Lost in the Buster-Posey-for-MVP story has been the tale of an Olympian’s son, who emigrated from Cuba by way of the Dominican Republic. Of course, I am referring to Yeonis Cespedes, and his post All-Star break .388/.447/.592 slash line.
Posey is certainly deserving of the plaudits he’s received as a result of his stellar second half. But, one could argue that Cespedes has been equally as impressive, if not more so.
Now, there is no way to directly compare Posey to Cespedes. Any attempt to do so would be hazardous to my health anyway. After all, Posey is just statistically better. Not to mention much of the Giants success in since the All-Star break can be attributed to Posey, both offensively and defensively. But, all things considered, Cespedes’ performance might be the better of the two.
For starters, Cespedes is playing for a team that is not nearly as talented at the Giants. As a team, the Giants’ 18 WAR trumps that of the A’s (13.7). The Giants are simply a better offensive team in all major categories except for slugging percentage. Pitchers simply don’t have to pitch to Cespedes, and they really don’t. Yet Cespedes has found a way to make contact–with the exception of cutters and change-ups.
But what really separates Cespedes’ performance from Posey is that fact that Cespedes is a rookie, playing for the first time outside of the Caribbean–the difficulty of which I cannot even begin to fathom. In comparison to Posey’s rookie season in 2010, Cespedes’ ability becomes obvious. Granted, he’s three years older than Posey was as a rookie, but that does not discount his performance.
Further, what Posey accomplished as a rookie is not be discounted either. His management of the pitching staff as well as his defense were certainly integral parts to the team’s World Series victory. As such, it would be unfair to really compare the two players. Still, the fact remains: In all major hitting categories save WAR, Cespedes edges out Posey as rookie. If Cespedes plays in a lineup nearly as good as the one Posey played on 2010 (Giants’ team WAR in 2010: 31.1; A’s in 2012: 13.7), the comparison might not seem so egregious.
Over the last 30 days, Cespedes has earned the third best wOBP and wRC+ in the AL–behind Adrian Gonzalez and, you guessed it, Mike Trout. His WAR over that time is good enough for 12th in the AL as well. Perhaps what makes this all so impressive is that he’s doing a majority of his damage at the Coliseum, which isn’t exactly a hitters ball park. O.Co Coliseum ranks in the bottom third of all stadiums in terms of runs, homeruns, hits and doubles averaged.
All of this led Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News to compare Cespedes to Kirby Puckett and Matt Holliday – worthy comparisons, to be sure. But, unlike Posey, one has to wonder whether Cespedes can continue this sort of play.
A few statistical outputs strike me has red flags: Strikeout percentage (K%) and Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) — both of which are pretty high. His 21 K% puts him in what Fangraphs would categorize as the “poor” range–though it is on par with Alex Rodriquez and Trout. Also, his BABIP over the last 30 days (.471) trails only Posey and Torii Hunter–much higher than his season average of .359 and his projected .306. The small sample size combined with that high of a BABIP suggests that Cespedes has been getting lucky as of late.
In all, it will be interesting to see if Cespedes can continue his development. If he can, it would unfair to think that he could hit his way into Posey-esque territory and into the limelight of Bay Area sports.