October 2, 2007

Red Sox MVP

Mike Lowell is the popular pick for the Red Sox's 2007 Most Valuable Player. In an ongoing SoSH poll, Lowell has received 42.1% of the votes. Josh Beckett is second at 27.6%.

The Globe's Nick Cafardo named Lowell third on his ballot, after Alex Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez. "There aren't enough superlatives to describe the season he's had." Tony Massarotti of the Herald gave Lowell an "A" for his superb season, while grading David Ortiz at a "B+".

On September 27, Bob Ryan wrote:
Has anyone been more consistent, more reliable, and more, yes, valuable to the Red Sox cause this year than Mike Lowell? Help me out here. It's not possible anyone has been more important to the day-in, day-out Red Sox cause in the year 2007 than Mike Lowell. Is it?
Read on, Bob. Read on.

David Ortiz is the Red Sox's 2007 MVP.
             Ortiz  Lowell
AVG .332 .324
OBP .445 .378
SLG .621 .501
OPS+ 176 128
EQA .339 .289
2B 52 37
HR 35 21
RBI 117 120
Walks 111 71
Runs Scored 116 79
Runs Created 156 109
RC/27 10.8 6.8
Win Shares 25 23
BA/RISP .362 .356
Plate App 667 653
Outs 387 427
Flo has Dr. Doubles beat in almost every offensive category (including doubles!). Indeed, Lowell reached base only slightly more often this season than J.D. Drew (.378 to .373).

The only area where Lowell clearly outshines Ortiz is in exceeding pre-season expectations. I think that's what is driving most of the Lowell-as-MVP talk. Lowell has had a superb season -- he was the team's second-best hitter, though Manny Ramirez's OPS+ of 129 (his worst year since 1994) edged Lowell's 128. But no convincing argument can be made that Lowell was better at the plate than Ortiz.

Ortiz's home run total dropped by almost 20 -- from 54 to 35. It had increased every year since 1999, and he had set a new team record in 2006, so there's the preception that he's had a subpar year. Even his manager thinks so: "Numbers-wise, it's not [his best season], but effort-wise and leadership-wise, it very well may be."

Many players and media have mentioned Lowell's influence and reputation in the clubhouse, but we've also heard the exact same things about Ortiz, so let's call that a wash. While his range at third base diminished, Lowell still gets extra points for his fielding, but I don't think that can close the gap between the batting stats.

2007 was the best offensive season of Ortiz's career. He led the major leagues in on-base percentage (.445) and topped the American League with 88 extra-base hits. He batted a career-high .332 (up 45 points from 2006) and whacked 52 doubles among his 182 hits (both totals also career highs). His 1.066 OPS was second only to Alex Rodriguez's 1.067 and he reached base more often (297 times) than all but one player (A-Rod at 299). He was also 3-for-3 in steals of second base.

And he finished strong. Ortiz was named the American League Player of the Month for September (.396, 9 homers, 27 RBI). His 1.341 OPS in September was the highest of any month in his career.

Bob Ryan also wrote:
...with Papi off to that slow start and Manny never really being Manny at the plate for any length of time, Lowell has truly carried the offense.
April
AVG OBP SLG

Lowell .314 .371 .547
Ortiz .297 .402 .615
Hmmm. A 1.017 OPS is considered a slow start? That's a bit like the New York Post writer who, about two weeks ago, called Alex Rodriguez "the hole in the middle of [the Yankees'] lineup".
May
AVG OBP SLG

Lowell .343 .400 .596
Ortiz .333 .459 .540

First Half
AVG OBP SLG

Lowell .300 .351 .518
Ortiz .314 .434 .556

Second Half
AVG OBP SLG

Lowell .350 .407 .483
Ortiz .352 .458 .695

OPS By Month
Ortiz Lowell

April 1.017 .918
May .999 .996
June .979 .657
July .995 .846
August 1.055 .979
September 1.341 .845

Men On Base
AVG OBP SLG

Lowell .355 .407 .532
Ortiz .367 .479 .664

Late & Close
AVG OBP SLG

Lowell .262 .323 .357
Ortiz .263 .371 .395

In Tie Games
AVG OBP SLG

Lowell .316 .345 .390
Ortiz .335 .469 .671

2 Outs/RISP
AVG OBP SLG

Lowell .286 .388 .548
Ortiz .304 .458 .536
Ortiz says:
I think personally this is one of my best offensive years in Boston, all the way around. People focus on 40 or 50 home runs. ... I could swing for a homer every time I go to the plate. Now let's see the result. What happens if I end up with 60 homers, .320 on-base percentage, .240 batting average, 70 runs scored? Did I help my team?
In his four previous seasons with the Red Sox, Ortiz finished fifth, fourth, second and third, repsectively, in the MVP voting. Yet in 2007, the best season of his career, he may not do as well.

