Sunday, October 29, 2006

Leadoff Hitters

Thanks to the boys over at Bleed Cubbie Blue and their comments you get if you click that link, I have inspiration for another baseball post(hey, I gotta write about something-The NBA isn't that interesting yet and College hoops don't start for another month really).

Some of the people blindly bashing Eckstein as a very mediocre player and using stats against him made me look up my own stats.


COmparing a lead-off hitter to middle of the lineup guys with OPS is worthless. You pay leadoff hitters to do two things: Get on base and score runs. Now scoring runs is largely a team-based stat, since you usually have to have someone drive you in, unless you're a Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols, or David Ortiz and can count on 40-50 homers a season. So I'll make the focus on On-Base Percentage and Strikeouts. Getting on base and putting pressure on the defense.

First we'll start with on-base percentage. I'm using nine different lead-off hitters who are more of the well known ones in these stats: David Eckstein, Juan Pierre, Rafael Furcal, Scott Podsednik, Ichiro Suzuki, Jose Reyes, Johnny Damon, Chone Figgins and Carl Crawford. These are some of the best known typical lead-off type guys out there.

OBP Percentage:
Rank - PLayer - OBP
1) Ichiro Suzuki - .370
2) Rafael Furcal - .369
3) Johnny Damon - .359
4) Jose Reyes - .354
5) David Eckstein - .350
6) Carl Crawford - .348
7) Chone Figgins - .336
T-8) Juan Pierre - .330
T-8) Scott Podsednik - .330

So here, DAvid Eckstein is the median score. Of course, I've only put him up against the better known lead-off hitters. Throw in one for every team, and he's a top-third guy in OBP among lead-off hitters, I would bet.

Now, for strikeouts. PUtting the ball in play puts pressure on the defense, and with these guys' speed, can actually induce some errors.(Note - This is independent of games played, if someone on this list played a partial season due to injury, these could be skewed)

Rank - PLayer - K's
1) Juan Pierre - 38
2) David Eckstein - 41
3) Ichiro Suzuki - 71
4) Jose Reyes - 81
T-5) Johnny Damon - 85
T-5) Carl Crawford - 85
7) Scott Podsednik - 96
8) Rafael Furcal - 98
9) Chone Figgins - 100

So here, we see Eckstein is second only to Juan Pierre, and after Pierre and Eckstein, the dropoff is CONSIDERABLE, going from 41 K's to 71 K's.

When a speedy guy strikes out, he gives the defense NO chance to screw up.

Now, Eckstein is an average defender, and he's only average because of his hustle and willingness to throw his body around, so I won't put him up there with gold-glove calibre shortstops on that.

Eckstein also brings a relatively modest price tag at 3.3M, which compared to the players above on their rookie contracts is obviously a lot, but next to Renteria's 10M he's making in Atlanta, Furcal's 8 digit salary, and the other higher salaries of players like Pierre, Damon and Suzuki, Eckstein's salary has allowed St. Louis to put money in other places.

Eckstein's worth goes far beyond his OPS. And for that matter, anyone who is looking at OPS to judge the worth of a lead-off hitter is missing the point.

David Eckstein is an above-average baseball player who has been a pivotal part of two World Series Championship teams.



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