Sunday, September 21, 2008

Was Devon White A Good Leadoff Man As A Blue Jay?

Last Sunday one of the announcers on the TBS game said that Devon White became a good leadoff hitter when he came to the Blue Jays (I think it was Buck Martinez). Let's see if he was a good leadoff man during his Toronto years, 1991-5.

His SLG and OBP were .432 & .327 while the league average was .406 & .335. So his OBP was below the league average, probably not a good sign for a leadoff man. White did steal 31.11 bases per 162 games with 5.68 CS. The league averages were 13.58 & 6.67. (data from the Lee Sinins Complete Baseball Encyclopedia). So he was a better base stealer than the league average, but got on base less often. Since OBP is probably the most important stat for leadoff men, this is not a good sign.

The average leadoff man during those years in the AL had an SLG & OBP of .391 & .350 with 33.92 SB & 12.78 CS per 162 games. White has a slight edge in stealing due to his better success rate and a higher SLG but a big deficit in OBP. And SLG is not the key to being a good leadoff man.

I explained a fairly complex way of evaluating leadoff men a few months ago. You can read about it at Who are good leadoff men. The basic idea is that hit%, walk%, extra-base-hit%, SB per game and CS per game each has a run value based on which lineup slot you are talking about. As you might guess, walk% and SB% are very important for leadoff men, but less so for cleanup hitters where extra-base-hit% is more important. I had found these run values a few years ago using regression analysis.

Anyway, White's marginal run value as a leadoff man was 1.290 while for the average leadoff man it was 1.292. So he was below average. Not by alot, but that is not good.

Finally, I had come up with a simple statistical rating for leadoff men earlier this summerWho Are The Good Leadoff Men?. Here is the gist of it:

It seems obvious: Hitters who are fast and get on base alot. You also probably don't want someone who hits alot of HRs, since you want those guys to bat with runners on. So I tried to devise a stat that would capture this. Here it is:

(2B + 1.25*3B - HR + SB)/outs

In other words, how many times a player gets into scoring position per out. Since triples are worth about 25% more than 2B's according to run expectancy tables, I multiply them by 1.25. By dividing by outs, the ability to get on base is taken into account since if you make an out you don't reach base. Also, outs include caught stealing. By subtracting HRs I am saying that guys that hit alot of HRs, even though they may have other good leadoff traits, are "penalized" here, since they might be better suited to batting lower in the order.

Anyway, White ranked 11th among all AL players 1991-5 with 2000+ PAs. Considering that there are 14 teams and each one has a leadoff man, 11th is not that great a rank.

2 comments:

Experiment 626 said...

Isn't that another way of saying that 1991 was a career year for Devon?
The first year he was an all star, 1989, he had career highs with 44 SBs, and 13 triples. But wasn't 1991 his only year that he was above average in OBP?

I think that any mention of Devon White being good has to say something about his fielding (or speed), I don't see it in his hitting.

Cyril Morong said...

I think you're right. It could be that he just hit his prime and of course got better, although he was 28.

He was above the league average in OBP in 1991 & 1993. In the NL, he was only above the league average in 2003, his last year (the league average with pitchers taken out).

His career offensive winning percentage was just .491 and he had only 6 years above .500.

Thanks for reading my blog and commenting.