Wilson Valdez's Historic Season

Posted by Michael Baumann, Wed, September 29, 2010 12:14 PM | Comments: 0
Analysis, Posts

I don’t know how it was where and when y’all were growing up, but my high school pretty much stopped teaching new material around Memorial Day, even though we didn’t get out until the end of June. The last three weeks of school were dedicated to watching movies, sitting around chatting, and playing cards. My senior year, I took band and four AP classes, so after the AP tests and our spring concert were over in early May, I did nothing for the last seven weeks of school in five of my eight classes, to say nothing of the overwhelming force of senioritis.

With seven of the right MLB playoff spots locked up, this week has a definite “Last Month of School” vibe to it: we’re all just sitting around, happy to have the chance to relax, but looking forward to what’s to come even more. So in the spirit of end-of-the-school-year distractions, here’s one: Wilson Valdez could have done something historic this season.

Now, Exxon hasn’t been as bad as I had feared this season. When the Phillies replaced their injured offensive sparkplug and informal captain, Jimmy Rollins, with a man who had slugged .292 in 369 major league plate appearances, I feared the worst, but Valdez, mostly on the strength of his glove, has been pretty good. In 107 games, he’s hit .257 with four home runs and seven stolen bases. Don’t get me wrong: these are terrible offensive numbers, but considering his rock-bottom expectations and solid glove, I’ll take them. In fact, Baseball-Reference rates him at 1.3 WAR this season, and FanGraphs at 0.5 WAR–not ideal starter numbers, but satisfactory from a player like Valdez.

There is, however, one offensive category in which Exxon is putting up record numbers: double plays grounded into. Wilson Valdez grounds into double plays the way Weezer puts out new albums nowadays–often, indiscriminately, and sometimes with disastrous results.

Wilson Valdez is tied for 14th in the major leagues in GIDP, with 20. That might not sound so bad, but consider the following: the league leader in that statistic, Kansas City’s Billy Butler, has exactly 300 more plate appearances than Valdez (655 to 355). It’s not that Valdez is grounding into so many double plays–it’s that he’s doing it in so few at-bats.

In the DH era, a player has grounded into 15 or more double plays while not qualifying for the batting title 290 times. 29 of them have grounded into 20 (including two Hall-of-Famers: Tony Gwynn and Jim Rice). One needs 502 plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, and most of the players on the list came to the plate 400 times or more. Again, Exxon has only 355 plate appearances. So how many players have had 20 GIDP in 375 PA or less in the DH era? Two. Wilson Valdez this year and some poor sap named Eddie Williams who grounded into 21 in 325 PA for the Padres in 1995.

Let’s extrapolate, and place Valdez’s absurd GIDP rate in historical context. The single-season record for GIDP is 36, set by Jim Rice in 1984. Rice put up that remarkable stat in 708 plate appearances, almost exactly twice Valdez’s total. For those of you without a calculator handy, that’s one double play every 19.67 plate appearances. The career record is held by Cal Ripken, Jr., who grounded into 350 in 12,883 career plate appearances–that’s one every 36.81 PA. Valdez this season grounds into a double play every 17.75 plate appearances. Given adequate playing time, Valdez would demolish both of those records.

And how about this–he’s come to the plate with a runner on first and less than two out only 82 times this season. In those plate appearances, he has 20 GIDP, and only 18 hits. I’ll repeat that for the cheap seats: with a runner on first and less than 2 outs, Wilson Valdez is more likely to ground into a double play than he is to get a hit. “Dreadful” hardly does that statistic justice. I’m reaching into my bag of adjectives and coming out with words ordinarily used to describe war criminals, livestock rapists, and “We Built This City” by Starship.

Of course, he has turned 35 double plays in the field this season, so he’s making up for it at least somewhat. I guess the takeaway lesson from this is that when Wilson Valdez is in the lineup, expect outs to come in bunches. Just thought you might like to know.

Avatar of Michael Baumann

About Michael Baumann

Michael Baumann has written 229 articles on Phillies Nation.

Michael is a graduate student at Temple University who lost his childlike innocence when, at the age of 6, his dad let him stay up for the end of Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. Unsettled by the Phillies' recent success, he has threatened over the years to leave the team he loves if they don't start losing again, but has so far been unable to follow through. Michael spent 4 years as an undercover agent in Braves territory at the University of South Carolina, where he covered football and soccer for The Daily Gamecock before moving back up north. He began writing for The Phrontiersman in June 2009 before moving to Phillies Nation in January 2010.

  • Posts: 0 Phylan

    That’s why it’s INTANGIBLE, Phylan. Not everything can always be defined. Not everything is black or white. And I shouldn’t have to give you any hints. You’re a seemingly intelligent person. Figure it out…it’s really not that hard .

    OK, it’s intangible. But what is it? Something that makes the offense perform better? Something that helps the rotation? The bullpen? I appreciate that you perceive me as intelligent, but I need you to at least outline what you’re referring to here. Do you see how convenient it is to assert that something exists, with no proof, and no definition, that validates your argument? If I had done that you wouldn’t have even bothered to respond.

    Just don’t come on here and sing his praises if he has some kind of unbelievable postseason that helps the Phillies to another WFC….maybe wins MVP of one of the series (could happen, you know) Your credibility will have been shot with me…and I would imagine a few others on this site (not just Kate, by the way).

    Why? My credibility is endangered because some of you disagree with what I’m saying? You and biz and Kate and some others have a monopoly on what is the acceptable evaluation of Wilson Valdez? I always thought J.A. Happ was overrated by Phillies fans, was I not allowed to get excited when he struck a batter out? I’m a Phillies fan through and through, stop acting like I’m some pariah fan because I don’t agree with you about a utility infielder.

    Also if you think responding to you guys has constituted the better part of my day, you’re getting a wee bit ridiculous. I have a job. And I had to watch the Phillies.

  • Posts: 0 Adrian

    Valdez has a career line drive percentage of just 16%, and he hits in a lineup that gets on base more than most. This stat doesn’t surprise me all that much.

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    I think this horse has been beaten. You have your opinion and I have mine. Whatever…

    Go Phillies!!

  • Posts: 0 biz

    I hope Wilson Valdez gets a ring this year. What a fantastic job by a career minor leaguer. Great up-the-middle defense and some clutch hitting when we could have had Eric Bruntlett or Juan Castro. I feel sorry for the Jeffites who felt the need to bash a man doing a fine job. It would have been a lot easier to congratulate and think him. But I guess Im asking to much in the City of Brotherly Love. The national media is right. There is a ton of jerk-offs in this city.

  • Posts: 0 SJHaack

    Biz I absolutely agree with you.

    The amount of people who’ve provided nothing but baseless speculation, hyperbole and accusation to a conversation that started from a cute discussion on double plays is really disappointing.

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    This was never a “cute discussion on double plays”

  • Posts: 0 Kate

    Seconded, Chuck.

    If it was a “cute discussion on double plays,” there wouldn’t be so much attention paid to it and I think that’s what the writer was looking for.

  • Valdez story by JSalisburyCSN is a must read! He’s been a VITAL part of the team! http://bit.ly/9ztyFs

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