by Keith Glab, BaseballEvolution.com
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
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
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
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.
Let's now examine how the NL's top 10 in first half PrOPS-OPS fared after the
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
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:
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.
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.
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 Hittrackeronline.com,
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.
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
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.