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:
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:
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:
|ISO OBP||ISO SLG|
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.