Kyle Blanks in context

Kyle Blanks

Photo by Keith Allison (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Alternate title: Kyle Blanks is the new bobbleheads.

We’ve been talking a lot lately about Kyle Blanks and his fantastic start to the season. A recent chat on Twitter broke out where, like most humans do, the participants attempted to put Blanks’ contributions and potential contributions into context that’s relatable.

Of course, Kyle is only one man in a larger machine of moving parts, so what happens with him also affect other things. In this case, baseball player shaped things. The discussion shouldn’t focus on Yonder Alonso, but on the one player who is a not as good version of lots of players the Padres already have: Jesus Guzman.

I’ll use the fWAR (Wins Above Replacement) framework as a quick and dirty way to gain some perspective on the contributions of these players and what we can expect in the future. fWAR is a counting stat, where 2 wins over the course of a year is “average” (not necessarily a bad thing as average players are valuable), 5 wins is “all-star” and includes defense, offense, positional value, and a few other things.

A wild chart appears! This one is pretty straightforward:

2013 plate appearances fWAR so far in 2013
Kyle Blanks 74 0.6
Jesus Guzman 72 -0.3

A few things to note: fWAR so far doesn’t mean expected future fWAR. We don’t have anywhere near the amount of information so far this season to determine what will happen in the future. This chart is more of a “look at this cool stuff!” kinda thing.

Some information we can use though, is the amount of playing time these respective players have received. That leads me to this next fancy pants (hover your mouse over for row highlighting!) chart:

Blanks + Guzman’s PAs so far Projected 600 PA fWAR
Kyle Blanks 1.2 fWAR 2.0
Jesus Guzman -0.6 fWAR 0.5

The first column is another just for fun column. It’s how the results would look if Kyle Blanks took all of Jesus Guzman’s playing time and replicated his results so far, and vice versa.

That “replicated his results so far” modifier is pretty important, since it assumes something we shouldn’t: that if each player got the other’s PT, we should expect more of the same results we’ve seen so far this season. That’s just not true. But if it were true, we could expect an extra half win if Kyle Blanks saw all of Jesus Guzman’s time in the field.

The “projected 600 PA fWAR” is the big one. You see how I bolded it there? Bolded. There’s no taking that back, so you know it’s important. It’s what we’d get if we looked back at each player’s career (including this season), and used the things we know about aging, the importance of recent success vs past success, etc, to determine what we should expect from each player over a full year. I used the ZIPS version of this process.

We can also factor in players’ ages and expected performance in future years, which pushes Blanks’ value that much higher. Here are the full player pages from whence I pulled stats for Kyle Blanks and Jesus Guzman, via Fangraphs.

Point is, lets all thank Jesus Guzman for his valuable contributions to the team, especially those fantastic 271 plate appearances in 2011. But it’s time to move on.

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