Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Runs Created for AL Catchers

Earlier, I looked at how Tiger players ranked in runs created (RC) and runs created per game (RC/G) among the 133 players in the American League with 295 or more plate appearances (PA). Now, I break it down by position starting with the catchers.



Rank

Player

Team

RC/G

RC

OPS

1

Martinez

CLE

6.8

95

.853

2

Mauer

MIN

6.4

81

.783

3

Varitek

BOS

6.2

78

.856

4

Lopez

BAL

5.7

60

.780

5

Posada

NYA

5.5

71

.782

6

Molina

LAA

5.2

56

.782

7

Zaun

TOR

5.2

63

.729

8

Kendall

OAK

4.9

79

.666

9

Barajas

TEX

4.7

53

.771

10

Hall

TB

4.4

50

.683

11

Pierzynski

CHA

4.2

53

.728

12

Buck

KC

3.8

43

.676

13

Rodriguez

DET

3.5

47

.735


The top run producers in the league were Victor Martinez, Joe Mauer and Jason Varitek.
Of the 13 qualifying catchers, Ivan Rodriguez was last. This is probably a surprise to those who are accustomed to OPS (On base percentage plus slugging percentage). If I had used OPS instead of RC/G, Rodriguez would have ranked 8th.


Why the discrepancy? Both OPS and RC/G are a function of getting on base and advancing runners and players with high OPS typically also have high RC/G. However, walks are not weighted in OPS as much as they should be. In calculation of OPS, walks are included in the on base part of the formula but not the base advancement part of the formula. In the RC/G calculation, walks are included in both parts of the formula. They are not counted as much as singles because singles can be better than walks but they are counted and they should be.


So, Rodriguez is not getting penalized enough for his extreme lack of walks in the OPS formula. But why would John Buck who had about the same OBP and significantly lower slugging percentage have more RC/G than Rodriguez? It’s because RC/G includes a lot of the “little” things which are not accounted for by OPS. Buck had 3 more sac flies than Rodriguez, grounded into 10 fewer double plays and had a better batting average with runners in scoring position (.250 versus .213). When you aren’t hitting much (as those two weren’t), those little things become important and have more influence on the RC/G stat.


So which one is better? I like runs created better because it weights walks more correctly and it includes more game factors. Some might argue that hitting with men in scoring position is not a real skill and is largely a function of luck. However, luck or not, it does help the team score runs and there is value to including it in a stat which measures overall past production. RC/G is a good stat but it’s not perfect. It’s a reasonably good summary stat but summary stats do not measure specific skills and can mask important characteristics of players.


For example, Rodriguez had a really difficult time getting on base this year and frankly didn’t do a lot of things to help the Tigers score runs. He really needs to improve his OBP significantly, stop hitting into DP so much and hit better with men on base (I think that it was just bad luck but he still didn’t do it). However, he was 6th in slugging so he did do ok in the base advancement part of the formula. Hopefully, he keeps that up next year while improving other parts of his offensive game.


Later in the week, I’ll look at some other positions.


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