Yasiel Puig vs. Jose Iglesias

A quick break from the political and policy world to focus on baseball. In particular, I want to look at the season that Yasiel Puig has had so far. The Los Angeles Dodgers rookie outfielder has taken the league by storm, earning both NL Rookie and Player of the Month awards in June. Sports Illustrated featured him in their latest magazine and he also finished 2nd in the All Star final vote. Overall, not a bad start to a player’s career.

But, as a biased Red Sox fan, I want to push back on all this publicity. First of all, Puig hasn’t even played in 40 games. Under just about no circumstances should a player who’s appeared in a quarter of the season make the All Star game. Puig is off to an incredible start, but his stats aren’t good enough to justify inclusion over other NL snubs such as Ian Desmond or Jay Bruce. Freddie Freeman is more deserving as well I’m glad the fans chose him over Puig in the Final Vote.

Now to my Red Sox bias. Over in Beantown, the Sox have their own rookie who’s off to just about as good a start as Puig, but isn’t getting anywhere close to the attention. That would be shortstop Jose Iglesias. Let’s take a look at Puig and Iglesias’s stats side-by-side.

Player

G

AB

H

2B

HR

RBI

BB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

Puig

36

146

58

8

8

19

7

36

0.397

0.429

0.630

Iglesias

49

187

65

10

1

16

11

24

0.387

0.439

0.488

Without a doubt, Puig’s batting stats are better than Iglesias’s, but not by that much. The Dodgers rookie has hit for a lot more power in fewer games, but Iggy has more walks, fewer strikeouts and that’s given him a higher OBP, even though his batting average is lower. The ultimate comparison between the two hitting-wise is a park-adjusted runs above average stat. Puig checks in at 17.6 while Iglesias is at 11.7.

But the comparison doesn’t end there. We have to take into account fielding where Iglesias is as good as it gets. Anyone who has seen the Sox’s 22-year-old rookie play the field knows what a privilege it is to watch such mastery. He was touted in the Sox farm system as a player who couldn’t hit, but boy could he field. While his hitting has been a shock to everyone in the Sox organization, his fielding has been as advertised. That’s not to take anything away from Puig as well. He’s played some excellent defense across the outfield and has a great arm. But it’s about Iggy is up there with the best of them in the field. Unfortunately, the stats are tough to evaluate, because Iglesias has played more than half of the year at third base, a position he’s never played before.

Jose Iglesias is a wizard at SS.
Jose Iglesias is a wizard at SS.

The best fielding statistic we have right now is Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR)/150, which measures how many runs above average a player is for an entire season (measure as 150 games). At shortstop, Iglesias has a UZR/150 of 15.5, third in baseball for those who have played 150+ innings at the position*. At 3B, the numbers are really ugly. Iglesias’s UZR/150 there is -31.3, entirely because of his limited range at the position. Out of baseball third basemen, only Kevin Youkilis and Mark Reynolds have worse UZR/150. But is it really fair to judge a rookie at a position he’s never played before? Iglesias is a wizard at shortstop and would undoubtedly become a great defensive third basemen if he stayed at the position (which he won’t because of how good he is at SS). This skews Iggy’s defensive stats entirely so that his fielding value is -2.7. That’s massively unfair to one of the league’s best defensive players.

Puig has played almost entirely RF (290 out of 390 innings) and posted a UZR/150 of 3.4, slightly above-average. When his fielding value is calculated, it checks in at 0.3. Is Puig a better defensive player than Iglesias is (at their respective positions)? Certainly not. Any scout or baseball analyst will tell you that. With Iggy at a new position though, the statistics favor Puig.

Finally, we must factor in base running into the comparison, where neither is particularly good. Puig has stolen five bases and been caught three times while Iglesias has stolen two bases and been caught once. Statistically, both are below average on the base paths: Puig checking in at -1.2 and Iglesias at -1.7. Those numbers should improve as they both mature and spend more time in the league.

