Is low OBP a characteristic of Doug Melvin’s teams?

Posted by Steve

There was potentially encouraging news over the weekend when Doug Melvin was given a three-year extension and Dale Sveum was eliminated from consideration for the open manager position.  I only say potentially encouraging, because if Melvin hires someone like Bob Brenly, Buck Showalter or Willie Randolph it probably won’t even be an improvement over Sveum.  I am continuing to hold out hope for either Davey Johnson or maybe Bobby Valentine, but I’m not expecting that.  My guess is either Brenly or Ken Macha.  Meh.

Anyway, with the extension of Doug Melvin I thought I’d take a closer look at one of the criticisms of Melvin that is being mentioned a bit more this year, which is his alleged tendency to assemble powerful but undisciplined offenses.  It’s no secret the 2008 Brewers fit this description, but are the Brewers offenses of the last couple seasons really a byproduct of Melvin as a GM?  To get a better idea, here are OBPs and slugging percentages of each team he has presided over as GM.

1995 Texas Rangers

OBP: .336 (10th of 14 teams)

SLG: .410 (10th of 14 teams)

Runs: 691 (11th of 14 teams)

This was a poor offensive team that was lucky to be four games over .500 (they were outscored by 29 runs).  It was the first team under Melvin, so I won’t hold this one against him too much—many of the players were likely leftovers from Tom Grieve’s team.

1996 Texas Rangers

OBP: .359 (5th of 14 teams)

SLG: .469 (4th of 14 teams)

Runs: 928 (4th of 14 teams)

A good offensive team led by Juan Gonzalez, Rusty Greer and Dean Palmer led Texas to their first ever playoff appearance.  .359 is a very solid mark; nothing to criticize here.

1997 Texas Rangers

OBP: .333 (9th of 14 teams)

SLG: .438 (4th of 14 teams)

Runs: 807 (7th of 14 teams)

This looks pretty similar to Melvin’s Brewers teams of the last couple seasons.  Poor OBP, good power, average run output.

1998 Texas Rangers

OBP: .356 (2nd of 14 teams)

SLG: .462 (3rd of 14 teams)

Runs: 940 (2nd of 14 teams)

This was a great offense all-around.

1999 Texas Rangers

OBP: .362 (3rd of 14 teams)

SLG: .479 (1st of 14 teams)

Runs: 945 (2nd of 14 teams)

The addition of DH Rafael Palmeiro made an already very good offense even better.  This was really the heyday of Melvin’s tenure with the Rangers as far as offense is concerned.

2000 Texas Rangers

OBP: .352 (6th of 14 teams)

SLG: .446 (7th of 14 teams)

Runs: 848 (9th of 14 teams)

Juan Gonzalez had left the team, and Melvin was unable to come close to replacing his production.  Pudge Rodriguez and Rafael Palmeiro had huge seasons, but that was only enough to make this a fairly average offensive team.  Note this is his last team before owner Tom Hicks stepped in and signed Alex Rodriguez to a record-setting deal and putting a limit on Melvin’s flexibility to address the team elsewhere.

2001 Texas Rangers

OBP: .344 (4th out of 14 teams)

SLG: .471 (1st out of 14 teams)

Runs: 890 (3rd out of 14 teams)

This team resembled the 2008 Rangers: great offense and horrid, horrid pitching. They scored 890 runs and allowed 968. Alex Rodriguez had a monster year, but his huge contract may have played a part in the poor pitching (in that they couldn’t afford any).

Melvin was fired after this season, and it was perhaps unjustified. He then joined the Brewers in 2002 and assembled his first Brewers team in 2003.

2003 Brewers

OBP: .329 (11th out of 16 teams)

SLG: .419 (8th out of 16 teams)

Runs: 714 (11th out of 16 teams)

The first couple seasons with the Brewers were rebuilding years, and everyone knew it. Best stat from 2003: Brooks Kieschnick had a .614 slugging percentage in 70 ABs.

2004 Brewers

OBP: .321 (12th out of 16 teams)

SLG: .387 (16th out of 16 teams)

Runs: 634 (15th out of 16 teams)

This was the year after Melvin traded Richie Sexson, so they predictably made a huge drop in slugging. This was still acceptable, however ugly it was, as the team was rebuilding and waiting for their wave of young players to get through the minors (Rickie Weeks, Prince Fielder, Corey Hart, J.J. Hardy). Luckily, this was the final terrible Brewers team under Melvin to date. This was also the year my love for Ben Sheets grew to a seriously unhealthy level.

