The 2007 Alex Gonzalez of the Marlins Award

by Keith Glab,
December 7, 2007

If you predicted that a member of the Chicago White Sox would win this year's Alex Gonzalez of the Marlins Award, you probably want to keep that to yourself.  That team took longer to get something going offensively than any team in recent memory.  With the minor exception of Darren Erstad, there are no Sox players that performed better in the first half of the season than they did in the second.  Conversely, if you selected a Milwaukee Brewer for the award, you're likely feeling pretty good about yourself right now.  The Brewers fell flat of their faces after a stellar month-and-a-half to begin 2007, giving them several worthy AGotM candidates.  These two teams actually serve as figureheads for this year's award, as the National League has 'better' overall candidates than does the junior circuit.

I would definitely like to hide my pre-season AGotM picks, but I do not afford myself that luxury.  I selected Sammy Sosa in the American League, believing that his long layoff would cause him to wear down in the final months of 2007.  I maintain that he would have, had he not essentially been benched in favor of younger players during the second half of the season.  That rest allowed Sosa to amass an .851 second half OPS after a .747 first half mark.  In the senior circuit, I chose the legend himself, Alex Gonzalez, thinking that he would take advantage of a hitter-friendly park before National League pitchers remembered that the need not pitch him strikes.  Things looked good when he had 11 homers on June 1st, followed by 32 games in which he hit just two.  But he missed the end of July with an injury, and somehow came back to hit .404 in August and .290 in September.

Maybe it was Alex S. Gonzalez in disguise.

Anyway, at the All-Star break, I then made a second set of predictions with the help of my good friend, Predicted OPS.  PrOPS uses batted ball type data and other ratios to remove as much luck from a player's OPS as possible.  As it turns out, a player's PrOPS from one year correlates better with his OPS the next year than OPS itself does.  In fact, for every 10 points of deviation between a player's OPS and PrOPS, we can expect a corresponding rise or fall in the player's OPS the next year of 8 points.  I figured that the difference between a player's first half PrOPS and his first half OPS could similarly predict second half performance.  Here's how it shook out.

American League

Among the ten AL players whose PrOPS was most out of line with their OPS, seven of them had a post-break OPS more than 40 points lower than their pre-break OPS.    Four of these players saw their OPS fall by 90 or more points, and two had it drop by over 150.  On the other hand, three of these players actually increased their production by 40 points, two did so by 90, and on player even bested his first half OPS by over 150 points after the All-Star break.

Clever old me picked that player, Jorge Posada, as my revised Gonzalez winner.

The method itself succeeded overall in the AL, however, as it identified those two 150+ point OPS losers in an league where not a lot of hitters fell apart in the second half.  Here are the splits for those players, using doubles instead of the usual home run stat, as they are both line drive hitters:

Orlando Cabrera AB 2B RBI AVG OBP SLG
Pre-AS 351 26 51 .328 .366 .444
Post-AS 287 9 35 .268 .321 .338

Kevin Youkilis AB 2B RBI AVG OBP SLG
Pre-AS 293 22 44 .328 .419 .502
Post-AS 235 13 39 .238 .356 .391

The most surprising aspect of these stat lines is that neither player's run production suffered from their lack of hitting in the second half.  In fact, Youkilis' RBI rate actually improved.  While Youkilis' rate stats did dive further than Orlando Cabrera's did, he is still the Greek God of Walks.  No player who finishes the season with a .390 OBP is going to win an award with Alex Gonzalez' name on it, Marlins or otherwise.  Youkilis was simply too good of an overall hitter to win the award.

So did I write earlier that no White Sox player would have been a good pick for the 2007 Alex Gonzalez of the Marlins Award?  Actually, now that Orlando Cabrera has been traded to the South Side, that's not entirely true.  Way to go, Kenny Williams!  You've addressed your team's burning need for a player who fell apart during the second half of last year.  You acquired the 2007 American League Alex Gonzalez of the Marlins Award winner in Orlando Cabrera, and it only cost you your third best starting pitcher from last year.  Score!

