Designated Hitter June 03, 2006

When we last parted, fair reader, I was blabbing away with the contention that college pitching statistics could be effectively separated from the effects of defense, parks, and strength of competition. But at least I made it up to you by offering up a Top 25 List. And nothing whips us baseball fans into a lather quite like a list. So today's installment promises more of the same. Only this time, we turn our attention to college hitters.

In analyzing this year's draft-eligible college hitters, we'll begin with the same "scouting" filter applied to the pitchers. This time, the list of hitters was further refined using the metrics explained below.

And, again, this is not a list based on any type of prediction as to how these players will perform at higher levels.

NAME/SCHOOL/POSITION - Pretty much as you'd think.

OPS - A traditional measure of a player's all-around offensive performance.

POWER - Chicks dig the long ball. Here a player's power will be expressed in two ways:

• LWP - Linear Weights Power.
Here's a quick, feeble explanation of linear weights, because we'll talk about them again later on. The role of the hitter is to produce runs. That's their end of the bargain. It is possible to quantify the value of each offensive event, (walk, single, double, etc...), based on how it contributes (or hampers) run scoring. Using these values, you can judge a hitter's overall offensive value by taking the value of each offensive event and multiplying it by the rate at which he gets them. Is that clear as mud? Sorry. Anyways, linear weights power measures only those events (doubles, triples, home runs) that are a reflection of a hitter's power.
• ISO - A player's Isolated Power, which is of course, slugging percentage minus batting average.

SPEED - Speed is a Tool that doesn't seem to translate well into traditional offensive statistics. Here, we'll use a player's Speed Score, a metric pioneered by Bill James. When determining a player's Speed Score, we'll look at a function of his stolen bases, stolen base attempts, triples, and the percentage of times scored once on base.

DISCIPLINE - Earlier this year, on another popular baseball website, a leading sabermetrician with connections to a major league team offered the following (paraphrased) opinion: "one key to a good draft is selecting players with excellent plate discipline at the expense of hitters with gaudy, yet possibly illusory, power numbers." This is incredibly valuable insight. For us baseball geeks, it's as if Warren Buffett dropped into a Yahoo Finance chat room and said "Hello. If you're looking to invest in the stock market right now, I recommend everyone invest disproportionately in manufactured housing sector stocks with P/E ratios under 12.5 and R&D budgets that represent between 5-8% of their previous year's revenues. Have a nice day." So, we're going to take a look at a hitter's plate discipline, using these metrics:

• BB%
• BB/K

wOBA - This is where it gets good. OPS is a fine statistic. It's quick (OBP+SLG), and everyone can quickly digest the fact that 1.000 = great. But it's not exactly what we want. Because all OPS really gives you, essentially, is the ability to pick up a player's wallet and see how fat it is. Bigger is better, that's for sure. But if you really want to be able to get a clear picture of how much a player is worth, you need to be able to open up the wallet and see exactly how many, and of what denomination, bills he has inside. And that's where Andy Dolphin, Mitchel Lichtman, and Tom Tango come in. In their recent book (which you should buy), they introduce what they call wOBA. Here's what it is: wOBA is a linear-weights (remember these?) based formula scaled to map with OBP. So, .300 = bad, .400 = good, .500 = great. It's basically a batter's run value per plate appearance, scaled in a way that makes it more user-friendly (when you read wOBA, think OBP).

AwOBA - Hitters are ranked by this metric. It is wOBA, adjusted for park and strength of schedule. Building again on the work of Boyd Nation, using his Division I park factors, I have taken each hitter's wOBA and first adjusted for the parks in which they played. Next, I took the now park-adjusted wOBA and isolated that from the strength of a player's schedule, averaging the ISR -- another Boyd stat -- of the opponent's of each player.

Now then. Let's take a look at the Top 25 offensive seasons registered by this year's draft-eligible college hitters, as sorted by AwOBA.

