Hello and welcome to the new and hilariously named weekly series here at Climbing Tal’s Hill, “Staff Picks” hosted by me, Tyler Stafford. I’ll allow that cleverness to wash over you and then we’ll get started.
Ok! So, every Wednesday morning from now until the End of Days (or until I forget) I will be presenting you with a choice of some sorts. This could be a choice between your favorite Astros seasons, or favorite players, or your favorite CTH writers. It could be a choice between two coaches, or pitchers, or anything. Look, the point is I will give you a choice and you (hopefully) will choose.
First, let’s compare numbers. Chris Johnson is having a great year at the plate. Currently, he leads the National League in batting average at a very respectable .331. That’s .004 off of Mike Trout. Matt Dominguez’s average leaves a little to be desired. His 2013 batting average is .239. That’s .092 off of Johnson.
At first glance, this isn’t even a fair fight. Obviously, Chris Johnson wins this season. However, in defense of Matt Dominguez, both BABIPs are unusual. Dominguez is sporting a .248 batting average on balls in play, while Johnson has an absolutely absurd .410! FanGraphs says that the average BABIP is around .300, so both players are well off the mean. I would expect in the next season or two that these two players averages become more comparable.
Regardless, Johnson might win a batting title this year while Matty D might hit .240. Advantage Johnson.
Now lets talk defense. In order to do that we must first agree that defense metrics still have a long way to go. FanGraphs and Baseball Reference have a different formula used to calculate their Defense Wins Above Replacement, but for the sake of clarity I will be using stats from Baseball Reference.
Matty D is good at defense. Chris Johnson is not good. Dominguez has a dWAR of 1.6, which is a pretty sizable number of wins. The Astros bullpen is hovering around -5 WAR this season, so 1.6 WAR ain’t nothin’ to be ashamed of. Chris Johnson’s -.7 dWAR is. That means that a replacement level player could come in and play his position better, probably much better.
Again, defense metrics are not perfect, but we can also just use the old eye test. Matt Dominguez makes some incredible plays at third base. He gets to balls that not many other players can get to. He has 1 more error than Johnson in 2013, but he also has over 100 more assists. Advantage Dominguez.
We’ve looked at our two players this season, now let’s take a look at the future.
First, the contracts. Johnson’s contract will net him $2.85 million in 2013. He is eligible for arbitration next season. Dominguez is making $490,000 this year and isn’t eligible for arbitration until 2016. The earliest he could leave in free agency is 2019. That’s 6 years from now. Advantage Dominguez.
Second, the age. Dominguez is 24 years old. He is 5 months older than George Springer and is essentially still a rookie. He played 16 games for the Marlins in 2011 and 31 for the Astros last season. Chris Johnson is 28. That is by no means old, and he shows no signs of slowing down. A career .290 hitter, Johnson may just now be showing his prime with his .330+ season. If the Astros are serious about wanting to contend in 2015, Johnson may be the perfect fit. Plenty of players have been late bloomers and his ages 29 and 30 seasons may be even better. This one is a toss up.
So, Astros fans. Presented the evidence and handed the reigns of the franchise, who do you choose? The young, powerful defensive whiz or the proven vet with a rising stock?