FIRE JOE MORGAN: Someday You, Too, Could Be Drastically Overrated


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Monday, June 25, 2007


Someday You, Too, Could Be Drastically Overrated

Reggie Willits is having an excellent year. He's absolutely slaughtering his 90th percentile PECOTA projections at the rookie age of 26. It is largely fair to say that his .439 OBP, and not Chone Figgins's .356, is what's making the Angels tick lately.

He is also under six feet tall and white. And he plays for the Angels.

Uh oh.

Reggie Willits is flattered by the many and obvious comparisons to David Eckstein, another leadoff hitter whose hustle and heart outweigh his small stature.

Allow me to blanket this entire post -- as well as Helene Elliott's excerpted article, just because I'm generous -- with a Small Sample Size alert. Reggie Willits has had 243 ML at-bats in 91 games. All of his stats are suspect in terms of their predictive powers...especially considering how much better he is doing than those pesky PECOTA computers predicted. However.

I am going to be as nice as I can to David Eckstein by cherry-picking his season high totals in a number of different categories.

BA: .294 (2005)
OBP: .363 (twice)
SLG: .388 (2002)
BB: 58 (2005)
2B: 26 (twice)
HR: 8 (twice)

In his career he is 102-41 SB/CS. That's 71.3%.

Again, small sample blah blah blah, and also he's never played a full season so we have to extend outwards which is always risky, but here are Willits's seasonal averages, with his career numbers stretched out over 162 games. This includes the like 45 AB he has last year over 28 random games, which drag down his overall numbers:

BA: .329
OBP: .434
SLG: .387
BB: 84
2B: 21
HR: 0

Willits is on pace to be far better than that in several categories this year, including 2B and BB. And thus, SLG. To put it another way, Eck's career EqA is .262, or ever-so-slightly above league average. Willits's this year is .326. Willits is on pace for a 7.4 WARP3. Eck's career high was 7.1 -- and Eck was a SS! (Willits plays mostly LF and CF.)

Oh -- and Willits is 18-2 in SB/CS this year.

It's early, but at this moment, it is insulting to compare Willits to Eckstein. (Insulting to Willits, I mean.)

"That's a pretty big compliment. I definitely don't think I am where he's at yet," Willits said of Eckstein, a catalyst in the Angels' 2002 World Series championship and the most valuable player in the St. Louis Cardinals' title run last season.

"He's proven it over several years, and he's done a great job."

He has done a league-average job.

Willits is aggressive on the basepaths, where he has 18 steals and has been caught twice. There are no statistics to measure how often he has pressured an outfielder into making a throwing error or how often he has prolonged an offensive flurry with patience at the plate and sheer grit.

All right! Now we're getting Ecksteiny. "No statistics..." "patience..." "sheer grit...". Makes my heart sing.

I must ask again: why are no minority players ever called "throwbacks" or praised for their "grit" and "hustle" and "old-school"-ness? It is one of the oddest things. No Dominican players, no Afro-Am players, not even the odd Curacaoian. The closest you ever get is Chone Figgins, but I think that's just SoCal reporters missing Eckstein so much they have to lob their "hustle" grenades somewhere, and Figgins isn't that tall, and he's fast...

"Fans are certainly drawn to players for different reasons, and I think it's obvious why they're drawn to Reggie Willits, as they're drawn to David Eckstein or Adam Kennedy," Scioscia said. "I think there's a blue-collar element. He's very well perceived….

Weird ellipsis belongs to Elliott, BTW. Incorrect word choice belongs to Scioscia.

Also: Willits. Eckstein. Kennedy. What do these three have in common? I'm surprised he didn't throw Gary DiSarcina in there for the hell of it.

The Angels just might keep him, even though he's not a second helping of David Eckstein and not the power hitter the other Reggie was. He's Reggie Willits, and that has been more than enough to excite everyone who sees him.

They should be thrilled he's not a second helping of Eckstein. That means he might become a better-than-average baseball player.

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posted by Unknown  # 12:21 AM
Well, there is this article, which ascribes the qualities of big-time heart and hustle to a "minority" (who was born in Hollywood, no less). Interesting is that, in the world of against-the-odds sports journalism, being white might just be the equivalent of having a club foot.
Tip o' the cap to reader Josh, who takes virulent exception to the tossed-off notion that Eckstein was the 2006 Cardinals' MVP:

Never mind Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter. Cardinals with higher WARP3 than Eckstein (4.0) last year included:

Chris Duncan (who was only with the team for a little more than half of the season), 4.4

Jim Edmonds (who was hurt and only played 109 games), 4.7

Jeff Suppan (who strikes out few hitters and gives up a lot of home runs), 4.2

Jason Isringhausen (who walked way too many guys last year), 5.2

Yadier Molina (who hit .216, for those who like "traditional" statistics), 4.1.

And a mea culpa from me to reader Chris (and all you other Chone Figgins fans) for blasé-ing Figgy's contributions recently. He has been mashing since he came back, with a June OPS over 1.000 and a positively Willitsian .464 OBP.

For the record, I like Chose Figgins a lot. Why then did I denigrate him? To quote Dr. Johnson: "Ignorance, Madam, pure ignorance."
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