Yesterday we were talking about Rookie-league numbers and reader Didi asked about something I hinted at but didn’t delve into as much as I might have. I wasn’t being coy, so much as I was being… disorganized.
In discussing the motivation behind providing comparable players for Padres minor leaguers, I noted that:
Cedric Hunter hit .282/.344/.373 in the Midwest League, which seems really low until you consider how much his league suppressed offense in 2007.
Didi then asked:
Is it possible to describe the league (as you mentioned the number of games played and league average numbers) to add a bit more detail?
Yes, it is absolutely possible. It also is absolutely necessary:
|Statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference and ESPN.|
As you can see, higher levels are at left. The stats should be self-explanatory. ISO is SLG – BA. Bear in mind that this represents output from 2007 only.
I find it interesting that the Padres’ farm teams (above the statistically unreliable short-season squads) alternate between leagues that favored hitters last year and those that favored pitchers. The Midwest League proved unforgiving to hitters in ’07, while the Cal League was a haven. The same holds for the Texas League and PCL, respectively, albeit to lesser extremes.
Assuming that these levels remain roughly constant over time (quick check reveals that in 2006, the Midwest League averaged 4.35 R/G, while the Cal League averaged 5.32; in ’05 those numbers were 4.93 and 5.75 — this probably deserves further study), what can we learn? Well, for one thing, we can learn to cut Kyle Blanks some slack for hitting .292/.382/.455 in the Midwest League as a 19-year-old in ’06 when the league as a whole hit .253/.325/.365. When you’re young and you produce like Nick Swisher in a league of Jack Wilsons, you do not, as Baseball America suggested prior to the 2007 season, “need to re-establish [yourself] as a prospect.”
Going forward, we can apply this same logic to Cedric Hunter. Remember how excited everyone was about Hunter after his 2006 debut in the Arizona League? We were right to be excited, because he’s a fine talent, but we shouldn’t have gotten so hung up on his Rookie-league numbers. Only in light of his AZL showing does ’07 appear to be a disappointment.
Hunter won’t dominate the Cal League when he gets there, as Blanks did, because Hunter isn’t as good of a hitter. Then again, why would we expect a center fielder to hit like a first baseman? If he did, Hunter would be the second coming of Ken Griffey Jr., but I digress.
The larger point comes back to context. When we’re looking at minor-league numbers, we need to ask ourselves — as with any other numbers, really — what was the environment in which these were created? In addition to the league averages we’ve just examined, we also need to consider age relative to league, park factors, and probably some other stuff as well.
The moral of our story? Same as always: When in doubt, ask more questions.
- Azucareros 3, Escogido 0 (box). Vince Sinisi, batting third and playing left field, singled twice and walked.
- Mochis 4, Hermosillo 2 (box). Marshall McDougall, batting third and DH’ing, went 0-for-3 with a sac fly in a losing cause. Who batted behind him? Vinny Castilla.
- Mazatlan 7, Navojoa 1 (box). Oscar Robles, batting second and playing shortstop, was hitless in three trips to the plate. Luis Cruz, in the #7 hole and playing center field, went 1-for-3 and scored his club’s only run. On the other side, Brian Myrow went 0-for-2 with two walks while batting fifth and playing first base. Who backed Myrow? Why, it’s the greatest left fielder in Padres history, Miguel Ojeda.
Now back to your regularly scheduled waiting to see which rumors turn out to be true…