I wanted to look at Jiovanni Mier in a more in-depth way today, but got sidetracked this week. Instead, here's a little something that came to me during the Futures Game.
Seeing Grant Green play at short in that game made me think about what choices the Astros had at short in the 2009 draft. Green was long gone by No. 21 pick, but two other prep shortstops were still on the board and were drafted shortly afterwards. Instead of breaking down Mier, let's compare him to Seattle's Nick Franklin and Arizona's Chris Owings.
Mier doesn't hold a candle to them with the bat. He has the lowest on-base percentage, the lowest OPS and the lowest BABiP of the three. He's got the second-most steals, but is far behind Franklin in success rate. He doesn't even rise up on the lists once you neutralize for park factor over at Minor League Splits.
When Mier was drafted, the book on him was that he had the best chance of sticking at shortstop of any prep player. You can already see that with these three. Franklin has played second base for multiple games both this season and last. Owings has played all his games at short, but wasn't particularly good there. He totaled a minus-4 Total Zone score in 2009 while MIer was at minus-1 in that same time frame. Mier has apparently made strides defensively this season, but we don't have a good way of comparing their skills this season.
In the scouting reports on Mier, the writer invariably discusses the lack of "pop" in Mier's bat. I should point out, then, that Mier has a better line drive rate than Owings and is only two points off of Franklin's. Mier also put up good numbers in June, but has back slid a little in July. His BABiPs in those two months were also right around .300 while Franklin's last two months have been forgettable. Basically, we may be better served waiting until the end of the season before making more comparisons.
In the meantime, let's content ourselves with the thought that while Grant Green would have been a better choice at short, Mier was probably the best prep shortstop so far.
A love letter to wOBA: Baseball cards used to list stats like batting average, home runs and RBIs...and that was it. It was simple, to the point, and was supposed to give you a good idea of the kind of hitter you were seeing. Then, people came along and started talking about on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, OPS+, Runs Created, Wins Above Replacement and a whole host of other stats that we love. Many, many smart people have given us systems to evaluate what we see on the field. Most are pretty complicated, but can tell you quite a bit.
The best, though, are as simple as those first three stats. That's why the guys over at DRaysBay penned this ode to Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA). I agree wholeheartedly with their opinion. What wOBA does is take all the stuff a batter can do that is not quantified specifically in on-base percentage or in batting average. For instance, when's the last time you thought about why sacrifice flies count in OBP but sac bunts/sac hits do not? Does that make sense? OBP is a better indicator for offensive success, but it's not perfect. wBOA does a better job of quantifiying all those little things into one number. That's why it's my go-to offensive analysis stat these days. At least, until something better comes along.
Defensive metrics heat up: Over at THE BOOK, they fired off a post recently bombasting careless analysts for using UZR/150 when the players hadn't gotten close to 150 games played. In fact, they expanded it to any rate stat that's normalized over a specific period. I was guilty of this little error and was duly chastised. But, it seemed to spark some bigger thoughts on the utility of defensive metrics altogether.
That's what prompted Colin Wyers to pen this absolute must-read on defensive stats. And, Mike Fast to both expand and complement Wyers' post. You're not going to find a bigger skeptic initially about things than me and I like this questioning mindset Wyers promotes. After all, defensive metrics are relatively new and have huge swings in what they say. That should tell us something about the system, especially when, as Fast points out, we use stats like WAR which includes defensive adjustments.
More Lyles/Futures talk: Jeremy Greenhouse over at Baseball Analysts chimes in with his take on the Futures Game, based on some Pitch F/X data. His note on Jordan Lyles?
Jordan Lyles' off-speed stuff has developed past his limited fastball. His changeup dives away from lefties, his slider can neutralize righties, and his curve will most definitely play. But it's telling that in a game where he had to throw a total of 15 pitches, only six of them were fastballs.
Because Lyles doesn't throw 95-98 like the rest of those Futures guys, analysts tend to discount him. I am firmly on the other side of that theory. I think Lyles has a good fastball, he's just learning how to use the change. For him, throwing a pitch he's still working on to the best prospects that MLB could get into this game is probably a good barometer. Why not use his offspeed stuff to gauge how its progressing? It's also possible that the Astros talked to him about staying away from his fastball in this game. After all, it's not hard to see a guy getting pumped up to be on TV and overthrowing, hurting his mechanics and the like.
I don't really think the Astros treated the Futures Game like a spring training one, but it's certainly possible, right? Why do people assume this is a game situation instead of a glorified exhibition? Am I missing something?
More NL Central notes: In a pair of NL Central-related stories, the Cardinals announced a three-year extension for GM John Mozeliak while the Reds are having troubles with Aroldis Chapman's move to the bullpen.
I am not nearly as terrified of the Cardinals currently as I have been for much of the past decade. With the prospect of two huge contracts weighting down that roster for the next six to eight years, will Mozeliek even see the end of that contract? And what does that mean for Tony La Russa's future in St. Louis?
The Reds, on the other hand, continue to prove they don't know how to handle young pitching talent. Between the way Homer Bailey was jerked around, Volquez's injury (thanks, Dusty) and now Chapman, is it any wonder Cincy is constantly in search of pitching talent?
Oh, and lest I forget, the Pirates signed a kid out of Belarus recently. First, it was the cricket players from India. Now, they're signing a Wild and Crazy Guy. I guess you do whatever it takes to snap The Streak.