No stats here … just some random thoughts. I may try to put together some type of quick-and-dirty MLE’s for Japanese players, though with my limited capabilities, I am not sure if it’d be worth it.
Anyway, over at Dugout Central, Mike Pagliarulo has a post up on how to evaluate Japanese prospects. FWIW, I’ve found that site to be pretty good, although I wasn’t sure about it early on. Anyway, Pags occasionally takes some unnecessary shots at stats/sabermetrics … like right here:
Some teams do incredible research while others use statistical projections (which never works), but there is little doubt of what is the most important factor when signing a Japanese player
I do not know what he’s talking about when he says that the statistical projections never work. Firstly, you can look at almost any player that has come over to mlb and they will most likely have put up good numbers in Japan. Now, that certainly isn’t a projection and it doesn’t mean they’ll do well here, but if players aren’t putting up good numbers over there, they likely (for the most part) won’t be signed and brought over to major league baseball. (note: as usual, I am essentially talking out of my ass here, as I really haven’t followed Japanese baseball closely). So whether you like it or not, right off the bat, stats are going to be a big part of any teams projections/evaluations.
Now beyond that is actual statistical projections, which are definitely different than just basic, unadjusted numbers. As far as I know, the most basic way to get a projection would be to calculate some sort of major league equivalencies (mle’s), based on how players perform when they switch over from Japan to mlb (or the other way around), and then go from there into your projection (with age adjustments, true talent, and so on). Anyway, my point is not just to disagree with Pags, but to bring some discussion about how the Pads should go about evaluating Japanese prospects, specifically Kosuke Fukudome (as they’ve been rumored to be very interested).
Fukudome is quite the hitter with a career .305/.397/.597 line with the Chunichi Dragons. Rally translated his numbers and then ran them through CHONE (his projection system) and got a .283/.373/.465 line. With help from Tango’s scale, he says that he’s worth around 4 years, 45m on the current free agent market.
Anyway, back to Dugout Central and where I started: The Pags Rules on evaluation of Japanese prospects:
- Never take the word of his agent on the player’s commitment level, or for anything, for that matter
- Never use one scout to evaluate the player; double check and triple check your work
- Identify the player’s commitment level
- Grade the skill level of the player (tools)
- Identify mechanics of the pitcher/hitter and project them to the team’s philosophy
- Project the playing field change and effect (pitching mound, distance to the fence, etc.)
- Project emotional fit with the coaching staff
- Exactly identify the player’s role
He certainly makes some good points there … aggregation of scouting data, tools, mechanics, park effects, etc. Anyway, I don’t know where the stance against stats comes in. It is just another component in the tool box, especially when used on prospects (or guys who haven’t played in mlb) and not the end-all-be-all. But I can’t imagine any organization, especially the Padres, not utilizing a statistical projection for Fukudome or any other Japanese prospect.
In the end, I think evaluating these guys is much like evaluating well seasoned AAA prospects. There is a certain degree of uncertainly, of course, but numbers (when properly adjusted) can — and should – be used for projections. They should be combined with scouting data and weighed properly when all is said and done. I’m not exactly sure how you’d go about it, but that should be the goal.
*More on japanese translations/MLE’s from seamheads.com … actual MLE’s coming from that site soon.