Clearing the Bases—Post-Turkey Lurkey Edition

Still buried in winter work, and will be for the next few weeks, limiting much of my current writing to 140-character missives via Twitter. Rounding up some of my stray BP links in case you haven’t been following along:

• A few weeks back I looked at 2009 home run rates, overall, by league, and by ballpark. Overall, home runs per game increased by 3.3 percent this past season, a figure that masks a 4.9 percent drop in the NL and a 12.7 percent climb in the AL, producing the widest AL-NL split since 1996. The changes aren’t entirely explained by the two new New York parks, though Nu-Yankee Stadium was the easiest place to homer (1.463 per team per game) and CitiField the sixth-hardest (0.802 per team per game).

• Next up was an analysis of the top two free agent hitters available, Matt Holliday and Jason Bay. The pair share the same position (left field) and thus have relevance to the beasts of the AL East given that they’ve both got vacancies — the latter, of course, having served as the Sox’s left fielder since Manny Ramirez’s trade to the Dodgers. The two are very close as hitters, with virtually identical translated OBP and SLG lines (career-wise) but differing walk rates and batting averages: “The major point of contrast is that Bay walks considerably more often, drawing an unintentional pass in 11.8 percent of his career plate appearances, compared to 8.2 percent for Holliday. It all comes out in the wash: Holliday owns a Clay Davenport-translated career line of .312/.384/.541, while Bay is at .285/.384/.540.”

Where the two differ is defense. Using a three-year average of the big three defensive systems (BP’s Fielding Runs Above Average, Fangraphs’ Ultiamte Zone Rating, and John Dewan’s Plus/Minus), Holliday has a staggering 18-run annual advantage, making him worth something like $3.6 to $5.4 million per year more depending upon where you set the value of a marginal win.

• In an Unfiltered post, I revisited Jaffe’s Ugly MVP Predictor in advance of the AL MVP announcement. At the time of the original article, Joe Mauer’s Twins were a game under .500, making him an extremely unlikely winner based upon Wild Card era voting trends, but the Twins’ late rush to the postseason vaulted him into the system’s crosshairs. JUMP doesn’t peg him as the winner, but it places him in the AL top three between Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter. That classifies him as a “secondary hit” for the system, which as designed can put every MVP since 1995 except 1999’s Pudge Rodriguez in that class. Which isn’t to say either of those Yanks should have won, just that historical precedent favors big sluggers and middle infielders on 100-win teams over catchers on Wild Card winners. In the NL, JUMP nails Albert Pujols as the winner, which wasn’t too surprising given his monster year.

• In part of what will be a six-part series on the winter free agent market, I examined the available relievers. It’s a group that upon examining three-year track records for performance and health, can basically be divided in two by a sizable gulch, with the top six clearly separated from the rest of the pack. Number one on the list is Billy Wagner, who agreed to a deal with the Braves last night. Numbers three and six, Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez, who both spent time as Atlanta’s closer last year, are that much more available; both have drawn interest from the Yankees and Red Sox. Number seven, the first one on the other side of the divide, is Brandon Lyon, who apparently is also drawing interest from the Yankees, but it sounds as though their rotation plans need to fall into place first.

• Which brings us to Tuesday’s arbitration news, which, come to think of it, deserves a post of its own. Stay tuned.

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