Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Comparison Part 2: Can Moises lead the Giants to the promised land?

This comparison will be more difficult than the previous one, since Moises Alou isn't exactly replacing any one player, per se. However, we can still make a comparison -- we'll just do Alou vs. a two-headed right field monster: Michael Tucker, and Dustan Mohr.

Mohr is gone, much to the surprise of many Giants faithful (including yours truly). It makes sense if one thinks of Mohr as a right fielder and a right handed bat -- two roles that Alou will now occupy. However, we all know that Mohr played all three outfield positions during the course of the season, and played them well (though his range is a bit lacking for more than spot duty in center). Tucker is still there, of course, and it looks like he'll be in Mohr's role as Outfield SuperSub, in addition to Tucker's usefulness as a left-handed batter. Adding Tucker's and Mohr's at-bats and comparing them to Alou's isn't the best way to do things, but I'm too lazy to do anything else, and it'll still accomplish what I'm looking to do -- seeing if Alou is an upgrade over the Tucker/Mohr platoon.

Alright, it's obviously an upgrade, no stat comparison needed. But how much of an upgrade, and was it worth Moises' phat contract? Hm, perhaps Moises' sugar daddy had a hand in the final numbers...

Anyhow, here's our two-headed monster, rightfielder Tucker/Mohr:

.262/.371/.420, 20 hr, 116 bb, 170 so in 727 ab's.

And here's Moises of the Alou:

.293/.361/.557, 39 hr, 68 bb, 80 so in 601 ab's.

One thing that I really, really liked about the Mohr/Tucker combo was that they both knew how to get on base via the walk, something that Alou isn't nearly as good at. However, table setting has never been Alou's role, nor should it be in 2005. His job will be to drive runs in -- his higher batting average, lower strikeout rate, and gargantuan advantage in slugging will do nicely to help that cause.

So, end of discussion, right? Well, no...see, the problem with comparing Alou straight up with Mohr and Tucker is we're not taking into account where these players played half their games last season. For Mohr and Tucker, obviously, this was SBC Park. For Alou, however, it was Wrigley Field in Chicago. And this presents a bit of a problem. Let's look at Alou's home/road splits in 2004:

Home: .339/.405/.714, 29 hr
Road: .247/.316/.400, 10 hr

Ouch. One can only hope that the disparity has something to do with the home cooking in Chicago, but a statistic comes into play that probably explains it better: park factors.

SBC: 1.069
Wrigley: 1.123

It doesn't sound like much, but when we focus on one particular aspect of the park factor for each field, Alou's huge disparity in power numbers at home and on the road becomes impossible to ignore:

SBC Home Run Factor: .899
Wrigley Home Run Factor: 1.329

That, my friends, is huge. What it means is that SBC park gave up about 90% of the average number of home runs hit in all the parks in the league -- in other words, it's more difficult to hit big flies at SBC. Wrigley, however, sees 133% more homers than the average in the other parks -- in layman's terms, they be hittin' a whole mess more round trippers at Wrigley than just about everywhere else. Only park better (or worse) at having home runs hit? Try Cellular One Ballpark on the Southside of Chicago. Hm, maybe Alou should've signed with the White Sox.

This isn't to say that Alou isn't an upgrade, and that he won't do well. However, expecting 40 home runs and .550 slugging could be a bit much, considering how much more difficult SBC will likely be for Alou to hit home runs -- perhaps an increase in doubles and triples will compensate a bit, but 30 home runs and .500 slugging will probably be a more accurate estimate. Unless of course, Alou increases his production on the road, or better yet, unless Alou bats in front of Bonds, which, as we all know, is a good spot to see some fastballs down the plate.

Defensively, while I believe that Mohr and Tucker both play a better defensive right field than Alou will, I don't think Alou will embarass himself out there. The problem will not be him, it will be a collective problem of him, Grissom, and Bonds all playing in the oufield together. I'm just guessing that their combined range factor would rank near the bottom league wide -- look for Alou to shade right center on anyone except dead pull hitters, as Felipe Alou will likely be looking for a way to cut down on the number of balls hit into Triples Alley. Moises Alou will also have fun learning the caroms off the various surfaces in right field, I'm sure.

So, will Alou prove to be worth the money? In a word, yes -- it's only a two year deal, and like the Vizquel and Matheny signings, Alou has been brought to San Fransisco to help the Giants make another run at the Series. Brian Sabean probably would have rather had Steve Finley, but heck, Alou's two years younger and millions cheaper, so I can't knock Sabean's hustle at this point.

But I can still wish he had gotten J.D. Drew instead, can't I?

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