Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Comparing present to past

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Adam Dunn's career to this point is comparable to borderline Hall of Famers.
Foxsports.com's Ken Rosenthal made a really interesting point in an article posted last night. In questioning Scott Boras for comparing Adrian Beltre to Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt, George Brett and Paul Molitor (a ridiculous comparison, by the way) Rosenthal pointed out that another top free agent does compare favorably to one of the greatest players in the history of the game.

Carl Crawford, through age 28, has put up incredibly similar offensive numbers to none other than Roberto Clemente. It's not a perfect comparison tool, because it only takes into account offense, and obviously Clemente was perhaps the greatest defensive right fielder of all-time. But it's not a bad method for putting a current player's performance in context.

And you can do this with any player in baseball history thanks to baseball-reference.com's "Similarity Score," which uses a formula developed by Bill James to make some pretty accurate comparisons.

Now, the fun part: To whom do members of the Nationals most favorably compare?

Let's start with the man drawing the most attention this offseason, Adam Dunn, who at age 30 has hit 354 homers with a .250 batting average, .381 on-base percentage, .521 slugging percentage and .902 OPS.

So who compares most favorably to Dunn at age 30? Jose Canseco, Rocky Colavito, Harmon Killebrew, Sammy Sosa, Reggie Jackson, Darryl Strawberry, Ralph Kiner, Jim Thome, Barry Bonds and Boog Powell. Not a bad list; it includes three current Hall of Famers and four others who will get serious consideration for enshrinement (though steroid allegations may keep them out).

Point is, Dunn compares very favorably to some of the best power hitters of the last half century. Pretty good company, I'd say.

What about other members of the Nationals?

Ryan Zimmerman, through age 25, has 116 homers, a .288 average, a .355 on-base percentage, a .484 slugging percentage and a .839 OPS. The most comparable players at that age are Eric Chavez, Harland Clift, Ken Keltner, Ron Santo, Gary Sheffield, David Wright, Scott Rolen, Greg Luzinski, Del Ennis and Hank Blalock. Again, this only takes into account offense, so Zim's glove doesn't figure into the equation. If he continues to produce the next few years as he has the last two, I think the names on this list will look better.

Ivan Rodriguez's comparables through age 38: Ted Simmons, Gary Carter, Yogi Berra, Cal Ripken, Craig Biggio, Jeff Kent, George Brett, Garret Anderson, Joe Cronin and Al Oliver. Five Hall of Famers and a couple more who may get to Cooperstown soon. Impressive.

Josh Willingham's comparables through age 31: Ryan Ludwick, Glenallen Hill, Jim Lemon, Kevin Mench(?!), Chet Laabs, Morgan Ensberg, Jerry Lynch, Wes Covington, Brian Daubach and Jayson Werth. Mostly solid players there.

Nyjer Morgan's comparables through age 29: Jack Dalton, Ducky Holmes, Harry Walker, Ward Miller, Bert Daniels, Mike McCormick, Moose McCormick, Bob Seeds, Al Spangler and Tike Redman. Hmm...

Livan Hernandez's comparables through age 35: Mike Moore, Camilo Pascual, Bobo Newsom, Howard Ehmke, Kevin Gross, Willis Hudlin, Kevin Millwood, Jeff Suppan, Kevin Appier and Jim Slaten. Some old-school names there. Definitely appropriate for Livo.

Jason Marquis' comparables through age 31: Todd Stottlemyre, Gil Meche, Vicente Padilla, Joel Piniero, Pedro Astacio, Jeff Suppan, Esteban Loaiza, Matt Clement, Jamie Navarro and Steve Avery. Interesting that his comparables are more recent pitchers than Livan's comparables.

John Lannan's comparables through age 25: Lloyd Brown, Jamie Moyer, Bobby Shantz, Joe Mays, Tony Armas Jr., Ernie Wingard, Zach Duke, Francisco Barrios, Matt Garza and Ken Kill. Odd mix of names there, though it's tougher to do these comparisons with younger players who have less experience.

In fact, I'm going to stop there, because most of the other prominent Nationals players haven't been around long enough for these comparisons to carry much weight.

I do think this is a valuable exercise, though, to try to put current players in a historical context.


JayB said...

Oh Stop please Mark....we all know this team still sucks....no need to rub it in like that!

The Adventurers said...

So based on the comparison to Moyer do we sign Lannan to a 23 year contract?

SilverSpring8 said...

How about comparables on Wily Mo Pena and Daniel Cabrera? Sorry, couldn't resist.

Positively Half St. said...


OK, I'll do that. Wily Mo Pena's skills as a pitcher were equivalent to Daniel Cabrera's.

Anonymous said...

This is telling and amusing. My take aways are:

- Dunn will get more money than the Nats are willing to throw at him.

- Zim is a mediocre 3B when taking offense into the picture, probably not a real #3 hitter more of a #5 hitter

- Pudge is one of the greatest catchers of all time and we are lucky to have him

- Willingham = Werth WOW, well we better sign him to an extension now or we will not be able to afford him when he becomes a free agent

- Nyjer...the fact that I had to look up everyone besides Tike Redman, he needs to be DFA'd now!

- Livo is a steady guy

- Marquis with the exception of his period pitching through an injury early this season, is also a steady guy

- Lannan = Tony Armas Jr, see my Nyjer comment! Mlbtraderumors has him as a non-tender candidate and I pray that Rizzo does that he is not a major league caliber pitcher, just a Nats caliber pitcher.

Jim Bowden said...

Something's wrong with the way this Similarity Score is calculated. When I put in Ian Desmond, Derek Jeter is supposed to pop out. But he's not on the list. Just this buch of stiffs. I've never heard of any of them!

