Josh Barfield, Part II

Listening to Neil Young Harvest at the moment. Picked up the CD a while ago, just opened it. Haven’t heard this in probably 20 years, except for the radio songs.

You ever hear Tori Amos’ version of "Heart of Gold"? Sounds nothing like the original, has some really messed-up guitar sounds on it (thank you, Adrian Belew). I love radical reinterpretations of songs. Like Devo’s take on the Stones’ "Satisfaction" or the Cure’s cover of Hendrix’ "Purple Haze". The fact that those tunes stand up so well to such different readings only confirms their greatness.

Baseball News

Bullet points, because our big discussion today centers around Josh Barfield.

  • Former Padre Lou Merloni has some good things to say about his old team.
  • Lost in Saturday’s 10-4 shellacking at the hands of the Astros, Khalil Greene collected his first big-league hit. Single to center in the first off Ron Villone.
  • Earlier that same inning, Phil Nevin knocked his ninth homer of the season. How much did the Pads miss Nevin’s bat? Despite the fact that he’s played in just 38 games this year, only Ryan Klesko, Rondell White, and Mark Loretta have hit more homers as a Padre in 2003. Nevin also ranks fifth on the club with 36 RBI.
  • Sean Burroughs saw his 15-game hitting streak come to an end. He did draw a walk, though.
  • Jake Peavy pitched well again in the Pads’ victory Sunday to help the home team avoid the sweep. Brian Giles cracked his first homer as a Padre.
  • Oliver Perez’ second Pirate start was a lot better than his first. He’s young, he’s inconsistent. Expect more of the same. Coincidentally, it was another former Padre, right-hander Will Cunnane, who picked up the victory in extra innings as the Braves beat Pittsburgh.
  • Detroit’s Mike Maroth became the first 20-game loser in the bigs since Oakland’s Brian Kingman did it back in 1980.

Josh Barfield, Part II

Last week we started looking at Barfield and how his minor-league numbers to date compare with those of some current and former big leaguers. Let’s delve a little deeper and see what more we can learn.

After looking at the stats compiled by each of our players over a 3-year period, I compared how well each player progressed from Year 1 to Year 2. These ignore league and park factors, but still give some indication of the kind of growth (or not) that each player made. Because Juan Encarnacion logged only 197 Rookie League at-bats in his Year 1 season, I kicked him out of this part of the study. I didn’t think we’d learn anything from his progression that we couldn’t learn better from the other guys.

The chart below displays three rows of numbers for each player. The first row indicates how that player did in the Year 1, while the second gives the same data for Year 2. The third row represents the difference between Year 2 and Year 1. Only rate statistics are used, so we can derive "meta-ratios" that show how much each player progressed (or regressed) from one season to the next.

The formula used for each ratio is:

(Year 2 / Year 1) * 100 – 100

Although this may not be the most elegant formula, it should suffice for our purposes. The general idea is that numbers above zero represent improvement, while those below zero (in red) indicate deterioration.

name      yr lvl  obp  slg   ba  iso bb/k xb/h
Barfield   1  A  .340 .403 .306 .097 .245 .201
           2  A+ .389 .530 .337 .193 .410 .368
         dif +1  14.4 31.5 10.1 99.0 67.3 83.1

Lee        1  A+ .336 .373 .267 .106 .442 .246
           2  A+ .366 .496 .301 .195 .377 .331
         dif  0   8.9 33.0 12.7 84.0 14.7 34.6

Hidalgo    1  A  .331 .492 .292 .200 .288 .468
           2  AA .309 .434 .266 .168 .421 .369
         dif +2   6.6 11.8  8.9 16.0 46.2 21.2

Hunter     1  A  .358 .439 .293 .166 .313 .286
           2  A+ .330 .348 .246 .102 .494 .250
         dif +1   7.8  2.7 16.0 38.6 57.8 12.6

Ward       1  A  .344 .426 .284 .142 .414 .309
           2  A+ .373 .435 .291 .144 .740 .319
         dif +1   8.4  2.1  2.5  1.4 78.7  3.2

Stynes     1  A  .315 .401 .284 .117 .372 .309
           2  A+ .339 .423 .304 .119 .625 .265
         dif +1   7.6  5.5  7.0  1.7 68.0 14.2

Gant       1  A  .291 .334 .237 .097 .446 .271
           2  A  .332 .397 .256 .141 .478 .321
         dif  0  14.1 18.9  8.0 45.4  7.2 18.5

A few items stand out to me. First is the fact that only Barfield, Ward, and Gant showed improvement across the board in Year 2. Both Barfield and Ward did it while moving up a level. Barfield made his gains at age 20, while Ward made his at age 21.

In terms of overall progress, Gant’s numbers are closest to those of Barfield. Gant made his gains at age 20, same as Barfield, but he did so while repeating a level. Gant also made significant additional strides the following year while moving up to the Carolina League.

Lee showed very good improvement from Year 1 to Year 2, while repeating a level. It should be noted that even in his second Cal League season, Lee still was just 19 years old, younger than Barfield in his first. Both Barfield and Lee played their home games at Elsinore.

Hidalgo and Hunter both saw their numbers slip badly in Year 2. In Hidalgo’s case, this was understandable, as he bypassed High Class A (at the time, the Astros did not have an affiliate at that level). Hunter’s situation is a little different, although his High-A experience was in the Florida State League, a tough league for hitters.

Except for the power numbers, which pretty much stayed the same, Chris Stynes showed roughly the same level of overall improvement as Barfield. He also did it at the same age as Barfield.

Next time, we’ll see how the others did in Year 3. Hint: If Barfield improves at anywhere near the rate those guys did, he’ll be off-the-charts good. It’s also hard to imagine him improving that much. But even if he just flat-lines, like Chris Stynes did at the same age on moving up to Double-A, you’re still looking at a second baseman with a 900+ OPS. I’m guessing most of us can live with that. :-)

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