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February 13, 2014

Skewed Left

Fun with 2014 PECOTA Comparables

by Zachary Levine

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As a non-fantasy player going on eight years clean, and also as a non-baseball team employee, I might not be the precise target audience for our PECOTA projection system.

Still, PECOTA Day continues to be one of my favorite days of the year, and I think the player comps are a huge part of the reason why. Comparisons are a dangerous thing in baseball. They can be too binding and too racial. They can set too high an expectation—the draft day comps on television are particularly laughable. They can cloud judgment.

So I enjoy seeing if the data—the comparisons based on similarity and used to project how current players will perform going forward—might be more revealing. I look for the funniest ones, the scariest ones, and the ones where I’d never thought of the two players in the same sentence, but hey, maybe that makes some sense.

Not as an exact match. There is the usual disclaimer with all of my favorite 2014 PECOTA comps, that these are not exact talent matches, just the closest pairings of statistical, biographical, and positional pasts. And they might just tell us something about their futures.

Nelson Cruz, no. 1 comp: Juan Gonzalez
Let’s just say this one probably isn’t going in the binder at the free agent pitch sessions.

Gonzalez, another defensively challenged, offensively overrated Rangers outfielder, hit free agency in advance of his 32-year-old season and immediately cratered. That was two years after Gonzalez rejected that famous $140 million extension offer from the Tigers, and the Rangers got him back for two years and $24 million. He would average 0.3 WARP in his remaining four seasons.

Cruz hits free agency a year older and has less far to fall. This could get even uglier, and it’s no surprise that nobody’s been willing to meet the asking price yet.

Justin Upton, No. 1 comp: Barry Bonds
Despite not maintaining his torrid April pace for much more than just April, Upton draws perhaps PECOTA’s most flattering comp. it’s a big step up from being compared to the Jay Bruce, Jack Clark, Ben Johnson trio last season.

Nobody else is getting a Bonds comp this year. And while this means very different things at their ages than in their primes, the Griffey comps belong to Torii Hunter, Curtis Granderson, Matt Kemp and Vernon Wells.

SMH racist, PECOTA.

The players most frequently found in comps

Position players
Caleb Gindl: 11
Marcell Ozuna: 10
Joe Benson: 9
Alex Liddi: 9
Che-Hsuan Lin: 9 (position players or at least has-been position players)

Pitchers
Tom Gorzelanny: 10
Josh Beckett: 9
Alex Cobb: 9
Brett Marshall: 9

The Beckett binge is a little too much awareness from the computer. As a short-time Houston resident, it was laughable how easily the Beckett comps flowed, from Jameson Taillon on down to anyone who was over six feet tall, right-handed, and pitched in high school.

Robinson Cano: Chase Utley, Aramis Ramirez, Vladimir Guerrero
Think of this one as a graduation. Last year, Cano’s three comps were a threesome of second basemen, as one would expect given the positional portion of PECOTA’s projections. His closest comps were Marcus Giles, Aaron Hill, and Brandon Phillips.

This year, he just ran out of second baseman.

Given his offense, which is so out of character for the position, Cano takes to Seattle a skill set more befitting a corner position. How long that lasts is obviously the important part of the contract, but this is a much more encouraging set.

Prince Fielder, no. 3 comp: Nick Johnson
This is just mean, comparing the healthiest player of his generation to one of the unhealthiest. There is much more Nick Johnson sadness in this corner of the world knowing how similarly their careers began.

Jean Segura, no. 1 comp: Josh Barfield
Carlos Gomez, no. 1 comp: Aaron Rowand
Jonathan Lucroy, no. 1 comp: Kurt Suzuki

Listen, Milwaukee, you have probably the best fanbase in the game that comes out win or lose. You have a wonderful ballpark (even if you can’t walk there). You have Bob Uecker. You have tailgating at a freakin’ baseball game.

If that’s all you have for the next few years, you’ll probably be okay.

Starlin Castro: Jose Reyes, Wil Cordero, Tom Tresh
Yep, that’s pretty much the spectrum.

Juan Uribe, no. 1 comp: Eric Chavez
Even more so than Upton, Uribe is an example of what one great year can do to your career projections. Some of that improvement has to be regressed, but to go from Greg Dobbs to Eric Chavez in one year is emblematic of the type of season he had.

Jason Kipnis, no. 1 comp: Ian Kinsler
I can definitely see why you might say that, PECOTA, but Kipnis, believe it or not, isn’t on that roster.

Players who are just destined to be together, all no. 1 comps.
Byron Buxton: Mike Trout
Roy Halladay: Chris Carpenter
Ichiro Suzuki: Lou Piniella
Carlos Correa: Manny Machado
Joe Thatcher: Heath Bell
Mike Adams: Heath Bell
Freddy Garcia: Bartolo Colon
Pete Orr: Joe McEwing

Cliff Lee, no. 2 comp: Koji Uehara
Normally, starters get starters and relievers get relievers. The physical comps might make sense the other way, but career projections wouldn’t make a ton of sense. What do you do with the guy on top of this list, though?

Starters’ K/BB the last five seasons (Source: Play Index)

Pitcher

K/BB

Cliff Lee

6.34

Roy Halladay

4.83

Dan Haren

4.76

Cole Hamels

3.96

Adam Wainwright

3.96


When no other starters are on the same level, you just have to go to the freakiest reliever for a closer comparison. Uehara’s ratio in that time? 8.74.

Brandon Morrow: Felipe Paulino, Francisco Liriano, Shaun Marcum
Ow. Ow Ow. Ow. It hurts. I don’t know, but can’t you pop it back in?

Edinson Volquez: Oliver Perez, Ian Snell, Tom Gorzelanny
What better way to welcome a perennial disappointment to Pittsburgh than to compare him to three members of the 2006 Pirates rotation?

Mike Leake, no. 1 comp: Dontrelle Willis
Okay, this one doesn’t even make sense. Sure, they had about the same average (.251 vs. .244), but they have totally different skill sets. Willis was much more of a power hitter, with a home run every 43 at-bats and a .134 isolated power. Leake has a good stroke, but he isn’t a power guy—he’s much more of a singles hitter. Have to say PECOTA whiffed on this one.

Zachary Levine is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Zachary's other articles. You can contact Zachary by clicking here

Related Content:  PECOTA,  Comparables

9 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

max.jensen10

Pete Orr and Joe McEwing is my favorite. I would so watch that reality show.

Feb 13, 2014 06:45 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Zachary Levine
BP staff

It's definitely my favorite too.

Feb 13, 2014 08:45 AM
 
rzt101

John Giavotella's number one comp is Chris Getz. While Giavotella does not show up anywhere on Getz's page. Hmmm..

Feb 13, 2014 07:09 AM
rating: 0
 
Jivas
(649)

Probably because Johnny Giavotella is 4 years younger than Chris Getz and therefore has never had an age-30 season. Makes for a hard comparison.

Feb 13, 2014 09:58 AM
rating: 0
 
rzt101

Thanks I realize that. Just pointing out the irony given the history of those two players on the Royals. For years, fans and guys like Rany screamed of giving Giovetolla a chance at 2B over Getz.

Feb 13, 2014 11:49 AM
rating: -1
 
jfranco77

Does PECOTA care that Willis and Leake can both hit?

Feb 13, 2014 09:24 AM
rating: -1
 
Tarakas

Nice

Feb 13, 2014 09:46 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Matt Sussman
BP staff

David Ross first comp: Jason Varitek

Feb 13, 2014 12:44 PM
 
evo34

Is there an ETA for the PECOTA long-term projections?

Feb 14, 2014 09:36 AM
rating: 1
 
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