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When a team exceeds expectations to the degree that the Expos has, it’s usually quite difficult to credit this phenomenon on a single aspect of the team’s play. In this particular instance, however, it’s dead simple. As Rob Neyer has waxed eloquent on two separate occasions, it’s all about the walks.
“They taught me how to play baseball here in Oakland. They taught me how to have fun. I don’t miss playing in Kansas City. I miss Oakland.”
–Johnny Damon, Red Sox outfielder, on returning to Oakland
Losing David Justice isn’t good news, considering I’m not a big Scott Hatteberg guy, but I am a believer when it comes to Eric Byrnes, so I guess I’m happy. Outfield defense is always going to be an issue for a unit that has Terrence Long in center field and either Justice or Jeremy Giambi in a corner. While I’m not arguing for Byrnes to play every day, he does give the A’s a hitter who puts hard-hit balls into play, who can cover an outfield corner well, and basically give the bottom of the lineup someone who can help score some of the other more walk-inclined hitters batting higher up.
After a rough start to the season, the Anaheim Angels have taken to beating up the teams outside their division. Granted, they’ve gotten a healthy dose of the Blue Jays, but with a sweep of the White Sox over the weekend, the Angels are now 20-16, a mark that breaks down as 6-12 within their division, and 14-4 against everyone else. They’ve jumped into second place, 5 1/2 games behind the Mariners.
Anyway, let’s go on to the minors. I apologize if there’s not a lot of breadth here; I’m focusing on those guys who I’ve been able to talk to some scouts about, and I’ll get to more over the course of the season. I’m concentrating on guys with some upside, or guys who, for some reason or other, are interesting because their level of performance may have changed.
It took most of the first month, but BP’s team in the League of Alternative Baseball Reality edged out of the cellar and all the way up to 11th place. And we didn’t have to fire anybody to do it.
For this study, I estimated career VORP for the BA’s top 100 prospects from 1990 through 1997, that is, those who have had at least five years to prove themselves. I used the rule of thumb that 10 runs of value moves one game into the win column. This is what I found:
Bonds, over his last 100 games or so, is perhaps the biggest statistical outlier in the game’s history. He breaks the formulae, in that the many walks Bonds takes are, collectively, less valuable than our usual tools for evaluating such things would perceive. He’s being given so many walks in RISP/first-base-empty situations that they are, if not a negative, certainly not the positive that, say, linear weights might indicate. They’re not a bad thing–and they certainly don’t warrant the kind of “Bonds should swing more” analysis that has been proffered–but the context of the walks is something to consider when evaluating his performance.
The type of analysis that we perform is an outgrowth of a passion for the game that we all had long before we ever knew about strikeout-to-walk ratio or context-neutral performance or career paths.
Thatï¿½s Barry Bonds’s on-base percentage, a figure that is so far off the charts as to be mind-boggling.
Starting today, we will be periodically running some of the best content from the new, super-charged Baseball Prospectus archives. Those new to BP may be reading this content for the first time. Long-time readers can rekindle old debates. We begin today with Keith Woolner’s look at the conversion of balls in play into outs, from 2002. To do your own mining, go to BP’s Search function. To request a specific article from the archives, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.