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Pedro Feliz – Prodigious Out Making Machine
(Part 1)

by Richard Van Zandt, BaseballEvolution.com
February 25, 2007

Part1 | Part2 | Part3

This past December, the Giants re-signed third baseman Pedro Feliz to a one-year contract worth $5.1 million.  That’s a raise of over $1 million from his ’06 base salary and $600,000 more than AL MVP Justin Morneau will make in 2007. 

 

Are you kidding me?  Instead of letting Feliz simply walk away after an historically bad season, San Francisco GM Brian Sabean choose to re-up with a player who sports a pathetic .288 career on-base percentage and a sickly .724 lifetime OPS.  Pedro was clearly not his first choice, though, as the Giants were initially rebuffed by Mark DeRosa, who decided instead to play 2B for the Cubs.  So following that rejection, and rather than exploring a deal with Houston for an seemingly obtainable Morgan Ensberg – the Astros third baseman (rumored to be on the trading block) who walked 101 times last season (in 387 AB) – the Giants' boss instead decided to remain committed to a player who has walked 120 times in his career (2,287 AB).

 

Now people who know me will tell you that I am among Brian Sabean’s biggest supporters.  No, he’s not the very best at what he does in baseball, but he’s far from being among the worst.  Since 1997, when he took over the role of General Manager from Bob Quinn (then immediately – and boldly – traded away popular third baseman Matt Williams for some guy named Kent), the Giants have gone 889-729 (.549), finishing in first place three times, in second place five times and as low as third just twice (in each of the last two seasons including the 2005 campaign when Barry Bonds was limited to just 14 games).   Under his guidance, the team has been out of playoff contention for a total of just 20 games combined over the last ten years and have not once been eliminated any earlier than September 24.  And in 2002, the Giants even made it all the way to the World Series only to fall an agonizing six outs shy of the prize.  And that my friends, is a pretty good track record.

 

Giants under Brian Sabean

Year

W

L

%

Finish

Elim Dt

Gms Left

1997

90

72

0.556

1st

-----

0

1998*

89

74

0.546

2nd

28-Sep

0

1999

86

76

0.531

2nd

24-Sep

8

2000

97

65

0.599

1st

-----

0

2001

90

72

0.556

2nd

5-Oct

2

2002**

95

66

0.590

2nd

-----

0

2003

100

61

0.621

1st

-----

0

2004

91

71

0.562

2nd

2-Oct

1

2005

75

87

0.463

3rd

28-Sep

4

2006

76

85

0.472

3rd

25-Sep

5

Total

889

729

0.549

 

 

20

* Lost 1 Game Wild Card Playoff to Chicago

** Wild Card Winner/National League Champions 

 

Still, people who know me will also tell you that I don’t necessarily agree with every move that Sabean makes.  The free-agent signing of Edgardo Alfonso after the 2002 season (for a stunningly stupid four-years and $26 million) is one terrific example.  I begged the baseball gods when it was still in the rumor stage not to let that happen, but of course, they didn’t listen to me. 

 

The re-signing of Pedro Feliz this past winter is another very good example of a move that I strongly disagree with.  Ironically enough, it was Alfonso’s signing that provided Feliz supporters with one of the many excuses used to explain his thus far less than prodigious production, but we’ll get to those excuses later

 

Those who support Feliz (yes folks, there are still a few diehards out there who believe he’s a worthwhile major league player) will tell you in his defense that he is a Gold Glove caliber third baseman and a clutch hitter who drives in a lot of runs, while generally ignoring his many flaws.  I’ll give them that he’s a “very good” defensive 3B, but I’m not fooled by his RBI total to fall for that clutch moniker.  Allow me to dispel those notions right off the bat.

 

Gold Glove Caliber?

 

As I said, Pedro Feliz is a “very good” fielder.  I mean, it’s not like he’s completely without redeeming qualities, but Gold Glove caliber?  I wouldn’t go that far.  Let’s look at the various available defensive numbers.

 

Feliz rated a +25 in the 2007 Bill James Handbook in terms of expected plays made, second only to Brandon Inge, and over a three-year span (2004-06) he rated a +54, tying him for third with David Bell (behind only Scott Rolen and Adrian Beltre).  Additionally, Feliz finished second in the majors in 2005 with a +16 despite playing only 79 games at 3B. 