Having gone through offense, defense and base running, it’s time to add it all up with every baseball analyst’s favorite stat: Wins Above Replacement (WAR). WAR measures how many wins a player earns his team above a basic replacement level player. It’s a cumulative stat so Iggy has the advantage of having played more games. Nevertheless, Puig leads the Sox rookie 2.1 to 1.6 in this all-telling number. Of course, Iglesias’s defense, a major assets of is, has actually hurt him statistically this year because he’s playing a new position. If Iglesias had been at short all year, the gap would be much smaller or could even disappear.

Either way, neither is worthy of playing the All Star Game in New York. You have to play more than a quarter of the year to be deserving of that. But the next time you hear ESPN tout Puig as this wunderkind who’s saved the Dodgers season, take a look at Iglesias instead and see how he stacks up. The answer might surprise you.

(All stats from FanGraphs.com)

*BTW, in almost 200 innings last year, Iggy’s UZR/150 at SS was an astronomical 46.5. That’s how good he is.

Punching (and Padding) Doors

Ryan Sweeney broke his pinky finger

Update: Here’s Sweeney talking about the injury before today’s Sox game: “I’ve talked to a lot of guys. Everybody’s thrown their helmet or thrown their bat or hit something.” As I said, players hit things out of frustration. It’s a human reaction. Let’s protect them.
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As Sox fans now by now, Red Sox backup outfielder Ryan Sweeney is likely out for the year after fracturing a knuckle in his pinky finger. Sweeney was frustrated after going 0 for four Monday night and took out his rage against a door. The door won.

Now without a doubt, it was a dumb move by Sweeney. But it was also unlucky. Players punch things all the time. That door has punched many times this year. Just look at what Valentine said after the game:

“The door he had actually hit was dented, so it wasn’t the first time. He must have went at it in the wrong direction, because there’s been multiple whacks at it.”

First off, if players are punching the door enough to dent it, it’s time to pad the thing already. Baseball can be extremely frustrating and players need a place to take their frustration out. Anybody who has played the sport can attest to that. There are plenty of times when you come back to the dugout and just want to punch something. In a little league season with a game every few days, that frustration dissipates in between games. In a 162 game season where that frustration has the chance to build game after game, often it can explode.

So here’s an idea: knowing this, why not protect players? We can call them dumb all we want, but frustration boiling over is a human trait and we see it happen all the time. Think how many times you see SportsCenter show players throwing a water cooler or smashing a bat or something like that. I’m sure it happens frequently down the tunnel and in the locker room too, as Valentine indicated by saying the door has been punched before. How about we pad these things then? Or even better, put a punching bag there, put a punching bag in the dugout. Give the players something to take their frustration out, not something int he weight room, but something immediately as they come off the field. It’s not going to stop all the dumb injuries, but it can certainly help. (Image Via)

Why Are The Yankees So Much Better in Day Games

Sorry for the lack of posts. I have a bunch of stuff up on the Washington Monthly‘s site and if you click the page to the right, all the links to my articles are there. I’ll also be guest blogging a bit this week at Ryan Cooper’s site (ryanlouiscooper.com) so check that out as well.

But this is just a quick one on a theme I’ve begun to notice more and more: the Yankees win an unusually high percentage of their day games. It’s not just that they win say 60 percent of them, which wouldn’t be that abnormal given how many games they win in a season. But they win a huge percentage every year. Check it out:


If you continue back a few years, the trend generally continues though it is not quite as clear cut. Except for in 2009, the Yankees have won a much higher percent of their day games each year than their overall record (which is skewed upwards by those day games as well). In fact, the Yankees have won 65.5% of their day games since 2008. That’s a huge percent.

My question is, why? I don’t understand why the Yankees play so much better in day games. Anyone have an explanation? Have their pitchers just happened to line up well for the past half-decade? Do they play more home day games each year? It’s a large enough sample that I doubt that’s the case, but it’s worth checking in to. Either that, or the Yankees have figured out something about day games that other teams haven’t