FanPost

Matt's Comp List Revisited: How Did 2010 Turn Out?

This spring, as some my recall, I built customized lists of comparable hitters for all our main offensive players, basically looking at guys the same age, same position, within 25% of the same number of plate appearances, and plus/minis 10 points of OPS+. From there, through a mix of eye-balling and fatal optimism, I came up with a proposed historical analogue for each.

Now that the crappy season is over, I thought it'd be mildly instructive to see how our guys matched up with their avatars, and what that says about either them or me. First, a reminder of the comps I came up with (note: there's a helluva lot more at each link than the names listed):

Jeff Mathis = Eli Marrero
Mike Napoli = Tom Haller
Kendry Morales = Andres Galarraga
Howie Kendrick = Jose Vidro
Erick Aybar = Chico Carrasquel
Brandon Wood = Kelly Gruber
Maicer Izturis = Brendan Harris*
Juan Rivera = Brian Jordan
Torii Hunter = Mike Cameron
Bobby Abreu = Paul Waner
Hideki Matsui = Brian Downing
* Because Harris is exactly Maicer's age, for the purpose of the exercise below, Izturis' comp will be Vance Law.

One of the many beautiful things about Baseball Reference is that you can take any player, from any season on any team in any era, and re-translate his numbers to what they would correspond to a totally neutral run-scoring environment of 4.42 runs per game (which is dang close to the 2010 AL's lowest-since-1992 number of 4.45), over a 162-game season. So I'll list both the raw numbers, and the adjusted ones. It's gonna be a longish post (surprise!), so take a breath.

Jeff Mathis vs. Eli Marrero, age 27
Nm  G  PA  AB   R   H  2B 3B HR RBI SB/C  BB  SO  BA   OBP  SLG OPS+ WAR
JM  68 218 205  19  40  6  1  3  18  3/0   6  59 .195 .219 .278  36 -1.3
EM  86 224 203  37  54 11  3  6  23  6/3  15  36 .266 .312 .438  92  0.9
Adjusted
JM  68 218 208  21  43  6  1  3  20  3/0   6  59 .207 .229 .288     
EM  86 217 200  35  51 10  3  6  22  6/3  14  36 .255 .300 .425

Notes: Surface similarity in counting numbers belied by yawning chasm in actual ability to hit way out of paper bag. As atrocious as Mathis has been, he's actually gotten progressively worse the past four years, inching down from an OPS+ of 64 in 2007 to a 55, 58, and then 36; while his K/BB ratio has deteriorated from 3:1 to 10:1. Marrero, who in fairness I described as a "triple-fingers-crossed blind-optimistic case" for a Mathis comp, was always a much better offensive player than Mathis will ever be except for a putrid age-25 year. There are now almost no useful players left on Mathis' updated comp list; he's just a terrible baseball player who will never, ever hit.

Mike Napoli vs. Tom Haller, age 28
Nm  G  PA  AB   R   H  2B 3B HR RBI SB/C  BB  SO  BA   OBP  SLG OPS+ WAR
MN 140 510 453  60 108 24  1 26  68  4/2  42 137 .238 .316 .468 113  2.0
TH 134 486 422  40 106  4  3 16  49  0/0  47  67 .251 .335 .389 101  2.8
Adjusted
MN 140 519 459  65 114 25  1 27  73  4/2  44 137 .248 .328 .484
TH 133 487 426  42 112  4  3 17  51  0/0  50  67 .263 .349 .406

These guys remain a pretty good fit, Haller's bizarre doubles total and Napoli's Ks notwithstanding. Both players, despite being dependably productive power/walks guys since getting even part-time work, only cracked the 450-PA threshold in their age-28 years, and both hit a bit worse than usual that year, while posting the poorest K/BB ratios of their careers. Haller would go on to be an All-Star the next three years; we'll see with Naps, and in what uniform.

Kendry Morales vs. Andres Galarraga, age 27
Nm  G  PA  AB   R   H  2B 3B HR RBI SB/C  BB  SO  BA   OBP  SLG OPS+ WAR
AG 157 661 609  99 184 42  8 29  92 13/4  39 153 .302 .352 .540 150  5.1
KM  51 211 193  29  56  5  0 11  39  0/1  12  31 .290 .346 .487 127  1.1
Adjusted
AG 157 675 620 108 195 45  8 31 101 14/4  41 153 .315 .366 .563
KM  51 215 196  32  59  5  0 12  43  0/1  13  31 .301 .358 .510

He was getting there, wasn't he? The Big Cat was a monster in 1988, finishing 7th in MVP voting, and I don't think Kendry was gonna be *that* good in 2010, but those adjusted rate stats are within shouting distance, as are the non-2B/3B counting numbers when you multiply them by three. Meanwhile, re-running Kendry's comp list a year later underscores something that is pretty freaking weird when you think about it: Do know how many seasons this very good hitter entering his age-28 year has had in which he compiled more than 215 plate appearances in the big leagues? Exactly one. Hope that leg heals.

