January 29, 2007

Looking at Leadoff

Is Duffy the best option on the Pirates for lead off and center field? By looking at the numbers, he may not be the best option for neither lead off nor center field.

How important is defense? An honest answer to an honest question was answered at Honest Wagner. According to Rowdy, in a week a center fielder with a considerably better zone rating got to one more ball a week than the lesser zone rating.

Defensive numbers are very subjective, and I do not put much weight into the numbers. For the sake of argument, I will submit these numbers as nothing more than a starting point for what is really an offensive discussion.

Based on the 2006 season alone, Nate McLouth is very comparable to Chris Duffy in the few usable defensive statistics. The numbers below are based on 2006 center field defensive stats.

2006

G

TC

FPC

RF

McLouth

42

86

988

222

Duffy

77

173

983

228

This is not the meat of my argument. I only show these numbers to illustrate the fact McLouth is not as inferior as many believe he is to Duffy defensively in center.

Offensively is where my best case can be made. We all know how potent Duffy has been in the last months of the last 2 seasons. He has shown how much of a catalyst he can be when productive. For Duffy to be productive, he must get on base any way possible. His speed should be a major asset, if he only used it.

Duffy’s speed has not translated into stolen bases. His career minor league high for stolen bases was in 2003 at AA. How many bases did he swipe? 34.

Now, let’s take a look at Nate McLouth. His minor league high in stolen bases was 40. He has been able to translate his speed into stolen bases more efficiently. What do I mean? His success rate is much higher than Duffy’s.

Majors

G

SB

CS

McLouth

147

12

1

Duffy

123

28

3

Minor league stolen base stats confirm Mclouth is better stealing bases. Not that he is faster, just a better base runner.

Minors

G

SB

CS

McLouth

570

146

31

Duffy

550

146

44


In the minors, Mclouth was able to steal the same number of bases as Duffy, but was caught 13 fewer times.

In the majors, McLouth has appeared in more games, but mostly as a pinch hitter or defensive replacement.
His at bats have come scattered through the lineup often times coming off the bench. Duffy has more at bats in fewer games.

Majors

AB

AVG

OBP

IsoD

McLouth

379

240

296

56

Duffy

440

280

336

56

While Duffy has a clear advantage in batting average this can be attributed to the ways McLouth has received his at bats, their isolated discipline numbers are identical. The major league numbers tell a story, a story of Duffy having more of an opportunity as a starter in the majors.

In the minors, both Duffy and McLouth have had similar number of games and at bat totals. Taking a look at the numbers, I found some interesting stats.

Minors

AB

AVG

OBP

IsoD

McLouth

2096

292

367

75

Duffy

2121

301

372

71

Their isolated discipline numbers are still very similar. Their batting average and on base percentages are remarkably similar.

The real story comes in how they got on base. By looking at IsoD only, one would assume they have similar walk rates. Surprisingly, that would be a bad assumption.

Minors

BB

HBP

McLouth

226

37

Duffy

169

78

Duffy relied on getting beaned to get on base. McLouth clearly has a better eye for the strike zone. Taking a pitch translates better to the majors than taking one off the shoulder. Pitchers have better control in the majors.

Majors

BB

HBP

McLouth

21

10

Duffy

26

12

Based on the minor league numbers, McLouth can translate to a better option in the leadoff position. McLouth clearly has the ability to work the count and have a respectable OBP without having to wear body armor.

His ability to steal bases is a huge asset, considering he runs his team out of fewer inning than Duffy has shown to. It is just as important, if not more so, to not get caught as it is to steal a base. Killing an inning is more of a detriment to the team than stealing one is a boost.

Overall, if give a chance, McLouth could be a better lead off hitter than Duffy and as good as if not better base stealer. Defense is where Duffy is better, although it can not be seen via 2006 stats.

If a deal is presented that lands a significant piece to the Pirates puzzle requires Duffy to be moved, McLouth is still a usable option. Either player is nothing more than a place holder until McCutchen arrives. IF he arrives.

Neither player should be counted on as a key cog in the teams future, but they both are nice assets as 4th outfielders. McLouth is a little more valuable there due to his better power numbers.

Interesting Notes:

  • McLouth’s only caught stealing in the Majors was a pickoff on May 13, 2006, by Scott Olson of Fla.
  • In May 2006, after Duffy's demotion, McLouth had the chance to take the CF job and leadoff spot. During the month he batted 262, OBP of 362 with 5 sb's and 1 cs. He was rewarded by splitting time with Bautista.
  • May 2006, was the only month McLouth started more that 60% of his games played in a month.
  • In a similar number of AB's in the minors, McLouth struck out 69 fewer times than Duffy did. Duffy had 25 fewer at bats.
This post is dedicated to JR.

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