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Voices from the Basement: Hatin' on Harv

Daniel: A good ol' player comparison for you:

Player A: .295/13 HR/49 RBI with 26 BB and 79 SO in 421 AB's, for an OPS of .780
Player B: .271/18 HR/69 RBI with 18 BB and 76 SO in 443 AB's, for an OPS of .767

Heck, even their VORPs are almost the same, at 17.1 for Player A, and 15.1 for Player B. Player A is All-Star Ken Harvey, and Player B is little-known platoon 1st baseman Pedro Feliz of the San Francisco Giants.

With Calvin Pickering's callup and spectacular debut (which has been followed up by his unspectacular settling in), some have wondered if Pickering might be able to serve the Royals as a 1B/DH, possibly in place of Harvey. Never mind that between Mike Sweeney and Pick there isn't enough defensive ability to fill a thimble; if Pick can come close to his Triple-A numbers in the bigs, defense be damned.

Others, though, have opposed this thought vehemently. My question is why? Harv's 2004 numbers look eerily similar to his 2003 numbers, with one exception: batting average. His 30-point rise in average is nice, but when you consider the man was once hitting .380, well, it isn't quite as nice.

Now, all of this isn't to say that Pickering is the better hitter; there isn't enough major league data to support that argument, and there certainly won't be enough by the end of this season. However, there is certainly enough minor league data to suggest that Pickering could be a better hitter than Harvey, and Harvey's defense at 1st isn't good enough to list that as a big asset. With that in mind, would trading Ken Harvey be such a crime?

Heck, at least Feliz can play the outfield, third base, and shortstop in addition to playing first. Betcha the Big Contact can't do that. Maybe the Royals should trade Harvey for Feliz, huh? Or, perhaps the Royals should just trade Harvey and give Pickering a try. It certainly wouldn't hurt the team's chances to contend in 2005 or 2006, I think.

Kevin: Forgive me for being biased, but I've just about had it with Ken Harvey. I've just about had it with his lack of knowledge of the strike zone, and I've just about had it with the number of ground balls he hits. I know there are quite a few Harvey supporters out there who've gotten all wrapped up in TBC's high batting average and OPS that place him among this team's better hitters, and I acknowledge and respect their opinion. However, the fact that Harv's been one of the most productive hitters on this team isn't really the point. After all, the job of any front office is to build a playoff-caliber team, and by the time the R's will be ready to contend, Harv will have reached his arbitration years. Which would make him even more of a cancer than he already is.

You compared Ken Harvey's 2004 to Pedro Feliz's 2004 and Calvin Pickering in general, but I want to delve a little bit deeper into the Harvey v. Pickering battle. I know there are people out there who disagree that the line between Double-A, Triple-A, and the major leagues is fuzzy, but it's my opinion and I think I'm right, so I'm going to use it.

Here are Calvin Pickering's numbers in the high minors coming into 2004:

Triple-A: .272/.381/.453
Double-A: .309/.434/.566

and Ken Harvey's:

Triple-A: .277/.342/.465
Double-A: .338/.372/.506

They share a few similarities in their minor league production, especially the massive drop in batting average from AA to AAA. However, Pickering holds one distinct advantage in a category I value above all other offensive categories, and that's finding ways to get on base other than base hits. His plate discipline has carried over to his limited major league career; in 162 at-bats, Phat Calvin's already drawn 28 walks, or roughly what Harvey will draw per season for the rest of his career.

Which leads me to my other reason for disliking Harvey. When people like an ordinary player for whatever reason – be it his hustle, his talent, or his ability to hit for a high average – they'll find excuses for why the player should be given more chances. For The Harvey Clan, the excuse is that he's only had two full major league seasons. The argument would be valid if Ken was 22, but he isn't. He's 26, so what we see now is likely what we'll get for the rest of his career, which is a .280/.330/.420 player. There isn’t a lot of value in that, especially from a guy playing a power position. At 27, Pickering is the same story, but I think the skills he brings to the table -- good on-base ability, power, and isolated power -- are more valuable and conducive to a winning baseball team.

The decision on Harvey will be a major test for Allard Baird this winter, and I hope he passes with flying colors by trading Ken's overrated butt to a team who'll buy.

Daniel: I just wish Harvey would do something...better or worse. Otherwise, I'm afraid he'll be allowed to muddle along for years. Consider something else: the Big Contact is so average, you almost could nickname him the Big League Average. Average Joe represents every major league hitter, not just first basemen:

Average Joe: .342 OBP/.435 SLG/.164 ISO
Ken Harvey: .344 OBP/.439 SLG/.144 ISO

I mean, is that good for a guy playing first base? He's below the league average for isolated power while playing a power-hitting position. He's about league average in OBP, but that's courtesy of him hitting 23 points higher than league average in batting average. Meaning, in other words, he walks much less than league average.One statistic Harv is not average in, though, is ground ball to fly ball ratio. League average is 1.18, and not-your-average-Harv is at an amazing 2.37. Not to beat a dead horse, but at a power-hitting, middle-of-the-order 1st base position, do you really want a guy hitting more than twice as many ground balls than fly balls, especially with runners on base? Sounds like there could be a good reason why Harv only has 49 RBI while hitting in the middle of the order all season.

Kevin: Harvey's groundball-to-flyball ratio is one of the most humorous things I've ever seen in my time studying baseball. Here are the five hitters who hit the most grounders for every fly ball in the major leagues in 2004:

Luis Castillo: 3.65
Ichiro!: 3.19
Juan Pierre: 2.39
Ken Harvey: 2.37
Reed Johnson: 2.30

One of these things is not like the others.

Anyway, I think you're right that Harvey is the face of a league-average player offensively. That isn't a bad thing to be, but it doesn't have any place on a winning baseball team, especially when the player's no better than average defensively as well.

I hope nobody gets me wrong, because I like Ken Harvey. He seems like a good guy, and he hit that cool walkoff homer against Detroit last season. But the Royals have a baseball team to think about, and an overweight, slow, .780 OPS groundball machine shouldn't have a place on The Next Good Royals Team.
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