 

Also last season – in more conventional terms – Feliz ranked 3rd in the majors in innings, assists, total chances and zone rating, and he was first in the NL in both assists and total chances, as well as second in both zone rating and range factor.  And Feliz is also among the best in baseball at fielding bunts, ranking in the majors in ’05 and rating a B+ over a three-year span according to The Fielding Bible.  Add that all up, and clearly when it comes to range, Feliz is one of the top 3B in baseball. 

 

On the downside, however:  Among all 3B last season, Feliz committed the fifth most errors in the majors (21) and ranked 14th out of 20 in fielding percentage (.955 - .001 above the league average).  What’s more, Feliz brought his habit of fast starts and slow finishes at the plate with him to the field, committing just three errors in the team's first 40 games (one every 13.33 games) before making 18 more in the final 122 (one every 6.77 games). 

 

And while the numbers in this year’s BJH definitely indicate that Feliz is a very good defensive 3B, a select group of 10 experts collectively ranked Feliz as the 7th best 3B in baseball in 2006 (though James himself had Pedro pegged at number 2).  Pedro Feliz is very good, yes, but Gold Glove caliber?  Not quite.  At least not yet.  

 

2006

Total

ML Rank

NL Rank

Fld %

0.955

14th of 20

6th of 11

RF

2.94

7th of 20

2nd of 11

ZR

0.817

3rd of 20

2nd of 11

INN

1372.1

3rd

2nd

TC

469

3rd

1st

PO

115

5th

2nd

A

333

3rd

1st

E

21

5th

3rd

DP

31

11th

t-4th

+/-

+ 25

2nd

1st

3-year

+ 54

t-3rd

2nd

 

Clutch Hitter?  Or Cherry Picker?

 

Cherry picking – Canadian Slang – Definition – Someone who takes the best of something available, be it a product or opportunity, and leaves the rest.
 

Over the last three seasons, Pedro Feliz has averaged nearly 88 RBI per year, topping all Giants during that span by driving in 263 runs.  In 2006 he missed the century mark by just 2 and led the team in RBI for the second straight year.  So aren’t all those RBI proof that Pedro Feliz really is a clutch hitter? 

 

The short answer is no.  But people who know me will tell you that I’ve never been known to give many “short” answers.  Then again, I’d like to see you, the reader, get to the end of this rant, so I’ll try to keep it as brief as possible while still being thorough. 

 

In his career, Pedro Feliz is a .239 hitter with a .418 slugging percentage while batting with runners in scoring position.  That’s in over 700 career plate appearances.  In 2005 alone, he hit a miserable .219/.257/.406/.663 with ducks on the pond.  Yet Feliz has all those RBI.  What gives?  Where are they coming from?  A much closer look gives us an interesting answer. 

 

In his career, Feliz has 346 runs batted in.  Of those, 106 - or 31% - have come while there were runners at both second and third base.  In other words, folks: Feliz is cherry picking.  Those situations (second and third only or bases loaded) are exactly the type where you would most expect a hitter to drive in runs.  And certainly he does do that.  In such situations he is a .313 career hitter. 

 

He was particularly impressive in ’06, batting .381 while plating 39 of his 98 RBI with runners at both second and third (that’s 40%).  Of course what that also means is that while Feliz drove home 39 runs in just 48 plate appearances, he also drove in only 59 more in nearly 600 additional PA.    

 

2006

PA

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

K

AVE

OBP

SLG

OPS

-23

22

19

8

2

1

2

16

2

4

0.421

0.455

0.947

1.402

123

26

23

8

3

0

1

23

2

3

0.348

0.385

0.609

0.993

Total

48

42

16

5

1

3

39

4

7

0.381

0.417

0.762

1.179

 

But what does it really mean to say that he’s driven in 31% of his runs with men at second and third?  How can I be certain that this is cherry picking?  By taking a look at some of the great RBI guys in baseball history (since 1957 when such data is available) and also looking at a random sampling of some of today’s top hitters, you’ll clearly see that it’s not at all uncommon to be very good in those situations.  But when you look more closely you’ll also see that Feliz has plated a disproportionately large percentage of RBI in easy “cherry picking” opportunities.  

