January 05, 2007

Milledge is better than what the score card says

Ted Berg at SNY, writes about Lastings Milledge and how he is highly under rated:

On the fantastic Baseball Prospectus site, Nate Silver posted this assessment of the trade, one which I agreed with in principle before I even read it. The fact that blew my mind, though, was this one: the stadium in Norfolk is such a difficult place to hit that the average hitter will actually put up better stats against major league pitchers in a major league park than he will in Norfolk. That means that Mets fans can actually expect batters to produce at a higher rate with the parent club than they did at Norfolk.

Silver mentions this statistical fact as an aside in his assessment of Milledge's value for the future, but neglects to really delve into the way it affects his value now. Since many Major League teams still base a lot of their scouting on the traditional "scoreboard stats," to borrow a phrase from Silver, Milledge must be underrated by many teams because of the relatively average stats that he put up at Norfolk last year.

This year, when the Mets triple-A team and -- barring a trade -- Milledge move to New Orleans, the young outfielder will almost certainly put up much, much better numbers. Zephyr Field in New Orleans is apparently rather pitcher-friendly as well, but players in the Pacific Coast League traditionally boast inflated offensive numbers thanks to launching-pad stadiums in Albuquerque, Salt Lake City, Tucson and Colorado Springs. For example, the now 34-year-old Joe McEwing posted a double-digit home run total for only the second time in his 14-year professional career last season while playing with Round Rock of the PCL. The other time he broke into double digits? That was back in 1998, when he was playing with Memphis of the PCL.

So if Super Joe can put up big (for him) numbers in the PCL even at his advancing age, one can only imagine what Milledge will do in his second year at triple-A, in a league that's heaven for hitters and with the taste of Big-League pitching still fresh in his mouth. His value will only increase with his offensive production. By late July, he'll probably look either ready to take over for Shawn Green or Moises Alou in the Mets' outfield or valuable to a team looking to dispatch frontline pitching for a prospect.

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