Updated: Nov 12, 2021
I had an idea to revisit a topic I wrote about a couple of years ago.
During the 2021 Postseason several media members compared Yordan Alvarez to David Ortiz.
A common thing to do in scouting is to draw comps for prospects to established players. In fact, scouts were making the Alvarez comparison to Ortiz before he played a single game in the MLB.
Fans of a team can either overvalue or undervalue their own players because they know them so well. Depending on the nature of the fan they either see all their warts or only see their successes. One way to overcome this is to apply the scouting comp logic based on statistics to draw the best comparison to a player that fan is not overly invested in.
That is what we will do here. If we took the current Astros and built a team of their most similar contemporary (having played since say 2017) players, how would we view THAT team and what does it tell us about the 2021/2022 Astros?
One way to do this is to use the similarity scores on Baseball Reference. They are described here (https://www.baseball-reference.com/about/similarity.shtml). For this exercise, I am going to use the “Similar Batters through (AGE)” data so that we are comparing the current Astros to those players that were/are most like them at the same age. I also showed for each player, the player who has the closest career statistics to the current Astros independent of age.
For Example, here is the listing for Jose Altuve
Similar Batters through 31
Ryne Sandberg (900.1) *
Robinson Cano (887.6)
Dustin Pedroia (884.3)
Hanley Ramirez (884.2)
Derek Jeter (868.0) *
Bobby Doerr (867.9) *
George Brett (866.3) *
Roberto Alomar (863.9) *
Harvey Kuenn (861.9)
Frankie Frisch (859.8) *
* - Signifies Hall of Famer
That is some amazing company. Seeing this list makes one truly appreciate the greatness of Jose Altuve.
Here is the data for the position player starters and the primary backups for the Astros.
A few interesting notes here.
Most of the players listed for Maldonado are from a generation or more ago. Seven of the players listed are 54 years old or older.
No contemporary player has a statistical profile like Yuli Gurriel at age 37. Yuli’s MLB career start was delayed due to him playing in Cuba. A much younger Trey Mancini is the closest contemporary statistical fit.
The similarities for Altuve are fascinating. Every player listed was consider by the fans to be a great player. Six are already Hall-of-Famers and two more may join the club. Altuve is on pace to reach the Hall of Fame. Astros fans, cherish your time with Altuve.
The comparisons for Correa are approaching similar lofty territory as Altuve. Three of the players on Correa’s list are Hall-of-Famers. Many of the other players are at the top of the game now. Trevor Story is the most statistically similar player independent of age to Carlos Correa. (Story will be in age 29 near next year.). Does this give anyone a different perspective on Story as a FA? Read more about Correa and Story here.
For the 2022 Astros, I put Diaz at SS for now. None of the similar batters through 30 are really contemporaries. The best contemporary statistical fit independent of age is Tommy LaStella.
The fact that Anthony Rendon is the most similar to Alex Bregman through age 27 feels very right. If Bregman gets healthy, he can bounce back fast.
When one watches Michael Brantley, they can often feel like they are watching a 20th century player and not one playing in 2021. Not a single player that has a higher similarity score in the top ten played later than Mark Kotsay who retired after the 2013 season. Brantley plays baseball like many did a generation or more ago.
The list for Kyle Tucker includes a lot of young talented players from today’s game. It is interesting to see Eloy Jimenez as the most similar.
Yordan Alvarez is closely compared to some great sluggers of today and yesteryear including Willie McCovey. Pete Alonso is the contemporary edging out Shohei Ohtani as the most similar through age 24. The 22-year old Vladimir Guerrero has the most similar career statistics.
Jason Castro compares to many good historical catchers with Alex Avila being the most similar
For McCormick and Myers, the similarity score system does not kick in for rookies with so few ABs. I attempted to mimic the calculation with a pool of CFs. Kyle Lewis was the most similar to McCormick. Chas McCormick is the most similar contemporary to Myers. Akil Baddoo is like both as well.
So, who are the 2021 and 2022 Batters? If we substituted the players above into the Astros batting order it would look like this.
Maybe having these comparisons will help you calibrate to exactly how good the Astros hitters are.
Maybe Alvarez is more Willie McCovey than he is David Ortiz.
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