Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Chris Carter Probably Being Overlooked For The Right Reasons

Ed Ryan over at Mets Fever had a thoughtful post today asking "how is Chris Carter getting overlooked" for the first base job? He's performed very well in spring training and, with Murphy struggling, one might think he deserves a look. A good thought, but not so fast.

Carter hit .294/.358/.465 for Triple-A Pawtucket in the International League last year while the property of the Red Sox. Decent numbers on the surface. However, putting up those numbers as a 26-year-old in Triple-A is a far cry from doing so in the major leagues.

According to the Minor League Equivalency Calculator, Carter would have batted only .247/.300/.382 last season in the majors, with only 12 home runs and more than two strikeouts for every walk. Defensively, he is known as a poor first baseman. You can sugar coat it all you like, but these are bad numbers.

Equivalencies (known as MLE's) are not the be-all-end-all of prospect analysis. In fact, great players will often elevate their game as they progress and beat their MLE's easily. Just one example is David Wright in his rookie season in 2004. Wright posted good stats in Triple-A, and then, although he took a step back in the majors, he posted numbers better than his MLE would have indicated.

But for most players, MLE's provide a good quick glimpse at what they can be expected to produce based on what they have done in the minor leagues. As another example, if Fernando Martinez were in the major leagues last year instead of Triple-A, his MLE was .245/.280/.438. He had rough discipline last year but slugged the ball like crazy, and that showed in his MLE. The big difference between Fernando and Carter, however, is that Fernando is a rapidly improving youngster while Carter is already 27.

All of this is to say that Carter's spring performance, although great, is likely to be a mirage. Certainly, the Mets have to take into account his 2779 minor league at bats when deciding whether he is a better option at first base than Daniel Murphy -- and to weigh them much more than 30 great at bats in spring training.

From my view, Murphy should get the job barring a complete collapse at the plate. Murphy was an excellent defender last year and there is no reason to think that his improvement in the second half last year wasn't real.[1] His minor league track record is solid and in line with what he has produced so far.

Carter might not be getting the consideration that many Mets fans feel he deserves, but that is because he is probably not the best man for the job.


[1]In fact, we looked at Murphy a couple of weeks ago here and concluded:

How did Murphy fare in the second half of the year, when he said he felt comfortable with his adjustments?

Pre All-Star: 25 bb, 30 k, .248/.314/.364
Post All-Star: 13 bb, 39 k, .282/.313/.485
September: 3 bb, 10 k, .290/.308/.580

* * *

If his improvement [in the second half] is legitimate, and he gets a little more luck this year, and if he has a capable right handed hitter batting behind him (so that lefties can't eat him up), I think he has a chance to hit .280/.345/.480 this year with 17-20 home runs.


RobCarpenter26 said...

I agree completely with your thesis on Carter, and mostly with your assessment of Murphy.

With Murphy, I can't argue against your suggestion that he made the second half improvements you note, but I wonder what if any negative impact on those improvements his new upright batting stance may have.

When he made those improvements he was in more of a pronounced crouch. if I recall correctly.

Anonymous said...

Tommy2cat said...

Can't agree with you here. I think MLE's are the mirage. I SAW Carter hit a week ago and even the foul balls he hit were scary.

In fact, he clawed and scraped his way on base before Angel Pagan's game-winning homerun - you had the sense Carter was going to do SOMETHING by the way he was swinging. His swing is beautiful, short and compact and he steps into the pitch.

I never cease to be amazed when statheads allow projections and calculations to supercede an assessment of a ballplayer. It suggests to me the person simply doesn't know the game.

Mind you, I really like Daniel Murphy. He deserves a spot on the roster. Chris Carter is a superior hitter, period.

James K. said...

Carter should win the final bench spot. I'd prefer Murphy start but Carter would be a nice addition to the bench.

MLE's are nice and all but the guy has a career .890 OPS in the minors and was stuck in the Red Sox system behind Youkilis, Lowell, Ortiz, etc. -- he never had a shot.

Anonymous said...

I'm fine with Omar and Jerry not-over weighing Carter's spring training and giving him the job over Murphy. My fear however is that they'll over-value *Jacobs* spring training, and give Jacobs a bench spot over Carter.

Even if Carter is a butcher with the glove, he simply can't be worse than Jacobs, who is older and has proven over many, many, many plate appearances that he [Jacobs] is an out-making machine.

Brian said...

Four comments, four different opinions. Man, I love baseball.

@Rob: I agree. I am not sure why Murphy would have tinkered with anything after the way he came on in the second half last year. I feel like that's something that a lot of young hitters do... make big adjustments that they don't have to. I hope he gets comfortable soon because soon it's gonna count.

@ Tommy: I'll admit I haven't seen Carter hit - a combination of work and bad spring training coverage on TV. I would bevery willing to accept an eyewitness assessment that Carter has upped his game, or somehow improved from last year.

However, there really isn't much arguing to be done that he was better last year than the MLE I quoted for you. If you want to argue he's better this year than last, fine -- but it's unlikely that a hitter his age will take such a drastic step forward.

On a side note, I think this is the first time I have been called a "stathead" ... so thanks. :)

Brian said...

Oh, and I agree with the last two comments that say Carter deserves the last spot over Jacobs. I see honestly no place for Jacobs on this team, and Carter has nothing left to prove in Triple-A.

Anonymous said...

Tommy2cat Said:

@ Brian: I agree with your last comment that there's no place for Jacobs on this team and Carter has nothing left to prove. If Carter would develop his glove, he'd likely earn a spot on an everyday line-up.

I'm a Daniel Murphy fan, but I have residual concerns about his getting a clutch hit in a key moment. It's almost the same feeling I've come to expect with David Wright. I definitely don't get that feeling with Pagan and Carter. Those two appear to bear down when the heat is on. Same with Francouer, although my expectations with him are less. Strange, but true.