Middle infield rumors have been flying around since way back in September and October. First Ian Desmond was going to take over at shortstop and Cristian Guzman was gonna move to second base. Then the Nats went searching for a second baseman, and most thought that Desmond was being pushed aside. Then they went out and signed Adam Kennedy, and Desmond was indeed pushed aside. Then he went out and hit .385/.448/.692 in his first 11 games of spring training and pushed himself back into the picture.
So now there is a rumor that Ian Desmond will be the starting shortstop for the Nats going in to the 2010 season. While I don’t believe 11 spring training games are enough to establish a resume (Adam Dunn has 0 home runs, but nobody is worried he won’t hit any this year), I have all along lobbied that Desmond should be the starter. His bat seemed ready and I thought his defense was good with the occasional hiccup, and figured that what better group to learn concentration and discipline from than the major league coaching staff? Of the three players, Desmond is the only one with the potential that comes with youth, and he could eventually wind up a very good player. The other two guys are closer to retiring than being called someone with potential, so let’s assume here that if Desmond has role his role, he deserves it.
The thought is then if Desmond starts, Guzman would move to second and Kennedy would play utility man. But is that the way to go? Let’s take a look at the two that might be fighting for the role of starting second baseman:
First offensively let’s take a look at OPS+, even if looking at their total AVG/OBP/SLG may yield a bit more info, because it’s easier to sort and rank that number. Remember, OPS+ is just the players percentage of OPS above or below the league average, league average being 100, every point above 100 is a percentage above the average. Here are their numbers, in descending order, of every OPS+:
Guzman: 124, 110, 106, 83, 79, 78, 77, 70, 53, 38; Career: 80
Kennedy: 110, 101, 100, 98, 96, 86, 82, 81, 75, 71, 50; Career: 89
Guzman has had a higher peak, but some lower lows, and more often hits those lows. The career OPS+ goes to Kennedy, and if you are looking for seasons that are above or near average, well, here’s the deal. They each have 3 seasons of OPS+ 100 (average) or better. But Guzman’s best season of 124 was 2007 when he only played 46 games and has only 192 PAs. So he’s really only got 2 full seasons that way. Meanwhile, Kennedy has 2 more seasons very close to league average, between 95-100.
For seasons of an OPS+ above 80, Kennedy has 8, Guzman has 3 full years. And below 80? Guzman has 6 to Kennedy’s 3, but it should be noted that Guzman’s year of 38 occured his rookie season at age 21, and shouldn’t be weighed very heavily. Perhaps his 70 the next year should be thrown out as well, but his 110, his best full season, happened the next year when he was 23. So Guzman fans have to draw the line somewhere on when to stop throwing out youthful seasons.
Regardless, I’m giving the OPS+ award to Kennedy, although I’m only giving a slight edge since their aggregate numbers since 2005 are virtually identical.
Another all-encompassing stat is runs created, which by a pretty simple formula that can be found on the stats page. I used only the full seasons, so I took out Guzman’s 2007 as well as Kennedy’s 1999, his short rookie year. I left in the next shortest season, which was Kennedy’s awful 2007, because he had over 300 PAs, which to me is half a season.
Since RC is a counting stats (like hits, the more you get up, the more you probably have) I normalized it so that each season has equal number of ABs. I used the number 631, which was the highest number of ABs either of the two guys had. After all the math, the important thing to remember is this: The higher the number, the more runs the player added to the offense.
Guzman: 100, 94, 75, 74, 74, 70, 68, 51, 45; Average: 72
Kennedy: 98, 91, 87, 85, 84, 79, 77, 76, 72, 51; Average: 80
If you’d like to see how I got these numbers, there all right here. Regardless, it appears that, just like OPS+, Guzman has had a better season in the mix. But once again, Kennedy has a better average for his career, and to give a reference point, Kennedy has 5 seasons with 80 runs created or more, 5 with less than 80. Guzman, on the other hand, has 2 seasons above 80, 7 below it. Since 2005, Kennedy has averaged only slightly more (76) than Guzman (73). Once again, I’m going to give the slight edge to Kennedy.
Another stat that people like to use for offense is EqA, which is equivalent average. A long definition can be found once again on the stats page, as well as here, but let’s just say that it is supposed to be an all-encompassing statistic that shows the player’s offensive contributions. I’ve used Baseball Prospectus and their Translated Batting Statistics. Once again, season by season, this time I’ve included them all:
Guzman: .305, .278, .273, .245, .243, .243, .236, .235, .198, .191; Career: .243
Kennedy: .282, .281, .275, .272, .270, .257, .252, .247, .241, .225, .207; Career: .260
Alright, enough piling on. Kennedy has had the better offensive career, and except for one season, he has had many more impressive seasons. They both have had some scary bad hitting seasons and perhaps EqA is the stat that shows this best. It’s supposed to look like a batting average, and it is normalized so that the average player has .260 always. That means Kennedy has had 6 seasons below the average, 2 significantly below it. Guzman has had 7 seasons below it, 4 that are well below it, and two of those are more than significantly below it.
Time for some fielding. Ok, this isn’t going to be an exact science, even moreso than the other categories. They have played different positions, and Kennedy has been in several locations. We’ll look at UZR/150 for each of them only at their primary positions, keeping in mind that Guzman plays a more difficult position. With all that in mind, here are their numbers:
Guzman: 6.2, 3.1, -2.6, -2.7, -3.7, -4.7, -5.9; Career: -0.8
Kennedy: 21.8, 19.1, 13.3, 13.2, 2.9, 0.5, -5.7, -14.8; Career: 8.2
So there is Kennedy winning the career number. HOWEVER, that must be taken with a grain of salt, as they are at different positions. Plus, going against Kennedy is his glaring bad year was this past season. But Guzman has been consistently worse than average over his career, whereas Kennedy has been consistently above it. Once again though, Guzman has played a tougher position this whole time. Since Kennedy has been much better than average for much of his career, and would be sticking at his same position whereas Guzman would probably have a learning curve, I’ll give a slight edge to Kennedy.
Have We Found a Champion?
That slight edge to Kennedy on fielding is piled on top of a bigger edge in hitting to make me this that he is the winner in this matchup. But also it should be noted that at his peak, Guzman probably had the best season (and that season followed an impressive quarter of a season). In the end, they probably aren’t significantly different. Guzman has been more up and down, meaning he had some higher peaks and lower lows, while Kennedy has been more consistent. And Guzman’s peaks include a short season. It appears to me if you going to pick one player to play second base as the starter, Kennedy is the best choice.