Evaluating Players: The Line In The Sand

An article by posted on October 23, 2010

Over the past I’d say two years, I’d put the Mets fanbase up against any other Major League team’s as having the most divided fans when it comes to statistical analysis. It is as much of a line in the sand lately as whether you’re a Republican or Democrat.

I think part of the problem is that there is so much negativity around the construction of the current roster that the negativity rolls through the fan base like the river of slim in the Museum in the movie Ghostbusters 2.

You may or may not know, I like sabermetrics. But, I don’t love sabermetrics.

First let me say this. If you’re not working for a Major League team and you look at graph charts and create your own statistical analysis on which players are valuable and which are not, you my friend need to put Leisure Suit Larry on pause and watch a baseball game.

Now, the problem with the folks that totally shove sabermetric stats to the side is two fold. First, they likely don’t understand them or care to. That’s a big problem I have with the critics honestly. If you don’t understand something, being critical of it comes off as ignorant. The second problem with the critics specifically in our own little Mets universe is that the team is bad.

Therefore, you have certain people who rather than just saying “Frenchy gets on base less than a good minor leaguer would,” they try and make themselves look smart by throwing out stats that they know his supporters won’t understand or refuse to acknowledge.

Jeff Francoeur is a below average hitter. He just is. However, he’s likeable. So when a team is bad, all fans have to go on is whether or not the player is likeable. If we’re going to lose, lets at least like our players. That’s the mindset I see.

When the team is winning in September and in the chase, I’d hope that fans are focused on that rather than proving or disproving theories of why a player is worth having.

Sabermetrics and Statistics are best used when doing an overall evaluation of players. Specifically it is best used in the off-season, especially in the free agent market. You want as much information as possible to support your theory on whether or not to sign a player to your roster.

Every team uses scouts. Not every scout sees enough of players to make a good judgement, and some scouts like different things. To ignore stats is just borderline silly though. Statistics are the only measure we have to tell you what the player does and doesn’t do when you take emotion out of the analysis. Is it perfect? Of course not.

The best teams have the best scouting and the best statistical analysis in my view. If you try hard enough you can make a case for practically any major league player to be on your 25 man roster. Francoeur has an exceptional arm, he’s a good fielder and a below average hitter.

If you have a team that has 4 legitimate 20+ HR threats, an OBP machine, and one of the fastest players in the league who can also hit… guess what, a guy who isn’t the best hitter in the world doesn’t hurt your squad as much as say a team like the Mets who this year needed Francoeur to be something he’s not. A Good hitter.

What I love about the critics is the hot stove time. When we look at who we want the Mets to acquire…what do we look at? I know you haven’t watched every single Orlando Hudson game. So why do you want him at 2B?

Could it be his statistics help form your opinion? I think so.

When the Mets hire a new General Manager, I hope the message is sent clear to the fan base. I want everybody to know what the GM sees as valuable and what he does not. Does he value OBP (like I think he will,) then if so, there’s no sense in talking about Francoeur type players because he doesn’t fit the mold of the franchise.

So with all of this said. I know you’ll have opinions, but I ask a question.

When deciding what players you’d like to see in a Mets uniform, how do you evaluate them? What is important to you? For hitting, defense and pitching what is the first thing you look at or use to determine in your mind who is worth acquiring?

For me as hitters, the #1 thing I look at is whether or not they can get on base. Getting on base for me is the object of an at bat. Can you be productive by earning an out? Of course, but how much more productive could you be if you get on base in most situations?  Some will say if you’re down by 1 with 1 out and a runner on 3rd that it’s better to fly out and score the run. The object of the game is of course to score runs. However, if you had more runners on base prior to that situation, you wouldn’t need to give away an out.

For defense, I think you get what you get. I think it’s very hard for anybody to really measure how well a player will play inside Citi Field. Every stadium is different, and there are so many situations that occur in a game that leave statistics on defense left to question.

For pitching, I look at strikeouts first. You can’t fake strikeouts in my book. A strikeout is the ultimate hitter versus pitcher. Are groundball type guys like Derek Lowe sometimes valuable? Of course.

But I’d rather take my chances with a guy who doesn’t rely on another player to get the out. Again, so much goes into it all, but at the end of the day if you can strike batters out whether as a starter or a reliever, I feel better about that than needing your SS to make a play.

So I ask again, what is important to you? For hitting, defense and pitching what is the first thing you look at or use to determine in your mind who is worth acquiring?

About the Author ()

Michael Branda grew up a Mets fan watching the mid 1980's teams and his favorite Met of all-time is (and was) Wally Backman. When it comes to sabermetrics versus old school thinking, he's in the middle and believes adopting new ways to get answers is helpful, especially when the old way has not produced results.

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