Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Nat stat of the day, Feb. 1

Jose Guillen, say hello to Dusty Baker

[Note: The Nat-of-the-day profiles continue as an ongoing project, but as last week proved, it's tough to bang out a totally excessive number of words on each player. I've cut back to about three per week, I think. So I'm adopting this as a regular, day-after-day feature. Enjoy.]

The invaluable BaseballReference.com provides "similarity scores" for all players listed, as first developed in Bill James' fabulous 1994 hardcover book The Politics of Glory (later released in paperback under the title Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?) Well, Baseball Reference has added versatility to the concept, listing similarity scores that track a player's age as he develops in the big leagues.

Let's use Jose Guillen as an example, since he's had a rather, uh, undulated career path. That is, he was sort of good, then stunk, and now he's pretty good again. We'll take his "most similar player" in three-year intervals:

---Age 22: Chet Lemon
---Age 25: Junior Felix
---Age 28: Dusty Baker

Two things I should note:

1. Guillen was a regular in the big leagues just before age-21, but there is no similarity list for his age-21 season. Either this is just an oversight, or there is no player throughout history who has been truly similar to Guillen through age 21 (which I find hard to believe).
2. On that subject, note that these comparisons are based on career value up to a determined point, not for any particular season. Harry Craft's age-26 season, for instance, wasn't that comparable to Guillen's age-26 season (2002), but---through the age of 26---Craft is the most comparable player in baseball history to Guillen (at least according to the method).

So, at this point in time, Guillen's career is most similar to Dusty Baker's. Interesting, huh?

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