Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Defending Derek

A comment Monday night set me on a research project. After a Derek Lee strikeout, he was suddenly “a MAJOR disappointment.” A quick glimpse of the facts tells a different story.

When the Braves traded for Derek Lee, they were well aware of what they were getting. They knew his 2010 year to date statistics, and that he was suffering from back trouble. At the time the Braves needed a cheap bat to replace the injured Chipper Jones. Troy Glaus was also struggling badly.

The team did not want to pay a high price for a replacement, and traded three obscure pitchers from the lower minor leagues for Lee. Had Lee been a complete flop, Atlanta would’ve lost little on the deal.

Instead, with these expectations (and considering the statistics below), Derek Lee in fact far exceeded any expectations the Braves had. The Braves still made the playoffs with minimal contributions from Chipper, Prado, Medlin, Jurrigans, McLouth, Glaus, Saito, and Kawakami.

In the following key categories Lee’s Braves statistics EXCEEDED his career averages:

RBIs: one RBI per every 5.3 at bats with Braves (career = every 6.4 ABs)

Doubles: Lee doubled every 2.7 games with Braves (career = every 4.4 games)

Batting Average: .287 with Braves, .282 for his career.

On Base Percentage: .384 with Braves, .367 for career

Fielding Percentage: .997 with Braves, .994 for career

These Braves stats also exceeded Lee’s 2010 Cubs stats, as did:

Slugging Percentage: .465 with the Braves, .416 with the Cubs.

A similar argument can be made for the value and veteran leadership that shortstop Alex Gonzalez brought to the team, replacing a team cancer, the erratic Yunel Escobar.

Lee wasn't the only one to struggle in the postseason, squaring off against the best pitching staff in baseball. After exceeding all expectations, to label him a major disappointment is quite unfair.

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