I began filling out my postseason award ballot on Wednesday, and drew some interested responses, and after reflection, I have to think that Yoshinobu Yamamoto is going to win the PL MVP award because people infer that the player whose season is the biggest outlier in the league MUST be the MVP.
I was asked why Yamamoto was absent from my Pacific League MVP votes, and why Lotte’s Shogo Nakamura was there at all.
Although I think it’s exceedingly hard to argue that Yamamoto was more valuable than Mastaka Yoshida, there are things players do and don’t do that aren’t measured except in anecdote.
For the first time in a few years, I’ve relied on my own work to cast my postseason award ballots. This allowed me to do without wins above replacement, which I kind of understand but philosophically can’t get behind for two reasons:
WAR allows elite pitchers working seven-plus innings a week to be considered on a par with elite hitters who also have some defensive value.
WAR credits or debits hitters with a “positional adjustment” based on the contribution of the players at their position. But batters don’t contribute offensively as catchers or first basemen, they contribute as hitters, period.
That’s why I’m partial to Bill James‘ Win Shares, and for the further reason that the individual players on a team cannot receive more credit for wins than their team actually wins.
There has been a lot of buzz about Hanshin Tigers newcomer 22-year-old infielder Teruaki Sato, the club’s powerfully built first pick last autumn. I’m not totally immune to the spring chatter, but he’s big fast and strong and making an impact. On this week’s TBS news program “Sunday Morning” Isao Harimoto said he keeps his weight too far back and is going to struggle once pitchers are throwing for real during the season.
Most of the other talk has been about the Giants’ fifth draft pick, a high schooler named Yuto Akihiro. Akihiro, recently promoted to the first-team camp, is 2 meters tall, the tallest Japanese pro baseball player since pro wrestler Giant Baba pitched for the Giants in 1955, and also gives the Giants two players whose family names are common first names, the other being Shinnosuke Shigenobu.
Akihiro is ridiculously short to the ball for such a big guy, and he’s been making mince-meat of spring training pitching, but as a no-name low draft pick straight out of high school, does he have a tougher hill to climb than other players similarly situated?
I asked that question because of something a colleague once told me.
Giants, draft order and status
Ten years ago or so I interviewed Itaru Hashimoto, an up-and-coming Giants outfielder, whom my Yomiuri Shimbun colleague identified as a rarity, a low-round pick who turned pro out of high school who had a chance to earn a regular job. Hashimoto was the Giants’ fourth-round draft pick.
But is that really a thing?
If the Giants’ do have a bias against low-round picks out of high schools they should have lower career values than their low-round picks who turned pro after high school and lower values than those from other NPB teams.
I dug into my draft data base to look for the career win share totals of players drafted out of high school in the fourth round or higher, then grouped those based on whether they were signed by the Giants or other NPB teams. Using Bill James’ Win Shares as a measure of value with three win shares equaling one team.
Avg career win shares of H.S. draftees before 2010
The Giants’ lower picks out of high school have definitely been less valuable than those of other teams at every step. Of the 73 Giants in the survey, 13 had 10-plus win shares or 18 percent of the total with an average career value of 8.8 win shares.
Of the 684 non-Giants, 146 produced 10-plus career win shares, or 21 percent, not a great deal better than the Giants, but their average career value was 15.8, nearly twice as high.
So, compared to the rest of NPB’s low-round picks out of high school as a whole, it’s accurate to say the Giants are quite a bit worse at turning those picks into productive players.
Average career WS values of players signed out of high school prior to 2010, with the percentage of players with 10-plus career WS.
Avg career win shares of non-H.S. draftees before 2010
But if the Giants’ issue is an organizational bias against high school players, then we would expect their non-high school players to be more like the NPB norm.
Prior to 2010, the other 11 NPB teams signed 710 players who weren’t coming out of high school in the fourth round or lower. These players had an average career value of 17.6 win shares, while 233 or 33 percent produced 10 or more win shares.
The similar group of 70 players signed by the Giants produced an average of 11.6 career win shares, while 27 percent had 10 or more career win shares.
Average career WS values of players signed after leaving high school prior to 2010, with the percentage of players with 10-plus career WS.
It seems that while the Giants are worse at turning their high school draft picks into productive players, their guys who turned pro after high school have not done a whole lot better, but are a little closer to the NPB norms.
But while the Giants may have had an organizational bias against low-round high school picks, their real bias is more against lower-round picks, period. The table below shows the players taken, not by rounds, since the top rounds of Japanese drafts are really a jumble of different meanings, but I’ve ranked the draft picks, and split the top 36 players signed in each draft.
The picks of the litter
As the table below shows, the Giants have had a huge advantage over the rest of NPB in the results of their new guys taken in the first tier of the draft, and that is the ONLY advantage they have in the draft over their rivals.