 

W/ Runners on 2nd and 3rd and bases loaded

All-Time

AB

H

BA

RBI

2&3

%

Feliz

131

41

0.313

346

106

0.31

Murray

415

153

0.369

1917

453

0.24

Baines

376

117

0.311

1628

339

0.21

Perez

447

110

0.246

1652

334

0.20

Yastrzemski

377

123

0.326

1844

357

0.19

Palmeiro

383

120

0.313

1835

349

0.19

Griffey Jr.

281

95

0.338

1608

282

0.18

Banks*

264

82

0.311

1349

231

0.17

Jackson

348

99

0.284

1702

282

0.17

Schmidt

312

89

0.285

1595

264

0.17

Brett

279

85

0.305

1595

251

0.16

Bonds

291

99

0.340

1930

290

0.15

F Robinson*

310

86

0.277

1729

251

0.15

Aaron*

278

93

0.335

2030

278

0.14

Mays*

219

65

0.297

1491

181

0.12

*Includes totals from 1957 through end of career only

 

Active 

AB

H

BA

RBI

2&3

%

Feliz

131

41

0.313

346

106

0.31

Kent

343

117

0.341

1380

336

0.24

Ramirez

344

120

0.349

1516

363

0.24

Ortiz

172

59

0.343

763

181

0.24

Delgado

258

85

0.329

1287

268

0.21

Giambi

206

69

0.335

1144

229

0.20

Berkman

157

49

0.312

753

150

0.20

A Rodriguez

269

88

0.327

1347

250

0.19

C. Jones

216

73

0.338

1197

221

0.18

Piazza

240

85

0.354

1291

233

0.18

Sheffield

274

82

0.299

1501

250

0.17

Thomas

255

87

0.341

1579

258

0.16

Thome

267

77

0.288

1302

212

0.16

Pujols

123

41

0.333

758

123

0.16

Howard

35

10

0.286

217

35

0.16

 

 

Now I’m not trying to knock Pedro for being good at driving home runners from second and third as there obviously is nothing wrong with that.  But what the numbers clearly show is that Pedro’s output in such expected RBI situations is not so remarkable as to excuse his failure in so many other key situations.

 

Career

PA

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

K

AVE

OBP

SLG

OPS

RISP

711

639

153

29

5

25

256

44

116

0.239

0.281

0.418

0.699

---

1285

1224

317

69

7

48

48

58

234

0.259

0.294

0.444

0.739

1--

441

420

105

22

5

16

42

18

80

0.250

0.281

0.440

0.721

-2-

211

190

40

5

2

9

42

18

32

0.211

0.282

0.400

0.682

--3

66

54

12

2

1

2

23

4

12

0.222

0.242

0.407

0.650

12-

188

182

42

12

1

5

50

4

30

0.231

0.251

0.390

0.641

1-3

94

82

18

1

0

2

35

6

14

0.220

0.255

0.305

0.560

-23

54

43

13

3

1

3

32

8

11

0.302

0.389

0.628

1.017

123

98

88

28

6

0

4

74

4

17

0.318

0.327

0.523

0.849

0 Outs

832

799

228

45

4

32

83

22

144

0.285

0.305

0.472

0.777

1 Outs

809

741

173

41

5

30

141

47

141

0.233

0.273

0.424

0.697

2 Outs

796

743

174

34

8

27

122

51

145

0.234

0.285

0.410

0.696

2 Outs/RISP

301

281

63

15

3

11

98

19

52

0.224

0.276

0.416

0.692

Late/Close

434

394

104

21

4

18

81

31

85

0.264

0.314

0.475

0.789

Tie Game

572

532

128

26

4

21

84

30

101

0.241

0.279

0.423

0.702

1st Inn

199

188

41

11

0

6

38

7

41

0.218

0.241

0.372

0.614

2nd Inn

314

296

70

15

1

9

29

14

51

0.236

0.268

0.385

0.653

3rd Inn

185

171

43

13

1

7

32

12

29

0.251

0.297

0.462

0.759

4th Inn

317

300

91

17

4

10

54

14

49

0.303

0.334

0.487

0.821

5th Inn

244

229

65

13

1

9

33

12

32

0.284

0.316

0.467

0.783

6th Inn

277

259

63

12

3

12

37

16

44

0.243

0.286

0.452

0.738

7th Inn

309

292

73

10

4

17

43

12

47

0.250

0.285

0.486

0.771

8th Inn

294

274

67

16

1

9

42

15

73

0.245

0.280

0.409

0.689

9th Inn

249

232

52

11

1

10

33

11

56

0.224

0.261

0.409

0.671

Ext Inn

49

42

10

2

1

0

5

7

8

0.238

0.347

0.333

0.680

 

Notice how, aside from when runners are at second and third, Pedro’s best numbers are with the bases empty, nobody out and in the middle innings (though he’s not too terrible when it’s late and close).  And really, those numbers aren’t all that impressive either.  Take for example his career numbers while leading off.