25 comments:

chris said...

Really intelligent comment from Papi. If he had thrown in some BABIP and ISO, I would've probably exploded.

Amy said...

Very interesting and persuasive piece. I do think it's all about relative expectations. We assume Ortiz will ALWAYS get a hit as well as the home run in the bottom of the ninth, and so when he doesn't, we feel let down. With Lowell, like with most players, we expect a hit maybe once or twice a game, depending on the number of at bats.

So I am sold---Ortiz was a more valuable hitter overall than Lowell this season despite the perceptions of the media and fans. That doesn't take away from Lowell's accomplishments, and I would still like to see him on the Red Sox next year. Does his fielding rank him higher for MVP purposes than Ortiz as DH? I am not sure.

redsock said...

I wanted to look at Lowell's fielding versus an average 3B, but, sadly, I have other things to do today!

Lowell has had a great season -- WAAAAY better than I could have wished for -- but I really don't want to sign him to more than a one-year deal.

I'm with Branch Rickey on this one: Better to trade a player a year too early than a year too late.

Signing the Dr. to a three-year deal -- which I assume he's asking for, maybe four -- would not be a good idea.

curt said...

Agree 100%.

Hope you don't mind if I paste in a post from my own blog, making many of the same points, entitled "Mr. Ortiz, could you please have a down year next season too?":

----------------------------------

Maybe the general perception that David Ortiz has had an off season in 2007 is because he hasn't had his usual quota of walkoff hits. But let's consider the facts ...

He had the best OPS of his career -- 1.066 vs. 1.049 last year. This was second in the league behind only ARod at 1.067. That's right, Mr. Consensus MVP was only .001 ahead of Ortiz in OPS. Furthermore Ortiz led ARod by a wide margin in OBP, which is the more valuable component of OPS.

He had the best batting average of his career -- .332 vs. .301 in 2004. (He hit .327 his rookie year in limited action). His 2007 batting average was 5th in the league.

He had the best on-base percentage of his career -- .455 vs. .413 last year. This led the league by a wide margin -- Ordonez was second at .434.

He set the all time record for doubles in a season by a DH (52). Only Ordonez had more this season (54).

He led the league in extra base hits with 88 (ARod was second with 85).

He led the league in RC/27 (runs created per 27 outs) at 9.97 (ARod again second at 9.70).

As Bob Ryan pointed out in his blog, Papi is the first Red Sox to have 80 or more extra base hits in four consecutive seasons. Not Jim Rice, Double X, Fred Lynn, Yaz or Manny did that. Not even Teddy Ballgame. ARod has done it four times in his career, but not consecutively.

curt said...

I wanted to look at Lowell's fielding versus an average 3B, but, sadly, I have other things to do today!

Win Shares takes fielding into account. Not sure where you got yours, but Hardball Times has Ortiz at 29 WS, 21% better than Lowell at 24.

However, raw Win Shares gives a fielder credit for defense, even if he is an average or below average defender, whereas a DH gets no credit. A better comparison might be WSAB (Win Shares above Bench), which only give credit for offense and defense above what might be expected from a bench player.

For example, Lugo gets 12 WS, but 0 WSAB -- the 12 WS are basically for waking to the plate when it's his turn, and for standing at shortstop with a glove on.

Using WSAB Ortiz get 20, vs Lowell at 12, a 67% advantage. This includes Lowell's defense, but only to the extent that it exceeds that of a typical bench player.

Love Mikey, but let's make sure Tizzle gets his props too.

ish said...

Wakefield was left off the ALDS roster. Makes sense to me.

ALDS Roster

Zenslinger said...

