Remember this adage: a person who is in the midst of a contest always has a reason to live. So, regardless of what the state of the economy does to your fragile psyche in the coming six months, if you enter the 2008 Prospectus Matchups Contest, you will have the impulse to carry on. For one thing, there will be a grand prize for the winner–a Baseball Prospectus polo shirt. For another, there is the pure thrill of competition, to know that you are matching wits with the smartest baseball fans in the world.
How It Works
What I have done is found 20 matched pairs of players, linked by their identical or nearly identical MLVr in 2007. No matched pairs were separated by more than one rounded point in 2007. Your job is to select which of the two matched players is going to have the better season in 2008, using MLVr as the criterion.
I used MLVr because I wanted a stat that was position-neutral, not tied to playing time, and also easily sorted in our database. I limited the field to players who had the batting championship requisite 502 plate appearances last season. Please note that it is not necessary for the player to reach that minimum in 2008, although when selecting the matched pairs, I did try to stick with players who are slated to start according to current depth charts. This eliminated the much-awaited Mark Loretta–Yuniesky Betancourt pairing, I’m afraid.
There are five (5) points available in each matchup, making 100 the perfect score. Because the choices in some of the matchups can seem a little obvious, however, I have taken the liberty of doing some handicapping. Using PECOTA, I have weighted the points in favor of the player who is projected to have the decidedly lower score this season. Gaps of .020 or .030 are considered close enough to make that particular matchup a pick ’em. Otherwise, points awarded for favorites have been dropped to 4.5, 4, 3, and 2, depending on the disparity of the outlook. Of the 20 matchups, half are so weighted.
In the event of a tie, the first tiebreaker will be how many underdogs you picked and got right. The second will be how many dogs you picked in total. The third tiebreaker requires you to place the top five 2007 MLVr finishers in the order you think they’ll finish in 2008. These players would be Magglio Ordonez, David Ortiz, Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones, and Albert Pujols.
Along with every matchup is a subsection called “The Line.” In this, the player’s PECOTA projection MLVr is listed along with his Beta score. While the Beta is tied into EqA, I thought it might be helpful for you to see how volatile the projections are. Also included is how many points you will receive if the player you choose turns out to have the higher season of the pair. Please note that I didn’t take Beta into account when doing the handicapping.
How to Play
If you’d like to participate, write me at the address listed below and I will send you a ballot on an Excel spreadsheet. If you don’t have Excel, I’ll send you a Word ballot. I’d prefer Excel submissions since they will make data entry easier on my end. The only other thing I’ll need from you is your name, city, and state.
All ballots must be emailed to me by no later than Midnight Central Time on Friday, March 28, 2008.
I promise to provide at least two updates on Unfiltered during the course of the season, perhaps more, time permitting.
These are the 20 matchups you will be asked to select on your ballots:
- Matt Holliday vs. Carlos Pena (tied at .404 in 2007)
These two tied for sixth overall in MLVr last year, but, without looking at The Line, you can probably guess which of them is favored in 2008. While we may very well have seen Pena’s career year, Holliday seems like a permanent part of baseball’s upper tier for at least the duration of his prime. Consider this, though: if Pena can score half his 2007 MLVr in 2008, he’ll still be one of the top 40 players in the game.
- Miguel Cabrera vs. Chase Utley (.377 to .376 in 2007)
A showdown between two players who are likely to be on everyone’s top 10 fantasy lists, or close. Cabrera and Utley finished ninth and tenth in MLVr last year, respectively. Remember that .000 is league average in MLVr, so the .370s is some lofty stuff.
Cabrera: .202/.82 – 5 points
Utley: .193/.86 – 5 points
- Brad Hawpe vs. Dmitri Young (.233)
Can Young maintain the magic that won the hearts of Washington fans? The Line says no, so you get two extra points if you take the underdogged Dmitri and he bests Hawpe, whose EqA has gone up every year he’s been in the majors.
Hawpe: .169/.95 – 3 points
Young: .081/.94 – 5 points
- Mike Lowell vs. Edgar Renteria (.223)
The rejuvenated meets the relocated. Renteria has been around so long (he came up at 20) that he probably seems older than he is. He’s actually younger than Lowell, though, a player he beat to a regular major league job by three seasons.
Lowell: .039/1.12 – 4 points
Renteria: -.028/.95 – 5 points
- Victor Martinez vs. Alfonso Soriano (.218 to .217)
To the victor go the spoils, although this one is pretty evenly matched. Martinez has had EqAs within an 11-point band the past four seasons (.294 to .305), while Soriano has been a little more volatile than that.
Martinez: .151/.88 – 5 points
Soriano: .138/.93 – 5 points
- Carlos Lee vs. Jeff Kent (.208)
The hulking slugger against the aging middle infielder. Kent turned 40 last week, but he still provides enough competition for Lee to make this one a pick ’em.
Lee: .108/.93 – 5 points
Kent: .130/ .79 – 5 points
- Pat Burrell vs. Manny Ramirez (.200)
This is a battle of left fielders in one of the few same-position matchups on the card. Burrell never gets much love, and Ramirez is battling to gain his club’s affections so he can cash in on the option it holds on him.