Howie Kendrick vs. Jose Vidro, age 26
Nm  G  PA  AB   R   H  2B 3B HR RBI SB/C  BB  SO  BA   OBP  SLG OPS+ WAR
HK 158 658 616  67 172 41  4 10  75 14/4  28  94 .279 .313 .407  97  1.8
JV 124 531 486  82 155 34  1 15  59  4/1  31  49 .319 .371 .486 119  2.0
Adjusted
HK 158 660 621  72 177 42  4 10  81 14/4  29  94 .285 .320 .414
JV 124 518 478  77 147 32  1 14  55  4/1  29  49 .308 .357 .467

This is the comp that burns. Why? Because it seems like everything we know pertinent to the question of Howie's development -- that he was the best hitter in the Pacific Coast League at the tender age of 22, that he looks (and sounds) otherworldly when he's locked in, that young players reliably get steadily better from 22-25 and then start peaking, and that his stats through age 25 resembled that of Jose Vidro's -- tell us that this sumbitch should be hitting .320 with outstanding gap power by now. Instead, even with Howie finally getting a full season under his belt, he has remained essentially the same hitter that he was when he came up. Check out what his yearly stats look like when adjusted to a 4.42-run environment:

22 2006 .279/.310/.408
23 2007 .302/.326/.427
24 2008 .298/.326/.411
25 2009 .286/.327/.437
26 2010 .285/.320/.414

Vidro, on the other hand, improved from .231/.332/.293 at 23 to .286/.328/.448 at 24 to .305/.352/.497 at 25, and basically stayed there through his peak. Howie hasn't *had* a peak; he's had a raised eyebrow, followed by a slight frown. WTF? If you want to keep drinking the kool-aid (and I do, I do!), then maybe your eyes will fixate on the name Aaron Hill when you check out his revised comp list. But there's way too much Ronnie Belliard and D'Angelo Jimenez there to shake my suspicion that this is the wrongest I've been about a can't-miss swing since Double Barrel Daryl Sconiers.

Erick Aybar vs. Chico Carrasquel, age 26
Nm  G  PA  AB   R   H  2B 3B HR RBI SB/C  BB  SO  BA   OBP  SLG OPS+ WAR
EA 138 589 534  69 135 18  4  5  29 22/8  35  81 .253 .306 .330  76  0.5
CC 100 397 359  36  89  7  4  1  42  2/2  33  27 .248 .315 .298  70  0.2
Adjusted
EA 138 594 546  75 147 20  4  5  31 24/9  38  81 .269 .325 .348
CC 105 416 378  40  96  8  4  1  46  2/2  36  28 .254 .322 .304

A distressingly accurate comp. Erick, like Chico, followed up a high-quality age-25 campaign with the worst starting year of his career, both offensively and defensively (actually, Aybar's 2008 with the glove looks slightly worse using WAR, but both seasons are surprisingly terrible). Not only that, Carrasquel, too, started his age-26 year as the leadoff man and then got demoted. The good news is that Chico made the All-Star team his next three seasons. The bad news is that it doesn't look like Erick will ever play shortstop as well, despite looking all the world like he should, and that another year of offensive suck has reduced his comp list to this.

Brandon Wood vs. Kelly Gruber, age 25
Nm  G  PA  AB   R   H  2B 3B HR RBI SB/C  BB  SO  BA   OBP  SLG OPS+ WAR
BW  81 243 226  20  33  2  0  4  14  1/0   6  71 .146 .174 .208   5 -1.8
KG 138 368 341  50  80 14  3 12  36 12/2  17  70 .235 .283 .399  77  0.8
Adjusted
BW  81 237 228  21  35  2  0  4  15  1/0   6  71 .154 .181 .215
KG 138 365 339  47  78 14  3 12  34 12/2  17  70 .230 .279 .395

No comment. Actually, that's not true. You want to know just how historical this train wreck has been? Using the exact same parameters that I deployed with every player in this exercise -- same age and position, plus/minus 25% plate appearances, +/- 10 points of OPS+ -- a search on Brandon Wood's career after the 2010 debacle yields a comp list of exactly one player: the jaw-droppingly awful John Vukovich. Even if you expand the search to include all non-pitchers, you just get 3 more piles of stinky-stinky.

Juan Rivera vs. Brian Jordan, age 31
Nm  G  PA  AB   R   H  2B 3B HR RBI SB/C  BB  SO  BA   OBP  SLG OPS+ WAR
JR 124 455 416  53 105 20  0 15  52  2/2  33  58 .252 .312 .409  97  0.8
BJ 150 617 564 100 178 34  7 25  91 17/5  40  66 .316 .368 .534 134  3.9
Adjusted
JR 124 460 420  58 109 21  0 16  56  2/2  34  58 .260 .320 .424
BJ 150 610 558  96 172 33  7 24  87 16/5  39  66 .308 .361 .522

When making this comp, I wrote "I'd put Juan at maybe a 5 percent discount next to Jordan, though let's not pretend any of this is scientific." Emphasis on the latter half of the sentence, I guess. Jordan had a career year at 31, and was still a good ballplayer at 35. I would be shocked at this point if Juan Rivera was still playing major league ball at 35. Athleticism and intelligence are your friend. When you look at Juan's updated comp list, and rank the players by the (newly available on B-Ref) WAR, you see just how empty his OPS+ has been over the years. Whoever on this site argued ealier this year that "Juan Rivera is worthless," you have my apologies -- I was wrong, and you were right.