This is very well done. Especially with the strong finish, I did have the feeling that his OBP and number of doubles made up for the fewer HRs, but I would not have thought that this was his best offensive season ever.

If you take OPS as the measure of all things, it's true, though.

04 - .983
05 - 1.001
06 - 1.049
07 - 1.066

It makes you wonder how it was that he had a better OPS but hit fewer HR's. The doubles are largely the answer - only 29 last year vs. 52 this year. A-Rod's numbers also show that it's obvious one trades doubles for HR's, even more so up against the Monster.

Surprisingly, David's better BA and OBP didn't lead him to that many more runs, which are almost equal from 2005-7 at 119, 115, and 116. But then again, a double doesn't always result in one but an HR does, so we can say that he's coming around to score more with the high OBP but not driving himself in as much.

He's had fewer RBI's than in the last two years, but that's again attributable to the dip in HR's. He let Mike drive him in more.

Great years for both, and I'd be ok with 2yrs/$22m for Mike. But, it's true, Ortiz was better.

redsock said...

Wakefield was left off the ALDS roster. Makes sense to me.

Yeah. It still sucks though. he'll be back for the ALCS against Cleveland.

Zenslinger said...

But how can we succeed without Sexy Lips?

And what's with the third catcher? Wouldn't Moss be of more bench utility than Cash?

ish said...

I think Cash is there in case Mirabelli goes down. He's been very iffy lately. It is strange, though, to have three catchers and no Wakefield. If Wake was on the roster, I'd agree 100%. I'm curious right now, but I'm fine with it.

redsock said...

zen, i answered in a newer post.

redsock said...

Really intelligent comment from Papi. If he had thrown in some BABIP and ISO, I would've probably exploded.

Maybe Tiz can do some TV commentary in between ABs.

BABIP (batting average on balls in play)
Ortiz .355
Lowell .337

BABIP at Home
Ortiz .396
Lowell .382

BABIP with Men On
Ortiz .397
Lowell .372

IsoP (Isolated power; extra bases per at-bat; SLG minus AVG)
Ortiz .290
Lowell .177

IsoP was first used by Branch Rickey and Allan Roth in the 1950s.

Tiz finished #5 in MLB in IsoP and #3 in the AL - behind Carlos Pena (.345) and Slappy (.331).

Amy said...

wanted to look at Lowell's fielding versus an average 3B, but, sadly, I have other things to do today!

Better things to do that research answers to my questions?? Imagine that! :)

As for Curt's response, well, I have to go look up what all those acronyms and statistics mean before I can decipher it. But thanks for the information.

redsock said...

Doctor padding his stats?

Via Bradford:

"Mike Lowell has hit .373 with 10 HR (1.096 OPS) in what I call "Oh By The Way" at bats (where the team is behind by 5+ or ahead by 3+). That OPS is 208 points higher than his overall OPS, the largest difference in the AL (min 100 PA in "Oh By The Way" situations). His 46 "Oh By The Way" RBI is tops in the majors, ahead of Atlanta's Jeff Francoeur (40) and the Yankee's Robinson Cano (38).

"JD Drew stats point the opposite way in "Oh By The Way" situations, as he is hitting only .212, the lowest average in the majors (min. 145 PA). Of course, that means that when the score is closer, he's hit .285 this season."

redsock said...

Does his fielding rank him higher for MVP purposes than Ortiz as DH? I am not sure.

In RZR (Revised Zone Rating, which is the % of balls hit into a fielder's zone that he converts into an out), Lowell was the top 3B in the AL (.726) and 3rd in MLB (behind Pedro Felix and Scott Rolen).

He had the most fielding Win Shares (according to The Hardball Times) of any AL 3B (6.0); Inge was next at 4.7. Ryan Zimmerman was the only MLB 3B better than Lowell (6.4).

Also, in VORP (Value Over Replacement Player), Lowell is the 6th best hitting 3B in MLB and 2nd in the AL (behind only Slappy, but waaaay behind).

(VORP is the number of runs contributed beyond what a replacement-level player at the same position would contribute if given the same percentage of team plate appearances. VORP does not consider fielding.)

Amy said...

