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Average OPS By Position vs. Twins Starters


We often comment on whether current Twins are good, average or bad hitters by using OPS. The problem I see is we're using a broad average for everyone not broken down by position. I looked around the Internet and found an article in ScoreSheetWiz where the author had taken the average of the top 30 players in each position over the last 3 years and averaged their OPS. That should give you what the average starter in MLB does at that position by taking out emergency fill ins, utility players,  etc. and sounds like a good basis for comparison. Here's the comparison to current Twins, based on their performance for this season to date. I've also put their career OPS in parenthesis with the YTD comparison where they'd been around long enough to make that meaningful. The positions go from lowest to highest by MLB average OPS. 

Position Average OPS Current Twin OPS/(Career) Difference
Catcher .748 Garver .889 (.834) Plus .151 (+ .86)
    Jeffers .720 Minus .028
Shortstop .749 Simmons .576 (.688) Minus .173 (-.061)
Second Base .763 Polanco .797 (.774) Plus .034 (+.011)
Centerfield .777 Buxton 1.176 (.751) Plus .409 (-.026)
    Kepler .759 Minus .018
Third Base .805 Donaldson .840 (.875) Plus .035 (+.070)
    Arraez .747 (.793) Minus .058 (-.012)
Corner OF .819 Kepler .722 (.759) Minus .097 (-060)
    Larnach .676 Minus .143
    Rooker .750 Minus .069
First Base .859 Kirilloff .722 Minus .137
    Sano .746 (.819) Minus .113 (-.040)

I thought this was kind of interesting and helps explain where our holes are forward. For example, Arraez is a below average hitting starter this year either at 3rd or left-field, about average in 2nd base, but career wise above average at 2nd base, average at 3rd, and below average for corner outfield. Since he adds no surplus defensive value, he really needs to OPS >.800 if he's not going to play 2nd base. Kepler is a little tougher to evaluate since his bat is clearly significantly below average for a corner outfielder, and a little below average for centerfielder, but he does offer surplus defensive value in a corner outfield spots, not so much centerfield. That's why I think is an ideal 3rd or 4th outfielder, but not 1 of our top 2. The 2 Rookies are way below average but this is their 1st year so you hope for improvement and it's a small sample size. Same for Kirilloff. Sano is also a below average hitting starter at 1st Base who doesn't offer any surplus defensive value. I didn't bother with guys like Jake Cave (.508 (.735)) or Willians Astudillo (.721 (.738)) since they are way below an average starter unless they play shortstop, and even then they're not very strong. Both are classic back end roster filler and we should be looking for upgrades like Gordon, Refsnyder and others.

I do think this helps explain why we're having trouble scoring runs. We only have 3 above average hitters for their position now that Cruz is gone, Donaldson, Polanco and Garver, and only Polanco really plays every day. Most days we're liable to only have 2 players who are average or better hitters for their position. The batting order is really weighed down by poor performance at the corner outfield spots, centerfield when Buxton isn't there (even worse when someone other than Kepler is playing centerfield), and shortstop.

I guess this tells me 4 things 1st, re-sign Buxton. He is critical to the order. 2nd, I was wrong about Donaldson. He is pretty valuable at the plate and Arraez is not an adequate replacement. 3rd, we need better hitting corner outfielders and Kepler is not the answer. The current strategy of playing Rooker and Larnach every day is the right one because those guys have to improve to give us more balance in the order. 4th, Arraez is probably best used as a utility player with Polanco the better hitter and better fielder at 2nd base. He's a good utility player, more of an average hitter for a starter, and we can get him 400 – 500 bats to utilize his on-base skills by playing him at a variety of spots.

We talk a lot about how the pitching has to improve to truly contend. I postulate the lineup has to improve as well. I think most contending have average or better hitters for their positions in at least 5 or 6 of the 9 spots. We have 4 if you assume that someone like that Cruz is the DH, a position where I was unable to find an average OPS. otherwise 3. The current lineup isn't good enough to compete and absolutely isn't good enough if the pitching is below average. Helps explain this year's performance and helps us know what we need to do for next year.

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This is legit! Thanks for the post. I feel that since OPS is a better offensive metric, evaluating that PER position is a way to know where and why the offense keeps coming up short with RISP, down the line up. How do these numbers compare with clutch hitting stats?

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Thanks for this. This look does also offer some hope, if we move Polanco back to SS. One could see a lineup with:

Sano -

Garver +

Kiriloff ?

Arraez +

Donaldson +

Polanco +

Larnach ?

Buxton +

Kepler -

That's 5 plus bats, 2 unknown youths, and cross your fingers on Sano and Kepler finding 2019 again. So it could be competitive, or even good, without having to add free agents

 

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I looked around the Internet and found an article in ScoreSheetWiz where the author had taken the average of the top 30 players in each position over the last 3 years and averaged their OPS.

