Baseball Beat/WTNYApril 07, 2006
Pre-Season All-OOPs Team
By Rich Lederer & Bryan Smith

Last December, we introduced a formula for identifying overrated offensive players (or OOPs). It is simple and straightforward:

1. Batting Average > League Norm
2. On Base Percentage and Slugging 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?


The Marlins have been heisting the Cubs' arms for years now. In their rotation they have...

Dontrelle Willis
Sergio Mitre

Joe Borowoski is their closer, and Ricky Nolasco and Todd Wellemeyer are in the bullpen.

They've also got Renyel Pinto in the minor leagues. Between those four pitchers--not including Dontrelle or Borowski--I'd say that two and maybe three are going to turn out pretty well.

The Cubs also lost Jon Leicester (to the Rangers) and Jermaine van Buren (to the Red Sox).

Sorry to be offtopic,

are you aware your RSS feed may be being "syndicated" here (you're listed as a "contributor")

I've posted some info in a comment on the offwingopinion blog here:

What about Ichiro? Projected .749 OPS from a corner OF, slightly worse that a projected Jeremy Reed.

What about Ichiro?

Ichiro is a very good candidate. He is all but guaranteed to have a higher batting average than the league norm. His OBP and SLG will probably be a function of just how high his AVG is. If he hits under .300, then, yes, I would expect him to qualify.

Was Joe Randa ever rated in the first place? 3B is tough but if Glaus gets hurt and Hillenbrand slides to play 3B, he would qualify for me. Right now, Hillenbrand would be my overrated DH.

DH: bernie williams?

Ichiro is a P.R. joke on the gullible public, what with his corner OF low-home run rate and low-walk rate. = Tony Gwynn redux, another overrated slap hitter.

A stat which complements your OOPs unmasking of enfeebled hitters is Basic Average which is determined by subtracting BA from SLG and multiplying the result by OBP; then hit the square root key, which gives us the geometric mean. A .300/.400.500 hitter gets a .283 Basic Average, so from this we know that anything close to a .300 Basic Average is All-Star terrain for a corner postion player, with the .240-.250 range being outstanding for a middle infielder/catcher.

Most major leaguers coming under Basic Average scrutiny hover around .200, and many are under that line. David Bell, anybody?

I scan the internets for derisive Tony Gwynn comments to protect his good name, as he will always be "Batting Champ in Exile" to me.

Prospectus has picked on Gwynn before, especially in comparison to Ichiro, and it's just Bananas. Gwynn has a career OPS of 132, led the N.L. in Win Shares in '87, and is ranked by Bill James as the 7th greatest rightfielder of all-time. That he was routinely called the greatest pure-hitter since Ted Williams by Sports Illustrated among others (thereby earning some 'overrated' status) is not his fault.

Top 5 in RC five times (in a pitcher's park), top ten in OPS+ 7 times, top 10 in OBA 10 times and SLG twice to go with the N.L. record 8 batting titles. People can go too far in attacking batting average. If somebody hits .320 in the middle of a .280 career (Pierre) and provides nothing else, it's overrated. But if someone hits over .350 year after year after year it's an extremely valuable skill.

DH: Carl Everett. Well, I suppose there would have to be some perception that he was good to warrent OOPs. Bernie Williams just might be the winner here.

You will never find me putting Tony Gwynn down. He was an outstanding hitter. His AVG was so much higher than the league norm that his OBP and SLG were well above, too. Tony was pretty much a one-dimensional hitter (as evidenced by his high AVG and low IsoD and IsoP) but an expert at putting his bat on the ball and getting singles and a reasonable number of doubles and even an occasional home run.

Agreed. When you hit .330, it's not really as big of a deal when they're mostly singles. Ichiro on the OOPs list? Preposterous! His BA this year may end up being higher than the league's OBP.

Ichiro's OPS+ last season was 109. Sure, it's possible that his BA could go up from last season's .303. But he'll have to be very lucky to have anywhere close to 2004's, .372.

Not to criticize a for-fun stat, but shouldn't this be positional adjusted? Grudzielanek may be the active OOPs leader, but since he plays second, he's still an average to above-average player -- well worth whatever "rating" he may get.

Now Darin Erstad or Sean Casey, whose place on the OOPs team comes from positions that feature much more offense -- those players are truely overrated.

Not to criticize a for-fun stat, but shouldn't this be positional adjusted?

Yes, ideally, the criterion for being an all-OOPs player or making the all-OOPs team would be adjusted position-by-position. But I'm pretty sure OOPs would lose its "fun" (as you mentioned) if we were to get overly technical.

The Marlins have been "heisting" arms from the Cubs for years? Give me a break. That seems rather. Dontrelle Willis years ago and suddenly the Marlins have made a cottage industry out of it? Please.

It also seems like a pretty blatant attempt to make something big out of something ordinary. Joe Borowski? Didn't the Marlins pick him off the scrap heap from the Devil Rays? Blame the Devil Rays, not the Cubs while you're at it. I never thought I'd see the day someone would crow about Joe Borowski as a heist. Jermaine Van Buren and Jon Leicester are now names anyone has to be concerned about? Yeah, that Jon Leicester loss really hurts. Wow.

You act like you got 3 top prospects. None of those guys is an "A" prospect. Mitre will be solid, Nolasco will be good but not ace material, and Pinto's walks will likely send him permanently to the pen. Wooooo. What a heist.

The Marlins got the better of the deal, but I don't see it as anything out of the ordinary. I'd still rather see that deal done than trading Carlos Lee for Scott Podsednik or Gio Gonzalez, Daniel Haigwood, and Aaron Rowand for Thome. It doesn't matter what Thome does; he should've been nearly as easy to acquire as Mike Lowell. I can't believe it took so much. Dave Bush, Gabe Gross, and Zack Jackson for a 1st baseman not hugely better than Sean Casey crosses my mind as overpaying as well.

If you want to look at poor Cubs' moves, signing Jacque Jones strikes me as more irresponsible. Given the Cubs' need for a leadoff hitter and they didn't have to give up any "A" prospects (like the Mets did for the lackluster defensive, .710 OPS Paul Lo Duca) the trade is a fine one for the Marlins, but no heist.