Double Vision: Surprising Statistical Player Comparisons
One of the toughest things to keep a grip on in sports is the constant evolution of players. We get so used to seeing players like Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera compete for triple crowns every year that it takes us a long time to adjust our perception when those days start to fade.
On the flip side, a new crop of players is always on the rise, ready to swoop in and steal headlines from the previous stars of the game. Winning in fantasy sports has a lot to do with getting in or out on players long before the public perception changes.
Double Vision is a new series that will be published here throughout the season to help keep you ahead of the rest of the owners in your league. We will compare two players side-by-side to examine their recent statistics. The conclusions can vary quite a bit depending on each of the comparisons, but try to keep an open mind and trust the data.
Similar stat lines don’t have to mean that one player is as good as the other. In fact, the conclusion I find myself drawing most often when looking at these is that one of the players might not be as good as we had thought, and the other might not be as bad. The goal is to use these comparisons to narrow perception on players and take advantage when possible to get ahead of the curve.
(Graphic by Jeramy Hubbard @frontofficejer.)
Zack Greinke vs Jon Gray (Last ~100 IP)
Greinke has been a top 10 pitcher in baseball most of the last six seasons. During that span, he has posted a 3.24 FIP, a K/9 of 8.5, and HR/9 of 0.9. Greinke has maintained similar numbers throughout his last 98 innings pitched. In about the same number of innings, Jon Gray has some striking similarities and he has actually managed to outperform Greinke in several areas. Strikeout numbers and walk numbers are almost identical, resulting in a K%-BB% that is amazingly close.
Gray actually has a better ERA during this span and has allowed fewer home runs than Greinke. Gray’s HR/9 is actually in line with Greinke’s during his six seasons of dominance from 2012-2018. Gray does give up a few more hits than Greinke on average, which inflates his WHIP a bit, but Gray has managed to keep his hard contact down which minimizes damage. Gray, playing half of his games in Colorado, makes it easy to be scared away, but considering the full body of work he’s managed to stand pretty tall in a box score battle with Zack Greinke.
Jose Ramirez vs Didi Gregorius (Last ~350 PA)
Pound for pound, Jose Ramirez is one of the best hitters in baseball. Last season, Ramirez played in 152 games and only struck out 69 times. In addition to his elite contact skills, Ramirez has some solid pop in his bat. Gregorius, like Ramirez, makes a ton of contact. He also has enough power to get the ball out of the ballpark on a regular basis. Incredibly enough, Gregorius has improved his contact rate in the early going of 2018. Last year, Gregorius had an impressive 80% contact rate. This year, somehow he has managed to improve both his contact percentage (86%) and hit for more power.
The comparison of Ramirez and Gregorius is packed with similarities. In their last 350 or so plate appearances, they have both hit for a high average, held their strikeout rates below 10%, and have an OPS bordering on .900. This season, Ramirez was drafted in the second round of most drafts around pick 20 while Gregorius wasn’t selected until a full 100 picks later. A few weeks into the season and that gap has started to shrink, and for good reason. Gregorius looks like the real deal.
(Graphic by Justin Paradis @FreshMeatLeague)
Rich Hill vs Madison Bumgarner (Last ~100 IP)
Staring at the side by side comparison of Madison Bumgarner and Rich Hill may cause many to go cross-eyed considering the past performance of the Giants’ ace. Bumgarner is one of baseball’s best pitchers. So if this is true how do we feel about Rich Hill? Hill is coming off one of the worst nine-inning stretches of his career and has still allowed two fewer earned runs than Bumgarner in just over 100 innings pitched. He has a lower ERA, lower WHIP, and the difference in strikeout numbers is staggering.
Hill has 132 strikeouts in his last 103 innings pitched. Bumgarner has just 90. To put this in perspective, Max Scherzer has 128 strikeouts in his last 99 innings pitched and Clayton Kershaw has 128 in his last 104 innings pitched. Hill has had health problems and is quite a bit older than most other starters in the league; there is no denying those facts. There also is no denying that he is one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball. Coming off a bad stretch, this might be the best opportunity to get him at a discount.