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A fine VORP … whatever that is

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CHICAGO — At Penn State, I majored in journalism with a minor in political science. I took enough math courses to ensure I’d get my degree, but certainly no more than were necessary. And I have never read one of Bill James’ books cover to cover.

I’m not a numbers guy.

That all being said, every now and then I do enjoy sticking my toe into the ocean of way-too-tedious baseball stats. Take VORP, for instance.

The fine folks at Baseball Prospectus — if you love the minutia of the game, I strongly recommend subscribing to their Web site — define VORP (value over replacement player) as, “the number of runs contributed beyond what a replacement-level player at the same position would contribute if given the same percentage of team plate appearances.”

In other words, how much better your guy is than some other schmuck — not a star player from another team, but rather a callup, backup or free agent — who could play the same position. This is a run-production thing only; defense is not part of the equation.

Generally, a VORP score in the 20s is average. A score in the 60s is outstanding. You should also consider the position — a VORP of 35 for a catcher is worth more than a 35 for, say, a first baseman.

Through the first six weeks of this season, the highest-scoring center fielder in the majors is … Nate McLouth. As of this morning, McLouth’s VORP score is … 22.5

McLouth’s tally is a tad better than Josh Hamilton (20.2). The rest of the top five consists of Aaron Rowand (15.8), Jayson Werth (12.9) and Grady Sizemore (12.5).

McLouth’s score ranks eighth among all players in the majors. The overall leader is Lance Berkman, with a score of 43.4. Xavier Nady (24th, 14.9) and Jason Bay (30th, 13.7) also are among the top 30.
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