Time to bring it all together. Lee started out 32 runs better than Ellis when looking at raw runs created on offense. That gap closed to 22 runs when adjusting for the difficulty of hitting in the AL, hitting at the Oakland Coliseum, and the fact that Ellis created his runs while using up fewer outs. When fielding is considered, Lee’s lead turns into an eight run advantage for Mark Ellis. Overall, Lee is worth about 26 more runs than a replacement player, which is slightly above average. Ellis sits at about 34 runs better than replacement level, bordering on All-Star selection.
So what’s the moral of the story? Simply put, there’s more to winning baseball games than raw offensive numbers. For one, the ballpark and league contexts of those numbers are important. Defensive position is also important – if Lee could play second base, he’d help his team by allowing some other all-hit, no-field freak to take up space in left field. And lastly, fielding is more than a footnote – one extra play made per week adds up to more than 15 runs per season. Sure, the range of hitting talent is a lot wider than fielding talent, but isn’t the old cliché “defense wins championships”?
The mistake of overrating Carlos Lee types and ignoring Mark Ellis types get compounded when teams throw huge money in the wrong direction. Lee will average a $15 million payday over the next five years even though he’s a $10 million player at best. What could the Astros do with an extra $5 million per season? They could start by paying Mark Ellis’ salary.
Dugout Central >> FULL STORY