Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Consistency is a Virtue

Pujols is Mr. Consistent
It seems that there are plenty of baseball players that get the job done year in and year out, guys that can be counted on to dominate certain aspects of the game. However, the number of players that are truly able to dominate even one area of the sport are few and far between. Taking the 5x5 statistical categories central to fantasy baseball (batting average, runs, RBI, home runs, stolen bases, wins, ERA, WHIP, strikeouts, and saves), we are able to look at the past three years and see just how rare it is. The standard was finishing in the top-five in the league (AL or NL) for that category ... and doing it each year from 2002-2004. Only 14 players (9 hitters, 5 pitchers) have accomplished the feat. Only four did it in multiple categories. And only two have the chance to do it again. Your "Mr. Consistent" Award winners: Pedro Martinez and Albert Pujols.

To read more, click on the "Consistency is a Virtue" link on the right side of the page.


Adam Hoff said...

Hard to believe isn't it? Only two players in all of baseball have the chance to make it four years in a row ranking in the top of their respective leagues in multiple statistical categories. But before I go into all the boring stats, remember how hard it is to accomplish this feat. First of all, you have to stay healthy. Randy Johnson is not one of the five pitchers due to his injury-plagued 2003 season. Vlad Guerrero missed a large chunk of that season as well, and poof, he's gone. The King of Consistency, Barry Bonds, is sure to see his run end this year. He has ranked in the top five in the NL in home runs, batting average, and runs for the past threes seasons (and more, actually), but all it took was a bum knee to bring that to a crashing halt. Not only that, but you can't suffer even the slightest dip in any stat. A-Rod makes the list for runs, but he finished just out of the money for home runs last year. Miguel Tejada has led the AL in RBI twice in the last three seasons, but he drove in "only" 108 in 2003 to finish 10th. It's not as easy as it sounds.

One other observation is that the more specialized the stat, the easier it was to make repeat showings in the top five. No pitcher shows up for either wins or ERA - two of the three most encompassing stats for measuring pitchers - while all five cover strikeouts or saves. Only two pitchers - Pedro and Schilling - made the list for WHIP each of the last three seasons. On the offensive side, four of the nine players made the list purely on the strength of stolen bases. Every player tries to hit for average and score and drive in runs, but only a small percentage try to steal a lot of bases. So it is not surprising to see that.

Here is a deeper look at the Consistency All-Stars.

Pedro Martinez - WHIP (1st, 1st, and 4th, chronologically) and Strikeouts (1, 2, 2)
Curt Schilling - WHIP (1, 2, 2) and Strikeouts (2, 5, 3)
Roger Clemens - Strikeouts (2, 5, 5)
John Smoltz - Saves (1, 2, 4)
Eric Gagne - Saves (2, 1, 3)

Clemens looks like a lock to do it again in K's, but other than that, only Pedro is a sure thing. Schilling's run probably ends due to the ankle (and the bad stats he's already posted). Smoltz is a starter now, so he won't be ranking in the top five in saves. Gagne could certainly do it, but he's 9 saves out of 5th place because of his time on the DL ... and that doesn't even include Lidge in the top five.

All of which makes our MCP (Most Consistent Pitcher), Pedro Martinez, that much more impressive. My man is well on his way to landing in the top five in both WHIP and K's yet again. In fact, that is an understatement. He's already rolled up 104 K's to lead the NL by a whopping 22 strikeouts and his .67 WHIP is on pace to shatter his own Major League Record of .73 (set in 2000). At this pace, he will go 20-3 with a 2.45 ERA and 290 K's in 240 innings, which - combined with the unreal WHIP - would be one of the 10 best seasons in modern baseball history. So much for Pedro being washed up, huh? (It is also worth mentioning that Pedro's career WHIP of 1.03 coming into this season is the best among all active pitchers and is THIRD best all time. Let that sink in for a minute.)