RANK Name Team POS OPS LWP ISO Speed BB% BB/K wOBA AwOBA
1 Evan Longoria Long Beach State 3B 1.103 20.83 0.250 4.326 17.54 1.43 0.470 0.541
2 Josh Morris Georgia 1B 1.069 28.59 0.351 5.773 8.26 0.38 0.444 0.517
3 Cyle Hankerd Southern California LF 1.045 20.49 0.211 4.400 9.54 0.64 0.449 0.497
4 Jim Negrych Pittsburgh 2B 1.169 22.20 0.258 3.314 18.02 0.95 0.499 0.497
5 Jordan Newton Western Kentucky C 1.206 30.39 0.361 7.549 20.28 1.08 0.492 0.484
6 Drew Stubbs Texas CF 1.047 22.99 0.231 8.351 15.29 0.75 0.448 0.482
7 Michael Campbell South Carolina CF 0.965 15.66 0.134 5.826 10.68 1.92 0.423 0.481
8 Alex Presley Mississippi CF 0.975 21.60 0.176 8.429 12.86 0.89 0.420 0.480
9 Mark Hamilton Tulane 1B 1.105 24.02 0.312 2.922 18.22 1.22 0.466 0.478
10 Aaron Bates N.C. State 1B 1.053 21.36 0.218 5.175 16.60 1.64 0.458 0.475
11 Chris Coghlan Mississippi 3B 0.920 17.38 0.118 8.594 12.70 1.88 0.410 0.468
12 Josh Rodriguez Rice SS 1.012 23.24 0.221 6.773 15.35 1.23 0.433 0.465
13 Jon Jay Miami CF 0.962 13.94 0.138 7.563 15.42 1.43 0.432 0.464
14 Wes Hodges Georgia Tech 3B 1.036 24.60 0.264 0.000 12.67 0.67 0.439 0.455
15 Brett Pill Cal State Fullerton 1B 0.964 20.32 0.179 5.212 14.47 1.00 0.423 0.453
16 Andy D'Alessio Clemson 1B 1.052 27.32 0.353 4.387 8.52 0.41 0.434 0.450
17 John Shelby Kentucky 2B 1.030 28.84 0.346 5.636 13.36 0.71 0.429 0.449
18 Carson Kainer Texas LF 0.965 23.21 0.170 5.405 8.04 0.56 0.416 0.447
19 Jon Still N.C. State C 0.996 15.85 0.174 3.925 16.04 1.42 0.431 0.446
20 Matt Antonelli Wake Forest 3B 1.031 24.15 0.249 7.571 15.14 1.58 0.441 0.444
21 Jimmy Van Ostrand Cal Poly 1B 0.994 21.23 0.260 4.206 13.79 1.00 0.430 0.444
22 Blake Davis Cal State Fullerton SS 0.941 14.33 0.119 7.572 9.05 0.95 0.414 0.443
23 Chad Tracy Pepperdine C 0.902 21.08 0.166 6.789 7.85 0.86 0.391 0.436
24 Matt LaPorta Florida 1B 0.948 17.41 0.278 0.000 15.05 0.82 0.411 0.432
25 Chris Valaika UC Santa Barbara SS 0.911 17.67 0.186 4.914 4.78 0.22 0.390 0.432

THANKS: Once again, these articles, and the research that underlies them, simply would not have been possible were it not for a few extremely smart people I have had the pleasure of getting to know in a non-creepy internet way over the past few months. First, Tom Tango offered insight, wisdom, and advice every step of the way. He is a brilliant guy, and the fan in me can only hope that he is on Theo Epstein's speed dial. Craig Burley's previous work in this area helped inspire me to undertake this effort in the first place, and his thoughts along the way even helped it all make sense. And finally, of course, I can't even begin to thank Boyd Nation for all of his time and help. Remember, when it comes to college baseball, it's Boyd's World, and we're just living in it.

Kent, again, thanks. Your work is extremely well-done and very thought-provoking. State of the art. My conclusions...

- I think one problem with this list is that the "scouting filter" does not work as well with the hitters. The filter in this instance still finds the more one/two-tooled players on Baseball America's list and brings them to the top. You have a lot of very unathletic players on this list, and even quite a bit of seniors. The scouting filter managed to eliminate a lot of guys from discussion, but this list still tries to up the stock of some players that are only moderately valuable.

- And still, Evan Longoria is at the top. Yesterday we saw reason to believe Andrew Miller was indeed the top pitcher available. Today, we see the same for Longoria. That's good news.

- What is that? You have reservations about Drew Stubbs bat? Ha! This list bodes very well for the Stubbs as a hitter argument - though his BB/K is definitely not good enough. Mix Stubbs big year with his plus defense, and I really believe he's a better fit in Colorado than Longoria.

- Mix this list with Rich's analysis of Cyle Hankerd, done on this site before, and I think you have a sleeper. He's not perfect, but he's a worthy choice in the 3rd/4th round.

I'm not sure we saw conclusive evidence Miller was the best. I fear you take whatever evidence is available and no matter what it says, interpret it as such.

I still think you're being too generous with Stubbs. I'm just curious, how long have you been following "prospects" because you don't seem to have the trepidation about 5 tool studs with shady strike zone judgement, which is what brings down nearly all of them. Golden Spikes winner Mike Kelly. Chad Hermansen. Corey Patterson until recently (and who knows if that will last). Felix Pie. Alex Escobar. You seem hung up on the defense and speed, but I don't think Hiram Bocachicas are quite the asset you're making them out to be. Many people don't like his swing, he does have too many strikeouts, people talk about his rawness like he's a high school player. If he hits like minor leaguer Ryan Harvey though no one is going to be wowed by his other tools.

