Saturday, September 17, 2011

Big Time Slugger or Speedster who doesn't strikeout? Which would you rather have?

A theoretical debate in baseball has always gone something like this: "Would you rather have a guy that strikes out a lot and is slow, but hits tons of home runs, or a guy who is fast and rarely strikes out, but can't hit the long ball?". We have seen this in criticism of Ichiro Suzuki (before this lackluster year), as critics insist he is overrated because he only cares about hits (his next one will tie him with Mickey Mantle, and this doesn't count any of his hits in Japan) and doesn't hit home runs. So I wanted to take 4 real examples of current players' best seasons (2 sluggers and 2 speedsters) and see what the key saber-metric statistic, WAR (Wins after Replacement Player), had to say on the debate. For Brett Gardner of the Yankees (clearly in the speedster category), his best year was 2010, when he had a .383 OBP, 47 RBIs, 47 steals, with 101 strikeouts. His offensive WAR (we are going to ignore defense for this post) was 3.3. The other speedster I picked was, of course, Ichiro. His best offensive season was his first year in America, where he had a OBP of .381, 56 stolen bases, 69 RBIs, 8 homers, and 53 strikeouts. This gave him a WAR of 6.2 on offense. The first slugger I picked is pretty obvious, Ryan Howard. He has some of the highest single season strikeout totals in National League history. His best year was in 2006, when he had a .425 OBP, 181 strikeouts OPS of 1.084, with 58 bombs, and 149 RBIs. His WAR was 5.6. The second slugger I picked was Carlos Pena. His best year was in 2007, when he had an OBP of .411, 142 strikeouts, 46 homers, 121 RBIs, and a OPS of 1.037. His offense WAR was 5.9. There are plenty of more sluggers and speedsters that we could evaluate, but looking at just these 4 seem to show that both the slugger and the speedster are equally valuable.

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