Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Delmon vs. Revere

Does Revere's Defense Make Up For Delmon's Offense?

Last week in a thought exercise, I wondered if who we could expect more out of this year – Delmon Young or Ben Revere. One offensive, one defensive. One defensively laughable, one offensively infuriating. So let’s look, sabrmetrically, at what each should be worth offensively and defensively next year.


I like using a very basic sabremetric stat to measure offensive production for players: Bill James’ Runs Created (or RC). Basically James discovered that by looking at the number of walks, hits, doubles, triples, homeruns and at-bat a team had, he could give a pretty good estimate of how many runs they scored that year. Then he used that same formula for players.

(If you’re looking for more on Runs Created, I did a short story on it back in April you might want to check out. That theory is that basis for a huge chunk of the sabremetric work out there. It also started the alphabet statistical soup that people like to mock. If you want to be able to explain the basics of this stuff to people, it’s a good start.)

Runs Created has been through all kinds of formulas and there are all kinds of pet derivations for it. I’m going to just pull mine from for both players.

Delmon Young created 51 runs last year, 89 the year before and 76 &45 in his first two years with the Twins. My gawd, was he really here four years? I guess time flies when you’re flailing at first pitches. He’s probably good for somewhere between 50 and 90 runs, so I’ll go with 70 as a nice round figure.

Revere played in 117 games with 481 plate appearances and created 46 runs. It’s not safe to assume he’ll be playing full time this year, but just so we can compare apples to apples, let’s assume he gets another 90 AB. That would give him about 55 runs of offense, about 15 less than Delmon.

The most widely used defensive metric, Ultimate Zone Rating (or UZR) also uses runs as its measuring stick, though this time it is runs in comparison to the average defender. We’ll take that number and add it to (or subtract it from) our offensive runs. We’ll get those numbers from

Young has been bad defensively, but did you know that according to UZR he has really improved over the last two years? Last year he only cost the Twins three runs compared to the average left fielder, seven runs better than 2010 and 11 runs better than the year before that. My guess is that Young costs between 0 and -15 runs, and so I’ll got with -5. Overall that leaves him with 65 runs.

Revere is also a little hard to measure. His UZR in left field was also negative, but he only played there for a few games, so it’s hard to count on UZR. However, in center field he saved 10 runs, and that translates to 15 runs if he had played there full time. Generally, you would see that number go up in left field, just because the average left fielder is worse defensively than the average center fielder. So 15 runs seems safe, and it could be as high as 20. Let’s stay with 15.

And the cry goes up: But WHAT ABOUT HIS ARM? Well UZR takes an outfielder's arm into account. So for now, let's go with it.

Parenthentically, it should be a fascinating year for Twins fans as they watch a thought experiment play itself out in reality. Enormous range. No arm. Which is more important to an outfielder? I think it’s going to be “range” in a landslide, but I wonder if I’ll feel the same way after this year.

That gives Revere 70 runs and Delmon 65. I wouldn’t take it as definitive proof that Revere is going to be more valuable than Young, but they’re a lot more comparable than I would have thought.

Picture this: it’s June and you just heard about a Twins AA reliever who was named player of the week. You wonder: could he be the help the Twins bullpen needs? But you know almost nothing about him other than last week’s stats. Is he really a prospect, or some AAAA veteran who is dominating younger competition?

Fortunately, you thought ahead and bought Seth’s Twins Prospect Handbook which lists 160 guys in alphabetical order. So you look him up and get the full scoop. Wouldn’t that add a little enjoyment to your baseball season?

So, start thinking ahead and looking under those couch cushions for loose change. It’ll be out soon, and we’ll have all the details.

Have you checked out the Gleeman and the Geek podcast yet? This week Aaron and I spent the first 20 minutes dissecting the Twins dip in payroll, including why the explanations either don’t work or make us all the madder. Then we go through our listener’s questions about all things Twins. It’s like a warm blanket on this cold offseason day. Curl up and enjoy.


Anonymous said...

This was a real nice write-up. I have been wanting an analysis such as this. Can you also comment on the 'average' left fielder. I would guess both Delmon and Reverre would be towards the bottom third of all MLB left fielders since generally most are better hitters than Delmon as well as better fielders than Delmon, but not as good as Reverre.

Anonymous said...

Great write-up. It also shows Delmon value ranges from 90 to 35.While, Revere would be closer to 50-80. Delmon has more upside and downside (more likely).

Jim H said...

Geek, I enjoy reading your posts and actually wish you would post more often. Unforunately, this is the type of "sabr analysis" that drives me nuts. First, you tell us that Delmon has produced runs created numbers between 45 and 90 over his 4 years with the Twins. Then you assign him a number of 70 for 2012, without telling us why he is any more likely to produce that number than any other randomly assigned number between, say 40 and 105.

Then after admitting you have no idea how much Revere will play in left field, you assign him a number of 55.

Then you use UZR to assign defensive numbers because lots of other people use it and it is easy to use. Again the numbers appear to be random because, well Delmon is getting better according to UZR and well Revere's LF number doesn't mean anything and he should have a better number in left field than he did in center.

Interestingly, I kind of agree with your conclusion but not because it really matters what Delmon does in 2012. Revere, if he is healthy, gets near full time use in left field, and shows any improvement at all, will be at least as valuable as Young was, 3 of the last 4 years.

Comparing Revere to what Young might do in 2012 doesn't matter. Young will be in a different park with a different supporting cast. If Revere is largely better than Young has been the last 4 years, the Twins will be better off.