Loving Longoria

Odds are, you know Evan Longoria is pretty good. He’s just 23, but he’s already made his mark on the American League with a stellar rookie season, and he’s followed it up with a strong start to the 2009 season. It wouldn’t be that controversial to call Longoria the best young player in the American League.

I’m here to say we can take the word young out of the previous sentence. Evan Longoria is the best player in the American League. He’s not that far behind Albert Pujols for the title of best player in baseball.

So far, Longoria has racked up 637 major league plate appearances, basically one full season’s worth. His career line – .291/.356/.574, good for a .395 wOBA. His power has developed earlier than anyone expected, making him one of the premier sluggers in baseball. He covers the plate, drives the ball to all fields, works the count, and crushes mistakes. The list of players who have hit this well at this early stage of their careers is littered with Hall Of Fame talents.

If that wasn’t enough, Longoria might just be the best defensive third baseman in the game. He posted a UZR of +14.9 in 119 games last year, he stood at +4.5 through the most recent update last Sunday. His career UZR/150 stands at +20.5, thanks to his excellent footwork and reactions, which allow him to swallow up nearly every ball hit within shouting distance of third base. He was praised more for his glove than his bat coming out of college, so this kind of defensive excellence isn’t a surprise. He really could play shortstop, and probably be above average there.

Add up the total package, and in 151 major league games, Longoria has been worth +7.8 wins to the Rays. In what amounts to one season’s worth of playing time, Longoria has performed at a +8 win level that is rarefied territory. Our win value data goes back to 2002, and in the 7+ years of data that we have here on the site, Pujols and Alex Rodriguez have a massive lead over everyone else. Pujols has +56.7 wins, while Rodriguez has +55.2 wins. On a per year basis, those totals work out to just about +8 wins per year.

Longoria, in his first season’s worth of major league performance, as a 22 and 23 year old playing in the toughest division in baseball, has performed at a level essentially equal to what Pujols and Rodriguez have sustained for most of the decade. His rookie “season” was the equal of most MVP seasons.

This kid is sick.





Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

174 Comments
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Fresh Hops
13 years ago

While I agree that Longoria is a great baseball player, it’s premature to start tossing around Pujols/A-Rod comps. He’s not there yet, and he’s not yet close.

His career OBP is .356 and he’s recording a .37 BB/K ratio. He’s not a contact hitter (75%). Only two of his ten home runs this season would have left all thirty parks and four would have left less than half of them. His average distance is 379 feet; to give a comp, that’s a little less than Edwin Encarnacion managed last season. His current HR total is deceptive. In summary, he has nothing like Pujols contact skills, nothing like his plate discipline and no where near his power. He’s a damn fine 3B, there’s no question about that.

Once we dig past the surface numbers, we see that Longoria does not yet have an HoF skill set. Maybe he will develop that in time, but player development is very hard to predict.

Mr. Heckles
13 years ago
Reply to  Fresh Hops

What about last year when his twenty 30-park shots led the league? At age 22? In 500 at bats? Did you happen to miss that?

Not a contact hitter? You know who else wasn’t a contact hitter? Babe Ruth. Perhaps you’ve heard of him?

Fresh Hops
13 years ago
Reply to  Mr. Heckles

Babe struck out in just 12.5% of his career plate appearances while walking in 19% of them, which is to say that he makes Longoria look like a child and you look like someone that doesn’t know what the hell he is talking about.

Kincaid
13 years ago
Reply to  Mr. Heckles

Longoria did not hit 20 30-park shots last year, nor did he lead the league in 30-park home runs.

Babe Ruth struck out once every 6.3 ABs and every 8.0 PAs. Longoria has struck out every 3.8 ABs and every 4.2 PAs. Ruth hit .342 compared to a league average over his career of .285. Longoria has hit .291 compared to a league average of .272. Ruth was a much, much better contact hitter than Longoria. He also walked more than twice as frequently (every 5.1 PAs compared to every 11.4 PAs) to go along with the strikeouts.

Or was this post being facetious to reflect the hyperbole of the original post?

Mr. Heckles
13 years ago
Reply to  Mr. Heckles

Oh, you’re right. Silly me. Babe Ruth was a great contact hitter. I must have been confusing him with that other five time strikeout king…

And yes, Longoria did have twenty 30-park shots including the postseason last year and yes, it did lead the American League. Did you even bother to look it up? It would have taken literally two minutes of research on your part to verify the first number.

Kincaid
13 years ago
Reply to  Mr. Heckles

If you are going to include postseason statistics, you sort of have to point that out, since, you know, there are sort of standards for reporting season baseball statistics. For example, everything in this article is talking about his regular season production. Or, you might commonly see that Ruth hit 60 HR in 1927. If someone wanted to say he hit 62 home runs that year, they would say he hit 62 home runs including postseason play. And you would never include postseason stats with regular season stats to determine a league leader.

Ruth did strike out about half as frequently as Longoria does, so I still fail to see the value of your comparison. It makes about as much sense as me comparing Longoria’s contact ability with Mark Reynolds’. Besides, that, the Ruth comparison doesn’t make any sense anyway. So a hitter who was vastly superior to Longoria in pretty much every way was a great hitter? What is that supposed to be saying about Longoria?

Mr. Heckles
13 years ago
Reply to  Mr. Heckles

Okay, fine. He was second behind A-Rod if you exclude the playoffs. Does that really change anything? I included the playoffs because he was already at a huge disadvantage, you know, missing a quarter of the regular season and being twenty two and all.

