Saturday, July 1, 2017

Two Birds of a Feather

I submit to you the 2017 stats of two thirty-something, injury-prone outfielders, both of whom signed new contracts last winter and are now batting leadoff for their respective bird-named teams

Player A: .234/.341/.416 11 2B 14 HR 37 RBI 50 R 4 SB 2 CS 121 TB 13.1 BB% 23.3 K%

Player B: .245/.336/.481 10 2B 13 HR 35 RBI 40 R 3 SB 2 CS 116 TB 11.9 BB% 20.6 K%

Basically the same player, right? Player B has hit for a bit more power, while Player A has walked and struck out a little more.

If I told you one of those players was Jose Bautista, you'd think he's Player B due to the higher slugging percentage. He's actually player A, however, while Player B is...Dexter Fowler(?!).

I find it fascinating that their stats are so similar given how different their profiles are. Bautista is a former home run champion, a mashing corner outfielder who averaged 38 homers and a .945 OPS from 2010-2015. Fowler's a fleet-footed center fielder who has more career steals than homers and has never hit more than 17 dingers in a season.

After looking at their Baseball-Reference pages, I noticed that their numbers were pretty similar last year, too:

Bautista 2016: 116 G 517 PA .234/.366/.452 (118 OPS+) 191 TB 16.8 BB% 19.9 K%

Fowler 2016:   125 G 551 PA .276/.393/.447 (123 OPS+) 204 TB 14.3 BB% 22.5 K%

Despite producing similar seasons at the plate, Fowler was a much better baserunner and outfielder en route to tallying a career-high 4.2 bWAR, while Bautista's liabilities in those facets dragged his value down to 1.0 bWAR. That, combined with their age difference (Bautista is more than five years older than Fowler) led to Fowler receiving a five-year, $82.5 million contract from the Cardinals while Bautista returned to the Blue Jays on a one-year, $18.5 million deal.

Both teams have to be reasonably happy with their production thus far, as both have overcome miserable starts to provide solid first-half production. While Toronto and St. Louis are treading water in the standings, neither should be regretting their decisions to ink Bautista and Fowler last winter.

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