League Player of the Month was not our choice

Chalk It Up to Homer-ism

By Ben Altsher

More than month is now officially gone in the 2011 baseball season.  Admittedly, the Sea Dogs have not gotten off to a great start, but I constantly have to remind myself that this level is about more than just results, it’s about growth and development.  Thus far, no one seems to have grown and developed more than Alex Hassan.  After recording 98 hits a year ago with Salem, the Milton, MA native is already about a third of the way there this season.  That’s why I was surprised when Cody Overbeck of the Reading Phillies, and not Hassan, was honored as the Eastern League’s Player of the Month.

Now, this is in no way meant to disparage Overbeck, who certainly was worthy of the award as well.  Those of us with Portland know far too well his abilities, having allowed half his home runs this year.  However, to say that his accomplishments over the first three and half weeks surpassed those of Hassan seems foolish.

Surely, there will be those who read this and say I’m looking at the numbers with Sea-Dog colored glasses on, but that’s not the case.  In the areas and statistical measures that truly demonstrate a player’s individual ability (for that’s what these awards are based on, not just the “best player on the best team” philosophy that some purport), Hassan surpasses Overbeck.  Consider all their offensive metrics from April:

Hassan: 19 games, .411 batting average, 73 at-bats, 10 runs scored, 30 hits, 6 doubles, 1 homer, 14 RBI, 12 walks, 9 K’s, 3 stolen bases (never caught), .494 on-base, .534 slugging, 1.028 OPS, no errors

Overbeck: 22 games, .321 batting average, 81 at-bats, 15 runs, 26 hits, 4 doubles, 6 homers, 20 RBI, 5 walks, 24 K’s, one steal, caught stealing twice, .352 on-base, .593 slugging, .945 OPS, no errors

Now here’s what those numbers will tell you about the comparison between the two players.  Hassan is a patient hitter, willing to work counts to get in a favorable position.  While he has gap power, he doesn’t always display it and is just as content to walk as he is to get a single.  Overbeck is your classic power hitter.  When he squares up a mistake, look out.  However, he can be fooled on offspeed offerings and will definitely rack up the K’s.

Part of this opinion comes down to stylistic choice, but for my money, Hassan’s month was better because he fulfilled his role just a little bit better than Overbeck did his.  The power hitter definitely had a good month with his six bombs (four against the Sea Dogs) and 20 runs driven in.  However, for an on-base, grind-it-out player like Hassan to hit better than .400 for the month, and get on-base in nearly half his plate appearances is well above what the norm is, even for a talented, patient, on-base guy.

Not to mention that Hassan also has done his work primarily in the 2-spot in the Portland lineup, not exactly ideal for driving in runs.  He also has done while playing at a more challenging position in the outfield, while Overbeck splits his time between first base and designated hitter.  To me, the decision was made in looking at the OPS statistic (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage).  It accounts for the strength of both players games, power for Overbeck, patience for Hassan.  The reason Hassan’s is higher is that while Overbeck has more power, it’s only by a slight margin.  On the other hand, Hassan is a far more patient hitter and will get on-base far more often than Overbeck.  That above all should show why Hassan’s month was superior.

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