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).