2005 Brewers

OBP: .331 (9th out of 16 teams)

SLG: .423 (4th out of 16 teams)

Runs: 726 (6th out of 16 teams)

To me, this was the first Brewers team that was fairly fun to watch since I had been a serious fan of the team. It is also the first team I would say is fair game to critique as far as what Melvin was putting together.

2006 Brewers

OBP: .327 (13th out of 16 teams)

SLG: .420 (12th out of 16 teams)

Runs: 730 (14th out of 16 teams)

A bit of a strange result here, as the offense was virtually the same as the previous season—the rest of the league just made a big step forward. Still, not what you’re looking for in a team OPS.

2007 Brewers

OBP: .329 (11th out of 16 teams)

SLG: .456 (2nd out of 16 teams)

Runs: 801 (5th out of 16 teams)

This reflects what some have complained about—high slugging but a lack of OBP.

2008 Brewers

OBP: .325 (10th out of 16 teams)

SLG: .431 5th out of 16 teams)

Runs: 750 (7th out of 16 teams)

It’s no secret the Brewers made the playoffs this year because of their pitching, not their offense. They were worse offensively in 2008 than 2007 by a decent margin.

Here’s where I have trouble trying to draw a conclusion from this. I wasn’t sure what I expected to find when I looked at these numbers. If I would have seen relatively low OBPs in Texas I’d have felt safe saying that Melvin either largely ignores on-base percentage or prefers slugging percentage, but that wasn’t really reflected overall by his Ranger teams. With the Brewers, though, the highest OBP in any season since Melvin has been here is .331. I’m willing to give him a pass on his first two years here, as those were clearly rebuilding teams—even 2005’s team overachieved a bit to reach .500. But the Brewers have not improved in one of the most crucial areas of the game since Melvin has been here.

There could be a number of reasons for this. Higher payroll in Texas. Inherited players in Texas were better than inherited players in Milwaukee. Strategy of scouting directors in Texas vs. in Milwaukee.

That’s why I’m having difficulty taking something away from this, other than the fact that Melvin must address this issue in 2009 if the team wants to contend again—they aren’t getting that type of pitching again.

I’m wondering what others think of this. For those who believe it’s a trend with Melvin, how do you explain the very good offensive seasons in Texas? And for those who don’t believe it’s a trend, how do you explain the lack of discipline by the Brewers since he’s been here?

My feeling is that the good offenses in Texas were more a result of the high payroll (Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro) and players he inherited (Juan Gonzalez, Rusty Greer) than a conscious effort to add OBP, but I could definitely swayed the other way by a strong argument.

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2 responses to “Is low OBP a characteristic of Doug Melvin’s teams?

  1. Now- this a completely unsubstantiated comment, because I have no statistical evidence whatsoever…but I would have to blame the undisciplined approach by Brewers hitters (leading to a relatively poor OBP) primarily on youth.

    In Texas, you mention the names Palmeiro, Gonzalez, A-Rod- all veterans who have found ways to get on base and produce runs their entire careers. In Milwaukee, the veterans that we were relying on for that are a little harder to come by….Geoff Jenkins, (a run producer yes, but not known for getting on base) Bill Hall? Mike Cameron?

    We’ve got (and for the most part have had) a bunch of guys in their 20’s with little or no playoff experience, except for the stellar Craig Counsel who seems to be on base every time you turn around….errrr….grounding out to the 2nd baseman.

    Anyways- I suppose my whole point was that we’ve got a ton of youth on the team and it’s hard to expect young guys to be able to sit back and take the pitches they need to take in order to create a quality at bat. Every 25 year old wants to be the hero. So I don’t really blame Melvin. I think some blame has to go on the hitting coach and some blame, inevitably has to go on the manager(s) for not using players in their ideal situations.

    Ok- that’s all I got….good distraction from work.

  2. Interesting points about them being young, but I think there is more to it than that. Many younger hitters have patience, and many veterans don’t.

    The more I think about this, the more I think it’s not really Melvin’s philosophy as much as it is the players they already had. Most of the Brewers’ core was already in place when Melvin took over (they were just in the minors at that time). I also did not note that this year’s bad OBP was more a result of players underperforming. I don’t think anyone thought Corey Hart and Bill Hall would be as bad as they were, and Weeks, Fielder and Braun all had just decent seasons for them. If they would have met projections, the team OBP would have obviously been much better.

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