I'm not saying he can't be any good, but just that he's of course high risk/high reward and you've displayed puzzling enthusiasm for him in the past.

Lastly I wonder about the practical applications of this information. Is anybody reading this any likely to draft Jim Negrych substantially higher based on this?

APing:

But if any major league Scouting Director drafts Jim Negrych (or any other player) substantially higher based solely on an article they read on the internet, less than a week before the draft, they should be fired on the spot.

Isn't that setting the bar of "practical applications" just a wee bit high?

- Kent

APiNG, we knew before Kent's study that Andrew Miller was good ... one of the three or four best arms in college baseball. We thought he was the best. In Kent's study, he turned out the best of those 3 and 4 college arms. If he has the best stuff, and a well-researched metric shows he had the best 2006, than it seems pretty clear-cut to me.

Go check out the walk ratios of the players you mentioned. Or how about reports of how raw their defense is. I know that Stubbs is different from these players because the reports are different. He's a big league CFer right now. He has legit power that he's already shown at the college level. He has a significant amount of patience that will ease his OBP in times of bad-contactness. I like Drew Stubbs because if he fails, and can't truly hit for average, you have a patient, power fourth outfielder with Gold Glove defense off the bench.

APing:

Looking again at my initial reply, I feel bad if the tone came off as more harsh than it was meant. I'll have to write it off to the fact that it was early, I was mildly hungover, my wife was out getting a facial, and my 15-month old daughter was beating on my head with a Tickle Me Elmo doll while I was trying to type.

- Kent

I dunno. I think Andrew Miller has gotten really overrated. I look at him and see Nate Robertson circa 2004, or Mark Mulder. Actually Andrew Miller seeing him pitch in person reminds me of Doug Davis. I don\'t see a #1 starter, I don\'t see an ace, or Randy Johnson. I will go so far as to say that Andrew Miller is closer to John Halama than he is Randy Johnson. That does not mean I think he is anywhere near as bad as John Halama. But I think there\'s a 40% chance that he becomes John Halama as opposed to a 5% chance he becomes Randy Johnson. I\'ve seen him pitch and I cannot reconcile the guy I\'ve seen pitch with the guy people are hyping up. I do not see amazing velocity or particularly fabulous movement. People say \"his pitches have boring movement\" but what is that? Mark Redman has \"boring movement\" too. Come on.

Archive this - Brad Lincoln will be a better pitcher than Andrew Miller, whether it be starter, closer, or what have you.

Evan Longoria : LaMarcus Aldridge
Drew Stubbs : Tyrus Thomas
Matt Antonelli : Brandon Roy
Andrew Miller : Andrea Bargnani

Jim Negrych : Gerry McNamara?

Ive seen comparisons between college baseball and football talents, but never a basketball comparison. This seems especially interesting this year as both drafts lack top-tier talent.

JGArson, I have seen Miller pitch too, and your comments seem to be hyperbole to me. If you have seen Miller, than the first thing you notice is a tall, lanky frame that has room for 25 pounds of muscle. In his regional start yesterday, his third fastball hit 95 mph ... don't you think he'll be doing that a little more consistently with a lot more muscle?

Another thing that people who see him love is the slider. And it is one awesome, awesome pitch. College left-handed hitters have not had a chance this year, because Miller puts so many away with the slider. His two-seam fastball provokes quite a bit of ground balls, and gives up very few home runs (or even hard hit balls, as Peter Gammons mentioned), so I struggle to see any Halama or Redman comparison.

Andrew Miller threw approx. 2 pitches below 80 mph in his regional start. And suddenly he's being compared to Halama or Redman? No, sorry. He's not Randy Johnson, no one is, but watching him, Chuck Finley is not much of a stretch.

Sanchez, thanks for your comment. As you know, from my NFL draft comparison, these things amuse me.

I really like your comps, but I have to disagree with the Antonelli one. Antonelli is a good college player, productive, and a tweener at the next level. How about Antonelli and J.J. Redick?

Another that I thought was Daniel Bard and Rudy Gay. Both sensational talents, both had questions surrounding the productivity of their college careers.

Try as I might, I can't come up with good comps for Adam Morrison, Marcus Williams or Sheldon Williams.

The Red Sox drafted both Aaron Bates and John Still and Matt Laporta who are 10, 19 and 24 on the board. In your opinion does the represent one of the better drafts from a college batter persepective, and how do you think these three will do at the next level?

J.West: