Monday, April 14, 2008

Making the Grade - AL

Throughout the season I will take a look at the GPA leaders in each league. For the uninitiated, GPA stands for Gross Production Average, a measure of a player’s OBP and SLG% that is more useful than the standard OPS calculation. It is more useful primarily for two reasons: it gives more weight to OBP and it is shown on a scale comparable to batting average. The formula for GPA is simple:

Gross Production Average (GPA) = ((OBP*1.8) + SLG) / 4

For more on the subject you should check out this link, where GPA creator Aaron Gleeman provides his explanation for its origination.

As a reference point, here are last year’s leaders in the category (statistics can be found at The Hardball Times:

American League 2007
Alex Rodriguez .355
Magglio Ordonez .351
Carlos Pena .348
David Ortiz .342
Jorge Posada .331
Vladimir Guerrero .325
Jack Cust .319
Jim Thome .316
B.J. Upton .307
Curtis Granderson .306

Those names should look familiar, as they all had excellent seasons. Let’s take a look at this year’s top ten through the first two weeks of the season. To provide more flavor I have also listed each player’s GPA from the previous two seasons.

American League 2008 2007 2006
Raul Ibanez .394 .289 .302
A.J. Pierzynski .375 .233 .254
Carlos Guillen .362 .292 .318
Chone Figgins .355 .291 .254
Luke Scott .354 .284 .347
Casey Kotchman .348 .290 .159
Joe Crede .343 .190 .267
Nick Markakis .339 .287 .275
Ryan Garko .339 .288 .284
Carlos Pena .330 .348 .258

The only name that appears on both the 2007 and 2008 lists is Carlos Pena. He is showing in the early stages of the season that his power output last year was not a fluke. It will be interesting to track his progress as the season moves along to see if he can remain in the top ten.

Players such as Ibanez, Guillen, Markakis and Garko are off to great starts but their GPA’s will likely regress to their respective career norms over the next few months. Luke Scott is an interesting case, as this is the first year where he is getting a full slate of plate appearances. If he can maintain a .300+ GPA he will end up being one of the best end game OF picks of the year.

Joe Crede’s hot start has kept Josh Fields in the minors so far, but I don’t expect that to last all season. Even in Crede’s big counting stat year (2006 when he went 30-94) he still only had a .267 GPA. He slugged .506 that year but he had a paltry .326 OBP. Unless he can keep up his rate of one grand slam per week, he won’t be on this list for long.

Pierzynski has shown no history of being able to sustain top level production and I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t even sniff this list next time out. Figgins is another interesting case. He gets on base at a good clip but he has no power. My guess is that he finishes the year in the neighborhood of a .280 GPA. That would place him in the OK range.

I’ll go through the NL leaders next time.

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