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updated: 4/12/2014 3:20 PM

Losing Garcia a cruel twist for everyone

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  • The speed of the Cincinnati Reds' Billy Hamilton has Matt Spiegel suggesting it's time for some new metrics to show the true value of Hamilton's base-stealing success.

      The speed of the Cincinnati Reds' Billy Hamilton has Matt Spiegel suggesting it's time for some new metrics to show the true value of Hamilton's base-stealing success.
    AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch

 
By Matt Spiegel
Special to the Daily Herald

It's awful for everyone.

For Rick Hahn, a key building block is denied a year to develop. For fans, a worthy object of attention is removed from games, highlights, and box scores. And for Avisail Garcia, a long and brutal rehab looms from the worst shoulder injury possible.

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He would have been better off with a dislocation, separation, or a broken collarbone. A torn labrum means potential muscle atrophy, possible long-term loss of flexibility, and probable limitations to both his swing and fielding upon return.

The good news is that this injury is no longer a death sentence. Pitchers such as Robb Nenn and Ben Sheets were never the same. But advancements in the past decade have made the likes of Chris Carpenter, Curt Schilling, and current Yankee Michael Pineda viable players again.

Garcia can make it back. But in order for the White Sox to be competitive and compelling, Jose Abreu is going to have to be phenomenal. And lately he has been.

Ready for some math?

Work with me here as I get a little nerdy about the game.

When a leadoff man is as unstoppably fast on the bases as the Reds' Billy Hamilton, what is an acceptable OBP, and OPS?

Hamilton reaching first almost assuredly means he'll reach second on his own, and probably third. So we need a new metric. The best thing to do is to adjust his slugging percentage.

Along with my radio co-host on Thursday, Tom Fornelli, we came up with "Sluggilton Percentage."

You give Hamilton credit for stolen bases as part of his slugging. To compensate for this, you have to penalize him for his rare times caught stealing, so we'll subtract those from his OBP. It's like he never got on in the first place. Here are the original and adjusted equations:

OBP = (H + BB + HBP) / (AB + BB + HBP + SF)

OBPimilton = (H + BB + HBP -- CS) / (AB + BB + HBP + SF)

Slugging % = Total Bases / AB

Sluggilton = (TB + SB) / AB

Using this metric, Hamilton's stunning 155 stolen base minor league season of 2012 comes into a different focus. His OBP/SLG/OPS of .410/.420/.830 becomes an OBPimilton/Sluggilton/OPSluggilton of .349/.650/.999.

I know it's imperfect, as a CS (caught stealing) often does more damage than just one out. But it's a start. And if the Reds stick with Hamilton longer than his traditional numbers indicate they should, his true effect might be better considered with something like this.

Right team for the right job:

Oakland manager Bob Melvin did wonders with his relievers last year, essentially turning one bullpen into two. High-leverage situations were dealt with using one set of arms, low-leverage with another. The A's best did not go needlessly overused. The ninth remained one man's domain, but Grant Balfour was worthy.

This year's version of the A's pen was supposed to be even better. But two weeks in their new closer, Jim Johnson, has been awful, and was replaced. Melvin has said he will use a variety of pitchers in late innings, based on matchups.

I've wanted to see someone smart have the opportunity and courage to do this. Joe Maddon made a World Series this way in 2008. The standard, clearly defined bullpen roles almost every manager utilizes by default often frustrate me.

Got Craig Kimbrel? Then give him the ninth, sure. Got another dominant arm worthy of the eighth? Fine. But most teams don't have both, if either.

Closer by committee has failed -- a lot. But few teams that tried had the arms, organizational smarts, and ingenuity Oakland does. I'm very interested to watch Bob Melvin do this, and I bet it he does it well.

• Matt Spiegel co-hosts "The McNeil & Spiegel Show" 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday on WSCR 670-AM. Follow him on Twitter @mattspiegel670.

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