Barry Bonds - Average (1, 3, 1), HR (2, 2, 4), and Runs (3, 5, 2)
Albert Pujols - RBI (2, 4, 3) and Runs (3, 5, 2)
Jim Thome - HR (2, 1, 5)
Todd Helton - Average (4, 2, 2)
Alex Rodriguez - Runs (2, 1, 5)
Ichiro Suzuki - Stolen Bases (4, 5, 2)
Carlos Beltran - Stolen Bases (2, 3, 4*)
Juan Pierre - Stolen Bases (2, 1, 2)
Dave Roberts - Stolen Bases (3, 3, 5)

*Beltran was fourth in the majors in SB last year, splitting his season between the two leagues.

Looking at the hitters, it looks like Bonds, Helton (hitting like .250), Thome (three home runs), and Beltran (no longer running) are all about to see the trend come to an end. Pierre, Roberts, and Ichiro all have a shot to get into the top five in steals, but only Ichiro is currently "in the money" (5th in the AL). A-Rod looks certain to get his runs and make it a fourth straight year.

But only Pujols has a chance to be a repeat winner for the fourth year in a row. The ONLY player in all of baseball to finish in the top five in RBI each of the past three seasons, he's fifth in the NL with 45 (eight off the league lead). He's also fourth in runs with 42. It's looking good for Pujols.

Obviously, these lists are hard on guys that got injured and they don't take into account the most recent stars like Johan Santana or Carl Crawford or Miguel Cabrera - guys that hadn't even started their careers in 2002 - but it does serve to make an important point. That being consistently dominant, even in one area of the game, is much, much harder than it seems. And it also serves to point out how good those players are that are able to accomplish it. In particular, Pedro and Pujols.

P said...

Wow, you are a nerd. How long did it take you to look up all those stats?

(Actually, it was pretty interesting ... but still ...)

Anonymous said...

Pujols as one of the greatest offensive players of all time? That's a pretty big statement. He's good, but I don't know if he's that good.

Adam Hoff said...

I don't think it is a stretch at all. He's clearly had the best "first four season" start to a career of any player post-1947. For me, that started the true modern era of baseball. However, Pujols' numbers even stack up against what many would consider to be the best start to a career, ever. Ted Williams had his .406 season in his third year and started off at the highest of levels. You could argue that Pujols has matched him.

Let's look at the numbers.

Williams' average season over his first four years looked like this: .356 average, 1.120 OPS, 32 HR, 129 RBI, 135 runs, 39 doubles, 79 extra base hits, and 338 total bases.

Pujols goes: .333/1.037 with 40 HR, 126 RBI, 125 runs, 45 doubles, 89 extra base hits, and 369 total bases.

Teddy Ballgame has him on average and runs and he really has a cushion in OPS, thanks to his huge walk totals. However, Pujols has more home runs, more doubles, more extra base hits, and more total bases. RBI are nearly even.

They both started at age 21, so the comparison couldn't be more perfect. But Williams then missed three seasons in the prime of his career and most of two seasons during the back half for service in the armed forces. It's not a stretch to think that Pujols will top all of the Splinter's power numbers in his career. Using Williams' trends as a proxy, giving Pujols his prime years (minus one, in case of one serious injury), and ending his career conservatively at age 39 (but starting his statistical slide at age 37), we can project Pujols' stats to look something like this:

.326 average, 1.034 OPS (6th all time), 685 home runs (4th), 2,105 RBI (3rd), 2,020 runs (8th), and 725 doubles (3rd).

Seriously. And I was being pretty conservative in my projections by frontloading his career totals (allowing for the first four years to make up a fairly significant percentage of the overall stats) and assuming that those added prime years will be no better than his first seasons. In reality, he will probably spike between ages 26 and 30 and finish stronger than I'm allowing. As long as he avoids a Griffey-like collapse due to injury, he will chase nearly every major career offensive record in the book. Believe it.

If you need more proof, consider these facts:

- His first year after "getting paid" was last year. He had his best season yet. So he's not going to slow down just because he's rich.

- He's finally settling in at one position, which is sure to help him even more.

- He's had more walks than K's each season.

- Not only that, but his walks have gone up each season and his K's have gone down (93-69-65-52).

All of those things add up to one incredible player who is only going to get better. Get the bust ready for Cooperstown.

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