National League

Let's now examine how the NL's top 10 in first half PrOPS-OPS fared after the All-Star break:

1 - OPS over 100 points better
4 - OPS over 30 points better
2 - OPS within 10 points of 1st half OPS
4 - OPS over 30 points worse
2 - OPS over 100 points worse

This was not as impressive of a showing for PrOPS as in the American League.   However, the player with the biggest PrOPS/OPS differential at the break was also the player with the largest OPS drop in the second half:

Hunter Pence AB 2B RBI AVG OBP SLG
Pre-AS 275 23 42 .342 .367 .589
Post-AS 181 7 27 .293 .348 .464

As Pence was my revisionist pick for the AGotM, it is tempting to crown him, even without urging from Dennis Green.  But Pence suffered an injury in the second half of the season that could have affected his power.  His overall numbers therefore also still look too good for a Gonzalez winner.  Pence turns 25 in April, and has a great chance of winning several AGotM Awards in the coming years if he can keep up his abhorrent strikeout-to-walk rate.  Let's give it to someone else, especially given the wealth of candidates in the NL.

Pre-AS 358 4 35 .307 .387 .439
Post-AS 323 8 22 .251 .316 .402

Reyes was the other player from our list whose OPS declinved by over 100 points.  That .718 post-All-Star OPS sure is tasty, and his .208 batting average in September is as good of a scapegoat for the Miracle Mets' collapse as any, but Reyes actually did hit for more power overall in the second half.    

Pre-AS 325 18 54 .280 .338 .495
Post-AS 267 8 26 .273 .305 .423

Hardy's splits would look more disparate, but he started losing his stroke at the end of May rather than at the break.  According to, 10 of Hardy's 26 homers last year either cleared the fence by less than 10 feet or landed less than one fence height past the fence.  But while the power he displayed in the first two months was clearly a fluke, Hardy still managed to bat a respectable .273 in the second half, and actually had a very productive August.  He's not our winner. 

Pre-AS 359 14 49 .306 .363 .496
Post-AS 257 7 34 .258 .340 .412
Career Pre 1487 59 193 .290 .352 .499
Career Post 1238 36 149 .239 .301 .394

It is something of an understatement to say that Byrnes is a perennial contender for this award, as you can plainly see from his career splits.  In fact, his career Pre/post OPS dip is now at 156 points, which blows away Alex Gonzalez' current split of just 54 points.  Gonzalez has logged about 1,500 more at bats, which gives his splits more time to normalize, but if we do ever rename this award, this will almost certainly be the dude we rename it after.  It is a whole lot easier to write than that "of the Marlins" nonsense.

But if this were the Eric Byrnes Award, Eric Byrnes would not win it in 2007.  Sure, his stellar first half cost the Arizona Diamondbacks $30 million over three years and possibly their best prospect in Carlos Gonzalez (now trade bait?), but it also helped them to the best record in the NL.  Plus, as bad as Byrnes' second half rate stats look, he did swipe 33 bases in 34 attempts after the break.  He tried to sneak some second half production past us, but we caught it.  sorry, Eric.  You want this award named after you, you can't even do the little things well to help your team after June.

Johnny Estrada AB HR RBI AVG OBP SLG
Pre-AS 273 8 34 .293 .311 .451
Post-AS 169 2 20 .254 .272 .325
Career Pre 1185 24 182 .300 .335 .439
Career Post 841 18 99 .252 .299 .359

A sub-.600 OPS after the All-Star break is always going to catch our eye.  Looking a bit deeper, Estrada had an unrealistic .800 OPS in April, then belted five of his 10 2007 homers in May.  Looking at his career splits, you can see that falling on his face is nothing new for Estrada, either.  More so than any other Brewer, and any other National Leaguer, Johnny Estrada built up high expectations and then dashed them.  One can only wonder how far he'll fall once he has more games caught under his belt.  Byrnes may have some competition for understudy to this award's title, after all. 

Fittingly, the Brewers recently traded Estrada to the Mets as a replacement for Paul LoDuca, another famous second-half choker (career .790 OPS pre/.705 post).  These Alex Gonzalez of the Marlins Award winners are hot commodities this offseason!

Finally, congratulations go out to out own Richard Van Zandt, who has for the second year in a row correctly predicted one of our AGotM winners.  Richard lives just outside San Francisco, but if you trip on something and fall on your face anywhere around the country, there's a good chance that Rich saw it coming.  He did that with Hank Blalock last season and did so with Estrada this year.   

Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at