This week in By The Numbers we’ll look the first half of the 2011 season through at a vast array of advanced and traditional metrics for the Orioles non-pitchers. The table shows each player’s performance in 16 different metrics for non-pitchers who have appeared in at least 40 games and had at least 200 plate appearances. Each performance is color coded. The color red signifies a poor performance, yellow an average performance and green an exceptional performance. The color corresponds to the player’s performance in comparison to his non-pitcher teammates, so for each metric some player will be coded “green” and some player will be coded “red”.
Jones stands out under the six traditional metrics (Runs, HRs, RBIs, Hits, SBs, AVG). He has been healthy all year, recently moved to the top of the lineup (giving him additional at bats) and he has hit and run the bases well. From a very traditional baseball perspective he looks like the clear first half MVP for the O’s. The argument against this lies in two advanced metrics: 1) Fielding (UZR) and 2) Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Unfortunately for Jones advanced fielding metrics like UZR are not measured by Baseball Tonight Web Gems. Jones is an elite athlete who is capable of making spectacular plays but compared to other center fielders he is below average. Advanced fielding metrics require a fairly large sample size to become stable (several seasons) so its likely Jones’ fielding rating will improve some. However, for his career he is a below average defensive player and has only posted an above average fielding rating in one season (2008). Furthermore, Jones’ offensive production is slightly discounted because he plays centerfield. Compared to positions like catcher (Wieters) and shortstop (JJ Hardy) replacement level center fielders provide more offensive production. Thus, in a metric like Wins Above Replacement, Jones’ offensive production is not given the same weight as it would be if he played a different position. In this light Jones would finish third as the halfway MVP in a close race with Wieters and Hardy.
Hardy is having an outstanding season. Despite missing more than 20 games this year he still has average to above average traditional counting metrics (Runs, HRs, RBIs, Hits). Furthermore, as discussed above, he is tied for the team lead in the advanced counting metric WAR. At this point it looks foolish for the Orioles not to have worked out a contract extension before the season. Unfortunately, if Hardy plays anywhere close to this level in the second half the Orioles will probably be unable to afford him in free agency. Furthermore, he is currently posting a below average defensive rating. I would strongly expect this to improve as Hardy has never posted a below average defensive rating in any season in his career.
Reynolds’ early struggles and recent success have been well covered at BSR. Whether one looks at traditional or advanced metrics the story is pretty much the same: Reynolds is a low-contact hitter, with elite power the ability to take a walk and steal a base. In the field he is a very poor third basemen.
Neither Markakis or Vlad’s advanced metrics are encouraging. Both are producing under traditional metrics because they have been healthy and hit in the top half of the lineup, however, neither has displayed any power this season. Daniel Moroz recently wrote a very good article analyzing the power both have lacked. Neither has any business being discussed as a first half MVP candidate or an all-star.
The only other player who deserves to be discussed is Wieters. Recall, despite average offensive numbers under both traditional and advanced metrics Wieters shines under WAR. In part this is because replacement level offense at catcher is a very low bar. In past years we have seen the definition of replacement level offensive catchers with Gregg Zaun and Craig Tatum; Wieters’ offense is a vast improvement. However, the biggest step Wieters is in his defense. He leads any American League catcher in any reasonable defensive statistic (traditional or advanced). This is significant and adds to Wieters WAR is such a way that ties him with Hardy as the team leader.
Ultimately, if I was choosing a first half MVP I would pick JJ Hardy. The ability to notch a 1.8 WAR in the first half of the season, despite missing 20 games, is the tie breaker. Jones finishes an encouraging third. Hopefully, in the future Jones and Wieters will battle for team MVP honors most years.