FIRE JOE MORGAN: An Off-Topic Waste of My Time


Where Bad Sports Journalism Came To Die

FJM has gone dark for the foreseeable future. Sorry folks. We may post once in a while, but it's pretty much over. You can still e-mail dak, Ken Tremendous, Junior, Matthew Murbles, or Coach.

Main / Archives / Merch / Glossary / Goodbye

Monday, June 27, 2005


An Off-Topic Waste of My Time

The largely sociological post made by dak below led to a discussion of how similar Cal Ripken, Jr. and Miguel Tejada were, and whether Ripken was "head and shoulders" better than Tejada.

I tried to answer the latter question in the comments section. I'm posting it here because I wanted people to read something that wasted like ten minutes of my life.

Dear mattymatty and dak,

My first impulse was to say that no, Cal Ripken was not in fact head and shoulders above Miguel Tejada, at the very least offensively. This reaction was likely based in a) my belief that Tejada is pretty damn great and b) my belief that Cal Ripken gets ball-washed quite a bit, and perhaps is a tiny bit overrated.

But -- and I think you'll appreciate this, dak -- let's really look at the numbers. dak's done some of the work for us, but as he admits, Ripken played in a vastly different offensive era. How will that factor compete with Tejada's "canyon of a ballpark" in Oakland?

Fortunately, we don't have to make hand-waving arguments either way. OPS+ is both era- and park-adjusted. I took Tejada's first seven full seasons and Ripken's first seven full seasons and came up with the following:

Tejada OPS+: 109
Ripken OPS+: 126

What can we draw from this? Up to this point in their respective careers, Cal Ripken was significantly better on offense than Miguel Tejada relative to his peers. Surprising, at least to me.

As a point of comparison, Ripken's average OPS+ over this period is coincidentally equal to Tejada's during the 2004 season, when he was a monster. Tejada's, meanwhile, is close to Juan Uribe's 2004 season, which was very good (an OPS+ of 107; he hit 23 homers and batted .283). But Juan Uribe was no Miguel Tejada last year.

As a side note, I'm pretty suspicious of the Similar Batters lists. The metric they use was developed by Bill James, but if you look carefully at what it constitutes, it is NOT era- or park-adjusted. Meaning Tejada's inflated batting average and power totals (due to this recent hitters' era) are compared directly to Ripken's numbers during a much lower-scoring period. So the Similar Batters lists are interesting, but not exactly rigorous.

Which is not to say that it's not the best, quickest, and dirtiest method we have. I'm certainly never going to develop a better way of comparing players across eras because I am too lazy and stupid.

In sum, from what we know so far, Ripken was clearly the better hitter than Tejada through this point in their careers. Head and shoulders better? Maybe. Could Tejada do some things over the next few years that might change how these two stack up? Definitely.

But his numbers will have to be really insane if all the other major league baseball players continue to hit as they have.

Labels: ,

posted by Junior  # 11:44 PM
And yes, I'm already having second thoughts.

Looking carefully at Ripken's stats, you find that he peaked very early in his career. His second and third (full) years in the league were also the second- and third-best years of his career in terms of OPS+!

This, of course, skews his "first seven years' average OPS+" posted above. And his career OPS+ is indeed only 112, but that takes into account a very long, drawn-out decline phase.

Tejada, meanwhile, had two very mediocre years his first two full seasons (not even counting the 104 PA he had when he was 21). Since then, he's been extremely productive, though it's worth noting that he's never surpassed and OPS+ of 126 in any season (in 2002, when he won the AL MVP, it was 122, which gives you an idea of how awesome 126 is).

Of course, it looks like he might break 126 this year.

Where does that leave us? Well, we still can't just throw out Tejada's mediocre years and say he's peaking later, because you simply can't assume things that haven't happened yet. And hey, Ripken did post insane OPS+'s of 144 and 145 in 1983 and 1984, when he was just a young pup.

Anyway, I think Tejada has a chance to equal Ripken's career OPS+ of 112 when all is said and done, but up to this point, you have to say Ripken's been better up to age 28.
Really nice work here. I remember thinking that Rip was overrated offensively, too, and maybe defensively, but it is important we all remember how damn good he was, early on. I'd also like to admit my personal mistake in thinking that Tejada, who never walked and swung at tons of bad pitches, would flop in Baltimore. He's good. But he's going to decline after he turns like 32 and his wrists start slowing down. I predict that by the end of his massive contract, he'll be at .260/.320/.480. You heard it here first.
Well since I started this whole thing, I should probably weight in again, huh?

