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Looking for optimism in the Feliz signing


Although Pedro Feliz is an excellent defensive third baseman, his offense is more flawed.  Feliz fits the profile of a lower batting average, low OBP hitter, whose saving offfensive feature is the ability to hit a decent number of HRs (averages 18 HR/season).  Since Feliz's HR totals declined in 09, critics point to a likely decline in power as Feliz heads into his mid-30's. So, I will take a look at Feliz's offense to see if we can find any reason for optimism.  This article isn't about making a projection for Feliz--if you want that, you can look at CHONE, Bill James, and ZIPS projections, all of which project a slight improvement in Feliz's offense over 2009--but rather trying to find some glimmers of hope that Feliz could provide a better offensive contribution than we expect.

ZIPS shows the two top comparable players to Feliz are Vinny Castilla and Tim Wallach.  Castilla is an interesting comparable, in part because of the similarity between the situation surrounding the acquistion of Feliz and Castilla by the Astros.  The Astros brought Castilla in as a one year "fix" at the 3d base position in 2001, after young prospects were disappointments at that position.  Castilla, a slick fielding 3d baseman, appeared to be in the midst of an offensive decline at the age of 33, but he ended up resurrecting his career with the Astros, hitting 23 HRs and posting a .812 OPS.  Castilla's bumpy offensive performance in his mid-30's is illustrated by his HRs totals between ages of 33 and 36: 23, 12, 22, and 35.  Castilla had one of his best offensive seasons when he went back to Coors Field at the age of 36 and hit 35 HRs, with 131 RBIs. Tim Wallach had declining offense in Montreal at ages 32-35, and then rebounded as a Dodger at ages 36-37 with an OPS+ of 127 and 106.  These two comparable players illustrate that the declining impact of age is not always a straight line, but often a jagged line that includes rebounding offense.

If you wanted to hold out hope for a rebound season for Feliz, I think the possibility of a change in scenery, specifically the ballpark, can rejuvenate a player. Castilla's rebound years after moving to MMP and then Coors Field late in his career might be examples.  Feliz is pull hitter to LF; 24 of his 26 HRs over the last two years were hit to LF.  And, of course, MMP's Crawford Boxes are only 315 feet away in LF.  A player's ballpark stats should be taken with a grain of salt, mostly due to sample size, as well as the inability to control for the quality of opposing pitchers.  However, setting aside that warning, I think we can see why Feliz said he liked his trips to Houston as an opposing player.  His career triple slash line in Minute Maid Park is quite good:

.301, .326, .530, OPS--.856

In fact, among NL parks only Coors Field (.949) and Nationals Park are better for Feliz, in terms of OPS.


Since the bulk of Feliz's hitting with Houston will be in NL Central ballparks, it might be interesting to look at his offensive output in those ball fields over his career.  The statistics below: OPS / HR/PA /PA

MMP .856 .058 86
GAB .830 .028 71
Miller .755 .056 106
Wrigley .734 ..044 89

Busch II

.747 .028 36
PNC .536 0 75
Feliz Career. .715 .032 4115
NL Central parks .745 .039 463

By way of commparison, a .05/PA HR rate is equivalent to 30 home runs per season.  Except for the Bucs' PNC park, Feliz's OPS in all of the NL Central parks has been above his career level.  PNC, which is far below his career level, also has a huge LF, which probably accounts for his zero HR rate there.  Frankly, I'm not sure how much stock to put into this comparison.  But it is interesting.  And if you want to grab on to a slice of evidence, whether meaningful or not, this could suggest that Feliz might find the NL Central ballparks to his liking.

I have heard some fans suggest that Feliz may be a good clutch hitter, which means his offensive contribution may be greater than his average statistics would indicate.  Lately, I have stayed away from situational hitting stats in evaluating potential acquistions, mostly because the concept of clutch hitting is controversial in the sabermetric community and use of clutch offensive stats are subject to sample size issues.  However, we do know that some players (Carlos Lee is an example) have shown offensive results in RBI situations which are better than their ovreall hitting stats.  We can also test whether Feliz's offense has been better in certain Runners in Scoring Position (RISP) situations.

Selected Situations (OPS)

Feliz Career

RISP .749

RISP, 2 outs  .769

Bases Loaded  .848

Men On  .738

Feliz 2009

RISP .869

RISP, 2 outs  ..879

Bases Loaded .952

Men On  .848

Setting aside whether clutch hitting is repeatable, the statistics indicate that Feliz was a very good clutch hitter in 2009 and has generally hit better in clutch situations over his career in comparison to his overall OPS.  We don't know if this means anything in terms of how Feliz will hit in the clutch in 2010, but at least we know he has been reasonably successful in that role in the past.

So there you have it.  You want a few shreds of evidence to make you feel a little more hopeful about Pedro Feliz?  Maybe I have helped out.