Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
July 20, 2003
BASEBALL: Kielty for Stewart
Like most people, I had the whipsaw effect on the Twins dealing Bobby Kielty for Shannon Stewart: my gut reaction was, "that's a good deal, Stewart's a .300 hitting leadoff man in his prime and Kielty's not really established himself as a regular," but once I sat down to look at the numbers, it became obvious that the Jays (and Billy Beane disciple J.P. Ricciardi) got the better end of the deal. Kielty's already a similar hitter, and he's 3 years younger and a lot cheaper, while Stewart can't throw and has the kind of offensive skill set (does a little of everything well but nothing outstandingly well) that ages badly.
*Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA system rates the most comparable player to Stewart as Carl Furillo (obviously, PECOTA doesn't consider outfield assists), and Furillo batted .344 two years later. But the list does include a number of guys (including Derek Bell, Bernard Gilkey, Al Cowens, Harvey Kuenn, and Hoot Evers) who were at or near the end of the productive part of their careers. Kielty's are more ambiguous and less similar, but do include some guys like Leon Wagner and Bernie Williams who were just entering powerhouse primes.
*Gleeman runs averages, but I thought I'd do Established Performance Levels for the two for 2001-03. For the uninitiated, EPL for, say, hits for 2000-02 would be (((H in 2000) + ((H in 2001)*2) + ((H in 2002)*3))/6. You have to prorate the formula a little when you use the season in progress, though (I just divide by, say, 4.5 if we're at the absolute halfway mark, or a number similarly adjusted for (Team Games)/162
Here's Stewart and Kielty for 2001-03:
As you can see, it's not completely crazy for a contending team to prefer Stewart, who's more established and puts the ball in play a lot more. But Kielty's already a better hitter, and consider the trendline: maybe this is just Ricciardi's management looking down on steals, but Stewart's steals vs. his GIDP have dropped from 27-9, to 14-17, to 1-6, which suggests a guy who's losing a step.
But who beat the Twins in the ALCS last year? The Angels. What do the Angels do well? Put the ball in play. Fighting the last war . . .