I'll admit that I grew up a Red Sox fan in DC so I watched Ripken on TV (or heard him on the radio) just about every night. I'm sure that sways me in his direction. Also, I think Tejada is the best all around player in the Majors right now. That said, there is an article in Baseball Prospectus (that predictably I can't find now) about a comparison between these two players. I'll post the link if I find it, but that article was the basis for my statement. That and my pro-Ripken bias.
Found it! Ok, cop out time! Here's BP's Joe Sheehan to prove my point about Ripken Vs. Tejada:

I'm surprised. I thought that the two players would have been much closer in value, as I remember Ripken's career as the high early peak, the great 1991 season (at age 30), and a lot of workmanlike performances in between. He was better than that, and while the raw numbers don't look that great to us now, attuned as we are to the lines put up by Tejada and Alex Rodriguez and their ilk, they were terrific in the context of his team. A year like Ripken's 1987, for instance, when he hit .252/.333/.436, had a ton of value, even though the raw line would get little more than a nod in 2005. Ripken's top two season's both dwarf Tejada's best, and if you line up their careers by WARP, you see Ripken's massive edge at every step. ...

Ripken wasn't accumulating his advantage on just one side of the ball. Compared to Tejada, he was outhitting him in most seasons and out-fielding him in every single one. Ripken was a terrific defensive shortstop in the 1980s, and a good one pretty much up until the day Davey Johnson moved him to third base.
Like I said, I'm surprised the gap between the two players is as wide as it is. Note that looking forward a year isn't going to help much, as Ripken had a monster season in 1991, winning the AL MVP with a .323/.374/.566 (14.9 WARP2) line. Ripken would go on to be a six-, seven-win player through age 35, then slowly decline before ending his career after the 2001 season. For Tejada to even approach him in career value, he'd have to extend his current peak for another four years, then have a very slow, long, decline phase.

Any comments?
To me, the funny thing now is that among people interested in sabermetrics, Cal Ripken might be underrated!

The only current shortstop to exceed Ripken's amazing 162 OPS+ season of 1991 is A-Rod, and he hasn't done it since 2001 ... when he hit 52 home runs and posted a 164 OPS+. The very next year, he hit 57 home runs and recorded a mere 152 OPS+!

We live in some funny times.
Truly so, Junior.

Well, now that we've dispensed with some actual baseball talk, back to this: Will someone please point out to Joe Morgan what a moron he is?
Let's slow down for a second here. So far, Ripken is better than Tejada, yes. My point is not that Tejada is better than Ripken or the other way around. My point is that they're simply very similar players -- that it's more than superficial to compare the two. The fact that we've now got the 2 longest threads on this blog devoted to this comparison, and that you were quickly able to cite a comparison from BP, leads me to believe that the Ripken / Tejada comparison is at least worthwhile.

I'll grant you that OPS+ through the first X years of their careers give Ripken a more than slight edge. That's nice work. So I guess at this point it comes down to how you define "head and shoulders."

I'd like to see the data that proves that Ripken was a better player defensively. I'm not saying it doesn't exist; it might. I'd just like to see it.
I think they've got a lot in common. They're both Baltimore shortstops who are outstanding hitters and the best players on their teams.

Tejada isn't as universally loved as Ripken. I can think of a few reasons:

1. His team hasn't done anything. Ripken's Orioles won the World Series in 1983, when he was a wunderkind 22-year-old MVP. I can only imagine how popular a player who did that would be today.

2. Tejada has a nice consecutive games streak. Ripken had his ridiculous streak (it is what it is, not saying it was worth it).

3. Ripken was better.

4. (And this is pure speculation ...) Tejada ain't white.

I hate to pull quotes, dak, but this sentence was in your comment below: "What that means is that IN THE HISTORY OF MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL ONLY ONE PLAYER WAS CLOSER TO MIGUEL TEJADA IN OFFENSIVE PRODUCTION THAN CAL RIPKEN."

I don't think that's true, although I can see why you wrote it (I tend to trust Baseball Reference as well). In fact, there is a shortstop currently playing who has had production more similar to Cal Ripken's than Tejada's.

His name is (gulp) Derek Jeter. Through the age of 30:

Derek Jeter OPS+: 121
Cal Ripken OPS+: 126

Not a popular conclusion around here, but there it is.
We're not talking about how good they are at offensive production -- that's only part of how "similar" they are. Yeah, Jeter's closer to Ripken in OPS+, but he's a different kind of player than Ripken and Tejada. Namely, he steals more bases and hits fewer taters (than both Ripken and Miggy).

This is not about being better or worse than Derek Jeter, Cal Ripken, or Miguel Tejada. Yeah, I'm using B-R's "similar players" metric, and it ain't perfect, but it's better than just comparing OPS+ when we're talking about how similar players are. Isn't it?

Again, as you kind of pointed out Junior, the whole point of this is that we're talking about one dude who's white and one who isn't. I had in fact thought of comparing Ripken to Jeter, but this is problematic for two reasons:
a) Jeter is one of the few minorities, or halfsies or whatever, who actually is called a "leader" and a "lunchpail" type player. A smart player, and, I'm sure I've heard, "an ambassador of the game." So it wouldn't have really helped prove the point.
b) AND, Jeter is not as similar a player to Ripken as Tejada was. Jeter has been the best offensive player on his team like maybe twice -- without looking it up. Jeter doesn't hit for as much power as Ripken did, especially early in Ripken's career. Don't get me wrong -- they're still very similar, but Tejada's just closer to the type of player that Ripken was. I think, at least.

