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September 15, 2006

Minor League Review, Part 1: Clinton LumberKings Hitters

The League: The Midwest League favors pitchers by a considerable margin. Run scoring was 12% lower than the American League, and the league’s aggregate batting line was just .253/.325/.365. Cedar Rapids’ Jordan Renz led the MWL with only 24 homers. The depressed offense is probably also a function of the players themselves. Even in their early twenties, most men haven’t completely filled out or attained peak physical strength. They just don’t hit as many homers as the big-leaguers.

Midwest League vs American League
Runs Scored 12% lower
Runs Allowed 9% lower
ERA 18% lower
Batting Average .022 lower
On-Base Percentage .014 lower
Slugging Percentage .071 lower
Walk Rate 2% higher
Strikeout Rate 16% higher

Why is "runs scored" different than "runs allowed?" MLB's interleague play, in which the AL crushed the NL. Also, the Midwest League permits significantly more unearned runs than MLB (.36 runs per game).

The Park: According to data compiled by Dan Szymborski, Clinton’s Alliant Energy Field favored pitchers during 2003-2005. It favored hitters in 2006 per data I analyzed from minorleaguesplits.com. I’m using one-year park factors because I personally have only 2006 data. Also, the Field underwent substantial renovation in the offseason. The dimensions didn’t change, to my knowledge, but perhaps the upgrade affected game play.

Alliant Energy Field, 1-Year Park Factors
Runs 1.08
Average 1.03
On-Base Percentage 1.01
Slugging Percentage 1.04
Walks 0.97
Strikeouts 1.04

The Team: Mike Hindman (known as “mjh” on the newbergreport.com message board) recently had some interesting observations about minor-league performance and the Rangers’ farm system. Texas has revamped its selection and development process twice in recent years. The organization currently emphasizes younger, high-risk high-reward players (or at least doesn’t favor college players) and pushes them quickly up the ladder. Also, players may be working on new batting styles, deliveries and pitches that result in (temporarily, one hopes) poor performances as measured conventionally. Statistics don’t matter that much at low levels, and won-loss records mean even less. If a couple of 2006 LumberKing alumni blossom into quality Major Leaguers, no one will care how many games the team won.

Thanks goodness for that, because… good gravy, what a dreadful bunch. Clinton went 45-96 on the season, never won four consecutive games but had seven losing streaks of at least five. The team finished 16-48, during which time it scored 3.5 runs per games and allowed 5.5. Kansas City and Tampa Bay are presently trailing the AL with an OPS+ of 89. Clinton’s was 85.

On Mayberry: To mixed reviews, Texas drafted John Mayberry Jr. nineteenth overall in 2005. At age 22 and with three years of college ball to his credit, he ought to be tearing up low-A, but his line of .268/.358/.479 is a bit underwhelming. That’s where the league and park discussion provides context. Using a typical Major League hitter as a comparison doesn’t work. Using the Clinton’s park-adjusted league average of .260/.330/.380 reveals that Mayberry batted well above average, especially for power. An isolated power index of 177 and walk index of 135 give hope.

Players are ranked in order of OPS+. Those with fewer than 100 at-bats aren’t listed.

Player
POS
G
OPS
OPS+
AVG
AVG+
OBP
OBP+
SLG
SLG+
ISO
ISO+
BB%
BB%+
SO%
SO%+
Net Steals
John
Mayberry
OF
126
.838
135
.268
103
.358
108
.479
126
.211
177
11.4%
135
20.3%
92
3
Grant
Gerrard
OF
28
.775
119
.298
115
.371
112
.404
106
.106
89
9.6%
113
18.1%
103
0
Terrance
Blunt
OF
115
.709
101
.271
104
.355
108
.354
93
.083
70
11.0%
131
13.8%
136
-4
Joseph
Kemp
P
77
.709
99
.248
95
.316
96
.393
103
.145
122
7.1%
84
20.1%
93
-7
Freddie
Thon
1B
69
.710
99
.280
108
.308
93
.402
106
.122
103
3.7%
44
13.0%
144
-2
Matt
Smith
SS
124
.682
93
.267
103
.351
106
.330
87
.063
53
11.3%
133
16.3%
115
-6
Brian
Valichka
C
65
.666
87
.231
89
.299
91
.367
97
.136
114
7.1%
85
17.2%
108
0
John
Whittleman
3B
130
.657
85
.227
87
.313
95
.343
90
.116
97
11.4%
135
17.2%
108
-5
Truan
Mehl
OF
102
.619
74
.252
97
.280
85
.339
89
.087
73
4.0%
48
14.4%
130
5
K.C.
Herren
OF
87
.600
70
.221
85
.306
93
.294
77
.073
61
10.6%
126
21.1%
89
-9
Benjamin
Crabtree
C
62
.597
68
.245
94
.290
88
.306
81
.061
51
4.4%
52
21.3%
88
-1
Ian
Gac
1B
54
.583
62
.197
76
.227
69
.356
94
.159
134
3.7%
44
28.3%
66
-2
Jose
Vallejo
SS
127
.573
62
.234
90
.289
88
.284
75
.050
42
6.1%
72
17.3%
108
6
David
Peterson
2B
64
.548
55
.231
89
.269
82
.279
73
.048
40
4.6%
54
17.1%
109
-6
TEAM
TOTALS
-
139
.655
85
.243
93
.309
94
.346
91
.103
87
8.0%
95
18.2%
103
-26
Park-Adjusted League Average
-
-
.710
-
.260
-
.330
-
.380
-
.119
-
8.4%
-
18.7%
-
-

A few notes about the stats: You know OPS+. All the other “+” figures are similarly calculated. 100 equals the park-adjusted league average, and higher is always better. As you’ll see, indexes for stats like slugging and isolated tend to vary among players much more than OBP or batting average.

The walk and strikeout rates aren’t 100% accurate. Right now, nobody has team stats for hit batters or sac flies, both of which are part of total plate appearances. So, at the moment, they only way to compare players to the league would be for me to hit the web page of every single player in the Midwest league and compile the totals myself. Folks, that’s not going to happen. So in this case, the walk rate equals [ walks / ( at-bats + walks ) ], and the same applies to the strikeout rate. Unless a player has an outrageous number of HBPs or SFs, the walk and strikeout rates shouldn’t be overstated by more than about 0.3%.

Net steals are simply ( SB – 2*CS ). This assumes a break-even rate of 66.7%. The break-even rate in the AL hovers around 70% but would be lower in the Midwest because of depressed offense (stealing is more viable is a low-scoring environment). Whatever the actual rate, I’m just using a simple formula.

Where are the pitchers? Next post.

Posted by Lucas at September 15, 2006 01:00 PM