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 baseball-reference.com 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: cal ripken, miguel tejada