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"The always-vocal on-base percentage lobbyists"

John Markon of the Richmond Times-Dispatch takes a look at the Soriano trade in this morning's edition. I'm pretty certain no one reads the T-D's sports section for its coverage of Major League Baseball, but Markon is the paper's most thoughtful sports columnist, and he likes baseball---and he's interested in the Nats. So when he writes about the Nats, it's usually worth it to read what he has to say.

Then again, it's "worth it" in a sense to read Thomas Boswell. But, with Markon, at least your intelligence won't be insulted every other column.

Although Markon also describes Brad Wilkerson as "flummoxed" by RFK Stadium, there's little Boz-esque optimism in this piece. It's not the constructive opposite of Boz's love letter to Cap'n Leatherpants, but there are some good points raised here. Markon makes sure to point out Soriano's attitude and OBP problems, both of which were conspicuously ignored by Boswell.

On this latter point, Markon coins a neat little phrase. He doesn't disparage stats analysis for the sake of disparaging stats analysis, which makes him readable. But it's not the be-all, end-all for him, either, which probably ensures he's a good read. Consequently, he can point to:

[t]he always-vocal on-base percentage lobbyists [who] will also side with Wilkerson (.365 career) over Soriano (.320)

and I'll think it's a clever turn of a phrase.

What I'm saying is that Markon doesn't ignore the statistic when it's unfavorable (like Boswell here) or doesn't slam those who advocate its consideration (like Bill Plaschke everywhere). What Markon is saying is true, in other words; the people who advocate looking at OBP are "always-vocal" about it. It's true.

Actually, Markon's take on Soriano might be somewhat too pessimistic, as Markon falls for the common trap against which Banks of the Anacostia warned us recently: looking to one-year samples instead of a more substantial one, like a three-year trend. Markon, as you might expect, focused on Soriano's 2005 road stats; as I noted in a previous post, his lifetime road stats aren't terrible (except for the OBP, of course) and confirm that he's a pretty legit slugger.

Speaking of which, the notion that Soriano is a starkly declining player who's been puffed up by Ameriquest Field is disabused a bit at this fantasy site. (I think this "notion" has been expressed with enough frequency the last couple days that it's not a straw man position.) Of course, RFK will almost certainly suppress some of Soriano's power, which is why "Roto Authority" projects him to hit:

.252   24  80    29

I don't really care about the RBI total, but I am interested in seeing what kind of OBG and SLG totals would be yielded by this 604-AB projection.(The guy at the site originally projected Soriano for nearly 700 AB, but Chris Needham emailed the guy and said he'd never approach that, given RFK and the lesser frequency in which the Nats would turn over the batting order.)

Soriano's career walk rate is once every 20.7 at-bats. It's gotten a bit better in recent seasons, as he's been between once every 18-19 at-bats the past three seasons. We'll give him the benefit of the doubt and project him for one walk every 18 AB in '06. (As you can tell, this is not a rigorous projection.) Based on 604 AB, that comes out to 33.5 walks. We'll round up, just so we can project Alf with a career high. (Again, not rigorous.)

Add up those 34 walks with the projected 152 hits, and we get 186 times on base. (I'm not going to worry about hit-by-pitches; like I said, not rigorous.) Add up those 604 AB with the 34 walks, and we get 638 plate appearances. (No sacrifice flies . . . not rigorous.)

OBP: .292.

For slugging percentage, if it's possible, I'm going to be even less rigorous. Yep, it's possible: using the "spacious gaps" theory, I'm just going to toss him 45 doubles and five triples. We'll use the 24 projected homers. Four bases for the homers yield 96 bases. Three bases for the triples yield 15 bases. Two bases for the doubles yield 90 bases. That's 201 bases. There are 78 remaining hits, all singles, for 78 more bases. Thus, we get 279 total bases for Soriano, divide it by the projected 604 AB, and we get---

SLG: .462.

Consequently, we get an AVG/OBP/SLG line of .252/.292/.462.

I'm thinking the batting average is too low; the guy at the roto site lowered it reasonably, based on RFK, but seemed to do so a bit further arbitrarily. If we raise his average back to .270 or so, his other numbers climb a bit.

Neverthless, the exercise does make me appreciate a bit more the contributions of Jose Guillen, who hit .283/.338/.479 last season, despite RFK. Of course, I've consistently said that Guillen is a supplemental slugger; one only hopes that Soriano exceeds this projection, or he'll be the subordinate. Stay healthy, Nick Johnson.