The Battle For First: Gonzalez vs. Teixeira

On my drive in to campus yesterday morning, I listened as Erik Kuselias broke down the Adrian Gonzalez trade on ESPN Radio. During the discussion, he mentioned that he thought the Red Sox’s acquisition of Gonzalez was akin to the Yankees getting Mark Teixeira. He kind of threw that thought out in passing, but brought it up again a few minutes later when he had Buster Olney on the phone. He asked Olney what he thought about the Gonzalez and Teixeira comparison, and Olney basically agree that the two were essentially the same player, and the results of comparing them would be a toss-up. Both are left-handed*, power-hitting, Gold Glove-winning first basemen. Gonzalez has been in the league for seven years, Teixeira for eight. Both formerly played for mediocre teams (Gonzalez in Florida, Texas San Diego and Teixeira in Texas, Atlanta and Ahaheim), and both turned solid seasons into huge contracts.

*Teixeira is technically a switch-hitter, but he’s definitely stronger from the left side.

But the similarities stop there. After looking at their numbers, it’s pretty clear that a) Gonzalez and Teixeira are very different players, and b) one is far more valuable than the other. Check it out:


The first thing that stuck out to me was how much more Gonzalez spreads the ball around. His spray chart for the past two years is pretty evenly distributed on all hits, whereas Teixeira’s is heavily weighted toward right field, especially with regard to home runs. Gonzalez also has higher BABIP numbers (2009-2010 average of .300, versus .275 for Teixeria).

The 10-game rolling average of game-by-game WPA shows that Gonzalez has positive spikes that are both more frequent and more substantial than Teixeira’s. Gonzalez’s negative dips may be more frequent, but they last for shorter periods than Teixeira’s do. Plus, Gonzalez’s average WPA hovers right around .0244, about 37 percent higher than Teixeira’s average of .0153. And Teixeira’s WAR totals for the past two seasons are about 25 percent less than Gonzalez’s totals.

It looks like Boston might be giving up a lot, dealing one of their top young pitching prospects to get Gonzalez, but in a straight-up numbers battle, the Red Sox now clearly they have the edge over the Yankees at first base.

NOTE: I’m pretty new to all of this Sabermetrics stuff. I spent a reasonable number of hours reading info at FanGraphs.com and Baseball-Reference.com, but I’m definitely not an expert. If you’d like to correct me (read: call me out) on any mistakes I made, feel free.

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About Chris Spurlock

Senior at the University of Missouri studying Convergence Journalism and Political Science. Self-described nerd, fitness junkie, sports fanatic and tech lover. http://cjspurlock.squarespace.com/ View all posts by Chris Spurlock

12 responses to “The Battle For First: Gonzalez vs. Teixeira

  • Shane

    Nice write up, seems like a cool site in general. I’ll definitely be back.

  • Daily Links – Trivia(l) Edition

    […] Spurlock uses some visually stimulating charts to literally see who is more valuable, the Yankees Mark Teixeira or the Red Sox Adrian Gonzalez.  […]

  • AMusingFool

    I’m not at all sure that WPA chart actually tells you anything about what the Red Sox are getting (as a stat, it has very limited predictive value), but it sure looks cool.

  • LizF

    Great blog, as a budding stat geek myself I love the visuals, and as a Red Sox fan I love this post even more!!

  • Kevin

    The higher BABIP makes sense, when you consider that it’s suicidal to put a shift on a batter that hits well to all fields.

  • Tim

    Great comparisons, and I think it’d be interesting to see Gonzalez’ spray chart of fly ball outs overlayed on Fenway. As for this spray chart- of his 8 home runs to Petco’s left field, not a single one was cheap on distance — they probably would have all cleared the Monster unless they were real laser-beams.

    Since you asked us commenters to “call you out,” the one critique I have is putting Gonzalez in blue and Teixeira in red. D’oh. :)

  • Ben Hall

    I’m a Red Sox fan, so I love the idea that Gonzalez is significantly better, but…first of all, taking the last two seasons, while perhaps most relevant as the most recent seasons, takes easily Gonzalez’s two best seasons and Teixeira’s worst season (2010) since 2006. Secondly, BABIP has to be looked at carefully to draw conclusions from it. Gonzalez’s BABIP over the last two years are consistent with his career numbers, and his batted ball profile (percentage of line drives, fly balls, and grounders) is too. On the other hand, despite a similar batted ball profile to his career this year, Teixeira had a BABIP 35 points below his career BABIP. It’s most likely that he was simply unlucky, which makes up a big part of the difference between the two.

    Also, a side note: I wouldn’t say Teixeira is a hugely better hitter left-handed. He walks a little more, strikes out a little less, and hits for a higher average. But he hits for more power right-handed.

    I love the WPA graph. As noted above, WPA isn’t very predictive, but it’s a cool stat. Great way to illustrate it.

    • cjspurlock

      Ben,

      Thanks for your comment. Since I made this graphic I’ve been doing a lot of reading about sabermetrics and I’ve drawn a few of the same conclusions you have. When I built this I was pretty much a saber novice (and still am), and I overlooked some of the issues with the stats I used.

      The feedback is definitely appreciated, as I’m always looking to better understand the numbers I’m working with.

      Hope you continue reading.

      Best,
      Chris

  • Alex

    Nice effort. This kind of visual presentation makes statistics much more accessible to readers who are less inclined to study the data themselves. Once you get a better handle on how best to utilize the stats, you could start making some really informative posts.

  • Gary Avery

    Loved this write up and the graphs made it even better. Although nothing should be taken away from tex’s potential I do have to agree that the edge at first base now goes to the Sox due to the fact that A-gon played at a park that was not very hitter friendly for lefties. Either way great write up.

  • Player Profiles: Lance vs. Larry « VarsityViz

    […] The folks over at Beyond the Box Score have made it clear that their favorite graphic of mine was the one that garnered their attention in the first place: my analysis of Mark Teixeira and Adrian Gonzalez. […]

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