The strikeout rate in Ruth’s day was less than half of what it is today. Saying Ruth was a good contact hitter for his era is like saying Walter Johnson wasn’t a good strikeout pitcher. The only point in bringing him into the discussion is who said that the best player in the league had to be a good contact hitter and why didn’t Mike Schmidt get the memo?

Wally
13 years ago
Reply to  Mr. Heckles

“The only point in bringing him into the discussion is who said that the best player in the league had to be a good contact hitter and why didn’t Mike Schmidt get the memo?”

No flippen shit.

Dai
13 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

“Evan Longoria is the best player in the American League. He’s not that far behind Albert Pujols for the title of best player in baseball.”

That appears to be a comparison.

Dai
13 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

Statements of value are comparisons when they contain a reference to something else of the same sort. If I say, “This car is worth $100,” then I haven’t made a comparison. But if I say, “This car is worth more than any other car on the block,” then I have. And that’s because I’ve measured it’s value relative to other things of the same sort.

That’s precisely what you did in your post. It appears to me that you’re simply trying to define your way out of the claim. Why not just defend it?

Dai
13 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

It’s one thing to tell us how valuable Longoria *has been.* That’s part of what I took you to be doing. No one is disputing that here.

But you also claimed that he was the best player in the American League. I think that when we have discussions like that, we’re usually talking about what we can expect from a player in the future and the likelihood of consistency. If those judgments were purely on the basis of what has happened, we’d change our judgment every week.

I’m disputing that Longoria is one of the best players in the game when by “best” we mean to include some probabilistic measure of his potential future value.

Kincaid
13 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

You should really give a few people an outline of what you are trying to say and then have them proofread these articles if that is true. Because the statement “Evan Longoria is the best player in the American League. He’s not that far behind Albert Pujols for the title of best player in baseball,” is a pretty prominent part of this article. And it invited every bit of criticism that has been brought up. It’s like you saying that the $100 car is the most valuable car on the block, and everyone pointing out how dumb it is to say a $100 car is more valuable than all the other cars on the block when it clearly isn’t, and then you getting angry because one of the more valuable cars is black.

If the whole point was to look at Longoria’s Win Value in his first full “season”, and to see how it compares to the best in the game, then that paragraph is completely out of place. And the whole point of this is basically to save us 2 minutes of looking at Longoria’s page, thinking, “I wonder how that compares to Albert and A-Rod?” and then looking at their pages. And then ignoring that both of them have had multiple seasons over a full win better than Longoria. And then ignoring that there have been 20 seasons better than Longoria’s career WAR in the 7 years recorded on this site, and that in 6 of the 7 seasons, the leader in WAR has been over a win better than Longoria’s. So, if you’re going by Win Values, which seems to be the case since it’s what you are writing about (which apparently doesn’t mean it’s what you are trying to say, so sorry if that is not the case), then his “season” is not really equal to most MVP-caliber years.

Dai
13 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

Right on. That’s exactly the point.

Wally
13 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

“And then ignoring that there have been 20 seasons better than Longoria’s career WAR in the 7 years recorded on this site, and that in 6 of the 7 seasons, the leader in WAR has been over a win better than Longoria’s. So, if you’re going by Win Values, which seems to be the case since it’s what you are writing about (which apparently doesn’t mean it’s what you are trying to say, so sorry if that is not the case), then his “season” is not really equal to most MVP-caliber years.”

In the AL a WAR of 7.9 would have lead the league in 2008, 2007, and 2004. The times it wouldn’t have has been primarily thanks to A-rod. Dave is basically right that a WAR of 7.9 is equal to most MVP seasons, as any player that reaches around that level is worthy of MVP consideration.

Then, I find it a little ridiculous that you critisize this statement because 6 of 7 of the years the leading WAR is more than 1 full win above 7.9 (First that’s in MLB, not one particularly league where an MVP is being handed out). That is all from basically from Pujols, A-rod and Bonds. Three, not only HOF players, but inner circle HOF players in the peaks of their careers (ok bonds was in his late 30’s but that a different discussion). We are talking about Longoria’s first ~150 games in MLB for christ sake. I’ve been critical of Dave at times, but this is just ridiculous.

Kincaid
13 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

That means that 4 of the 14 MVP-level seasons, if we define MVP level as the highest WAR in either League, have been as low as Longoria’s career WAR. Many have been multiple wins better. That’s not equal to most MVP-level seasons. That’s on the bottom end of what we have seen lead either league. The average leader of either League over the past 7 years has been 9.2 WAR. The average MLB leader has been 10.3 WAR. So we’re not really talking about the equivalent of most MVP-caliber seasons in recent memory. It’s not like it was just those three putting up Win Values that high either. Just looking at other third basemen, David Wright, Scott Rolen, and Adrian Beltre have all had seasons with better Win Values than 7.8.

Of course Longoria is just 23 years old. He is a great young player, and he shouldn’t be expected to be as good as the best in the game right now. And he isn’t. That is the point.

Mr. Heckles
13 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

The average MLB-leading WAR is not the same thing as the skill level of the game’s best player. Not even close. There are no 10 win players. Outside of Bonds, there isn’t anybody who’s even managed to average more than 8.5 wins a year in any three year stretch since 2002. Your argument is severely flawed, completely without merit and increasingly off-topic but as Dave would say, thanks for playing.

Wally
13 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

Thank you Mr. Heckles, that was much more eliquently put than my attempt to explain the exact same thing…..