sOPS+ is a really nifty statistic. Most of us are familiar with OPS+ or adjusted OPS. It’s a quick and simple way to see how well a hitter has performed (with park factors applied) against the league average hitter. A score of 100 means that the hitter is league average, below 100 indicates below average, and above 100 indicates above average. For example: A 120 OPS+ hitter in the National League means that this particular hitter is 20% better than the league average hitter.
Well, sOPS+ works on the same idea (100 is league average) but, it compares against a specific split (vs. pitcher handedness, count scenarios, defensive positions, etc.) . Hence the ‘s’ in sOPS+ stands for split. So, if you want to know how well the Giants hit against LHP as compared to the league average in that split, sOPS+ is your stat.
By using sOPS+ we can see how much offensive production the Giants have gotten from their various positions over the past 10 years.
First, let’s check out the infielders.
A quick note about this graph. The red horizontal line indicates a score of 100 or a league average hitter for that position. We are also counting total production for each position. So, it’s not just the starter at the position, but the total overall production line (starters, bench players, substitutions) from that position. And remember that we’re not really considering defensive value in today’s post. So, some players who aren’t necessarily great hitters might look a little worse than intended. A pretty good example of this is Omar Vizquel in 2007. He accounted for 85% of the SS production on that Giants team while putting up a 71 sOPS+. But, he was very good defensively that year and was worth around +2 wins as a total player.
Back to the graph. I really liked how the graph turned out because I think it shows a few of the strengths and weaknesses of past Giants teams in the infield. First, how far has 2B production fallen? You can see during the Kent years the Giants were getting some amazing production out of 2B. After Kent left, Durham took over and accounted for most of the 2B production. Most of the time Durham helped push the second base production to better than league average. His down year in 2007 sunk the production to far below average. In 2008 Durham was very good offensively at 2B (his sOPS+ in 279 PA’s was 123) but he was eventually traded and the Giants replaced his production with Eugenio Velez (76 sOPS+) and Emmanuel Burriss (62 sOPS+). The overall combo of Velez and Burriss brought the total line down to below-average. You’ll notice that the 2B production so far from 2009 is the lowest production from any Giants defensive position in the last 10 years. The Giants drastically have to fix second base if they have any hope of the playoffs.
First base has been another spot of difficulty for the Giants. Outside of JT Snow’s unexpected 2004 season, the Giants haven’t been able to find total league average production from first base. JT Snow had a long tenure for the Giants at first but he was never a great hitter compared to other first basemen. The rest of the time the Giants have filled first base with players like Mark Sweeney, Ryan Klesko, Rich Aurilia, and Lance Niekro. Does any other team in the majors get less from first base than the Giants?
The good news is that Pablo Sandoval’s 2009 is pushing total 3B production to the highest point it’s been in the last 10 years. Most of our time line for Giants third basemen includes Edgardo Alfonzo and Pedro Feliz, neither were great hitters for their position. Though, Feliz’s defense did enough to help his value. Sandoval’s season this year has been outstanding.
Now, let’s check out the outfiedlers.
Can you tell when Barry Bonds left the team? It should be pretty easy. Fans have turned on Fred Lewis pretty quickly but I’d like to remind them that he’s posted the best sOPS+ of any Giants position player in LF this season. His sOPS+ of 84 in LF isn’t fantastic, but the Giants have killed themselves by giving the remaining at-bats in left to Randy Winn, Andres Torress, and Eugenio. Though, Winn has looked better at the plate lately. The Giants have gotten pretty steady near average production from their right fielders. The early portion of the RF graph includes Ellis Burks’ fantastic seasons with the Giants. Afterwards, the Giants had a rotating cast in RF. Players like: Reggie Sanders, Jose Cruz Jr., and Michael Tucker held down the position until Randy Winn arrived.
Center field production has been below-average more often that not but Aaron Rowand is having a very nice year this season. The 1999 team mostly had Marvin Benard in CF (565 PA’s at the position, 107 sOPS+) but FP Santangelo really helped the overall line for the position (179 PA’s, 120 sOPS+). I thought it was interesting that the lowest production that the Giants received from CF was in 2002 when the team went to the World Series. That was the year of Shinjo (378 PA’s, 77 sOPS+) and eventually Kenny Lofton came onboard (203 PA’s, 104 sOPS+). Also, for some unkown reason, Shawon Dunston played 8 games in CF that season. I can’t even imagine what that looked like.
Because I’ll be away from BCB for the next week on work-related duties, updates should be infrequent. This, unfortunately, means that I won’t be around to write about Jermaine Dye when the Giants eventually trade for him. Darn.