Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A New Series to Announce

For those of you who've been disappointed at my recent lack of updates, I have some exciting news. I'm finally ready to release the results of my research project where I've attempted to find the best player at each position for each season. No, I haven't abandoned Profiling the World Series Winners, I've just set it aside temporarily.

It all started at the end of last season, when the debate over Albert Pujols vs. Ryan Howard for MVP raged. Those in the "traditional" community favored Howard, as he led the league in homers and RBI, and his great September gave the appearance that he led his team to the postseason. The "stathead" community, on the other hand, favored Pujols. Pujols, as most of us know, had much, much better rate stats, was a vastly superior defender, and provided more overall value despite the fact that his team missed the Playoffs. I thought it'd be fun to find a first baseman who offered comparable value to Howard in order to demonstrate that he wasn't all that. Originally I just ranked all the first basemen in baseball by OPS+, but I eventually realized defense had to be taken into account. I found a stat that showed Pujols was far ahead of the pack there on Beyond the Box Score, but I never got around to posting my findings over at my old blog (probably because the debate had run its course by the time I was finished compiling my stats). Still, it's telling that Joey Votto provided more value than Howard in 2008.

After that I thought it'd be fun to see what results I got at other positions, which then progressed to me looking up other years. Eventually I discovered Sean Smith's Wins Above Replacement and Fangraphs' Value Dollars, which made determining a player's overall value much easier. I only have them from 1954 to 2008, since that's as far back as Sean Smith's data goes. I use Value Dollars for seasons after 2002 except for catchers, since WAR gives a more complete picture. Since the entire project began as a way of emphasizing rate over counting stats, I decided to rank the players by value stat per game.

To qualify for consideration at his position, I used the criterion that infielders must have played 58.7% of their team's innings at the position, and catchers and outfielders must have played at least 50.9%. I know those numbers seem fairly random (there were rhyme and reason to them at the time I set them), but they were better than the minimum number of innings I originally set. I basically wanted to avoid letting platoon players come out on top and to find guys who did more than get off to a hot start (I may have ended up with a few of those anyway, but nobody's perfect). If it's clear that a player's value is skewed by a significant amount of time at another position, I attempted to account for that as well. If the per-game values were close enough that rounding off could've made a difference, I called it a tie.

Check back soon to see the results. You might find them interesting.

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