Can Mets avoid the Peter Principle with Jordany Valdespin?

No doubt that you have heard the phrase, “people rise to the level of their incompetence.” This is a common experience in the work place, which is filled with managers who were successful in their previous position and then promoted into a position for which they have no aptitude. Essentially, this is the Peter Principle.

Jordany Valdespin has a knack for coming up with memorable hits, specifically in his role as a pinch-hitter. He did it numerous times last year and then did it again yesterday, when he came off the bench to deliver a three-run homer, which lifted the Mets to a 7-6 win over the Marlins. This big hit prompted calls for a bigger role for Valdespin.

His proponents would like, at the very least, to see him in the starting lineup whenever the opposing team has a righty pitcher on the mound. Valdespin has a lifetime .747 OPS versus RHP in the majors – so it’s a defensible move on the surface. But a closer look at some numbers indicates that a promotion for Valdespin to this role would be the Peter Principle in action.

Terry Collins has done his best to limit Valdespin’s exposure to LHP in his time with the Mets. In all, 83 percent of his PA have come with a righty on the mound. He has 44 starts in the majors under his belt and only two of those have been against a southpaw.

When we look at Valdespin’s splits for when he starts a game, we see he has a .259/.297/.361 output. That’s a .659 OPS and it comes with a .306 BABIP, so it’s not like he’s hit in awful luck. Furthermore, it’s better than what we would expect given what he did in the upper levels of the minors. Here are Valdespin’s raw numbers at the top two minor league levels:

Double-A: .283/.321/.444
Triple-A: .283/.320/.411

We would expect his numbers to tail off from the minors to the majors. If we plug the above minor league numbers into Jeff Sackmann’s MLE calculator, we get the following MLB translations:

Double-A: .217/.248/.328
Triple-A: .239/.272/.338

As a starter in the majors, Valdespin is hitting for a better AVG than what his MLEs predicted but his isolated OBP and SLG are exactly what we would have expected. Here are the relevant numbers in chart form:

Majors (starter) .038 .102
AA MLE .031 .111
AAA MLE .033 .099

Now let’s take a look at what Valdespin has done in games in the majors where he has not started. In 88 PA, Valdespin has a .220/.273/.561 line for an .834 OPS. And this comes despite a .204 BABIP. Valdespin has an incredible eight homers in these appearances – six of which came as a pinch-hitter. Strictly looking at his PH line – Valdespin checks in with a .208/.276/.566 output.

One could argue that none of the sample sizes here are big enough to draw conclusions. However, given what Valdespin did in the minors and how the translation of the minor league numbers to major league stats falls in line with what he’s done as a starter so far – I feel comfortable saying that what we’ve seen to date from his as a starter is what we should expect if Valdespin gets promoted to that role in the future.

One of the hallmarks of a good manager is putting his players into a position to succeed. By far, Valdespin’s biggest success has come in games when he has come off the bench. He is clearly not afraid of the big moment and has risen to the occasion in the late innings numerous times. On the flip side, when given a chance to start, opposing pitchers have been able to take advantage of Valdespin and for all intents and purposes have neutralized his power.

Valdespin is an exciting player and it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and want to see him on a regular basis. Yet, it seems to do that would be an example of the Peter Principle in baseball. Just because he’s the ideal guy to face a relief pitcher in the late innings with the game on the line does not make him the best choice to get four plate appearances per day, even with the platoon advantage.

8 comments for “Can Mets avoid the Peter Principle with Jordany Valdespin?

  1. Blastingzone
    May 2, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Stats are wonderful but they don’t tell you what a player has inside like heart,drive,atitude,
    etc. Spin has shown enough to be given a chance to start everyday and if he doesn’t cut it put
    him back on the bench! What has TC have to lose the mets aren’t going anywhere this year
    anyway and it will let the mets find out if Spin is a starting player for the future or not?
    If your going to play Cowgill, Byrd, you need to find a place for Spin even if its
    a platton with Cowgill in CF or Byrd in RF or both?

    • Name
      May 3, 2013 at 1:47 am

      Every time that TC has given JV some regular playing time, he hasn’t done much with it. Most fans don’t seem to notice because of his heroics.

      A typical JV cycle.
      JV gets a big hit.
      He gets some playing time after the big hit.
      He doesn’t really produce with more playing time.
      Playing time diminishes slowly.
      JV gets another big hit and the cycle starts again.

      I say cut out the regular playing time and just let him get the big hits 🙂

  2. Metsense
    May 2, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    I will not argue your correct statistical analysis. Who else on this team is better than him as a platoon CF? JV is the 2013 solution and unless he improves a lot (which you point out is unlikely) he should not be considered as a 2014 answer to the CF position. I think when MDD gets a few AAA at bats, (he is due to resume activity in 2 weeks) he will get an audition. He may not hit like an average major leaguer CF (no Met CF can), but he fields above average. Until then let JV get some time.

  3. Chris F
    May 2, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    Thanks for the very thoughtful analysis Brian. I had been wondering the exact same thing, absent actual data. Getting high on his occasional big successes seems to mask that he’s generally a hacker. Given that being true, JV looks like he could use the stability of a home/road stand tryout. I mean at this point, we need to see if he can develop discipline with a daily expectation. As it stands he realizes hes a bench guy that needs to impress and so he takes flight wildly going after things. His numbers dont warrant over excitement (like a salami every 3rd AB!), but the comparative value to what TC is trotting out there make this worth an exception. Without question, Duda, Player X, and Byrd L to R is simply not a MLB outfield. Rather than giving this time to Lagares, Im ready to say lets give him 15 games and see what he does.

  4. steevy
    May 2, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    I don’t disagree,it’s just that with this weak group he may still be the better option.As part of a platoon or whatever.This OF is bad and Ike is bad(at least for now and maybe always).Buck wasn’t going to drive in 180 runs.Murphy is what he is.Wright is the best offensive player on the team but we know he can go through horrible stretches(lasting half a season!).

  5. JimO
    May 2, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    Right….we have to be realistic. Is JV valuable? Certainly. Is he a piece of a winning team? Possibly. If he can continue to mature as a hitter/player, he could be one of the cogs in a future Mets team with hopes of contending for a playoff spot…..

  6. AJ
    May 3, 2013 at 12:06 am

    The season we have witnessed thus far lays bare the fact that the Mets’ outfield consists entirely of players who would be 4th outfielders on better teams (with the possible exception of Duda who would probably be playing first base somewhere else.) Echoing what others have already noted in previous comments, it comes down to the fact that Valdespin is not worse than the other options the Mets currently have to play centerfield. It’s not that his production warrants his being a starting outfielder in the majors but rather that he plays for a team with an incredibly weak outfield.

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