Friday, July 29, 2005

Hey, Brain Sabean, are you paying attention?

Mr. Sabean, since you have such a love for useless outfielders, I beg leave to point out that Jose Cruz, Jr. has been released by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Should you pick him up? Well, no, not really. But then, you picked up Alex Sanchez, so I began to wonder just how useless a player would have to be before you picked him up.

Cruz is a frustrating player because he has four out of five tools, but the fifth tool is a glaring weakness: batting average. Sanchez is a frustrating player because he has two out of five tools, yet can't even take advantage of one of the two tools he does have - speed. Yet he's still employed.

Cruz's tools are easy to spot. He has a very good throwing arm (if I remember correctly, he led NL outfielders in assists while playing for the Giants in '03), decent range (good for a corner outfielder, barely adequate for a centerfielder), hits for power (206 ISO power for his career), and is normally a very dependable outfielder, usually having a fairly low error rate.

Sanchez's tools are easy to spot as well. He hits for average (.296 career batting average), and has speed (once stole as many as 44 bags in one season).

As far as a comparison of the players, defensively the nod easily goes to Cruz -- he can actually catch the ball, and if someone is tagging up, will have a chance to throw the runner out. Sanchez could be considered to have more range because of an edge in speed, but absolute defensive incompetence renders that slight advantage null and void, in addition to the fact that there just isn't any certainty that Sanchez has the ability to catch the ball if he manages to get there.

Offensively? Honestly, despite the fact that Cruz has only once held a batting average above .253, it's not even close. Sanchez holds a huge edge in career batting average (.296 to .248 for Cruz), but that is literally it. There's not one other thing he does offensively better than Cruz.

Despite the huge lead in batting average, Sanchez actually gets on base less frequently than Cruz for their careers (.330 career OPS for Sanchez, .336 for Cruz), showing that Cruz has a huge edge in plate discipline. How about power? Well, Sanchez has none. Perhaps it's a product of his over-reliance on the drag-bunt, but he holds a 76 point ISO SLG for his career, indicating he probably has to drag bunt to get on-base, because he certainly won't be hitting too many doubles, triples (despite the speed), and home runs (six homers for his career).

Cruz's power numbers are very good. Over an average 162-game season, Cruz hits 27 home runs and 30 doubles. Despite hitting only .213 for the Diamondbacks this season, Cruz's SLG was .454, which is very, very good for such a low batting average.

How about some other stats? Despite being a leadoff-type hitter in the physical sense, Sanchez runs about a 3:1 strikeout/walk ratio for his career, while Cruz's is at a more tolerable 1.8:1 ratio.

Cruz is a lot more patient at the plate than Sanchez, seeing 3.8 pitches per plate appearance for his career, while Sanchez is at a I'm-in-a-rush 3.25 per plate appearance.

Sanchez is an extreme groundball hitter, pounding groundballs vs. flyballs at a 2:1 clip -- something you really want to see on a team that already leads the majors in double-plays hit into. Cruz, for his career, is almost exactly on an even 1:1 ratio, meaning he's generally a line-drive hitter.

How about steals? Heh. Sanchez, for his career, steals bases at a 54% clip, which means it's really kind of stupid when he attempts one, given that half the time he's gunned down. Cruz really isn't much better, but at least he's at 65% -- still not what you want, but heck, it's better than 54%. Sheesh.

Where the heck am I going with all this? Absolutely nowhere. I'm wasting both mine and your time, because this, of course, is something Sabean would never do. Why? Because the only stat he'd pay any attention to of ALL the ones I listed above would be...(drumroll)

Batting average. The only thing Sanchez does better than Cruz is hit for average -- nevermind that that advantage is almost nullified by the fact that Cruz walks at three times the rate of Sanchez, and that quite a few of Sanchez's hits are bunt singles -- but it IS a small advantage. Every single other thing that is done on a baseball field is done better by Cruz.

But, if Brian Sabean felt compelled to hold a extra outfielder on the team for any reason, would he take Cruz over Sanchez?

Nah. 'Course not. He would deem that Sanchez's uselessness to be more valuable than Cruz's uselessness, because he doesn't look at stats.

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