Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Kendall Effect

The Stats Geek offers an analysis of how the loss of Jason Kendall is likely to affect the Pirates' offense.

Although I agree with the main idea of the article - that the Pirates didn't score many runs last year and aren't likely to score many this year - I must take issue with a few points.

Much of the article focuses on the horrible 2004 performances of Randall Simon, Chris Stynes and Abraham Nunez. Since the three combined to hit .216/.269/.299 last year, the Stats Geek reasons that "Offense should be regained, however, by replacing Nunez, Stynes and Simon with Freddy Sanchez, Ty Wigginton and Daryle Ward."

The problem with this reasoning, I think, is the assumption that just because Simon, Stynes and Nunez aren't on the team anymore, the Pirates won't endure any of those sorts of performances from anyone.

Here are the Terrible Trio's 2003 stats:

Simon: .276/.309/.434
Stynes: .255/.335/.413 (in Coors Field)
Nunez: .248/.310/.357

They weren't exactly Pujols, Rolen and Edmonds. But Simon, Stynes and Nunez also weren't nearly as bad in 2003 as they were in 2004. It's not as if what the Pirates got from them in 2004 was what they expected. We thought they'd be bad, but not that bad. (Similarly, we thought Jason Bay would be good, but not that good.) When you trot a bad player like Randall Simon out there, the results are always pretty nasty - but when you trot him out there and he starts losing the skills he had, things can get really nasty.

Let's look at the 2004 statistics of the Pirates who will replace them.

Benito Santiago: .274/.312/.434
Matt Lawton: .277/.366/.421
Ty Wigginton: .261/.324/.433
Daryle Ward: .249/.305/.474

Compare Santiago's 2004 to Simon's 2003, then remember that Santiago is forty years old and smack in the middle of a steroid crackdown, and tell me if you'd be surprised if he had a Simon-like collapse in 2005.

Then consider Ward's 2003 season, in which he hit .183/.211/.193 and was far worse than any of the Pirates' 2004 trio, and tell me whether it would be shocking if he pulled a Simon in 2005.

On offense, Lawton and Wigginton have always been a cut above Stynes or Nunez, but consider that Lawton is old and has injury problems, and that Wigginton has never been a very good player.

Then consider that Santiago, Lawton, Wigginton and Ward are likely to get a lot more than the 562 plate appearances that Simon, Stynes and Nunez got in 2004.

The Stats Geek writes, "The Pirates enter 2005 in no danger of suiting up Abraham Nunez, Chris Stynes or Randall Simon." With all due respect, I disagree. When you trot out old, mediocre players like Santiago and Lawton, or even relatively young, mediocre players like Ward and Wigginton, you run the risk of a fiasco if they collapse. I'm not saying any one of these players will collapse, just that they could, and it would be foolish to plan on those players maintaining their established levels.

Speaking of which, the Stats Geek shows how Kendall will replace Lawton by using their career leadoff numbers, which are as follows:

Kendall: .326/.409/.402
Lawton: .299/.380/.480

The trouble is that Kendall's line looks similar to his 2003 and 2004 stats, while Lawton's does not resemble any year he's had recently. Lawton hasn't come near a .380 OBP since 2001. And he has never posted a .480 slugging percentage in a season. (He had a .478 SLG as a 26 year-old in 1998.) Lawton won't come close to replacing Kendall in 2005.

Moreover, all these considerations about the Pirates' offense don't take defense into account, and Lawton, Wigginton and Santiago represent a massive net decline from Simon, Stynes and Kendall on defense.

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