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  • Jose Cruz

    I was recently talking about Jim Rice's HOF candidacy (which I don't support), and the name Jose Cruz came up. I have been a fan of Jose Cruz's for some time, and think he may be of HOF caliber. His offense was big time suppressed by the Astrodome, let me say first. Bill James once wrote this about Cruz:

    "A six time .300 hitter who stole about 40 bases a season, Cruz's numbers were ruined by playing his best seasons in the Astrodome when it hard park factors around .80.

    Had he played in most other parks, it is clear that Cruz woudl have won multiple National League batting titles. In 1983 hit .318, missing the NL batting title by five points; this was the closest anyone would ever come to winning a batting title in the Astrodome, and Cruz was one of a handful of Astros ever to finish among the among the NL leaders in batting. That year he hit .324 with 11 home runs, 48 RBI on the road, making him as good a hitter in "road" games as anyone in the National League.

    In 1984 he was better; he hit .349 with 12 home runs in road games, but .274 with no homers in Houston. In hs career he lost about 47 home runs to the Astrodome, and probably lost at least 10 points off his average."

    Using the James estimates (giving him 10 extra points of BA and 47 more home runs), he would have a realtive line of 113/112/117, for an OPS+ of 129.

    I think Cruz was really one of the best hitters in the game for most of his career, but he was always killed by that dome. As it is, his numbers are very good. 110/109/111 relative line, good for a 120 OPS+. His OPS was largely OBP driven too, so he was probably a more valuable hitter than that would suggest.

    Cruz was a very complete player, he did everything well. I can't see any weakness in his game. He was a very good baserunner, stealing 30+ bases five times and stealing 317 over his career at a pretty good percentage. He was one of the best fielding right fielders of all time, by most metrics I've seen (DRA, UZR, PCA, DWS, FRAA, FRAR), and was known as a very good fielder from what I've gathered. He was a complete hitter, who could hit for very good average, walk a lot, and had good power. He also played in one of the strongest leagues of all time, IMO, and was one of the league's best hitters.

    Astros Daily provides great profiles for Astros stars. Please read the player tribute:

    http://www.astrosdaily.com/players/Cruz_Jose.html

    I'll give you another article written on that same site about Cruz:

    The Astrodome: Where Fame Went to Die
    In 1987 I was introduced to the notion of park effects by Bill James in his annual Baseball Abstract. Of course, everyone already knew that different ballparks had an impact on hitting. After all, Wrigley Field in Chicago was known as a hitter's paradise, and Atlanta Fulton-County stadium was affectionately called the "Launching Pad" because of the inflating effect it had on home run totals. Conversely, the Astrodome was a well-known pitchers' haven where home runs went to die -- eight feet short of the warning track. But James was instrumental with his analysis that did more than just invoke the notion of park effects, but actually quantified their impact on the performances of players.

    As an avid Astros fan, I was drawn to an article in which he called Jose Cruz the "most underrated hitter in the major leagues", or something like that. Naturally, this served to quicken the pace of the orange blood flowing through my veins and gave me "warm fuzzies" all over. How could this be? How could an outfielder who averages about ten home runs a season be underrated?

    That is when James started on about park effects. Consider the following two players:

    AB HR RBI AVG OBP SLG
    Player A 1720 72 254 .265 .327 .437
    Player B 2451 71 350 .288 .344 .444

    A cursory glance shows that, when considering the differences in at-bats, Player A has more home-run power and an equivalent number of RBI. But Player B definitely has clear advantages in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. If I had to pick one for my team based solely on these stats, it would be Player B. Now consider the following two players:

    AB HR RBI AVG OBP SLG
    Player A 1734 123 367 .292 .358 .554
    Player B 2451 27 312 .293 .366 .404

    Without a doubt, Player A is a far superior hitter. While Player B has a small edge in on-base percentage, that is obliterated by the huge, 150-point edge that Player A has in slugging percentage. If all other considerations were equal, Player A would be considered the better hitter, hands-down.

    In both comparisons, Jose Cruz was Player B. But the identity of Player A may surprise you: Bob Horner. For fans who followed baseball in the Eighties, Bob Horner was a well-respected slugging first baseman. His forte was the long-ball, and he hit them at a prodigious rate. Though he was often beset by injuries, Horner averaged 34 home runs for every 162 games he played. That may not seem like a lot in the current Yackball era, but it made Horner an elite slugger in the Eighties. For example, Mike Schmidt averaged 36 homers per 162 games. Willie Stargell and Reggie Jackson both averaged 32. So it is easy to see why Bob Horner's bat was well-respected in the Eighties.

