Statistical Tools

on 03/02/2002

Brian Mallette was the highest ranking 4-tool player in the system last season.

There is an ongoing battle between two schools of thought on how to evaluate players, both major leaguers and prospects. One school of thought is that a player's value and progress should be based on how his skills, his tools are coming along, regardless of the numbers he is putting up. This method is almost completely reliant on how a team's scouts view a player, and his talent. The other school of thought is that a player's value and progress are consistent with his statistics. This method takes human opinion largely out of the equation, as finite statistics are used to judge a player. Both theories have their merit.

On the one hand, it his hard to draft and scout a player based solely on his numbers. Lots of players that put up big numbers in high school and college aren't really thought of as pro material, and rightly so. And by the same notion, a guy who has barely played any baseball but has a set of plus physical tools will often be given a good chance to succeed. This tools-based theory especially has merit in places like the Dominican and Venezuela, where 16 year olds are plucked off of the street and asked to play. It takes special scouting talent to be able to see a major leaguer out of a young, lanky kid.

However, once a player gets into organized baseball, it is difficult to judge a player solely on his physical tools. Regardless of a projectable frame or quick feet, a player pretty much has to have statistical success to be able to have a shot at higher levels. You just don't see a guy hit .220/.280/.350 in AAA one year and then .300/.400/.450 in the majors the next, and even very rarely is that the case from level of the minors to the next. At it's simplest, baseball boils down to a group of numbers, and the team/players with the better numbers will probably win/succeed.

There is obviously space for both schools of thought to breathe, and in many cases, they overlap. As stated above, though, the physical tools theory seems to work better at the lowest levels of the minors, and best before a player is drafted. But as the player moves up through the system, he pretty much as to perform well statistically to have a good shot at the majors.

Today I am going to focus on the statistical side of scouting, and introduce a system called Statistical Tools (StaTools). StaTools are a way of looking a player's stats to see if he is performing and a good level, and to suggest that he might perform well at a higher level of the system as well. Like the 5 basic tools (hitting for average, hitting for power, speed, defense, and defensive arm), both batters and pitchers will be able to earn up to 5 StaTools at any particular minor league level. The hitting tools are: hitting for average, hitting for extra bases, getting on base, the ability to steal bases and the ability to walk. The pitching tools are: good ERA, ability to allow few hits, ability to allow few walks, ability to allow few home runs and the ability to get strikeouts. The tools are used to both measure a player's ability at a certain level, and also to predict that he might have some success, at least with that tool, at a higher level.

These tools may change from year to year, as more statistics become available, and as things are regarded as more or less important. For now, though, this is what I am sticking with for the 2002 season.

To give an idea of what the players did last season, and to provide some comparisons as the 2002 seasons gets in gear, I went through the 2001 stats from all the teams in the organization last season and gave StaTools to players as they merited them. I will note here that no player, either a pitcher or a batter, got all 5 tools during the 2001 season. I also will note that only one player (Jeff Deardorff) had StaTools at two different levels last season, which is hard to do, given a minimum of 200 AB or 50 IP to be eligible at that level.

First, here are the pitchers, their pitching role, and the level the StaTool(s) were earned at, along with the StaTools they earned.

4 StaTools:
Adolfo Cacimiro, SP, DSL (ERA, hits allowed, home runs allowed, strikeouts)
Enrique Lasose, SP, DSL (ERA, hits allowed, home runs allowed, walks allowed)
Brian Mallette, CL, AA (ERA, hits allowed, home runs allowed, strikeouts)
Gabriel Mendoza, SP, DSL (ERA, hits allowed, home runs allowed, walks allowed)
Florentino Rivera, SP, DSL (ERA, hits allowed, home runs allowed, walks allowed)
Mike Shwam, MR/CL, A (ERA, hits allowed, home runs allowed, walks allowed)

3 StaTools:
Jason Childers, MR, AA (ERA, hits allowed, home runs allowed)
Chad Fox, MR, Majors (ERA, hits allowed, strikeouts)
Gus Gandarillas, SP/MR, AAA (ERA, home runs allowed, walks allowed)
Roberto Giron, MR/CL, A+ (home runs allowed, walks allowed, strikeouts)
Roberto Miniel, SP, A (home runs allowed, walks allowed, strikeouts)
Nick Neugebauer, SP, AA (hits allowed, home runs allowed, strikeouts)
Jay Tessmer, MR, AAA (ERA, home runs allowed, walks allowed)
Jose Valera, SP, DSL (ERA, hits allowed, home runs allowed)
Dave Weathers, MR, Majors (ERA, hits allowed, home runs allowed)

