Friday, December 17, 2004

2005 Dodgers: Jose Valentin

Wow, another guy I forgot to mention, mainly because he's a shortstop. At $3.5 million, I do think this deal might have been more expensive than the market for him, but not by a wide margin.

I think I've seen two or three stathead-types point out this offseason that Valentin's batting average dropped low enough last season that he ceased being an underrated commodity. The thing is, though, that Valentin absolutely cannot hit southpaws and the White Sox started him against them frequently, to the tune of .191/.262/.404. Against northpaws, he hit .226/.298/.503. Obviously, that's inflated somewhat since Mobile Phone Villa in Chicago is the easiest place in baseball to hit a home run; I project that to .213/.282/.449 in 2004 LA, which certainly doesn't look very good. However, that's a .239 GPA, and league average for 2004 LA is .243. However, Valentin had a batting average on balls in play of .234 against RHP, which even with his tendencies is not likely to stay so low; .250 might be more reasonable based on his line drive rate in 2004. Looking at his overall numbers, everything has stayed very much the same year to year except his batting average on balls in play, which has declined steadily every year. Dodger Stadium likely won't help that, unless the remodeling makes a big difference. Whether that decline should be expected to continue and to what extent is an interesting question. Given all that, I'd say Valentin should be just under average offensively (because he still will have to take the occasional PA against LHP), which with his outstanding defense makes him 8-14 runs above average over 130 games.

Another thing I discovered about Valentin truly astounded me. Check this out:

2000: .323/.420/.541 w/ runners in scoring position, .257/.309/.476 otherwise
2001: .302/.411/.593 RISP, .247/.309/.476 otherwise
2002: .351/.416/.670 RISP, .224/.280/.432 otherwise
2003: .229/.306/.466 RISP, .239/.310/.462 otherwise
2004: .248/.347/.571 w/ RISP; .206/.261/.443 otherwise

It appears Valentin has a significant and undervalued skill. With a runner on second, he just takes over. I don't know what the explanation for it is, but something tells me DePodesta may have known about this. Wow. I might look into this more deeply using linear weights in the future, but suffice it to say this might make his offense above average overall.

Like the Kent deal, this signing is smart in that it gives the Dodgers a lot of flexibility. Consider the infielders on the Dodgers' 40-man roster that are major-league ready:

Jeff Kent
Hee Seop Choi
Jose Valentin
Cesar Izturis
Alex Cora
Antonio Perez
Olmedo Saenz
Joe Thurston, kind of

By UZR, Valentin was the best defensive shortstop in baseball last season and the best from 2000-2003. So the Dodgers have a lot of room to maneuver. I know a Cesar Izturis trade would result in beer and tacos being vomited over LA Times sports sections all over Southern California, but that doesn't mean it's not a good idea.

Now, wherever Valentin plays he'll need a platoon partner, and I suspect that would be Antonio Perez, although Olmedo Saenz can still play third base, kind of. Despite what I said about Izturis, this is more likely a signal that Cora won't remain with the club because of his handedness, whether as a non-tender or in a trade. I would think the Dodgers could get something for Cora in a trade - the Cardinals still have exactly zero middle infield pieces.

All in all, this is a good deal. Obviously, he's not Adrian Beltre. But he's not bad either, and even if DePodesta paid him more than he could have gotten away with it's still good value.

>>Given all that, I'd say Valentin should be just under average offensively (because he still will have to take the occasional PA against LHP<<

From the article on the Dodger website:

>>Valentin's agent said the 35-year-old accepted a Dodgers offer over one from Texas because he was told he will play every day.<<

I agree that Valentin should be platooned, but it doesn't look like that will happen.
For a left-handed hitter, playing everyday is pretty much the same thing as being platooned. The Rangers were trying to sign him as a backup with Soriano and Mike Young already on hand.
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