Pre-Season All-OOPs Team
Last December, we introduced a formula for identifying overrated offensive players (or OOPs). It is simple and straightforward:
1. Batting Average > League Norm
As noted when we rolled out the idea of OOPs, "the players who meet the above criterion are singles hitters who only walk on occasion and rarely slug home runs." Such players have batting averages that are "hollow" with little else to support their value. By definition, the qualifying hitters have low Isolated Discipline (IsoD) and Isolated Power (IsoP). IsoD equals OBP minus AVG, and IsoP equals SLG minus AVG. These isolated stats tell you what's not a part of batting average.
In order to make the all-OOPs team last year, a player had to hit higher than .264 with an OBP less than .330 and a SLG below .419 with a minimum of 400 plate appearances. We won't know what the league averages will be this year until October but that didn't stop us from picking our pre-season all-OOPs team.
A little drumroll, please...
C: Paul Lo Duca 1B: Nomar Garciaparra 2B: Mark Grudzielanek SS: Jose Reyes 3B: Joe Randa OF: Willy Taveras OF: Juan Pierre OF: Darin Erstad
C: Paul Lo Duca, New York Mets
Did you know that Lo Duca is going to play for the San Diego Padres next? How do we know that? Well, LoDuca has been following in the footsteps of Mike Piazza his entire career. Both players were drafted and signed by the Dodgers and later traded to the Marlins and then the Mets. Piazza joined the Padres as a free agent in the off-season. Given that Lo Duca has succeeded Piazza at every stop along the way, it only makes sense that he will wind up in San Diego.
There is one major difference that separates these two catchers. Whereas Piazza is inarguably the greatest-hitting catcher of all time, Lo Duca is the most overrated offensively to don the tools of ignorance among active players. Paul hit .320 with 25 HR in his first full season but has been stuck at or around .280 and 10 homers ever since. He turns 34 next week and is unlikely to improve on these numbers this year.
Honorable Mention: Johnny Estrada, Arizona Diamondbacks
1B: Nomar Garciaparra, Los Angeles Dodgers
Perhaps a surprise pick at first base, we believe Garciaparra is no longer anywhere close to the hitter he was the first six years of his career. The Dodgers' decision to move Nomar to first surprised every DePodesta-ite out there, as all had been praying Hee Seop Choi would finally get his chance. Instead, Los Angeles opted to stake first base production in a 32-year-old former star with a vicious history of injury problems. To boot, Nomar has spent his entire career in stadiums like Fenway Park and Wrigley Field, both of which are far cries from the spacious confines of Chavez Ravine. In 2005, Garciaparra's .169 Isolated Power matched a career low (previously set in 2004), and his .037 Isolated Discipline was his lowest since 1997. The writing is on the wall for this signing to look bad for all involved, as a healthy season could yield .290/.330/.440 production. Whither Choi?
Honorable Mention: Sean Casey, Pittsburgh Pirates
2B: Mark Grudzielanek, Kansas City Royals
How could we possibly refrain from the Most Overrated Offensive Active Player? Mark has had a long, successful career in the Major Leagues simply on his ability to bat .287. However, in more than 5,500 career at-bats, Grudzi's career OPS lies closer to .700 than .750. Despite being a late bloomer and having his best years ever these past three seasons, we're convinced the 1996 version (.306/.340/.397) is coming back. And really, what better environment to do so than Kansas City, the organization that placed a lot of unnecessary hope in his veteran leadership. We would all like to see Grudzielanek, one of the game's better guys, go out on a high note. But no matter how you slice it, an OOP is always an OOP.
Honorable Mention: Aaron Miles, St. Louis Cardinals
SS: Jose Reyes, New York Mets
Reyes was a second team all-OOPs member last year. His ability to beat out infield hits adds batting average points but the lack of walks and extra-base power hurts him in the other two rate stats. Jose is an excellent base runner so his weakness offensively is simply how he performs at the plate. He led the majors in outs in 2005 and, as a leadoff hitter, is a prime candidate to become the first player to repeat this trick since Chad Curtis in 1994 and 1995. If Reyes ever learns to take a walk, he could go from overrated to a true star as fast as it takes him to get down the line.
Honorable Mention: Omar Vizquel, San Francisco Giants
3B: Joe Randa, Pittsburgh Pirates
Last year's Great American Ballpark-caused power outbreak notwithstanding, Joe Randa has a long history of OOPs-like behavior. From 1996 to 2004, Randa's batting average slipped below .280 on just two occassions. However, Randa eclipsed a slugging of .450 only three times and has not had an OBP of .350 since 1999. The NL Central was good to Randa last year, but with another year of age and a new, tougher ballpark, don't expect anything close to the line he put up in Cincinnati. Randa has been told he's a useful stopgap his whole career, and it seems as if he will finish his career with that notoriety. A good player some years, a bad player other years, we think he will simply be overrated this year.
Honorable Mention: Brandon Inge, Detroit Tigers
OF: Willy Taveras, Houston Astros
Taveras is a pretty easy choice here. By virtue of having the highest batting average among those players who failed to match the league average in OBP and SLG, Willy was our OOPs Player of the Year last year. Taveras has next to no power as evidenced by his .050 IsoP in 2005. It's hard to bunt for a double. His IsoD (.034) was just as poor. It's difficult to walk when you don't take pitches (3.53/PA). He has no business batting second, despite manager Phil Garner's insistence that Taveras is a good bet to sacrifice leadoff hitter Craig Biggio to second. The math doesn't really compute in terms of run expectancy but, hey, who are we to question a skipper who is 2-for-2 in taking the Astros to the postseason?
OF: Juan Pierre, Chicago Cubs
A general rule around Analysts' parts: never, ever give up three good arms for a player with a long history of overrated behavior at the plate. The Cubs were hellbent on signing Rafael Furcal this winter, and when the Dodgers surprisingly inked him, the Cubs acted quickly and irrationally. Last year was his worst season as a Major Leaguer, making the Cubs trade look like even more of a panic move. Pierre's baserunning has helped shadow the fact that he is not a very good hitter, despite a fantastic ability to beat out a lot of groundballs. And no, he's not really a player that will make up for defensive inefficiencies in the field, as Pierre no longer can boast of great defense. Too many Cub fans will likely be wowed of Pierre's ability to bunt for a single or steal a base, but we just hope Pierre doesn't prevent the Cubs' front office from using Felix Pie when he's ready.
OF: Darin Erstad, Los Angeles Angels
Erstad was our all-OOPs first baseman last year. Heck, he could probably make our squad at any position. Once upon a time, the man affectionately known as Ersty was a very good offensive player. Hard to believe now but the former Nebraska Cornhusker hit .355 with 240 hits (including 70 XBH) and 100 RBI from the #1 hole in 2000. His OBP and SLG exceeded .400 and .500, respectively. He won't sniff .300/.350/.400 this year and, as such, is a lock to ensure that the all-OOPs team is once again represented by a hustling, scrappy, aggressive, all-out (so to speak) player who just so happens to wear eye black and favor the unshaven look.
Honorable Mention: Joey Gathright, Tampa Bay Devil Rays
That's about it, folks. OOPs, I guess we left out a DH. Any suggestions?