The Evolution of Angel
Posted by JD on December 7, 2010
While we wait for the next Mets’ transactions (Ronny Paulino, come on down!), I thought I’d take another look at one of my personal “hot-button” issues from the past two seasons: Angel Pagan’s “baseball instincts”.
One of the more pleasant aspects of this past season was watching the change in Mets’ fans collective opinion of Angel Pagan. When I wrote this post in February, it was still popular to say that he had poor “baseball instincts” (i.e., he was not “scrappy” or “gritty” enough to be a “winner”). That had largely changed by the time I wrote this post in May, but there was still a bit of resistance. I think it’s safe to say now that the vast majority of Mets fans recognize that Pagan is a solid baseball player, which is refreshing.
If any additional evidence is necessary, it can be found in the 2011 Bill James Handbook. Pagan finished fifth among center fielders in the voting for the Fielding Bible Awards (Peter Gammons listed him as the best center fielder in the game, so he’s got that going for him). His one year Plus/Minus and Runs Saved numbers were not among the ten best in any of the outfield positions. This is not a good thing, obviously, but I wonder if it’s related to the fact that he played all over the place last year? I doubt it, because his 94 games in center field (as opposed to just 33 in right and 27 in left) seems like it would be enough to qualify him there. I don’t know enough about advanced defensive statistics to know how to weight this properly. My point is that Pagan’s defensive skills have entered the national discussion, a major shift from the previous season.
The story gets better when you look at Pagan’s season on the basepaths. Bill James’ base running stats factor in league averages for base running events (such as advancing to third from first on a single), “sum(s) up all of the positives and negatives from players being above or below average,” and factors in stolen bases (this is still a an over-simplification, so I’d still highly recommend buying the book for a more detailed explanation). Pagan was +12 in 2009. This year, he lead all Mets base runners with a +35. That tied him with Drew Stubbs for 12 best in baseball. The rest of the best:
Although he improved almost across the board, one of the biggest reasons he improved was by stealing bases more successfully. In 2009, Pagan was successful in 14 of 21 attempts (66.7%), which was just about league average. In 2010, Pagan stole 37 times in 46 attempts (80.4%), an impressive jump. If it weren’t for Jason Bay’s perfect 10 for 10 (only Florida’s Emilio Bonifacio had more steals (12) without getting caught), Pagan would have lead the team in stolen base percentage.
Pagan’s 46 attempts were good for thirteenth overall. If we draw the line there, Pagan’s 80.4% is good for 7th in all of baseball. That’s way too arbitrary for my tastes, but the point is there were only a dozen base runners better than Pagan and, depending on how you slice it, a dozen or two better base stealers. Not bad at all.
The public perception of Angel Pagan has come a long way in a year, and his performance in 2010 did nothing to diminish it.