The Boston Red Sox had metrics guru Bill James on the payroll for 15 years and one of his accomplishments is Secondary Average. Just how did the 2019 Red Sox do?
As the writing well faces a possible drought waiting for any Boston Red Sox baseball news of merit, I have decided to look at one specific metric. Usually, the mention of metric has the same impact as inhaling ether. I understand since I was well regimented into traditional metrics until Bill James, Nate Silver, and Rob Neyer started to get the quantitative assessment ball rolling and Billy Beane picked it up.
"TB-H+BB+SB-CS/AB – MLB Stat of the Week"
There is one specific metric that is actually reasonable to formulate – unlike WAR that is a baseball version (to me) of Hodge Conjecture is to the Will Hunting mathematic aficionados. That metric is Secondary Average (SEC or SECA) and one can point the finger of blame at Bill James.
"“I like Secondary Average because it operates historically on the same scale as batting average, but focuses on the other things a hitter does, other than hit for average. As is true of batting average, .260, .270 is the norm throughout most of baseball history, but the spread is wider than batting average. Some players will hit .260 but with a Secondary Average of .120; others will hit .260 but with a Secondary Average of .450. If a player hits .280 but with a Secondary Average of .150, he’s not really going to create many runs, whereas if he hits .250 but with a Secondary Average of .400, he’ll change the scoreboard.” – Bill James online"
A player can have a high batting average and a low SECA, but a player can have a high total in both – similar to a pitcher whose ERA and FIP are nearly identical. When I first saw this statistic years ago I applied it to Ichiro Suzuki’s best year which was 2004 when he hit .372. The secondary average was just .188 or well below the .200 warning sign. Ichiro simply relies on average for his production. As with any measurement it has its flaws and its pluses, but for me, that is not the debate as I just want to see which Red Sox players have a respectable SECA.
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The Red Sox outfield is where I first stopped off and there is no surprise with Mookie Betts having a .414 SEC and in his 2018 MVP season that SECA was .496. Jackie Bradley Jr. is next in line at .314 followed by Andrew Benintendi at .287. New signed free agent Kevin Pillar was just .217 and new (maybe) right fielder Alex Verdugo is at .265.
Rafael Devers had a breakout season in 2019 in both batting average (.311) and with a .318 SECA -up from his .261 SECA in 2018. To Devers’ left is Xander Bogaerts – winner of his third Silver Slugger Award – and a .373 SECA. Second base was an issue and Brock Holt at .216 is gone and Michael Chavis with .282 SECA may hold it down. Newcomer Jose Peraza had a lousy season at .239 but his SECA was a wreck at .154. Peraza had a “great” 2018 but it did not show with a .201 SECA.
Mitch Moreland is back and in part-time duty. In 2019, he checked in with a healthy .372 SECA compared to a career .286. J.D. Martinez is a noted slugger who also hits for batting average with a career .294. No slouch in the SECA department with a .381 in 2019.
Last is catcher Christian Vazquez who slammed a surprising 23 home runs ( Juiced balls! What juiced balls?). Vaz had a .274 SECA.
Historically, the all-time leader is Barry Bonds (.606) but if any statistic needs an asterisk for a player it is that one. Mike Trout at .499 is the active leader and Ted Williams is in third place (.553) just behind former Red Sox Babe Ruth (.594). The rest of the list has some eyebrow-raising and head-scratching such as Danny Tartabull (.378) being ahead of Hank Aaron (.376). And J.D. Drew (.388) is in 64th place all-time.
Based on the Aaron and Drew situation I am not ready to dismiss SECA, but it is beginning to have a tinge of astrology to it – fun to read but not take seriously. Jack Clark is 51st…..