Thanks again for the information. What is a Win Share? How long have these categories of stats existed? Are these something that came into existence to help fantasy league players? Or have I just been operating in a 19th Century baseball world? I am just amazed at all the lingo and acronyms that are out there. And I am still trying to absorb what they mean. Much as I love numbers, I am more a seat of the pants, emotion based fan.

redsock said...

Win Shares comes from Bill James. His book on them was published in 2002. He says it takes the Runs Created concept one step further. There are 3 Win Shares awarded for each team win. I cannot explain them, though. I have the book and read it, but it made my head hurt.

There are a shitload of stats out there. I don't use most of them, though.

Or have I just been operating in a 19th Century baseball world?

Probably! Though there were plenty of progressive baseball people trying to outlaw fielding % and batting average as flawed measures back then too!

If your library has Alan Schwartz's "The Numbers Game", check it out. A fascinating and highly readable look at the history of stats.

Amy said...

I'll check it out. I am fine with batting average, ERA, RBIs, and all the classic categories of baseball stats, but some of these more complex ones seem rather too convoluted to be terribly meaningful. I mean, can dividing all these various numbers by each other really produce a meaningful indicator of skill or a reliable predictor of heart, luck, and success? I remain skeptical, but I am open-minded.

redsock said...

some of these more complex ones seem rather too convoluted to be terribly meaningful. I mean, can dividing all these various numbers by each other really produce a meaningful indicator of skill or a reliable predictor of heart, luck, and success? I remain skeptical, but I am open-minded.

It's not supposed to be predictive -- nothing is certain -- but more like what decision has the most likely chance of success.

For example, now that we have play-by-play data from decades and decades of games, we know that (generally speaking) bunting a guy from first to second with no outs actually decreases a team's chance of scoring a run.

Amy said...

For example, now that we have play-by-play data from decades and decades of games, we know that (generally speaking) bunting a guy from first to second with no outs actually decreases a team's chance of scoring a run.

That's interesting and what I always felt (though had no numbers to back up the feeling). Why waste an out?

chris said...

"Maybe Tiz can do some TV commentary in between ABs."

UPGRADE!


Amy: have you read moneyball?
Allan: would you reccommend The Numbers Game over moneyball as intro? I've only read moneyball, but since it was 90% story, I'd imagine it'd be the easier intro read.

I don't really put any stock in fielding numbers, at least until they use advanced gameday to track the exact velocity and position of the ball and use an overhead cam to pinpoint the starting position of the players (assuming that comes from the bench coach and is out of their hands, which is true is most cases). I've seen a couple interesting ones, but fielding is such a complicated thing to judge.

Since you mentioned ISOP (i left off the p), I never really understood if there's supposed to be predictive merit in the stat, or if it's merely a measure of true power. It seems like in extreme cases, like LBP having ortiz's ISOP, that it would be able to predict a regression, but so would a lot of other things.

yay baseball?

redsock said...

It doesn't decrease it by much, but the likelihood of a run does go down.

Obviously, in a tie game in the bottom of the 9th, depending on your order, it might be a very wise decision, but when Tito (err, Terry) does it in the 3rd, that's when I get pissed (though I luv it when Torre has Jeter do it in the 1st, which happens not infrequently).

redsock said...

Allan: would you reccommend The Numbers Game over moneyball as intro?

Interesting question. I think I might. Moneyball is perhaps more specific in its subject, though a non-stathead baseball fan would not be turned off by it..

I love learning that all this stuff that gets criticized as new nerdy, geeky stuff has been around for 120+ years -- and has been drawing the same types of complaints the whole time.

Like the great Ty Cobb quote from 1925 that all these "modern" players don't know the basics of the game like bunting, all they care about is their personal stats, and they never want to sit around and talk about the nuts and bolts of baseball, they are more concerned with $$$.

It never changes.

L-girl said...

I am fine with batting average, ERA, RBIs, and all the classic categories of baseball stats, but some of these more complex ones seem rather too convoluted to be terribly meaningful.

It's exactly the opposite. It's generally the off-cited stats that have little meaning.

Jay said...

Just stumbled across this today after writing a post on my blog complaining about the TBS guys talking about Ortiz's "down year". Ugh, the yahoos on EEI are bad enough but the guys in the booth get paid to understand that there's more to a hitter than RBIs. Reminds me of the Simpsons "More Dingers" episode.