If I Managed The Twins For A Season…

…I would platoon Jason Kubel and Delmon Young at DH.

I don’t really see how you could argue against this, but for some reason Ron Gardenhire does. It might be the fact that Kubel has now become a power hitter and his batting average against lefties improved significantly in the middle of ’09, and that the Twins want to see Young justify their reasoning for making the Garza and Bartlett trade, but if the Twins wanted to maximize their productivity from these two hitters, they’d have to understand that each of them performs much better when having a platoon advantage (facing opposite-handed pitchers). Allow me to demonstrate.

Now while I was gathering data to back up my case, I found two interesting statistics that I’ve never heard/seen before. Both are related to OPS; the first is tOPS+ and the second is sOPS+.* Here’s what I gathered from the explanations of what these mean:

* My explanations and understandings of these statistics are probably completely wrong, but the only way for them to make sense is to start using them. The definitions of them are correct, it’s just my use of them that may not be. As Ms. Frizzle would say, “Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy!”

tOPS+ = The player’s split OPS relative to his season (or career) OPS. Anything above 100 is performing better than his overall OPS, anything below 100 is performing worse. Just from wandering Kubel’s splits page on Baseball Reference, his tOPS+ has varied between -100 (foul balls, where Kubel is understandably .000/.000/.000) and 332 (line drives, where he’s hit .743/.743/1.008). So it’s clear that in extreme circumstances, you can easily vary from your average. However, you must remember that these are extreme circumstances. Every player has a terrible tOPS+ on foul balls and an astronomically high tOPS+ on line drives. It is far more normal to be in the 50-150 range when talking about lefty/righty splits.

sOPS+ = The player’s split OPS for a season relative to the MLB average OPS for that split. This is also measured on a over/under 100 scale. Baseball Reference does not provide sOPS+ for a player’s career, which I don’t blame them. Do you want to keep track of every player’s OPS when a single player was in the lineup during his career? For someone like Jason Pridie (currently) you wouldn’t mind, but compare that to someone like Julio Franco.

In addition, I also decided to take a look at each player’s UZR ratings for the outfield to show that neither of them deserves to be playing defense.

Jason Kubel

0

From this table, it’s clear that Kubel is more successful against RHP than LHP. He did improve against lefties as the season went on, but look at that 45. That’s just awful. I could probably tell you that .243/.299/.345 was Alexi Casilla’s career numbers, and you’d likely believe me. (it’s actually .244/.301/.314). Comparing to his career tOPS+ shows that Kubel’s ’09 splits were a bit more extreme than what we’re used to, but that’s because ’09 was a career year for Kubel and he succeeded against RHP much more than he had for his career. I don’t know if he’s as good as what we saw last season, but he most likely could still do better than his current career numbers. Still, a difference of about .150 of slugging percentage isn’t good depending on what hand the pitcher throws with. As for sOPS+, Kubel was incredibly better in a platoon advantage for lefthanded hitters, and just a bit worse when in a platoon disadvantage compared to the MLB average.

Plus, Kubel is just an absolutely horrible defensive outfielder.0

UZR/150 is what Kubel’s UZR would be over 150 defensive games, or roughly one season. The reason why both numbers are larger than the UZR value is because Kubel hasn’t played 150 defensive games at either position yet in his career. I do understand that this is a small sample size and it’s a bit hypocritical to warn against trusting small sample sizes, then completely ignoring my own warning, but I think we can all agree that Kubel is a rather slow man and probably is not capable of posting an above average UZR. Now at the end of this past season, Kubel mentioned that he would like to continue playing in the outfield. I definitely understand that playing defense is more fun than sitting on the bench during defensive innings, but Kubel is more valuable to the team remaining as a DH.

Delmon Young

0

Just like Kubel, tOPS+ shows that Delmon is better when he has a platoon advantage than when he’s in a disadvantage. sOPS+ shows that he’s a little above average compared to the rest of MLB when facing a LHP but a little below average when facing a RHP.

0

“Bryz, Young’s UZR and UZR/150 in RF is a positive number, while the numbers for LF and CF are significantly negative! Why must this be???”

I have no clue, and I’m not sure anyone else does either. Young spent his first 2 major league seasons with Tampa Bay primarily as a RF with about 30 games in CF, but as a Twin he has only played LF. One theory is that the Metrodome lights behind 1st base messed with tracking the ball. Otherwise, I can’t really explain it other than maybe he wasn’t as good as UZR claimed he was in RF when with the Rays.

I think if the Twins didn’t have Michael Cuddyer roaming RF, Young probably would get more chances to play out there. But, this was proven wrong in September when Jason Kubel was allowed to replace Cuddyer in right while Young was stuck in left (perhaps because the coaching staff felt he was “more familiar” with left. His UZR says otherwise). Like Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, it was another case of letting the incumbent (Cuddyer) remain at his position while the newcomer (Young) was shifted to a different position (in A-Rod’s defense, he chose to switch to 3rd).

Now some of you may note that a tOPS+ of 88 for Delmon Young against RHP can’t be that bad (or even 94 for his career)* and that maybe he should continue to be in the lineup against righthanders. However, the reason I’ve typed this much so far is for one main reason: I’m trying to help optimize the Twins offense and, unless someone was placed in LF to replace Delmon Young that posted a worse UZR than he would (hard to imagine), also improve the outfield defense. Plus, unless additional moves are made, the Twins are projected to have a very weak bench. Platooning these two guys would put the other on the bench, thus strengthening it and making the team dangerous in the late innings in case one of them was used as a pinch-hitter against an opposite-handed pitcher.

* Edit: However, with that 94 tOPS+ is an OPS just above .700. That’s NOT good. At least against lefties, his OPS is approaching .800.

In a perfect world, the Twins would platoon Young and Kubel at DH and find a capable left fielder to fill the new hole created by removing Young from the field. But this is not a perfect world, the Twins are more focused on filling the holes at 2B, 3B, backup OF, and/or SP, and this suggestion will probably never happen. It’s just something for us to ponder as Bill Smith (and Gardy, since he probably does have a little say) works toward building another successful team for the opening of Target Field.

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5 Responses to “If I Managed The Twins For A Season…”

  1. Josh Says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. It is maddening that the Twins don’t utilize advanced statistics more frequently (or at least that we know of). You could hire a dork like you or me for peanuts and we’d be delighted to do the work!

    • Bryz Says:

      lol I know! Well, probably not me, I’m still learning most of these stats :-P Unfortunately for the Twins, they’ve been winning while sticking with old fashioned scouting, so I don’t think they’ll make any changes unless either Bill Smith or someone else has a revelation or the Twins stop winning, which leads to forcing them to consider alternative methods of judging talent. Plus, although the Red Sox have Bill James, I’m sure some teams also think of how much money they’re able to spend, thus minimizing the effects from James’ influence.

  2. Bryz Says:

    Wow that smiley looks more angry than stick-out-tonguey. Maybe I should lay off of them.

  3. Old School vs. New School « Off The Mark Says:

    […] are useful, or because I myself do not know what they are when I first find them (in the case of sOPS+ and tOPS+) and I feel that if I don’t understand why we can use these statistics, then I certainly […]

  4. Obligatory Jim Thome Post « Off The Mark Says:

    […] But if Bill Smith gets his way, then we’re back to seeing Delmon hit against RHP, of which I’ve already mentioned how I feel, with Thome coming off the bench. Most, if not all relief pitchers would be displeased knowing that […]

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