Burrell: .178/.82 – 5 points
Ramirez: .156/.91 – 5 points
- Frank Thomas vs. Kevin Youkilis (.142)
Another battle that’s a little too close to call. Thomas actually out-walked Youkilis last year, 78 to 77 (non-intentional). He still makes lefties wish they’d never been born (.336/.431/.631 in 2007). There was a time when that was his line against everybody, but he was 39 last year, so slack will be cut.
Thomas: 1.05/.88 – 5 points
Youkilis: .088/1.02 – 5 points
- Travis Hafner vs. Carl Crawford (.132 to .131)
Crawford is in the upper reaches of the must-have lists of some outlets’ fantasy draft projections; one such list I saw had him ranked eighth overall. I suppose that would make more sense to me if I were in a league that rewarded stolen bases, but otherwise, I’m not feeling it. Picking Crawford here will get you an extra two points should he best Hafner. It was just two seasons ago that Pronk boasted a .518 MLVr, second behind only Albert Pujols in all of baseball (.548).
Hafner: .159/1.00 – 3 points
Crawford: .061/1.06 – 5 points
- Ryan Church vs. Orlando Hudson (.104)
Should we even care what the MLVr is for a player who is in double figures in FRAA almost every season like Hudson is? Of course we should when there are prizes to be won!
Church: .054/.77 – 4.5 points
Hudson: .014/1.01 – 5 points
- Brian Roberts vs. Bobby Abreu (.102)
Abreu’s still young enough (34) and close enough to his prime output that another EqA of .310 is not out of the question. Roberts would seem like the favorite here, but that’s just my impression. The choice is, of course, yours.
Roberts: .074/.91 – 5 points
Abreu: .082/.84 – 5 points
- Randy Winn vs. Miguel Tejada (.090)
What sort of year is it going to be in San Francisco? Consider that, at .015, Randy Winn has the highest projected MLVr on the team. It’s enough to keep him even in this battle with Tejada, who dropped below Hall of Fame-level play for the first time in seven years in 2007, but outside of the context of this contest, makes for grim prospects for a Giants fan.
Winn: .015/1.19 – 5 points
Tejada: .022/.97 – 5 points
- Dan Uggla vs. Kevin Kouzmanoff (.066)
The player who came from nowhere to establish himself as an All-Star versus the highly-touted rookie. Oh baseball, is there no end to your tricky juxtapositions?
Uggla: .022/.91 – 5 points
Kouzmanoff: .046/.98 – 4.5 points
- Brian Giles vs. J.D. Drew (.058)
A battle of right fielders on the wane. How much on the wane, you ask? Giles is waning into dangerous career-ending territory, whereas Drew is young enough that a bounce back into the top 40–where he finished in 2006–is not entirely out of the question.
Giles: -.011/.94 – 5 points
Drew: .041/.79 – 4 points
- Ryan Zimmerman vs. Jose Reyes (.058 to .057)
Throwing out most players’ best month would play hell with their seasonal stats, but after May 1, Reyes only posted one month with an OPS over 800. His September/October numbers (.205/.279/.333) did little to arrest the Mets‘ historic disappearance in the stretch. Getting a real read on where he stands in baseball’s talent hierarchy remains a bit dicey since he’s so much fun to watch and that can often be confused with genuine productivity. Cloud that with decent counting stats owing in some part to tons and tons of plate appearances and it becomes even harder to figure. If you choose him over Zimmerman, though, you’ll get an extra point.
Zimmerman: .109/.98 – 4 points
Reyes: .028/.97 – 5 points
- Michael Cuddyer vs. Rickie Weeks (.055)
Weeks is coming into his prime and Cuddyer is on the back end of his. Will fragility impact Weeks qualitatively as well as quantitatively? These are the sorts of questions that will boil your brain while you consider this vote.
Cuddyer: .028/.94 – 5 points
Weeks: .059/.96 – 5 points
- Carlos Delgado vs. Ronnie Belliard (.039 to .038)
Delgado still has enough residual star power to warrant a discount if he bests Belliard, who seems like the kind of player who will lose his starting job the moment something even remotely better comes along.
Delgado: .041/1.02 – 4 points
Belliard: -.038/.90 – 5 points
- Akinori Iwamura vs. Austin Kearns (.035)
I think we’re all still waiting for Kearns to approach that .306 EqA he rang up in his rookie season. That was six years ago. PECOTA is looking at Iwamura to regress, so there are two extra points in a vote for him. Is this an opportunity for the cunning contestant, or a pit of despair?
Iwamura: -.071/1.05 – 5 points
Kearns: .052/.75 – 3 points
- Chris B. Young vs. Bengie Molina (-.042)
I’m really daring you with this one: three (three!) extra points if you think Molina can best the rising young center fielder in 2008.
Young: .132/.90 – 2 points
Molina: -0.56/.97 – 5 points
- Andruw Jones vs. Alex Gordon (-.082)
Here’s an interesting matchup: the disappointing veteran versus the disappointing rookie. Both seem like good bets to reverse that negative 2007 number, but which one will come out on top? It’s a pick ’em, so you get five points with either choice.
Jones: .053/.97 – 5 points
Gordon: .065/1.02 – 5 points
And that’s the field. Don’t forget to email me for your official ballot! If you have any questions about the contest, just ask.