Monday, December 13, 2010

Crawford, Martinez, and More Statistics

My son Ben had a good reply to my initial baseball statistics post, but there is more to be said. Boswell's column is certainly part of it. The corrective I would add to Boswell is that the short left field, while it inhibits what Crawford can do for you catching the ball, also disguises his below-average throwing. Perhaps Carl can play shallow and channel his speed left to right, shutting down more space. Perhaps he will develop mastery of The Green Monster. Perhaps.

I was prepared to concede Ben's point about Martinez, as I had simply forgotten about his poor percentage of base-stealers thrown out. It was indeed maddening to watch at times last year. But...Martinez had 27 out of 126 caught stealing. So 99-(27x2.6) = 29 bases, which equals 2.9 runs for the season. Call it 3 runs. Not so much. It is indeed discouraging while it is happening, but like base-stealing itself, there's more drama than effect.

It does bring up the issue whether pitchers did worse when Martinez was catching. Nope. They had an ERA slightly over 4 with Martinez, and slightly over 4 with Varitek. Martinez's numbers were improved by Buchholz, but he also caught a lot of games by Beckett, which dragged him down (and he caught him much better than Varitek). At least publicly, the other pitchers have had praise for him as well. If there was a pitcher's conspiracy to get him out because he was screwing them up, it's well hidden. Not that he couldn't be screwing them up and they not realise it, but that becomes a less likely possibility.

I think it is fair to also concede that even if Martinez's catching days are not over, they are at least numbered. He is a DH, and perhaps a declining one, so mixing him in with Ortiz, backup catching, and whatever-you-got for a year means he's a year older when he becomes your full-time DH, and he's likely insulted to boot. Still, OPS of .844 to Crawford's .851. Essentially the same at half the price. And that's not even figuring in Jason Bay, who is the real comparison to Crawford. Martinez was an extra. And the Yankees are also pursuing Russell Martin.

Fans and GM's like to have good players locked in for multiyear deals. It means fewer problems to solve each year and builds fan loyalty. But "locked in" has two meanings. Things change.

As I said, I generally like what we've got - plus rumors of Ordonez and Beltran, and relievers Downs and Fuentes. It's a good team and it should do well if healthy. But an injury here or there, or Bay bouncing back from his injuries would only highlight what could have been if they had decided to spend that kind of money a year ago.


Ben Wyman said...

Fair point on Martinez, but if he's still a starting player and a good hitter, he is now essentially a backup catcher - or, at least, will be soon. I don't see the point of locking him in to a multiyear deal, which is what we'd have to offer him. Detroit made more sense for him, since he'll shuttle between catcher, first, and DH, and he's historically hit better when he's not catching (though he changed that a good deal this year). The Red Sox lineup seems a good deal more locked in than the Tigers, so I imagine Martinez realized that re-signing would mean 4 years of catching full time.

Martinez caught Buchholz well, while Tek never caught him at all, which messes up the ERA numbers. Lackey (3.29 vs 4.81), Dice-K (3.81 vs 5.9), and Lester (1.88 vs 3.64) all had ERAs 1.5 to 2 runs less with Tek. That's pretty huge, though you have to give VMart credit for keeping Beckett's ERA down a little (5.11 vs 7.18).

In any of these situations, it's best not to get too caught up in the "well, we should have re-signed him, because what other options do we have?" A lot can change in a year. We signed Scutaro even though it seemed likely that he would regress because he was the best available shortstop, and we needed a stopgap player there until a better option came along.

Maybe Saltamacchia will improve, or maybe he won't, but if he doesn't, I won't look back and complain we didn't re-sign VMart (though I've always loved VMart and will miss him). I'll just keep looking to see what our next best option is.

Ben Wyman said...

Also, the concussion ended Bay's season, so it wasn't like it was bothering him and that affected his play. He wasn't hitting last year. I like him and hope he bounces back, but I was never in the camp that felt we should re-sign him.