Friday, February 5, 2010

Adam Kennedy...

Well, he was the A's MVP for a good chunk of 2009... so why can't this guy get a contract before Spring Training?

So much of baseball has to do with "perception" and "reputation". Jason Kendall was once a great all-around athlete who could provide both offense and defense at a premium position. He had his foot knocked off with a baseball (one of the more gruesome baseball injuries I've seen) and was never the same. However, teams keep pursing him like this 2000, not 2010.

I like Fangraphs because they put all the different numbers and tools in one place. Since he will not be joining the organization this year (all the friggin snow probably scared him off to Minnesota), we probably will not mention Orlando Hudson any more after this column. Hudson, both in 2009 and over the course of his career, has posted better OBP and SLG than Kennedy, all the while collecting four Gold Gloves. Orlando Hudson has both those two words going for him. So despite having an advantage over Kennedy both on the field and at the plate, how the heck did Hudson generate less WPA?

Hudson hit in a lineup protected by some of the better hitters in the game; Kennedy, some of the worst. Kennedy split time between second base and third base, but fielded neither up to his standards. Hudson, since leaving the friendly turf in Toronto*, has been rated just an league average fielder.

* The differences between turf and grass are well documented, but how it impacts the different defensive positions really isn't. First and third base feel like fish in a barrel on turf. The English on a well struck ball is exacerbated by the synthetic surface, which makes playing a one-hopper like Russian Roulette. However, ground balls up the middle have less spin and roll true. The deep middle infield positions, however, are forced to deal with impacts of variable length grass, the transition between the grass, dirt, and grass again. The Minnesota Twins are really playing with fire by abandoning their BaggyDome. That turf is a huge home field advantage.

The thing that separates them most is that Kennedy is two years older and because he has had that one "down" year (2007... yikes!) is more or less written off. Hudson's career numbers are trending very predictably, with his defensive peak occurring in his mid twenties, his offensive peak occurring two to three years ago. There is little reason to believe that, barring injury, Kennedy will not contribute the same, if not more, WAR per at bat.

Given that the Nats plan to give Desmond a good look in the middle infield and still owe Cristian Guzman eight million dollars, a utility player like Kennedy probably makes more sense than a guy who can only play second base and will be less likely to check his ego at the door. See, sometimes those two words work both ways.

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