 

Career

PA

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

K

Leading Off Inn

526

511

148

32

2

19

19

14

99

 

Career

AVE

OBP

SLG

OPS

AB/HR

PA/K

PA/BB

PA/ABB

Leading Off Inn

0.290

0.310

0.472

0.782

26.89

5.31

37.57

37.57

 

Now while his .290 BA looks nice, his .310 OBP in that situation indicates that he’s actually hurting the team by making an out nearly 70% of the time he starts an inning (which is actually pretty good for Feliz, as we’ll find out later).  Correspondingly, his .472 SLG when leading off an inning (.036 higher than his overall career rate) shows that he benefits from pitchers who generally take a more aggressive approach with the free swinging Feliz while nobody is on the bases.  Still, he does have a modicum of value in this less pressured situation (and some rather obvious drawbacks, such as his high K rate and low BB rate for starters).

 

RBI and BA however aren’t the only indications that Feliz is capitalizing more often when the pressure is generally lower.  Through 2006, Pedro has hit 89 home runs in his career.  Of those, 44% have been hit while the Giants were ahead.  30% of those 89 have been hit while the team was ahead by 2 or more, 29% have been hit while ahead or behind by 4 or more and over 16% of his career HR have been hit while ahead by four runs or more. 

 

Comparing that again to some of the great home run hitters of all-time as well as a some of today’s great HR hitters, you once again find that Pedro pales woefully in comparison in every clutch situation (and let me also quickly clarify that with an average of 21 per year over the last three seasons while averaging over 550 AB per year, I don’t mean to insinuate in any way, shape or form that Feliz is a great home run hitter).  

 

