As Zac alerted you to last week, we have a fun project taking place within the virtual office that is FanSided right now. Each division is busy assembling the best roster they can in order to compete against the other divisions.
As a part of selecting the players, we’ve hit a bit of a snag in coming to a consensus on one of our outfield spots. Up for debate is whether Minnesota’s Delmon Young or Detroit’s Magglio Ordonez should be included on the roster. Initially I chose Ordonez, but many of my colleagues have selected Young. Wally Fish of Puckett’s Pond has been busying himself by trying to convince me that I’m wrong on this one. Since I was going to do a little digging to see which player I should ultimately cast my vote in favor of, I thought I’d turn it into a post. When we’re done here, hopefully I’ll have come to a profound conclusion. If you wind up disagreeing with me, by all means state your case in the comments.
The parameters of this discussion will be essentially which player would you rather have for one season (2011). I’ll take into account the health of each player, the career track record, the age, and of course any and all performance factors.
Defensively, neither player is going to threaten to win any hardware. Ordonez did show much better range in right last year before the ankle injury than he had in 2009, a product no doubt of increased conditioning after a terrible 2009 campaign. We also want to keep in mind that we aren’t defining a player by OF position here, obviously Ordonez is a right fielder and Young plays left, but for the purposes of this discussion, we are going to deal with them simply as corner outfielders.
I understand the frailties of using UZR (or any defensive metric) for a single season, but last year Ordonez accumulated 1.4 in UZR before his injury, or 2.8 UZR/150. He had been significantly below average in each of the previous two seasons and given his advancing age, I think it’s safe to assume that Magglio is not going to be rated as above average in 2011. Even average would probably be an aggressive projection.
Young, meanwhile, has been downright bad as a left fielder. He was a negative 9.7 UZR last year (-11.0 UZR/150) and that was only a slight improvement from his career numbers. As mediocre as Ordonez is with the glove, Young is a butcher in the field. Young does have youth on his side, but he would have to make a giant improvement in order to be even acceptable as an outfielder. Slight edge to Ordonez here.
In terms of WAR, Young had a nice year that was valued at 2.1. Ordonez totaled 2.5 in his half season. Fielding numbers play a factor here, however, and I’m not sold on Magglio being an above average defender. Factor is his age, which should cause a regression, and Young having not yet reached hi prime, and I’d think those numbers are a touch closer than where they would be had Magglio played a full season. But Young did play a full year and his numbers are concrete, so unless Ordonez would have fallen apart in the second half, Ordonez still would have had more WAR. Again, advantage Ordonez.
Offensively, this is where it gets interesting. Without looking at the numbers (yet), I view Ordonez and Young as very similar types of hitters right now, before Young progresses into what many think he’ll become, and after Ordonez has regressed from a 30 homer guy into more a gap hitter.
Ordonez makes a lot of contact as has bested his career line drive rates in each of the last three seasons, coming in at 21.6% in 2010. Young is more a fly ball hitter, which will cause a lower batting average, but should result in more home runs. neither player is particularly prone to strikeouts, but Ordonez has displayed a more selective eye at the plate, walking more than twice as often (percentage-wise) last year than young and striking out at a lower rate as well. In the past three seasons, Ordonez has produced an OBP of .376, .376, and .378 versus Young’s .336, .308, .338 numbers.
In fact, in you simply look at their wOBA, Magglio clearly was more productive last year than Young was (.375 to .352) and while he should be trending downward with age, that number was an improvement over his previous two seasons. In fairness, Young’s wOBA is also trending upward. Given the age factor again, it’s more reasonable to think that Young’s numbers will continue to trend upward than Ordonez’s.
Young hit .298 with a .826 OPS in 613 plate appearances. Ordonez hit .303 with a .852 OPS in only 365 plate appearances, thanks to the injury. Both players had similar BABIP of .312 and .313 and both those numbers were below the player’s career averages on balls in play. Young had 46 doubles, one triple, and 21 home runs in his 170 hits so 40 percent of his hits went for extra bases. Ordonez had 17 doubles, one triple, and 12 home runs in his 98 hits. 31 percent of his hits were for extra bases.
So after all these numbers, where are we?
Keeping in mind that we are trying to determine the better player for the 2011 season (and not the next four or five years), how much weight should I be including for the expected progression of Young and the expected decline of Ordonez? This is the part I’m struggling with. If Ordonez is 100 percent after his ankle injury, and by all accounts he should be, how much decline should we expect? I think it’s safe to assume that even with a decrease in range, Ordonez will still be a better defender, and his rate numbers last year were better by and large than the up and coming Young. But Young will be playing 2011 as a 25 year old while Ordonez will be in his age 37 season. This is the area where I struggle the most. How large an increase do we project for Young and how much decrease for Ordonez, because based on 2010, I’ll still take Ordonez in this battle.
Bill James is projecting Ordonez to get 550 PAs this season and Young to get 566, essentially a wash. James projects a .306/.374/.473/.847 line for Maggs with 30 doubles and 17 home runs. Young’s projected line is .306/.345/.482/.826 with 34 doubles and 19 home runs.
It’s interesting that James is projecting a big improvement in OBP for Young, but actually regressing his doubles and home runs for next year and projecting only a .001 increase in overall OPS from his 2010 season. The Marcel projections are much more conservative for both players, but still have Magglio projected for a better OPS in 2011.
Given that James is a much smarter baseball man than I, and that his projections, while possibly aggressive, have Magglio as the more productive hitter in 2011, I’m inclined to stand firm on my original vote for Magglio here. I have no idea if he’ll wind up on the all-division squad, but from tho looks of everything above, I’d think he should.