Monday, July 25, 2011

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Inside the Numbers – Angels Sabermetric Leaders
By Andre Castillo - AngelsWin.com Columnist

This past off-season, the Angels were pilloried for their acquisition of Vernon Wells. From 2011-14, Wells was owed $81 million salary (including $5 million kicked in by Toronto), for about $20 million per year. To make matters worse in the eyes of many critics, the Angels passed on Carl Crawford to get him.  Crawford as we know signed with the Red Sox for 7 years, $124 million, or just under $18 million/year.

Wells is certainly cheaper in terms of total salary, the thinking went, but you’re getting him at age 32, the beginning of his decline years. Crawford was just 29, and likely to age better – so he would be worth the extra money.

Let’s see for ourselves how they’ve panned out so far in 2011 and see if we can get an early sense of who was the better pick-up (stats as of 1:30 p.m. Monday).

You may be surprised.

First, batting average:

Player Comparison
Batting Average
Carl Crawford
.254
Vernon Wells
.218

Crawford has the decisive edge, but both players have fallen off a cliff in terms of batting average. Wells is far down from his career .284, as is Crawford, who is a lifetime .294 hitter.

But who cares about average! What about their walks and on-base percentage?

Player Comparison
OBP
Carl Crawford
.288
Vernon Wells
.250

Despite another putrid showing by Crawford, Wells still falls short and is now 0-2. But that’s not really fair to Wells, who has jacked 16 bombs while Crawford has hit only 6. So let’s look at their slugging percentage:

Player Comparison
SLG
Carl Crawford
.390
Vernon Wells
.414

So while Wells bests Crawford here, it’s not as much as you’d expect.

But what happens when we roll them all together into Fangraphs’ weighted on-base percentage, wOBA? Keep in mind that wOBA average, OBP, and SLG, as well as stolen bases and caught-stealing in its calculation (10/5 for Crawford, 4/2 for Wells).

Player Comparison
wOBA
Carl Crawford
.298
Vernon Wells
.289

First of all, you get two awful results for such premium salaries. Wells ranks just behind Corey Patterson of the Blue Jays. Crawford, meanwhile, is on-par with the hitting of the Marlins’ John Buck.

But also, it shows that Crawford, as bad as he has been, has been better than Wells.

Or has he? What about fielding and base-running? Those things matter too, right?

Player Comparison
Fld
Bsr
Carl Crawford
0.4
0.1
Vernon Wells
3.1
0.8

Now this is a surprise. There’s certainly room for debate as to whether these fielding and base running numbers (based on Fangraphs’ Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) and Ultimate Base Running (UBR)) are accurate in such small samples, but it’s still interesting nonetheless.

It looks like, at least on the surface, Crawford’s defensive value has not translated to the short left field of Fenway Park. (I’ve heard of other examples the Rays’ home field artificially boosting the UZR of their outfielders, whether through smart managing or some other park effect as well, but I’m not aware of any systematic study at this point).

It also appears that Wells is at least a competent defensive left fielder, as opposed to a dreadful center fielder. He also somehows outperformed Crawford’s legendary base-running this year.

Now when you add it all together – hitting, fielding, and base-running – what does this look like in terms of WAR?

Player Comparison
WAR
Carl Crawford
0.3
Vernon Wells
0.6

Surprised?

I was.
Love to hear what you think!

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