Some young bloggers need a little seasoning

March, 3, 2009
Was Evan Longoria's rookie season the best ever by a third baseman? Over at DRaysBay, R.J. Anderson says yes, it was. …

    Did you know, Evan Longoria's season was the third best by a rookie third baseman who played at least 100 games in history? Well, it's true. The filtering statistic of choice is OPS+ since raw numbers would leave us with the offensive eras rather than the players who truly stood out from their peers.

    The Milwaukee Brewers' Ryan Braun is the leader with an OPS+ of 153(!) and Cincinnati Red Grady Hatton (128 OPS) from 1946 are the top two. Braun is a contemporary, but now plays the outfield. Easily one of the better offensive players in the game, Braun saw quite the improvement moving to left field this season. Pretty close to average.


    Now I certainly was not around to see Hatton play -- and I doubt many -- if any -- of you were, and while I don't want to take away from the highlight of his career, well…we all know Braun was quite poor defensively. We all also know that Evan was pretty damn fine with the leather. FanGraphs' UZR has Braun worth -25 runs(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! in exclamation marks) and Longoria worth 15 runs. Even if those numbers are not exact, Braun only had about an 18-run advantage in offensive production. Was Evan at least 18 runs better defensively? The numbers certainly suggest it.

    That means there's a realistic chance that Evan Longoria is the owner of the best rookie season by a third baseman in league history.

Well, it's not true: Longoria's rookie season was quite probably not the best ever. One problem that no one has solved yet: How do you write a computer program that identifies rookies?

Until the late 1940s (at the earliest), there was no official definition of "rookie." Even if we apply the modern definition of "rookie" to all of baseball history, you still can't program it because rookie status is tied to both playing time and days on the 25-man roster and days on the disabled list, neither of which are publicly available in a database.

So what Anderson did was look just at third basemen in their first season, which of course isn't necessarily their rookie season. As it turns out, Longoria is sort of in the conversation … for the No. 2 slot. Because when it comes to rookie third basemen, Dick Allen simply blows everyone away. In 1963, he played 10 games with the Phillies. In 1964, still a rookie, he played 162 games, scored 125 runs, drove in 91 and batted .318 BA/.382 OBP/.557 SLG. And mind you, the pitchers had a lot of things going for them in 1964. Add it all up, and Allen totaled 41 win shares, as calculated by Bill James' sabermetric (with a 162 OPS+).

A few other great rookie seasons: Al Rosen's 1950 (29 win shares), Scott Rolen's 1997 (29), Frank Baker's 1909 (27) and Jim Ray Hart's 1964 (25).

Longoria, for all his talents, racked up 19 win shares last season. Even if we give him credit for that month he spent in Triple-A because the Rays wanted to save some money, we can't get him to 25 win shares. Let alone 41.

I love the young bloggers. They're our future. But sometimes old geezers like me and Furman Bisher bring a little something to the table, too.



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