I appreciate the effort, but that article is very old (2007), its data even older (2004-2006), and beyond that, it is just generally flawed:

https://twinsdaily.com/forums/topic/49850-624-ops-spring/page/3/?tab=comments#comment-1017903

Fortunately, if you want to do your own research in that direction, there are great public tools available. I'd recommend the Fangraphs Splits Leaderboard, as its "position" split is by position played (not position qualified for, like some other Fangraphs pages), and it can also take custom date ranges, even spanning multiple seasons:

https://www.fangraphs.com/leaders/splits-leaderboards

You'd probably need to copy and paste data into a spreadsheet to average the top 30 by PA at a given position (the PA filter only applies to the player list, not to the league-wide splits).

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I really enjoyed this.  It is a very constructive way to look at the positions.  I hope you are able to get more up to date data because I think we will look even worse with more current information. 

I went to fangraphs and wRC -

1. Garver is #20 on the overall list - our highest twin 154 score.

It really hurts to see LaMonte Wade at #27!

Nelson Cruz is the only other Twin (ex) in the top 60.

2. Josh Donaldson #62 127

Then there is Akil Baddoo at number 82 - still higher that Twins OF

3.Polanco is #93 with a 118

There is Robbie Grossman and Jonathon Scoop before we get to 4.Arraez at #136 - 109

5. Sano at #169 is 104

And that completes our over league average group (average 100). 

Jeffers 97

Kepler 96

Astudillo 96

Kiriloff 94

Larnach 89

Simmons 61

Thanks to Garver these 11 average 104 for the team. 

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The only real criticism I'd have of this approach is that OPS assumes 1 point of OBP = 1 point of SLG, but this isn't true.  That's why Arraez is IMO, better then his OPS numbers.  His numbers are weighted more towards OBP then SLG.  

It's also why players like Buxton and Eddie Rosario HAVE to run high BA's to be successful.  They don't take any BB's, so they are widly BABIP dependent.  As long as they hit the ball hard and have at least average luck, they'll be fine.  But if they don't...

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23 hours ago, mikelink45 said:

I really enjoyed this.  It is a very constructive way to look at the positions.  I hope you are able to get more up to date data because I think we will look even worse with more current information. 

...

If we attached these OPS+ to specific position averages, my guess is Sano falls to below average, but Jeffers and Astudillo rise to above average? It certainly seems like today's OPS averages are lower than 2006, which meets the eye test

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Yet for all of the consternation about Arraez playing someplace, it is all how you want to look at it. Take a look at those players  with 100 total AB for this year, 3b  Arraez sits as the  17th best. OPS this year of the 61 players . 19th for the 71 players for LF, and 21 for the 68 at 2B. Below average number, above the median for players playing. 128 place out of the 399 players with 100 AB

Arraez is the utility player. Compare him to the other who do what he does

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On 8/5/2021 at 9:34 AM, ToddlerHarmon said:

If we attached these OPS+ to specific position averages, my guess is Sano falls to below average, but Jeffers and Astudillo rise to above average? It certainly seems like today's OPS averages are lower than 2006, which meets the eye test

I think that this would make sense as I'd say since then there has been a deflation on the importance of BA and an inflation on the importance on OBP.  However according to OPS a 1B is MUCH more valuable then a BB.  While I agree that a 1B is more valuable then a BB it's not as much as OPS would think.

 

E.G. A player goes 1-4 with a 1B.  They have a .250/.250/.250 line.  That is a OPS of .500.

A player goes 0-3 with a BB.  They have a .000/.333/.000 line.  That is an OPS of .333.

I don't seem to believe that a BB is worth only 2/3's of a 1B.  I'd think a BB is worth more then that percentage.

My point is that like WAR, OPS is nice for a quick reference, but it's not the end all stat.  It underweights OBP vs. both BA and SLG.

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Would you rather have a player with a .250/.350/.400 line (.750 OPS) or a .275/.300/.450 line (.750 OPS)

Player A in 200 AB's has 50 Hits, 22 Walks, and 80 Total Bases.  This is 102 Total Bases with Hits + Walks in 200 AB's, or 222 PA's.  They have made 128 Outs.

Player B in 200 AB's has 55 Hits, 5 Walks, and 90 Total Bases.  This is 95 Total Bases with Hits + Walks in 200 AB's, or 205 PA's.  They have made 140 Outs.

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1 hour ago, RedBull34 said:

I think that this would make sense as I'd say since then there has been a deflation on the importance of BA and an inflation on the importance on OBP.  However according to OPS a 1B is MUCH more valuable then a BB.  While I agree that a 1B is more valuable then a BB it's not as much as OPS would think.

 

E.G. A player goes 1-4 with a 1B.  They have a .250/.250/.250 line.  That is a OPS of .500.

A player goes 0-3 with a BB.  They have a .000/.333/.000 line.  That is an OPS of .333.

I don't seem to believe that a BB is worth only 2/3's of a 1B.  I'd think a BB is worth more then that percentage.

My point is that like WAR, OPS is nice for a quick reference, but it's not the end all stat.  It underweights OBP vs. both BA and SLG.

I agree, and RC and wOBA do better. Even more extreme than your example is the overweighting of HR in OPS. One can be a slumping Sano. and have a good 470 SLG with an unplayable 280 OBP. The resulting 750 OPS may look average, but too many outs makes this hitter a weak spot in the lineup

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