I want to be accepted as a modern baseball writer. As such, I have made a conscious decision years ago to be as much of a student of modern baseball statistics as possible with an unfortunately limited brain. It is not in me to create calculations and amazing charts and do all those things possible to build a case. But, at least I have made an effort not to stick in the past and accept the old batting average and runs batted in way of valuing players. All that said, when it comes to valuations of players, I still struggle. Allen Craig of the Cardinals and Dan Uggla of the Braves are one crystallization of that dilemma.
According to Fangraphs.com, so far this season, Dan Uggla has been worth $6.4 million with his play considering all facets of his game. Allen Craig has been valued by that same site as worth $10.4 million with his. That means that Allen Craig has been valued over Dan Uggla by a factor of 1.625. Or to look at it another way, Uggla has been worth about 61.5 percent of what Allen Craig is worth.
On the short side of things, this seems correct as Craig is having a better year (obviously). But when thinking about it more deeply, it seems that Craig is worth three times what Uggla is worth. I see this reflected better at baseball-reference.com which has Craig at 1.8 rWAR and Uggla at only 0.1. That seems to be a much more accurate assessment.
Let's compare the two with some statistics:
- Uggla: .193/.310/.409 for a .719 OPS, a .319 wOBA and a 2.4 UZR in the field and a minus 2.4 on the bases.
- Craig: .321/.369/.472 for a .841 OPS, a .366 wOBA and a 0.0 UZR in the field and a minus 5.5 on the bases.
That does not seem close does it? Well, yes, Craig is a snail on the base paths (although Jeff Sullivan has some thoughts about this as well). We will not get into some of the ephemeral data such as Craig's average with men in scoring position, etc. But by just looking at the numbers above, you get the idea that Dan Uggla is pretty bad this season as a baseball player and Allen Craig is pretty darned good.
And here is where I begin to have a few problems with the entire thing. Dan Uggla "plays" second base. Craig plays first or left field or right field. Craig's positions are considered of little value in the grand scheme of valuations. In fact, first base is given a negative value as a positional adjustment. So Uggla's position has a lot to do with his positive valuation.
If you break down Fangraphs' valuation, they go like this for Uggla: 1.3 for his batting (Again, how when he is hitting so poorly? The answer, his walks and home runs), -2.4 for fielding, -2.4 for base running, a +12.4 replacement value and a +1.5 for the position he plays. The positives outweigh the negative and he has a fWAR in the positive numbers.
Craig, on the other hand, gets a +12.9 replacement value but a -6.7 positional value. Craig plays positions that are considered a negative in value. I do not get that. Some day, somebody is going to prove my theory that a good first baseman is worth much more to this team than a bad one. And yet they all get the same negative positional value. I do not know Allen Craig's scoop value, which is a new statistic. But I do know he has only made one error all season no matter where he has played. That's right. One.
Uggla is one ugly second baseman. I have maintained that for years and his fielding numbers bear that out. But he still gets a higher overall fielding score (fielding plus positional) than Craig and it is not even close. Uggla has a Fld + Pos of -0.9. Craig's same number for that stat is, -6.8. That is more than a half a win difference. I do not get it.
Uggla does hit more homers and he has much better plate discipline. I get that. But Uggla has been on base near 30 times less than Craig and Craig has 42 more total bases.
I want to be a hip writer. I really do. I want to be considered knowledgeable and credible. But these things baffle me. And the fact that Uggla is valued so close to Craig will defeat my street cred every time. To me, to the bedeviling of my writing credibility, Dan Uggla does not add anything of value to the Braves and Craig is a major cog in the Cardinals rolling machine.