And yes, of course there are other reasons why Ripken is more popular than Tejada. But I agree with you on point #4, that Ripken was white and Miggy isn't, and that's really all we were concerned with.

I actually think the other reasons you brought up are more pertinent to the discussion than point #3 -- "Ripken was better." I mean, let's think about it for a second. Why would one player be considered the patron saint of gentlemanly ballplayers, while the other is called a little ball of energy? It probably isn't 17 points in OPS+. As Junior points out, it's more likely to be his WS ring at a really young age (see: Derek Sanderson Jeter); his games streak eclipsing another white ghost of baseball (see: Mark David McGwire); and his whiteness (see: white dudes).

Oh, and as far as mattymatty thinking that Tejada's the best player in the game today, well, there's only one other person I know who shares that opinion: Joe Leonard Morgan.
dak, junior-

Don't you guys work in the same office?
Yeah, we're supposed to be working today but we're sort of not. Don't tell our boss (Earl Weaver).
Gosh, I should really check this site more often!

I think you're right, dak. Tejada is more similar to Ripken than Jeter is in terms of overall offensive game. Jeter is a batting average/OBP guy with significantly less power. You can't just use OPS+; otherwise a guy like Ichiro would be "similar" to Ripken, which is crazy.

I'm amending this sentence:

> In fact, there is a shortstop currently playing who has had production more similar to Cal Ripken's than Tejada's.

to this sentence:

In fact, there is a shortstop currently playing who has had production more similar IN VALUE to Cal Ripken's than Tejada's.

OPS+ is a very imperfect measure of value, but still.

Of the current shortstops, I'd say Tejada actually is the most like Ripken. Pretty cool, given the other similarities.

Let's not sneeze at 17 OPS+ points, though. The difference between Tejada and Jimmy Rollins so far is 16 points.
The info about defense is in the same BP article that I quoted below, but I didn't include the numbers because I was trying to have a post less than a mile long. Trust me when I tell you that BP says Ripken was a much better defensive shortstop than Tejada has been so far.

I'm not sure where race fits into this picture. Its kinda interesting that it got brought up, but there are numerous examples of non-white players being thought of as 'gamers' at least recently. Unless Baltimore has some incredible racism that I'm just not aware of I don't see how this fits into the picture.

As for OPS+ I think thats probably the best stat that I know of to compare players across eras. It adjusts for era, ballpark, etc. which makes players comparable who might not be so with more conventional stats.

Dak: I could care less what Joe Morgan thinks about the best player in baseball. Tejada so far has been the MVP in the AL in my opinion. There are tons of worthy candidates, but I'd pick him so far. As I don't recall saying anything negative about anyone, comparing me to Joe Morgan on a blog called "Fire Joe Morgan" seems a bit rude.
On the topic of the value of ops+, I tried to educate myself a little more on the formula, and a weird thing jumped out at me. Unless I am mistaken, the formula assumes that, in a "hitter's park," hits, total bases, walks and hbps are adjusted downward and vice versa for a "pitcher's park." My question is would walks and hbps be necessarily affected by the dimensions and altitude of a particular park. You can argue tired pitchers and poor movement on breaking balls, but I am suspicious of a stat that might, in some cases, inflate ops+ numbers for guys that draw a lot of walks or hbps in a pitcher's park. Like Jeter, for instance.
mattymatty -- don't take it personally. dak gets ornery whenever anyone says anyone other than Pujols or Bonds is the best player in baseball. Miggy is on pace for about 100 XBH and an OPS of .965, and he plays every day, and he's a SS, and I think you're right that he, ARod, or Roberts is your AL MVP so far this year, with Ortiz fourth due to his DH status.

Now, let's all play nice, since we all have one common goal: disgracing Joe Morgan.
yeah dudes. matty, i didn't mean any harm by it...sorry if it came off as a cheap shot.

now, ken t's right; i don't really understand how you can say anyone other than bonds, pujols or a-rod is the best player in baseball. and, joe morgan is literally the only other person i know who thinks miggy is the best player in baseball (he's said it numerous times during game broadcasts). i didn't mean it to be rude; again, sorry if it came off that way.

Post a Comment

<< Home


04.05   05.05   06.05   07.05   08.05   09.05   10.05   11.05   12.05   01.06   02.06   03.06   04.06   05.06   06.06   07.06   08.06   09.06   10.06   11.06   12.06   01.07   02.07   03.07   04.07   05.07   06.07   07.07   08.07   09.07   10.07   11.07   12.07   01.08   02.08   03.08   04.08   05.08   06.08   07.08   08.08   09.08   10.08   11.08  

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?