It seems that a lot more people are taking in interest in the Sox lately. First, just as I was about to do a lengthy post on the Sox offense since the break, Aaron Gleeman inaugurates his new website on that very topic. Of course his analysis was much more in depth and better written than anything I was going put together, but still, I don’t care how painful it becomes for him to write about his Twins, writing about how great the Sox are is my job!
At least Ben Jacobs at Universal Blog has the decency to criticize a White Sox player and give me something to write about. Jacobs actually calls Carlos Lee’s season a disappointment after his sabermetric friendly numbers from last year. Lee actually has about the same OPS this year, but it’s made up of a lower OBP and higher Slugging %. Now, OBP is considered the more important of the two numbers by many, so by this standard he is having a worse year.
Now I would like to make a couple of points here. First, I do sympathize with this line of reasoning as I too have been waiting for Lee to have a breakthrough season. However, the 2002 season was the year I stopped expecting one. Sure his numbers were good last year, but I was hoping for an Ordonez type year. So after last year, I figured Lee would continue to put up numbers close to what he did in his first 4 seasons, and this year he has. And if you look at his numbers they are pretty impressive, 292/336/505, 28 HR, 32 2B, 100 RBI. I would hesitate to call those disappointing unless your name is Rodriguez or Bonds. He has also gone from from one stolen base last year to 17 this year and has continued to improve in the field. Overall, I would have to say Lee is a better player this year than last.
Now one possible reason why his walks may have dropped, which accounts for his overall dropoff in numbers, is that he has batted second in over a third of his games this year. He’s probably seeing a lot more pitches to hit this year with a rejuvenated Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez batting behind him. This would account for his lower walk totals and increase in hits. This can not be proven in any way, but it makes logical sense to me.
Now I would like to make one final point about OBP and slugging. OBP counts a walk is the same as a single. But we know this is not the case. You can’t drive in a runner from second with a walk, advance a runner from first to third, or score a runner from third unless the bases are loaded. A single also brings the possibility of a defensive error into play. A batter that has a .400 OBP on 20 singles and 20 walks in 100 TPA, is a better offensive player that a batter with a .400 OBP on 40 walks in 100 TPA, but OPB wouldn’t reflect it. Only slugging % would reflect the difference. Now if Lee traded about 20 singles for 40 walks, he would have about the same numbers this year as he did last year. In essence, for every point his OPB went up his slugging % would go down the same. Now this may in fact be a good trade-off, but exactly how good? One point of OBP can't be worth that much more than one point slugging. How about 30 singles for 40 walks? OBP would be lower but OPS higher. Is that a good trade-off?