November 20, 2003

A little help from my friends (More on Bobby Kielty)


What would you do if I sang out of tune?

Would you stand up and walk out on me?

Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song

I will try not to sing out of key

Oh baby, I get by with a little help from my friends


--- Joe Cocker, With A Little Help From My Friends

(Yeah, I know, The Beatles wrote the song and sang it, but I like the Cocker version better. So sue me!)

Yesterday I talked about Bobby Kielty being traded from Toronto to Oakland for Ted Lilly. In discussing Kielty's performances over the last two years, I broke down some of his hitting numbers, including his "splits" against lefties and righties. Kielty, a switch-hitter, did well against left-handed pitching in both 2002 and 2003 and did well against right-handed pitching in 2002, but he struggled mightily against righties in 2003.

Here's a little more of what I said:

Kielty's minor league "splits" are not widely available, so it's tough to say whether he struggled from the left-side in years past. It seems like it would have been very tough for him to hit as well as he did consistently throughout his minor league career if he was struggling that much against right-handed pitching, however.

Well, thanks to a little help from my friends, and more specifically from a reader named Matthew Namee (who just happens to be the great Bill James' assistant), I now have Kielty's minor league splits for 2000 and 2001.

"I will try not to sing out of key..."

vs RHP                                  vs LHP


AVG OBP SLG AVG OBP SLG
2000 .254 .402 .432 2000 .283 .368 .442
2001 .267 .392 .449 2001 .337 .356 .551

I said yesterday that I thought "his right-handed swing (against left-handed pitching) is a lot more consistent, a lot more natural, a lot more powerful." So, I guess I'm not surprised that his batting averages and slugging percentages were higher as a right-handed hitter in 2000 and 2001. At the same time, he was certainly still a very good hitter as a lefty, thanks in large part to a much better walk-rate than he had as a righty.

Instead of using simple OPS (on-base % + slugging %), I prefer to use OBP*1.7 + SLG, because it more correctly weighs on-base percentage. The only problem with using OBP*1.7 + SLG is that you end up with some big number that is tough to learn anything from.

For instance, let's say you've got a guy who hit .300/.400/.500 one year. You take his .400 OBP and multiply it by 1.7 and get .680. Then you add his .500 slugging percentage and you get 1.180. But really, if you asked how good someone hit in 2003 and you were told they had a 1.180 total for OBP*1.7 + SLG, would you know right away if that were good or bad? I know I wouldn't.

What I like to do is take that number and then divide it by four. That way, you get another number which looks an awful lot like a batting average. In this case, by dividing 1.180 by 4 you would get .295. It's not perfect, obviously, but at least you can get a feel that a guy checking in at .295 is a good hitter.

Just in case you got lost in all that babbling, here is the "formula":

((OBP*1.7) + SLG) / 4

Now, the only thing we need is a name for this stat. I tried to think of something really clever, but nothing came to me. So, for now at least, let's just call it the "Aaron's Baseball Blog Number." Or the "ABB#" for short. If you have a good suggestion for a better name, feel free to email me with it.

Anyway, here are Kielty's year-by-year numbers against righties, using the Aaron's Baseball Blog Number:

             ABB#

2000 .279
2001 .279
2002 .301
2003 .217

When you look at those numbers, which include two minor league seasons and two major league seasons, I think it's pretty clear that Kielty has a good chance to be much better against righties in the future than he was this season. He put up good numbers against righties in Double-A and Triple-A and he did very well against them in his rookie major league season.

Now, let's take a look at how he did against lefties:

             ABB#

2000 .267
2001 .289
2002 .278
2003 .315

Very nice.

In case you're wondering, American League hitters as a whole had an ABB# of .249 against right-handed pitching and an ABB# of .246 against left-handed pitching.

With that in mind, Kielty has been very good in each of the last four seasons against lefties and very good in three of the last four years against righties, with that one ugly .217 from this season ruining an otherwise beautiful set of numbers.

Kielty's hitting against right-handed pitching this year was horrible (.216/.318/.328) and it certainly calls into question his ability to be an everyday corner outfielder in the major leagues. At the same time, he has always done well against lefties and his past performances against righties prior to this year were very good as well.

Many people have looked at Kielty's abysmal numbers against righties this year and written him off as nothing more than a platoon-player. I think that's a possibility, but I also think it's foolish to ignore his success against righties in the past.

I still think Bobby Kielty will be very good everyday corner outfielder.

***********************************


In other news...

The Seattle Mariners signed free agent outfielder Raul Ibanez to a three-year deal earlier this week, providing us all with this off-season's first truly horrible signing.

Oh, let me count the ways...

First of all, they gave Ibanez three years and $13.25 million. Don't get me wrong, Raul Ibanez is a solid player. In fact, I said some nice things about him earlier this month, when I discussed this year's free agent outfielders:

"Raul Ibanez is an interesting player, because when he came to the Royals in 2001 he was 29 years old and a career .241/.295/.383 hitter. Over the next three years with Kansas City, he got 1,384 at bats and hit .291/.347/.492. My first reaction was that some of that comes from hitting in a very good hitter's park, but Ibanez hit .283/.345/.483 on the road during that span.

He struggles with left-handed pitching and probably needs a platoon partner, but he hits righties very well (.304/.364/.523 from 2001-2003) and he can play either corner outfield spot, as well as first base."

Okay, so you've got a LF/RF/1B who hits righties well and probably shouldn't be starting against lefties. Is that a player worth signing? Definitely. Is it a player worth giving a three-year deal for over $4 million a year? Um...no!

Beyond simply giving Ibanez too much money for too many years, the Mariners also made the mistake of signing him too early. By inking Ibanez before the deadline to offer players arbitration, they essentially just handed the Royals their first-round pick in next year's draft.

Had they waited, I think it's very possible that the Royals wouldn't have even offered Ibanez arbitration, which would mean they wouldn't have been given compensation by the team that signed him. But the Mariners acted quickly and now, in addition to paying Ibanez too much for too many years, they have to give Kansas City their first-round pick next year for the right to do so.

To make things even worse, had the Mariners waited a little while, the amount of corner outfielders on the free agent market would have been significantly increased, as teams started declining arbitration for players. In a few weeks there are going to be a dozen free agent outfielders available who can do the job just as well as Ibanez, and the Mariners could probably have signed two and maybe even three of them for the money they are going to be paying Ibanez in each of the next three seasons.

***********************************

That's all for this week, thanks for stopping by.

If you missed any of the entries from earlier in the week, here they are:

Monday: Pierzynski to the Giants

Tuesday: MVP! MVP! MVP!

Wednesday: Superman, again

Thursday: Bobby on the move, again

Also, for you Twins fans, I highly recommend you read "Dissecting Terry Ryan" by Will Young over at BaseballPrimer.com.

Just click on the following:

Dissecting Terry Ryan (by Will Young)

I have been devoting all of my baseball writing to AaronGleeman.com and haven't written anything for Baseball Primer in quite a while, so it's great to see another Twins fan doing good work over there.

See ya Monday.

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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