Fun with Comps
If you didn’t already know, I’m a baseball nerd who loves statistics. I wouldn’t quite go as far as to say that I’m a stat nerd because I’d have a hard time labeling myself that considering the fact that I have no idea how many of the modern statistics are calculated. That’s a weekend project for another time. The reason I tell you that I’m a baseball nerd is because I’m about to show you that I take it to a whole new level of nerddom. One of my favorite things to do when I’m really bored is get on Baseball Reference and take a look at similarity scores and comparable players. It’s really interesting to me that I’m about to get from someone like Mike Cameron to Roy Sievers in just three clicks. It’s sort of like the baseball version of the Kevin Bacon game but without an actual goal of getting to a certain player.
So, with that in mind, I wanted to look at some of the comparable players for the Royals offense and see how they fared in their respective seasons and/or ages compared to the Royals player who is most comparable to them. I’ve done this before on my own, but it’s a bit more difficult with this cast and crew the Royals will run out there because there are four projected starters who simply don’t have enough playing time for Baseball Reference to have worked on a similarity score for them. Those¬†four are, of course, Salvador Perez, Johnny Giavotella, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain. I’ve got some comp ideas of my own that I’ll fill in when the time comes. I guess that’ll get a debate started in itself because I think a few of you might not agree with at least a couple of them. Anyway, this is just a fun little exercise to pass some time in December when very little news is being made. To the comps!
Salvador Perez - My first player and he has no comps listed, so I had to decide between the two guys I hear most associated with him, Sandy Alomar, Jr. and Yadier Molina. Truth be told, I flipped a coin and it landed on heads, which I realized I hadn’t assigned, so I just decided to list them both. Molina had a similar cup of coffee with the Cardinals at the same age as Perez, so this is a pretty apt comparison, and in Molina’s second season, he hit .252/.295/.358, which I think Perez could best all three categories. Or he could fall back to earth and that could be about right. Perez has a bit more power than Molina at this stage, but neither is exactly adept at drawing a walk. Sandy Alomar, Jr. didn’t have the same rise to the big leagues as Perez and Molina, so I’m going to give you his rookie year stats which was the only year he played more than 100 games in his first eight partial years in the big leagues. He hit .290/.326/.418 that season, and I think we’d all take that. My guess is Perez is closer to Alomar in 2012.
Eric Hosmer - I thought Hosmer wouldn’t have a comp listed, but he did and he had a good one, Eddie Murray. I think Murray is one of the more underrated players in the last 30 years in spite of the fact that he’s in the Hall of Fame. He was a rookie at 21 just like Hosmer and actually had a pretty similar season to Hosmer. In his second year, he hit .285/.356/.480 which I think is a pretty decent estimate of where Hosmer might end up this upcoming season. I think all three slash stats may be a little higher, but you have to remember that Murray’s season resulted in an OPS+ of 140 because offense was even more down then than it is now. I think if Hosmer does what Murray did in his second season, we’ll all be pretty excited.
Johnny Giavotella – Here’s player number two with no comp, so I decided to use the guy I’ve thought of since the Royals drafted Gio, Chuck Knoblauch. Knoblauch was in the big leagues before Giavotella, so I’ll give you both his second season and his third season. In his second season, Knoblauch hit .297/.384/.358 and in his third year, he hit .277/.354/.346. I think we can expect a higher slugging percentage than both and maybe the .297 average with the .354 on base percentage. You all know I’m a huge fan of Giavotella, so I can’t be counted on to be impartial here.
Mike Moustakas – The good news is that we’re almost out of players who have no comps, but for Moustakas I looked at Robin Ventura and saw a lot of similarities. Their path to the big leagues was very different as I don’t believe Ventura even stopped in the minors, but they made it at around the same age. In his second year in the majors, Ventura hit .284/.367/.442. I think if you take some points off his OBP and add some points to his slugging, that might be a pretty accurate representation of what we’ll get out of Moose in 2012. If we do, this offense is going to be good.
Alcides Escobar - And here’s the first comp that isn’t exactly glowing. The top comp for Escobar is none other than Royce Clayton, star of Moneyball. Oh fine, he wasn’t the star, but he was in it. In Clayton’s third full season, he “hit” .236/.295/.327 as a 24 year old. I think Escobar will beat that soundly, but it’s really hard to predict that he will given his batting line from his first two years. I know he’s better defensively than Clayton, so that’s a good thing, but hopefully his offense progresses more than Royce’s did.
Alex Gordon - I don’t put a ton of validity in Alex Gordon’s number one comp here because of his career path, but I have to stick with the plan and we’ll take a look at Ryan Church. In his sixth season, Church hit .273/.338/.384 after a breakout year. The difference is that Church had concussion issues that probably caused his dropoff. The second comp is Jody Gerut, so it doesn’t get much better. We’ll just have to hope that Gordon does better than most of his comps and has a better set next season for us to work with.
Lorenzo Cain - Our last non-comp player, I’ve looked many times and get a little dizzy in comparing Cain to Austin Jackson. I’m going to look at both of Austin Jackson’s seasons. In his rookie year, Jackson hit .293/.345/.400, which I think we’d all take from Lorenzo Cain. Last season, Jackson hit .249/.317/.374 which would not be as good. My guess is Cain is somewhere in the middle and puts up something like a .265/.330/.385 line which is pretty decent, especially if he can provide solid defense like we expect. The other player often compared to Cain is Mike Cameron, who in his first full season hit .259/.356/.433. We’d definitely take that. I think Cameron had a better eye than Cain does and a little more power, but I think Cain will make a bit more contact.
Jeff Francoeur - Francoeur is like Gordon in that he’s pretty hard to project based on his career trajectory. His top comp is Ryan Lefebvre all-star Milton Bradley who in his eighth season hit .306/.402/.545. I’m going to go out on a limb and say Francoeur doesn’t match that. Instead, let’s look to his second comp of Marty Cordova¬†who hit .253/.325/.434 in his eighth season. I think Francoeur has a little better than that in him and I wouldn’t be surprised¬†if he actually did take the next step and end up with a .290/.345/.475¬†type season, but I don’t think he’s going to match¬†Board Game’s numbers.
Billy Butler - The object of many fan’s disdain for some odd reason, Billy Butler probably has the most clear cut comparables of anybody in the Royals lineup. He’s also the most established, consistent player, so that makes sense. His top comp is actually Reggie Jefferson, but that’s based purely on slash stats. Jefferson didn’t play many games, so I’m going to go with the most similar player to Butler through his age and give you John Olerud’s stats. In Olerud’s sixth season, he was 26 and hit .291/.398/.404. I think Butler is in for a bit of a better season than that actually. I see a .300+ year from him with an OBP over .375 and a slugging percentage close to .500. Butler’s second most comparable player through age 25 is Kent Hrbek. I’d take that, too, for sure over the course of a career.
So that’s the offense and what their most comparable players did in their respective seasons. If they’re any guide, the Royals offense will be pretty good in 2012, but we already knew that. I’d like to do this with the pitchers, but I honestly haven’t even looked yet and it might enduce vomiting, so we’ll see if that’s the next step in this series.
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