Ahead

Car

Sit

%

+2 or more

Car

Sit

%

Tied, +1 or -1

Car

Sit

%

Feliz

89

39

0.44

Feliz

89

27

0.30

Mantle*

363

214

0.59

Schmidt

548

210

0.38

Bonds

734

209

0.28

Jackson

563

315

0.56

Jackson

563

211

0.37

Mays*

508

128

0.25

Mays*

508

282

0.56

Bonds

734

267

0.36

Griffey

563

140

0.25

McCovey

521

289

0.55

Mays*

508

181

0.36

Jackson

563

137

0.24

Aaron*

689

382

0.55

Sosa

588

208

0.35

Schmidt

548

132

0.24

Schmidt

548

299

0.55

Griffey

563

198

0.35

F.Robinson*

548

126

0.23

Bonds

734

396

0.54

Killebrew*

564

190

0.34

Sosa

588

131

0.22

McGwire

583

311

0.53

McGwire

583

196

0.34

Killebrew*

564

122

0.22

Killebrew*

564

299

0.53

F.Robinson*

548

184

0.34

Aaron*

689

148

0.21

Palmeiro

569

300

0.53

Aaron*

689

227

0.33

McGwire

583

123

0.21

Sosa

588

296

0.50

McCovey

521

155

0.30

Palmeiro

569

104

0.18

F. Robinson*

548

275

0.50

Mantle*

363

105

0.29

McCovey

521

90

0.17

Griffey

563

280

0.50

Palmeiro

569

164

0.29

Mantle*

363

61

0.17

Feliz

89

38

0.43

Tied or +1

Car

Sit

%

+4 or more

Car

Sit

%

+/- 4 or more

Car

Sit

%

Mays*

508

229

0.45

Feliz

89

14

0.1573

Feliz

89

26

0.29

Mantle*

363

162

0.45

Griffey

563

70

0.1243

Palmeiro

569

140

0.25

Jackson

563

251

0.45

Mays*

508

53

0.1043

Griffey

563

136

0.24

Schmidt

548

236

0.43

Killebrew*

564

57

0.1011

Sosa

588

133

0.23

McGwire

583

250

0.43

Palmeiro

569

57

0.1002

F. Robinson*

548

112

0.20

Aaron*

689

295

0.43

Jackson

563

56

0.0995

Aaron*

689

134

0.19

McCovey

521

219

0.42

Sosa

588

57

0.0969

Killebrew*

564

104

0.18

Bonds

734

306

0.42

F.Robinson*

548

53

0.0967

Jackson

563

102

0.18

Killebrew*

564

226

0.40

Schmidt

548

52

0.0949

McGwire

583

105

0.18

Sosa

588

233

0.40

Aaron*

689

58

0.0842

Mantle*

363

65

0.18

Palmeiro

569

219

0.38

Bonds

734

58

0.0790

Schmidt

548

96

0.18

F.Robinson*

548

209

0.38

McGwire

583

45

0.0772

Mays*

508

84

0.17

Griffey

563

214

0.38

Mantle*

363

23

0.0634

Bonds

734

119

0.16

Feliz

89

33

0.37

McCovey

521

32

0.0614

McCovey

521

74

0.14

* Includes totals from 1957 through end of career only

 

Ahead

Car

Sit

%

+2 or more

Car

Sit

%

Tied, +1 or -1

Car

Sit

%

Feliz

89

39

0.44

Ramirez

470

143

0.304

Howard

82

49

0.60

Ramirez

470

204

0.43

Feliz

89

27

0.303

Pujols

250

147

0.59

Berkman

225

97

0.43

Berkman

225

64

0.284

Sheffield

455

262

0.58

Thome

472

178

0.38

Piazza

419

115

0.274

Thomas

487

250

0.51

Delgado

407

152

0.37

Rodriguez

464

122

0.263

Rodriguez

464

236

0.51

Rodriguez

464

172

0.37

Ortiz

231

60

0.260

Ortiz

231

117

0.51

Piazza

419

153

0.37

Thome

472

120

0.254

Delgado

407

206

0.51

Pujols

250

88

0.35

Delgado

407

97

0.238

Berkman

225

113

0.50

Ortiz

231

80

0.35

Pujols

250

58

0.232

Ramirez

470

230

0.49

Thomas

487

161

0.33

Thomas

487

109

0.224

Piazza

419

202

0.48

Sheffield

455

145

0.32

Sheffield

455

96

0.211

Thome

472

210

0.44

Howard

82

26

0.32

Howard

82

16

0.195

Feliz

89

38

0.43

Tied or +1

Car

Sit

%

+4 or more

Car

Sit

%

+/- 4 or more

Car

Sit

%

Sheffield

455

212

0.47

Ramirez

470

74

0.1574

Feliz

89

26

0.29

Pujols

250

114

0.46

Feliz

89

14

0.1573

Thome

472

123

0.26

Howard

82

34

0.41

Thome

472

59

0.1250

Ramirez

470

112

0.24

Rodriguez

464

183

0.39

Berkman

225

28

0.1244

Rodriguez

464

107

0.23

Thomas

487

191

0.39

Rodriguez

464

57

0.1228

Berkman

225

51

0.23

Ortiz

231

90

0.39

Piazza

419

50

0.1193

Thomas

487

105

0.22

Ramirez

470

179

0.38

Pujols

250

28

0.1120

Piazza

419

89

0.21

Delgado

407

155

0.38

Delgado

407

40

0.0983

Delgado

407

86

0.21

Feliz

89

33

0.37

Sheffield

455

44

0.0967

Pujols

250

51

0.20

Berkman

225

82

0.36

Thomas

487

46

0.0945

Ortiz

231

44

0.19

Piazza

419

151

0.36

Ortiz

231

19

0.0823

Sheffield

455

85

0.19

Thome

472

149

0.32

Howard

82

3

0.0366

Howard

82

11

0.13

 

Is Pedro Feliz really the kind of clutch hitter that he’s made out to be?  Not in the least.  Feliz simply pads his stats with easy RBI and meaningless home runs.  He isn’t clutch.  He’s a cherry picker.

 



Continue to Part2, The Road Warrior?


Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Richard resides in San Francisco, California and can be reached at richard@baseballevolution.com.

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