Friday, July 27, 2012

Will Ichiro Help the Yankees?


I've been busy lately getting settled into Singapore and a new job, so haven't had much time to post. But there is a lot going on in sports, most obviously with the London Olympics getting started. As well, UEFA's Champions League and Europa League are in the middle of their qualifying rounds, and are great for dreaming about future sports road trip destinations. After all, who wouldn't love to spend a day in Moldova watching Sheriff Tiraspol hosting Dinamo Zagreb?

For baseball fans, the biggest news over the past week was the Ichiro trade. After 11 1/2 seasons in Seattle, Ichiro finally had enough of losing and requested a move to a contender. Now he is in the AL East as the Yankees were only too happy to welcome him, especially with the Mariners paying most of his salary. Seeing Ichiro in pinstripes brings back nightmares from the 2000 off-season, when I worried he might end up there after being posted by the Orix Blue Wave. Thankfully Seattle grabbed him and he has enjoyed a hall-of-fame career since then.

However, it is obvious that he is on the downside, with his numbers dropping considerably over the past two years. My favourite "unusual" stat is bases/out (BOP) which I wrote about last year. It is more intuitive than OPS and not as difficult to calculate as some of the more elaborate metrics such as WAR or wOBA+. Let's look at Ichiro's stats since 2001:

Year  G  AB   H  SB CS BB SO  BA   OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF  BOP
2001 157 692 242 56 14 30 53 .350 .838 316 3   8   4  4 .880
2002 157 647 208 31 15 68 62 .321 .813 275 8   5   3  5 .823
2003 159 679 212 34  8 36 69 .312 .788 296 3   6   3  1 .780
2004 161 704 262 36 11 49 63 .372 .869 320 6   4   2  3 .892
2005 162 679 206 33  8 48 66 .303 .786 296 5   4   2  6 .787
2006 161 695 224 45  2 49 71 .322 .786 289 2   5   1  2 .818
2007 161 678 238 37  8 49 77 .351 .827 292 7   3   4  2 .839
2008 162 686 213 43  4 51 65 .310 .747 265 8   5   3  4 .754
2009 146 639 225 26  9 32 71 .352 .851 297 1   4   2  1 .848
2010 162 680 214 42  9 45 86 .315 .754 268 3   3   3  1 .751
2011 161 677 184 40  7 39 69 .272 .645 227 11  0   1  4 .603
2012  98 414 109 16  3 17 40 .261 .642 146 10  1   0  4 .570

Remember, BOP is (TB + BB + HBP + SB + SF + SH) / (AB-H+CS+GDP+SF+SH). It is by no means a perfect stat but it does provide a very understandable way to present a player's offensive value. For every out he makes, how many bases does he achieve? The average this season is .683, so an average player should get around 68 bases for every 100 outs.

As you can see, Ichiro was always between .750 and .900 in his first ten seasons. This is actually rather low for someone with such a high average and stolen base totals, mainly because he rarely walks. In his rookie campaign 2001, he was unintentionally walked 20 times in 738 plate appearances! This is terrible for a lead off hitter, but it was easy to ignore as he hit .350 on his way to the MVP and ROY awards. (As an aside, he finished 22nd in the AL that year in BOP, behind such luminaries as Corey Koskie and Frank Catalanotto, not to mention teammates Edgar Martinez, Bret Boone, and John Olerud.)

Now that Ichiro is hitting around .260, his failure to take free passes is really hurting. His BOP has fallen to  .570 right now, which ranks him 140th of 153 qualifiers in MLB. I expect his defense is still superior to the average but his overall value is questionable at this point. I think the Yankees will soon realize that the Ichiro they have is not the Ichiro of old and makes far too many outs for less than 2 bases per game.

You might notice in the stats above that Ichiro's OPS and BOP numbers are quite similar for each year. This is not unusual; BOP is rarely more than 20% higher or lower than OPS. They generally count the same thing, just in a different manner. 

For those interested, Mike Trout leads the majors with 1.233 bases/out, while Blue Jay Edwin Encarncion is 6th overall at 1.083 (3rd in the AL, with the washed-up David Ortiz taking 2nd at 1.109).

Team BOP

I also computed the BOP for each team and compared it to the average and OPS. As you can see, there is a considerable difference in the rankings for BOP and batting average. Note how Toronto zooms from 18th to 6th while KC tumbles from 5th to 19th.  However, there is little variation between the OPS and BOP rankings:
        Team              BOP  AVG RK  OPS RK
1 New York Yankees       .770 .263  9 .794  1
2 Texas Rangers          .756 .277  1 .785  2
3 St. Louis Cardinals    .745 .277  2 .776  3
4 Colorado Rockies       .730 .265  7 .764  4
5 Arizona Diamondbacks   .727 .265  8 .761  6
6 Toronto Blue Jays      .724 .254 18 .756  8
7 Boston Red Sox         .721 .266  6 .761  5
8 Los Angeles Angels     .721 .271  3 .759  7
9 Milwaukee Brewers      .709 .247 21 .735 12
10 Detroit Tigers        .708 .269  4 .754  9
11 Chicago White Sox     .701 .259 13 .742 10
12 Cincinnati Reds       .696 .252 19 .734 14
13 Washington Nationals  .696 .256 16 .735 11
14 Atlanta Braves        .695 .256 17 .729 15
15 Cleveland Indians     .694 .257 15 .734 13
16 New York Mets         .682 .259 12 .727 18
17 Minnesota Twins       .680 .262 10 .727 17
18 Philadelphia Phillies .673 .259 14 .719 19
19 Kansas City Royals    .669 .267  5 .728 16
20 Tampa Bay Rays        .663 .233 28 .691 24
21 Miami Marlins         .660 .241 24 .692 23
22 San Francisco Giants  .658 .261 11 .704 20
23 Oakland Athletics     .651 .229 29 .686 25
24 Pittsburgh Pirates    .649 .243 23 .704 21
25 Baltimore Orioles     .636 .239 26 .702 22
26 San Diego Padres      .633 .237 27 .671 29
27 Houston Astros        .630 .240 25 .681 26
28 Los Angeles Dodgers   .627 .248 20 .679 27
29 Chicago Cubs          .612 .245 22 .679 28
30 Seattle Mariners      .597 .229 30 .650 30

The similarities between the two stats mean that BOP will never get much attention as OPS has become a key metric over the past few years. I still prefer BOP though and will occasionally write about it here.

Best,

Sean

No comments:

Post a Comment