Monday, March 28, 2005

Do any of you remember how Bill James used to this thing where he'd list each active player's most similar player? The idea was a hypothetical: if this team absolutely had to replace a player, what active player could they replace him with without changing their team?

It's kind of a frivolous exercise, but I always thought it was kind of fun, and as I was looking at some old James books recently the idea came to me to try it with the current Angels. But whereas Bill James had a big computer database, I'm pretty much just using my head. So I don't really have a formula; I'm just looking for people of like position, relatively the same defensive quality, and maybe, if at all possible, batting from the same side. Here's what I got.

To catcher Bengie Molina, Toby Hall
Bengie's a year older, and likely better defensively. But they are comparable hitters, both free swingers with a bit of pop for a catcher, both rely on getting decent batting averages to have good years. Toby Hall is more consistent, and I think a healthy Bengie would be better, if such an entity were to exist.

To 1B Darin Erstad, Doug Mientkiewicz
I'm only considering The Punter as a first baseman here. Though the shape of these guys' performances aren't all that similar, their overall production is about the same. 4-3 has a career OPS+ of 98, while Eyechart's is 101. Of course, Erstad gains with basestealing, and his career EqA is .261 against Mientkiewicz's .263. They are both fine defenders, and were also born 15 days apart.

To 2B Adam Kennedy, Placido Polanco
This one's a cheat on a couple of different levels. Kennedy and Polanco hit from opposite sides of the plate, and Polanco has shown an aptitude for several different positions, which Kennedy has never had to do. However, they are both excellent glovemen, and were born only three months apart. Polanco has a slightly higher career OPS+ (95-91), but they have been virtually tied for the last three seasons, with Kennedy posting (in descending order) marks of 113, 102, and 98 to Polanco's 112, 101, and 99. Polanco's never really been a regular like Adam has, but his skill set is not dissimilar.

To 3B Dallas McPherson, Garret Atkins
David Wright would be a horrible match, in that Wright is younger, a better prospect, a better defender, and bats from the other side of the plate. But I know it's not Kevin Youkilis. Atkins kind of gets it by default, despite being a bit older and not striking out a hell of a lot.

To SS Orlando Cabrera, David Eckstein
I know it seems ridiculous, and it's not that great of a match, but it's the best we got. With a career 83 OPS+, Cabrera is better than a couple of guys younger than him, Alex Gonzalez of Florida and Adam Everett, and also better than a couple of guys older, Deivi Cruz and Alex Gonzalez of Other. Eck and Cabrera are only a few months agaprt in age, and though Eck has the higher career OPS+ (he has an 87), we'll go ahead and say that The OC's defense evens that gap. I don't really buy that, but it seems like the best match we have.

To LF Garret Anderson, Rondell White
In age and value, Matt Lawton is the most-similar, but the shape of their performances are so different that I can't go with him. Lawton is more into walks and has less power, whereas White is more of a slugger like GA has become. White's been a better hitter to this point in their careers (OPS+ of 111 to Garret's 107), so I'm actually giving Garret some credit for his late peak here. That seems pretty fair to me. Raul Ibanez is another candidate.

To CF Steve Finley, Ruben Sierra
I know Finley grades out poorly as a defender in center, but I also know that there's no way Ruben Sierra would be even remotely close to him. But who else is there? It ain't Barry Bonds, and Julio Franco is too old. Against Sierra, Finley has the higher career OPS+ (108-106) and EqA (.275-.265), which is just about the last thing in the world you would have predicted a dozen years ago, but there you go. Jeff Conine's a similar hitter, but is also poorly suited to center field. Another possibility is Craig Biggio, except Biggio's aged rather poorly with the bat, and was no picnic in center field, either; this doesn't even mention the fact that Biggio has been a far better hitter of his career than Finley, the last few seasons notwithstanding. In terms of offensive performance, Kenny Lofton is pretty close, though Lofton is an on-base and speed guy vs. Finley bashing. Okay, Lofton and Biggio are likely better picks than Sierra, but I can't figure out which is best. The choices on 39-year-old guys are pretty limited.

To RF Vlad, Lance Berkman
Yes, that's how good Berkman is, or is when he's not ripping up his knee playing flag football. Berkman actually has a slightly higher career OPS+, 148-147, and also a slight EqA lead, .319-.315. These are virtual ties. Vlad's got over 1000 more plate appearances, so he's been more valuable over the course of his career, but in terms of value right now (ignoring the injury question), Berkman is the closest thing to being in Vlad's ballpark. It's true that Berkman has much more patience at the plate than Vlad, but there isn't anyone who combines Vlad's seeming recklessness with his amazing production, though Nomar through age 28 was pretty close. The better a player is, the harder it is to find an excellent match.

To DH Jeff DaVanon, Brian Buchanan
They are both 30 years old. DaVanon's career OPS+ is 105, Buchanan's 102. The lead is actually bigger in EqA, .270-.263. The reason is that DaVanon's OPS is OBP-heavy, while Buchanan's is bigger on slugging. Buchanan also isn't as viable in center field as DaVanon is. But they are withing 17 career plate appearances of each other and have rather similar production, so it's a decent match.

To UT Chone Figgins, Ryan Freel
Freel's actually about two years older, but they both play a lot of positions and have been roughly league-average hitters to this point in their careers. Both broke out as starters last year, each posting a 101 OPS+. Freel has actually been a better basestealer than The Legs, stealing 48 bases in his career at a 76% success rate against Figgins' 49 and 70%.

Dunno if I'll get to pitchers, and I know the Finley entry is absurd beyond belief, but, hey, it's a game ...

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