Torii Hunter vs. Mike Cameron, age 34
Nm  G  PA  AB   R   H  2B 3B HR RBI SB/C  BB  SO  BA   OBP  SLG OPS+ WAR
TH 152 646 573  76 161 36  0 23  90  9/12 61 106 .281 .354 .464 124  3.2
MC 151 651 571  88 138 33  6 21  78 18/5  67 160 .242 .328 .431 104  2.1
Adjusted
TH 152 647 574  82 162 36  0 23  97  9/12 61 106 .282 .355 .465
MC 151 663 580  91 147 35  6 22  81 19/5  71 160 .253 .342 .448

When making this comp in the spring, I wrote "Subtract 20 hits a year from Torii Hunter (including 3 doubles and 2 homers), then add 28 walks, 8 stolen bases and 43 strikeouts, and you have Mike Cameron." Pretty close, right? Except that Hunter has learned how to take a walk in his old age, while turning into a godawful baserunner. Cameron kept hitting at the same rates at 35 and 36, so there's some qualified hope for the end of Torii's contract (and, of course, Hunter is starting from a higher offensive level). WAR has never liked Torii's fielding, so his career total of 27.9 through age 34 ranks just 57th all-time in CF, between Dave Henderson and Steve Finley. He's got more in his bat at a later age than most, however, so I wouldn't be surprised to seem him crack the top 40 before he's done. There have been 83 centerfielders with 20 or more career WAR; at least 11 have worn an Angels uniform.

Bobby Abreu vs. Paul Waner, age 36
Nm  G  PA  AB   R   H  2B 3B HR RBI SB/C  BB  SO  BA   OBP  SLG OPS+ WAR
BA 154 667 573  88 146 41  1 20  78 24/10 87 132 .255 .352 .435 116  1.1
PW 125 506 461  62 151 30  6  3  45  0/-  35  18 .328 .375 .438 120  1.9
Adjusted
BA 154 683 583  95 156 44  1 21  84 26/11 93 132 .268 .367 .455
PW 131 523 486  66 160 32  6  3  48  0/-  37  19 .329 .377 .438

Well, lookee that! They may have gotten there via different paths, but their offenses reached more or less the same destination. Waner, like Abreu, had become a defensive liability at age 36, though sadly Bobby's been that way since he turned 30, and last year was ... special. Thank God for the DH. Waner never again had a season of more than 114 games or 404 plate appearances, but I don't think he was drinking Bobby's brand of beer. And for those of you who are down on Abreu's offense going forward, check out this Sam Miller post about how unlucky he was in 2010.

Hideki Matsui vs. Brian Downing, age 36
Nm  G  PA  AB   R   H  2B 3B HR RBI SB/C  BB  SO  BA   OBP  SLG OPS+ WAR
HM 145 554 482  55 132 24  1 21  84  0/1  67  98 .274 .361 .459 124  2.0
BD 155 695 567 110 154 29  3 29  77  5/5 106  85 .272 .400 .487 137  4.4
Adjusted
HM 145 566 490  59 140 25  1 22  91  0/1  71  98 .286 .375 .476
BD 155 709 576 110 163 31  3 31  77  5/5 112  85 .283 .413 .509

We knew this was an unfair fight going in, since Downing had one of his best seasons at age 36, but the numbers tell us what our hearts still cannot accept: Hideki actually hit pretty good this year. Especially after Scioscia remembered that he wasn't Cal Ripken out there.

Maicer Izturis vs. Vance Law, age 29
Nm  G  PA  AB   R   H  2B 3B HR RBI SB/C  BB  SO  BA   OBP  SLG OPS+ WAR
MI  61 238 212  27  53 13  1  3  27  7/3  21  27 .250 .321 .363  88  1.1
VL 112 402 360  37  81 17  2  5  44  3/5  37  66 .225 .298 .325  72  0.6
Adjusted
MI  61 245 218  29  59 14  1  3  29  8/3  23  27 .271 .343 .385     
VL 112 403 362  39  83 17  2  5  47  3/5  38  66 .229 .303 .329

Injury-marred aberrational seasons for them both. Law bounced back at 30 and 31, before petering out.

OK! Hope this was marginally useful/interesting. Clearly, the addition of WAR (which, unlike OPS+, measures defense and baserunning and lots of other important bits), allows for better comp-making in the future. Before 2011 starts up, I'll run some such exercise on our pitchers. For now, I will just continue shaking my fist in the general direction of Howie Kendrick.

This Fan-Post is authored by an independent fan. Tell us what you think and how you feel.

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