2 StaTools:
Jesus Chirinos, SP, R (home runs allowed, walks allowed)
Victor Cordero, MR/CL, A (hits allowed, strikeouts)
Mike DeJean, MR, Majors (ERA, home runs allowed)
Jack Krawczyk, MR, AA (hits allowed, walks allowed)
Derek Lee, SP, AA (home runs allowed, walks allowed)
Aaron Myers, MR/SP, AA (hits allowed, home runs allowed)
Gerry Oakes, SP, R (ERA, home runs allowed)

1 StaTool:
Rod Allen, MR, A+ (strikeouts)
Mark Brownson, SP, AA (walks allowed)
Geraldo Castillo, SP, R+ (walks allowed)
Matt Childers, SP, A+ (walks allowed)
Jose Garcia, SP, AA (home runs allowed)
Tim Harikkala, SP, AAA (walks allowed)
Ben Hendrickson, SP, A (ERA)
Jim Lynch, MR, A+ (strikeouts)
Luis Martinez, SP, A+ (home runs allowed)
Dan Mathews, MR, A+ (strikeouts)
Roberto Maysonet, SP, A (home runs allowed)
Dave Pember, SP, A+ (walks allowed)
Kyle Peterson, SP, AAA (walks allowed)
Elvis Polanco, MR, A+ (walks allowed)
Pete Smart, SP, A (home runs allowed)
John Snyder, SP, AAA (walks allowed)
Matt Williams, MR, AAA (home runs allowed)

And now, here are the batters. Names are first, position is second, level at which the tool was earned is third, and the tools are fourth.

4 StaTools:
Lance Burkhart, C, A+ (average, power, walks, on-base)
Ryan Knox, OF, A+ (average, walks, on-base, speed)
Mario Mendez, OF, DSL (average, walks, on-base, speed)
Jim Rushford, OF/1B, A+ (average, power, walks, on-base)
Ralph Santana, 2B, R+ (average, walks, on-base, speed)

3 StaTools:
Kevin Barker, 1B, AA (average, walks, on-base)
Bobby Darula, OF, A+ (average, walks, on-base)
Jeff Deardorff, OF/1B, A+ (average, power, on-base)
Josh Klimek, 3B/OF, AA (power, walks, on-base)
Manuel Melo, OF, DSL (walks, on-base, speed)
Carlos Soriano, OF, R+ (average, on-base, speed)

2 StaTools:
Franklin Arias, OF, DSL (walks, on-base)
Jeromy Burnitz, OF, Majors (power, walks)
Yeison Franco, 2B, DSL (walks, speed)
Micah Franklin, OF/3B, AAA (power, walks)
Aldrin Gomez, 3B, DSL (on-base, speed)
Billy Hall, SS, A+ (average, power)
Corey Hart, 1B, R+ (average, on-base)
Francisco Plasencia, OF, R (walks, on-base)
Alex Sanchez, OF, AAA (average, speed)
Marcos Scutaro, 2B, AAA (walks, on-base)
Mark Sweeney, OF, AAA (walks, on-base)

1 StaTool:
Gilberto Acosta, SS, DSL (walks)
Chris Barnwell, SS/3B, R+ (average)
Ron Belliard, 2B, Majors (power)
Ozzie Chavez, SS, R (average)
DJ Clark, 3B, A (on-base)
Lou Collier, OF, AAA (power)
Jeff Deardorff, OF, AA (power)
Cristian Guerrero, OF, A+ (average)
Derry Hammond, OF, A (power)
Jose Hernandez, SS, Majors (power)
Bucky Jacobsen, 1B, AAA (power)
Geoff Jenkins, OF, Majors (power)
Kade Johnson, C, A+ (power)
Dave Krynzel, OF, A+ (speed)
Jeff Pickler, 2B, AA (on-base)
Manuel Ramirez, C/1B, R (power)
Chris Rowan, 3B, A+ (power)
Richie Sexson, 1B, Majors (power)
Florian Villanueva, 3B/C/OF, R+ (average)
Todd West, SS, A (walks)

As the 2002 season progresses, I will take a look back at these tools from the 2001 season, and see how the players are progressing with these tools at higher levels, and see if they have developed new ones or have seen their current tools dwindle. Hopefully, this will be a good, new way to track the progress of players.

As always, comments and questions are welcome at toby@brewerfan.com.