1.Ben Petrick (948)
2.Cliff Pennington (941)
3.Orlando Miller (934)
4.Leo Norris (930)
5.Tom Wilson (930)
6.Alcides Escobar (922)
7.Roxey Roach (922)
8.Andy Cohen (921)
9.Dell Darling (920)
10.Mike Aviles (920)

Fix this, Mark!

Anonymous said...

But we are improving. And we have hope and reason to hope. And we aren't the Redskins and Wizards. That ain't bad. If we make modest, incremental progress each year, the Nats and Caps will be the toast of DC.

Anonymous said...

@ Jim Bowden

Hillarious love it!

Although if Desmond were as good as Escobar or Aviles I would accept him as a legit offensive shortstop unfortunately he has miles to go to get to that level!

K.D. said...

A couple of notes, I cannot ignore defense and Zim is one of the best along with Pudge who still rates among the top catchers at 38 years and holding. Also, can't wait to see Willingham healthy and back in the lineup with or without Adam.

NatinBeantown said...

To have Pudge be offensively equivelent to that group while also one of the best defensive catchers in history is absolutely astounding. One of the top 5 catchers in history? Top 3? Best ever? I sincerely hope he retires a Nat.

Paul said...

Anon 12:09
"- Zim is a mediocre 3B when taking offense into the picture, probably not a real #3 hitter more of a #5 hitter"

Yikes. The guy won the Silver Slugger (to clairify, that award is given to the person who is the best hitter at his position) each of last two years and he compares well to virtually every other 3 hole hitter in baseball. Over the last two years his OPS has been nearly .900! So he isn't Albert Pujols, but who is?

What else do we need to see from him for him to get away from this 'mediocre' tab?

Todd Boss said...

Anyone who thinks Zimmerman is a "mediocre" hitter needs to go study his baseball-reference.com page. Or look at this page:

Where you'll find that last year, in somewhat of an off year for Zimmerman, he was in the league top ten in every one of these major offensive categories; AVG, OBP, Slugging, OPS, OPS+, WPA and WAR. All while providing gold glove caliber defense. You want to tell me who else in the league can do that? its a short list. If Zimmerman played for a contender he'd be a perennial MVP candidate.

Dunn may end up accumulating numbers equivalent to a hall of famer, but to me he isn't. One all star appearance, zero top 20 MVP votes in his career. To me a Hall of Fame player transcends the game. Its not just about hitting 600 homers; its about leading your team to victory. At some point Dunn may consider this legacy and try to play for a winner so he does accumulate the accolades required of greatness.

(coincidentally, replace "Adam Dunn" with "Bert Blyleven" in the previous paragraph and the argument still holds. Career mediocre pitcher who gets so much revisionist history HoF support that he'll easily be the worst player inducted if/when he gets the call).

Anonymous said...

I personally think that Bert Blyleven is a HoFer, real or imagined. He'll get his due and soon I hope. JTinSC

Anonymous said...

Can someone point me to the last winning team Ryan Zimmerman was a part of? Sure doesn't look it's ever happened while he's been in the majors.

If you're going to knock Dunn, you have to knock Zimm for not being a 'winner' either.

Todd Boss said...

Zimmerman is the Nationals property, and will be for 6 years beyond his debut, at which point he may ask himself the same question that i posed; If he goes to play for Boston or NY and put up similiar numbers, he goes from being a very good player to an NVP candidate. Don't believe me? Go look at Mark Teixeira's numbers in the 3 seasons preceding his NY signing. He had better numbers across the board in 07 and 08. Suddenly in 2009 he's 2nd in mvp, gets a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger and is named to the all star team. Yeah; its not a coincidence.

The difference between Zimmerman and Dunn is that Dunn took FA money to come to a known last place team. Perhaps he didn't have a single other offer and he did what he had to do. But (for sake of argument) imagine if he gets a 5-year offer to play in Baltimore, where the short porch in RF almost guarantees him 600 homers for his career. What would that tell you about the player and his aspirations to greatness? If he re-signs w/ Washington at least he's trying to "build something."

N. Cognito said...

Anybody who knocks an athlete for being on bad teams loses all credibility in their postings.

Another_Sam said...

The mention of Camilo Pascual is a nice touch. I liked reading once again the names of Pascual, Lemon, and Killebrew. Three of the biggest names to ever take the field in this town, and three of the most prominent in my childhood memories. Thank you, Mark. I'm ready for spring.

JayB said...

Uggla is gone to ATL.....lots of moves by Fish...I think Nats are going to do the sloppy seconds approach yet again....whatever is left in Feb and March......Perez types yet again.

NatBiscuit said...

Good Grief. Ugla is a one year rental. The Nats would have had to give up Espinosa to get him. Good non trade!!!

JayB said...

I agree that that is a bad trade....My point is the the Fish and other teams are going hard to effect there plan.....Nats plan for the winter is going nowhere at all....why because that is the plan...as it has been for each prior year.....sit back and wait for whatever is cheap and left over in March. Am I wrong this year....I hope so.....am I wrong about the past...no

Anonymous8 said...

The only way you make a trade like that is to get an extension built-in before you do it like the Phillies did with Halladay.

Most rentals never work out except the Cliff Lee deal(s).

Wonder how that Oswalt deal will look after next season if Happ has a big year in Houston!

Anonymous8 said...

Speaking of 2nd basemen, Espinosa hit for a cycle!


TeamH14 said...

Sign Adam Dunn. He's still our best option offensively and will improve some defensively.

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