In this case that’s true, but in the real world you have scouting reports and other data not included in UZR calculations that can be used to evaluate a players performance.

  • http://twitter.com/hopjake Jake H

    I love how people are going on and on about the Angels pitching. I would rather have our top 3 then theres so who cares who has the better 4th starter?

    • http://www.newyorkjets.com/image_assets/8997/052109_coach_rex_ryan_presser_320.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      The Yankees have the better fourth starter. His name is CC Sabathia.

      • http://twitter.com/hopjake Jake H

        I would agree. I think the Yankees power also is a huge advantage.

      • http://kyivpost.img.com.ua/img/forall/a/355/5.jpg Rose

        Sabathia is 0-2 with a 6.00+ ERA against the Angels this season…and even his overall numbers against them isn’t THAT great. It’s acceptable…but not dominating…

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

          Yes, but one of those was a complete meltdown in the 7th after he pitched six shutout innings. That was back in April, so obviously CC has gotten better since then.

          • Mike Pop

            Also. That means NOTHING now.

            Just like the Yankees recent struggles.

  • Bo

    The yankees may have the greatest offensive infield of all time and they also play GG caliber defense. This isn’t even a comparison. While Morales and Figgins are nice players but they are not Tex or A-Rod. And they bench Kendrick at times. He isnt even in the same league as Cano.

    • JMK aka The Overshare

      We don’t play GG caliber defense.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Meh, technically, any defensive player who hits and fields at least moderately well plays GG defense. The title is meaningless, they give those awards out stupidly.

        • Tom Zig

          oh you mean like Rafael Palmeiro in 1999?

          Can we just get rid of the gold glove? Or maybe just start awarding it on a rational basis?

          • Chris

            There is no rational basis for giving out these awards. You could try to use a computer formula to calculate who deserves the award (like using Fangraphs value), but that is still subject to significant questions on how it’s computed and how the original observations and other data are collected.

      • Chris

        The Yankees have the third best defensive efficiency in the AL. While not technically GG caliber (because they’re not first) it’s pretty close – and certainly better than the Angels.

        • Don

          Very good point Chris about the Yanks’ edge in overall team defensive efficiency as per the Hardball Times.

  • Tampa Yankee

    Man I can not wait for this series to start. Between the anticipation of the USF/Cincy game on Thursday after a bye week and the gap between series, I’m at my wits end having no games to watch. This is hopefully going to be a great weekend with a lot of pussytubing, steaks and blowjobs!

  • dkidd

    the conversation/argument about tex vs morales is why i love this site

    something else i love: having a first baseman good enough that after watching him for a full season, some people could refuse to believe anyone is better at the position!

    • The Ghost of Scott Brosius

      Yeah that person was me. Idk, i like to think I’m an objective and intelligent observer, but I guess I can let passion for my guys color my judgement, at least when i think the other merits are basically even. I guess that kind of slightly biased loyalty is considered quaint these days. Oh well. I’m sticking with tex.

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