Thursday, December 15, 2005

why not cedeno? -- followup

given the modest interest sparked by this page's recent analysis of ronny cedeno and argument against his installation as the cubs starting shortstop in 2006, we felt that it behooves this page to further articulate on one of the research challenges cited in the post.

the idea that players suddenly "turn a corner" -- that they radically change character and go from awful to brilliant with a flash of inspiration and insight -- is difficult to evidence in my experience, and certainly isn't common. there's very little way around the fact that cedeno's record, taken in total, is unpromising. look at every shortstop in the majors that has any meaningful offensive output and try to find one whose minor league career resembles cedeno's -- i can't find one. if such miraculous transformations are not common enough to be easily found, why should anyone believe cedeno is the exception to the rule?

this page did not want to leave the reader -- who is hopefully more gainfully employed in his leisure time than this writer -- to fend entirely for himself in answer to this question.

so this writer spent some hours with the exquisite baseball cube, evaluating the early professional careers (double-a and under) of virtually every player that saw time at shortstop in the major leagues in 2005. this writer examined the stars of the position, of course, but expended particular care to review the marginal players at the position -- the likes of manny alexander, alex cora, juan castro, brian dallimore and frank menechino. all in all, the field of examination was comprised of over 80 players. one wants to be sure to cover all the bases.

and what did we find?

first, let it be noted that the means of comparison was a rather reductive one, due to the size of the task and the inability to download the data en masse for more efficient or comprehensive processing. therefore, the writer selected two parameters -- batting average and strikeout-to-walk ratio. it is the consideration of this page that these two simple metrics provide a crude but sufficient means of comparsion regarding offensive output in a position only rarely characterized by power.

for the record, then, ronny cedeno's relavant statistics measure .238 (350/1473) and a 3.20 k:bb ratio.

in the more than 80 player records examined, the writer could find only one major league shortstop playing in 2005 who had begun his career as poorly. a tabulation of the worst five players from the sample pool follows:

neifi perez .249 (306/1229) -- 2.32
jesse garcia .248 (417/1675) -- 1.49
chris woodward .247 (305/1232) -- 1.36
omar vizquel .244 (333/1365) -- 1.07
jose valentin .232 (372/1601) -- 1.91

only jose valentin had managed to survive hitting under .240 in his early professional career to play shortstop in 2005. and perhaps it's notable that no player in the study even remotely approached cedeno's 3.20 strikeout-to-walk ratio -- indeed, neifi perez's 2.32 is very nearly the next highest. the reader might be surprised, if he cared to spend the time looking, at how many marginal middle infielders managed to hit at least .260 and maintain a strikeout-to-walk ratio of under 1.5. and that is not to mention the cream of the position, for whom flirting with such minimums was never an issue, most of whom demonstrated other rarer characteristics (such as power) from a very early age.

this is not to say, of course, that no young shortstop has ever underperformed cedeno.

what it is to say, however, is that virtually everyone who ever did is not in the majors for us to examine.

that should be a lesson to jim hendry and the cubs, not to mention those fans who hope to consider the team's chances to win realistically and fairly, on the basis of its merits instead of wishes concocted to provide false comfort.

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