Thursday, July 06, 2006
From top to bottom, David Bell is having a miserable campaign. He’s hitting .228 with runners in scoring position. He’s hitting a home run once every 59.3 At-Bat’s, compared with 20.7 for Chase Utley, 31.9 for Bobby Abreu, 12.5 for Pat Burrell and 10.8 for Ryan Howard. His isolated power (ISO) is a paltry .101, behind even Sal Fasano (.149). Things really could not get much worse, but many are calling for Bell to sit in favor of Abraham Nunez, or at least platoon the two and play Bell only against left-handed pitchers. Which gets me to the working title of this post:
David Bell: The Lesser of Two Evils (Which is the nicest thing I could say…)
Yes, David Bell is the lesser of two evils. Abraham Nunez is a terrible hitter who would be a massive drain on the Phillies lineup … check that, a total drain on the Phillies lineup. Let me explain why …
Okay, David Bell has accumulated about 28 Runs Created thus far in 2006. Confused about the gibberish I am speaking? Hold on. Runs Created is a stat originally created by Bill James to measure a player’s total contribution to his team’s lineup. Here is the formula ESPN (where I get it from) uses: [(H + BB + HBP - CS - GIDP) times (Total bases + .26[BB - IBB + HBP] + .52[SH + SF + SB])] divided by (AB + BB + HBP + SH+ SF). ESPN’s version is out-of-date, however, I’d note. James adjusted RC after the 2004 season ended, but I haven’t the time or energy to do my own numbers. Other stats you should know: GPA (Gross Productive Average): (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = .GPA. Invented by The Hardball Times Aaron Gleeman, GPA measures a players production by weighing his ability to get on base and hit with power. This is my preferred all-around stat. RC/27: Runs Created per 27 outs, essentially what a team of 9 of this player would score in a hypothetical game. ISO (Isolated Power): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage. OBP (On-Base Percentage): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances) BB / PA (Walks per plate appearance): (BB / PA = .BB/PA Avg) SLG (Slugging Percentage): Power at the plate. (Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage)
Okay, with me? Alright, David Bell has 28 Runs Created. He has 3.92 Runs Created per 27 outs. Abraham Nunez? 1 Run Created in 94 At-Bats. 0.34 Runs Created per 27 outs. Yes, a team of nine Abraham Nunez’s would accumulate one run every three games, or 52 over the course of a season. Whatever his faults, a team of David Bells would score 635 runs in a season.
Simply put, Nunez is a terrible hitter. Thus far in 2006, he is drawing .041 walks per plate appearance, has hit one home run in 94 At-Bats, has an isolated power of .064. His GPA is a whopping .136 … .136 … I find it difficult to believe that any player could play that badly. You have to try to be that bad.
Mind you, this isn’t a recent phenomenon. Nunez’s career slugging percentage is .326, eighty points lower than Bell’s (.396). In his career, Abraham Nunez has 104 extra-base hits, and it took him 2,006 At-Bats to get there. Entering the 2006 season, Nunez’s ISO was .078 … Whatever Bell’s faults, his ISO is a respectable .141. So Bell has a more explosive bat … Both are equally bad at getting on base (Nunez: .314 career OBP, Bell: .318), but Nunez has nothing to compensate for his weak-hitting.
Now interestingly enough, Bell hits left-handed pitching like gangbusters. Check out his left/right splits from 2005:
vs. right: .189 GPA / .061
vs. left: .356 GPA / .193
However, Nunez performance is so lousy that even platooning the two makes little sense. Bell can’t hit righties, but Nunez can’t hit anyone.
In terms of fielding, the water gets a bit muddier. Bell and Nunez are both actually quite good. I’ve been over this time and again with Bell, so I am wary of repeating myself, but Bell is one of the best defensive third basemen in the game. If there were a designated fielder, then Bell would be set. In fact, when his contract is up this fall, I hope Bell tries to stay in the league as a backup or as a defensive substitute because he’s got talent. In 2005 he led the MLB in Plus / Minus, the fielding system developed by John Dewan in The Fielding Bible with +24 plays. Bell also had a terrific relative range factor, an update of Bill James classic range factor stat re-designed by James to make it pitcher-neutral. Range Factor: (Putouts + Assists) * 9 / IP. Essentially measures how much a player is involved in defensive plays.
Bell’s relative range factor (RRF) was 1.079 (1.000 being average). The Fielding Bible said of Bell: “He has very good range with good hands and footwork … he has a quick release and good accuracy with his throws.” (Page 162.)
Nunez switched to third from second in 2005 and played well. He was tenth in the MLB in Plus / Minus at +9 and his RRF was 1.055, which is pretty good. But, again, Bell is clearly superior to Nunez here. His +24 in 2005 was roughly the same as his 2004, when he was +22 and finished third in the majors in Plus / Minus. Bell has finished with a 1.065 RRF or better for the last three years. He’s a talented player in the field. Nunez has talent, but he can’t equal it.
So there you go, a long, cogent argument about why David Bell is the lesser of two evils. I promise I won’t write about David Bell again until the end of the season. Or until another topic comes up.