Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Big "What If?"

WARNING: I may be re-posting this later on in the off-season, depending on where the Yankees stand come mid-January or early February. But since I labored over these numbers for quite some time, I think I’m going for it right now, in hopes that it gathers a little bit of attention.

Center field, center field, center field, lame John Forgerty joke, center field, center field, center field. That’s all I’ve been reading lately. And with all the names tumbling about the rumor mill, the New York media has been able to stick with this story every day. And I’m no slacker in that department myself; I think I’ve mention Brian Giles’s name about 3,262 times in the past three weeks.

Here’s a quick list of what fascinates me followed by a slightly longer list of what doesn’t fascinate me.

Fascinates Me: following the trade, minor league, and free agent markets and figuring out how to build a ball club with them.

Doesn’t Fascinate Me: people making assertions with no support, oft-injured power pitchers with a pitcher-friendly home park and terrible home/road splits, and people making assertions with no support.

I’ve examined what is available, and have concluded that Brian Giles is the best candidate to fill open position in the Yankees outfield. This should come as a surprise to no one.

Problem: Giles might not want to sign with the Yankees, no matter how many of George’s dollars are offered to him. The alternatives aren’t that attractive, starting with the sure-to-be-overpaid Johnny Damon (courtesy of Scott Boras) followed by Torii Hunter and dropping even further to names like Milton Bradley, Juan Pierre, Corey Patterson, and Aaron Rowand.

I’m actually not totally down on these guys, it’s just that they will all come with a price tag that I don’t believe will resemble a bargain. I wouldn’t call Giles a bargain either, but I do believe that he will put up superior numbers to everyone in that group, making a hefty contract in the neighborhood of 3 for $30 seem rather rational.

Anyway, I do see a bargain out there, however. Bubba Crosby. I know there are plenty of people who don’t think that Bubba can perform to the level of a major leaguer for the duration of a season. And most of those people probably never have even looked at his minor league statistics. Because if they did, they might not be so quick to discount Bubba. So here they are, courtesy of Joe’s new obsession with tables (I omitted two minor league stints in which he gathered 12 and 42 at bats because of the small sample size).

YearLevelTeamABAvgOBPSlgISOOPS
1998ASan Bernadino199.216.274.281.065.555
1999ASan Bernadino371.296.376.377.081.753
2000AVero Beach274.266.355.460.194.815
2001AAJacksonville384.302.369.432.130.801
2002AAJacksonville150.260.317.367.107.684
2002AAALas Vegas279.262.312.409.147.721
2003AAALas Vegas277.361.410.635.2741.045
2003AAAColumbus63.302.366.460.158.826
2004AAAColumbus116.276.365.379.103.744
2005AAAColumbus160.231.306.363.132.669


Maybe not the marks of a superstar, but they’re a far cry from bad. Most people dwell on his paltry offering at the MLB level, though he’s only been presented with the opportunity for 163 Major League at bats over three years, 98 of which were in 2005. And you know where his best Major League performance was? You guessed it, late in 2005.

There is evidence presented in the above grid that supports the notion that given time to settle in, Bubba can be a viable asset at the plate. True, this may not be the most compelling evidence, in that it doesn’t mean that Bubba is sure to have a solid year if given the chance. But it should be enough to at least make someone think that hey, this kid been able to hit at various levels of ball. Maybe if he’s given enough time, he can provide a bit of frustration for opposing pitchers. Remember, we’re merely trying to replace the fifteenth best center fielder in a fourteen-team league, not trying to find the next Griffey.