I've been going through a variety of Josh Vitters related ideas lately. Some stuff in the hopper about his pop-up rates and strike zone control are still, well, in the hopper.
I have been doing some "similarity" scoring to see who Vitters is reminiscent of. My source of data is MLBAM Gameday files, dating back to 2007. I league adjust a few rates (K and BB+HBP per PA, grounders, liners and pop-ups per ball in play, HR per flyball+liner) and see who has a similar four-year line, without regard to age and level.
I looked at Vitters' career line (less-often-than-average walks, strikeouts, and ground balls, average line drive, well above average pop-ups and home runs per FB+LD) against three samples: 2010 MLB seasons, 2007-2010 combined MiLB/MLB totals, and 2007-2010 MLB totals only.
Remember, these are not projections nor comparisons to a Major League Equivalent (MLE). It's just "if you did that same thing here..."
|Plate Approach||Batted Ball Type||Type+HR/FB+LD|
|Marlon Byrd||Ryan Doumit||Juan Uribe|
|Edwin Encarnacion||Michael Stanton||Brennan Boesch|
|J.J. Hardy||Jeff Francoeur||Ryan Doumit|
|Mark Reynolds||Derek Jeter||Jim Thome|
|Jack Cust||Luis Castillo||Luis Castillo|
|Jim Thome||Skip Schumaker||Elvis Andrus|
Rolling them together, putting equal weight on the first and third columns above (discarding the middle) (by rank order, not value -- this is not scientific, y'all):
Again, but not by rank and with an equal weight to each category:
I can think of a million ways to slice-and-dice the data. Let's do the same thing as above (just with the "combined" comps) but for MLB/MiLB combined, minimum 750 PA from 2007-2010.
First, using the psuedo-weighted/ranked lines:
And the un-weighted/ranked lines:
I don't know about you, but I'm getting convinced that Josh Vitters is neither the next Jack Cust nor Luis Castillo. The sudden appearance of Chad Tracy makes me a little bit queasy. Tracy joins Juan Uribe, Brennan Boesch, Aaron Hill and Jeff Francoeur in a little cluster of psuedo-comps.
OK, one more time, but just MLB lines, min. 600 PA 2007-2010.
By combined scores:
One name I'd like to point out -- Alex Gonzalez. OK, moving on.
For another perspective, I asked my Hardball Times colleague Brian Cartwright, creator of the Oliver projection system used in the THT Forecasts, for his Vitters comps. For these comps, Cartwright used data going back to 2005, also from Gameday, employing a similar yet distinct technique to my own. And more mathematically robust.
Using Vitter's 2010 Major League Equivalent (MLE), Cartwright's list of closest MLB seasons was chock full of Gonzalez with a smattering of Angel Berroa. When including minor league seasons and limiting the pool to players of/at the same age as Vitters the top comp is none other then Franceour. And it's a very, very close match.
In other words, Josh Vitters is Alex Gonzalez on the way to becoming a Jeff Franceour/Juan Uribe hybrid. Or something like that.