Matt Holliday, Jason Bay, and the Junior Circuit

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In response to my article earlier this afternoon comparing Matt Holliday and Jason Bay, several commenters focused on the fact that Bay out-performed Holliday in their respective time as American Leaguers. In fact, one commenter went so far as to say that Holliday “stunk” during his brief AL stint.
For several years now there’s been a clear talent gap between the two leagues, but it’s still important to put things in some context rather than just latching onto whatever theory seems to fit the conventional wisdom.
In this case Holliday has played a grand total of 93 games in the American League, which is hardly a large enough sample to form any sort of meaningful, wide-ranging conclusions. After all, how many mediocre players make All-Star teams based on one great half-season, only to fall right back into mediocrity? Beyond that, Holliday hit .286/.378/.454 in those 93 games with the A’s, which is an .831 OPS in a pitcher’s ballpark.
That works out to an adjusted OPS+ of 120, which a) isn’t that far off from Holliday’s career mark of 133, b) would rank 40th among all active players sandwiched in between Derek Jeter and Victor Martinez, and c) is nowhere near the performance of someone who “stunk.” Or put another way, guys with a career OPS+ of 133 have an OPS+ of 120 over 93-game stretches all the time without it meaning anything whatsoever.
Bay has played 200 games in the AL while hitting .274/.380/.534 in a much better ballpark for hitters, which is good for a 132 OPS+. So yes, based solely on their performances in the AL–which represents only a small fraction of their careers–Bay was better than Holliday. But is a 132 OPS+ in 200 games so superior to a 120 OPS+ in 93 games to conclude that one guy is great in the AL and one guy stinks in the AL? Of course not.
Both guys have played a lot of games in the majors and have plenty of data from which to evaluate their ability, so focusing on 93 games seems kind of silly. While general manager Omar Minaya and the Mets may disagree, Holliday is simply a better player than Bay. It’ll be interesting to see if he rightfully ends up with a bigger contract.

And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Red Sox 11, Yankees 6: The Red Sox clinch the AL East and they do it as Mookie Betts, I presume, clinches the AL MVP Award. He has a strong case for it on the merits, but his three-run homer in the eighth in the division-clinching game, in a week in which he was hobbled by an injury, are the sprinkles the voters like to see on top of that MVP cake. (See Jones, Chipper, 1999). Jackie Bradley and Brock Holt each hit homers as well. Giancarlo Stanton hit a grand slam in a losing cause. The Yankees loss also drops them to a mere game and a half above the A’s for the top Wild Card slot because . . .

Athletics 21, Angels 3: . . . Oakland romped in a game that was . . . something less than competitive. Marcus Semien had three hits and drove in five while Stephen Piscotty homered and drove in four. Angels Catcher Francisco Arcia pitched the last two innings. He gave up three runs but he also hit a homer, which I’ll call a “net two” in my wholly invented plus/minus system for two-way players. That made him better than three of the other Angels pitchers yesterday, none of whom had the chance —  or the guts! — to bat. Look for the Calcaterra Plus/Minus System to be adopted widely in the coming years. It’ll come in handy literally tens of times. Maybe.

Blue Jays 9, Rays 8: The Rays led this one 9-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth, but Jaime Schultz and Sergio Romo could not hold that lead, giving up three home runs in the final frame, including Justin Smoak‘s walkoff blast. Danny Jansen hit a three-run shot in the ninth and Lourdes Gurriel hit a two-run shot. As I noted the other day, Tampa Bay has been surging in the past month or so. Surging so much that they had even entered the fringes of the Wild Card discussion, pulling to within five and a half games as of yesterday morning. This gut-punch loss, however, drops them back to six and a half back with ten games to play.

Braves 8, Phillies 3Kevin Gausman allowed three runs in six and a third innings and Lucas Duda hit a pinch-hit double to drive in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning and give Atlanta the win. Coming into yesterday’s action, the Braves led the Phillies by five and a half. Daunting, but since the two teams had seven matchups against one another in the season’s final eleven days, Philly had a puncher’s chance. They needed to win most of these matchups and otherwise hold serve, but it could be done. Now, one day later, it’s that much harder. Indeed, If Atlanta takes two of three this weekend, it’s all over.

Mets 5, Nationals 4: The Mets blew an early three-run lead, built thanks to homers from Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce. Max Scherzer settled down after that, however, and ended up striking out 13 Mets in seven innings of work. The Nationals still trailed but came back from a two-run deficit in the eighth inning to force extras. That’s all the scoring they’d do, though, and their old friend Jose Lobaton hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the top of the 12th to give New York the win. Between him, Dusty Baker and a bunch of relievers they case off, the Nationals have a whole army of departed Force Ghosts watching them from the sidelines like Yoda and Obi-Wan watched Luke. Except, of course, they’re watching the Nationals face plant as opposed to triumph.

White Sox 5, Indians 4Matt Davidson hit a run-scoring single with two out in the 11th to give the White Sox the win. Sox reliever Hector Sanchez pitched three scoreless innings to end the game. It was the White Sox’ first win in Cleveland this year in nine tries.

Tigers 11, Royals 8: Christin Stewart hit two homers — career homers number one and number two — drew a bases-loaded walk and drove in six in all. It was the most RBI a Tigers player has had in a game in 11 years. Given that those 11 years covered Miguel Cabrera‘s prime, that’s quite a trick. It was only Stewart’s 11th career game. He’ll remember it for the rest of his life.

Reds 4, Marlins 2: Cody Reed pitched six shutout innings — picking up his first win as a starter — and Scooter Gennett homered and doubled as the Reds take the first game of a four-game series in Miami. Question: will this be the least-attended four-game series in baseball this year? It’s gotta be in the top five.