Comparing players to those who have come before them is an age old baseball tradition and evaluation method to project how players might ultimately turn out at the Major League level. Traditional scouting has always likened an individual player to players that have proceeded them. A lot of times that was based on body type, or the mechanics of how they ran, threw, or swung the bat. Frankly, a lot of times those comparisons also contained some racial bias too. Black players were most often compared to other black players, Hispanics to Hispanics, Asian to Asian.
As the use of Baseball Statistics have evolved, so have the methods of comparing players through various analytics. In the 1980’s Bill James devised Similarity Scores . The opening to that link describes it as such:
“Similarity scores are not our concept. Bill James introduced them in the mid-1980s, and we lifted his methodology from his book The Politics of Glory (p. 86-106). To compare one player to another, start at 1000 points and then subtract points based on the statistical differences of each player”
It’s a fun tool, and for most players that have played at least two full seasons and have over 500 career PA, you can find their top 10 comparable list towards the bottom their player page Baseball-Reference.com . The biggest problem with that tool however is it uses raw stats, and does not include any adjustment for era, ballpark, and run scoring environment. It also does not include batter handedness. (It does for pitchers, as well as role, i.e. Starter or Reliever) Still, a lot of times the system kicks out a list that “feels right”, or there will be a player or two in the top 10 that really resonate, or is just downright fun to contemplate.
Later, Nate Silver developed and sold a system to Baseballprospectus.com he called PECOTA, which while following many of the basic projection methods based on weighting most recent performance, introduced the element of COMPARABLE PLAYERS to the system From their glossary:
“Comparable Players are generated by taking a player’s baseline projection and finding players with the same age and similar contact, power on contact, walks, and strikeout rates, as well s similar height, weight, handedness, and position (or start/relief split for pitchers).”
Silver managed that system for BP from 2003-2009. The system was updated by Colin Wyers in 2012 . It’s always a lot of fun to see their player comps. The problem being however that you have to pay for a BP subscription to view their Pecota projections and player comps.
When Dan Szymborski publishes his ZIPS Projections he includes the “#1 Comp” for each player. Those can be fun to discuss, debate, marvel at, and sometimes poke fun at.
Personally, I like to look at all of the different systems and comps that are generated. However I also like to make my own. And when I do them, I like to look at each player as an individual, and try to figure out what are the most defining characteristics of that player, and then make an individual player comp based on my own subjective opinion. So that’s what these are. Subjective criteria inputs, based on my own views on the most defining characteristics of a player, but then seeing what the baseball-reference play index spits out.
This is not meant to be rigorous statistical methodology. It’s opinion based on selected stats. But it’s fun for me, and I hope for you too. Sometimes I use an entire career. Sometimes I use single seasons, when there isn’t enough to go on. I may use an age “range” instead of exact age, as the factors the determine when a player gets called up and begins his career vary so widely.
Special Note: Clicking on the player’s name will bring you to the Original Play Index Report that was generated.
You’ll definitely want to click on those, as then you can click through to the players on the list to see more about these player comps. The tables pictured are abbreviated versions. Today I’ll cover the infield and catchers. Later we’ll get to the outfield, Starting Pitchers, and relievers. Some players won’t be covered as just not enough to go on.
I went with single season here, since integration, with an age range of 23 to 25. (Carson was 24 last year). I compared him to other right handed batting catchers, (minimum 65% Playing time at Catcher, minimum 200 PA) OPS+ between 107-117, and an Isolated Power, (Slugging - Batting Avg) of .200 or greater.
This is a neat little list. Charles Johnson was a defensive genius, who hit pretty well for a catcher early in his career. Mike Napoli was a fly ball power hitter, who eventually moved to first base and DH. The age 25 season for Estalella turned out to be his career year, and he was done by age 30. Wilin Rosario caught through 2014, moved to 1b & Pinch Hitting and emergency catcher duties, and then moved all the way to Korea and Japan to continue his career. I’ll hope for something between Johnson and Napoli for Carson.
Alex Avila : Another short tight list....essentially just two players I felt were pretty close. Miguel Montero and Rick Wilkins. Montero will be of particular interest to DBacks fans perhaps. He was also done by age 33, and Wilkins was no longer an effective major leaguer after age 30. The cliff for Catchers is often a steep and sudden drop off. Proceed with caution.
Spanning Multiple Seasons or entire Careers, From 1947 to 2019, Younger than 33, Bats LH, Played at least 50% of games at C, (requiring OPS+>=100, OPS+<=105, ISO>=.130, SO>=400, BB>=.08*PA and At least 2200 plate appearances), sorted by greatest WAR Position Players
Well, this comp list is going to give some ammo to those that want to go with the potential higher upside of Kevin Cron. Walker is tough to comp because he got his chance so late due to being blocked first by Chris Davis and then Paul Goldschmidt. So these are not very instructive. I had to really widen the playing time criteria just to get more guys in there. He walks more than guys like Trumbo or Balboni, or CJ Cron, and is a better defender. So they don’t feel quite right. Just no real solid comps. But also hard to tout further upside I’ve been speculating about based on these.
Current search:Spanning Multiple Seasons or entire Careers, From 1975 to 2019, Younger than 29, Bats RH, Played at least 50% of games at 1B, (requiring PA<=2500, OPS+>=94, OPS+<=120, ISO>=.190 and At least 500 plate appearances), sorted by greatest Adjusted OPS+
Wilmer is quite unique in that if you search players with over 2000 PA through age 27 who’ve played at least 15% of the time at EACH of 1b,2b,3b,&SS he’s the ONLY one on the list. So Opted for ANY of those 4 position, and limited playing time and the OPS+ range. With Wilmer it’s all about the bat, no matter where they play him, he’s not going to bring positive value with the glove or base running. You can peruse these comps careers at the report link and see the potential from age 28 onwards. Somewhat limited, but some solid examples too. Obviously Encarnacion’s power on the upper end even then, and not a good comp, but he makes the list
Spanning Multiple Seasons or entire Careers, From 1961 to 2019, Younger than 28, Bats RH, Played at least 15% of games at 1B, 2B, 3B or SS, (requiring PA<=3000, OPS+>=100, OPS+<=104, ISO>=.140 and At least 1600 plate appearances), sorted by greatest Adjusted OPS+
So I took some liberty here as well with a selective begin and end point. Eduardo has developed into a very different player over the last three seasons than he was previous to that. So I chose to comp him for his ages 28-30 season with players that have played either 3b, 2b, or SS. I also added a couple of wrinkles here, showing oWAR and dWAR.
Spanning Multiple Seasons or entire Careers, From 1961 to 2019, From Age 28 to 30, Played at least 0 games at 2B, 3B or SS, (requiring OPS+>=106, OPS+<=116, ISO>=.185, dWAR>=-1 and At least 1500 plate appearances), sorted by greatest Offensive WAR
That’s a pretty cool list. Some really good players, and some guys that had a lot of success AFTER their 30th birthday including Jeff Kent and Robin Ventura. Of course any list looking at guys from age 31 onwards is going to contain a few cautionary tales as well. Eduardo may not match his career year he just had, but should continue to be a solid performer the next two years of his contract.
This is a damn fine list, with a lot of good to great shortstops. I again used a 3 year sample, in this case age 27-29. It’s yet another data point in favor of extending Nick, as there are a lot of guys that were very productive and great defenders well past age 30.
This one is sorted by dWAR. Keep in mind that Nick has the lease amount of playing time of anyone on the list too.
Spanning Multiple Seasons or entire Careers, From 1961 to 2019, From Age 27 to 29, Played at least 75% of games at SS, (requiring OPS+<=93, OPS+>=81, Rfield>=15 and At least 1200 plate appearances), sorted by greatest Defensive WAR
Yeah, um....this is not good. These are straight comps up through age 28, left hand batters, corner infielders. Mike Pagliarulo is a dead ringer for Jake. You whippersnappers won’t remember him. But he was a Yankee thirdbaseman of some promise, with power. But ultimately he didn’t hit for enough average or OBP, and not quite enough power to make up for it. Defense was below average too. NOBODY on this list had any success after age 28-29 either. Just one more data point to support the notion that Jake should probably be non tendered. But it’s hard to let go of a guy that hit 60 homers over two seasons not so long ago.
Spanning Multiple Seasons or entire Careers, From 1961 to 2019, Younger than 29, Bats LH, Played at least 50% of games at 1B or 3B, (requiring PA<=3200, OPS+>=93, OPS+<=105, ISO>=.180, Rfield<=100*PA and At least 1800 plate appearances), sorted by greatest WAR Position Players