    Yet for every 162 games played, Jose Cruz averaged a paltry 9 home runs. Nine. Less than ten. Single digits. So how can the any comparison between Cruz and Horner be fair if it shows that Jose Cruz was not only a better hitter, but specifically had a higher slugging percentage than Bob Horner? Simple. The first comparison was of the "on the road" hitting of the two players since 1979, while the second comparison was of the "at home" hitting.

    When the beneficial (or detrimental) effects of a player's home park are removed from the comparison, the playing field upon which players are evaluated becomes much more level. By doing this, Bill James had discovered and quantified what many Astros fans had come to know - Jose Cruz was much better hitter than most fans realized.

    Bill James is not alone in this assessment of Jose Cruz. The writers of Total Baseball have developed a method for objectively evaluating the offensive performance of players, the Total Player Rating (TPR). This number is an attempt to measure the number of "wins" a player helps his team over what would be expected from an average player. A negative TPR would indicate a below-average player, but not necessarily a "bad" player. This statistic is adjusted for park effects, which prevents Rockies and Cubs from dominating the top of the offensive lists.

    For his career, Jose Cruz has a TPR of 28.7, which is very good and places him at #139 on the all-time list among all major-league players. To better grasp how highly Cruz ranks, there have been 201 major-leaguers inducted into the Hall of Fame. But to get an better idea of how underrated Jose Cruz was in his career, here are some of the outfielders who ranked below him in career TPR: Cesar Cedeno (28.3), Rusty Staub (27.6), Jim Rice (27.2), Lenny Dykstra (25.6), Dave Parker (23.0), and the future Hall of Famer whom Cruz played alongside as a rookie, Lou Brock (12.7). Of course, Brock had some excellent offensive years, but his ticket to the Hall of Fame was paid for when he broke Ty Cobb's all-time record for stolen bases. In the end, Brock was a player that Cruz would eventually outperform offensively while receiving only a fraction of the credit for his accomplishments. But Joe Morgan saw something that every other Astro fan saw: Jose Cruz was one of the best and most underrated players of his time.


    The Joe Morgan reference is about a quote of his, when he said Cruz was "one of the best and most underrated players I have ever seen".


    I think Jose Cruz makes for a HOF caliber player. I'm interested to see what others have to say.
    Last edited by 538280; 02-27-2006, 05:10 PM.

  • #2
    Originally posted by 538280
    I was recently talking about Jim Rice's HOF candidacy (which I don't support), and the name Jose Cruz came up. I have been a fan of Jose Cruz's for some time, and think he may be of HOF caliber. His offense was big time suppressed by the Astrodome, let me say first. Bill James once wrote this about Cruz:

    "A six time .300 hitter who stole about 40 bases a season, Cruz's numbers were ruined by playing his best seasons in the Astrodome when it hard park factors around .80.

    Had he played in most other parks, it is clear that Cruz woudl have won multiple National League batting titles. In 1983 hit .318, missing the NL batting title by five points; this was the closest anyone would ever come to winning a batting title in the Astrodome, and Cruz was one of a handful of Astros ever to finish among the among the NL leaders in batting. That year he hit .324 with 11 home runs, 48 RBI on the road, making him as good a hitter in "road" games as anyone in the National League.

    In 1984 he was better; he hit .349 with 12 home runs in road games, but .274 with no homers in Houston. In hs career he lost about 47 home runs to the Astrodome, and probably lost at least 10 points off his average."

    Using the James estimates (giving him 10 extra points of BA and 47 more home runs), he would have a realtive line of 113/112/117, for an OPS+ of 129.

    I think Cruz was really one of the best hitters in the game for most of his career, but he was always killed by that dome. As it is, his numbers are very good. 110/109/111 relative line, good for a 120 OPS+. His OPS was largely OBP driven too, so he was probably a more valuable hitter than that would suggest.

    Cruz was a very complete player, he did everything well. I can't see any weakness in his game. He was a very good baserunner, stealing 30+ bases five times and stealing 317 over his career at a pretty good percentage. He was one of the best fielding right fielders of all time, by most metrics I've seen (DRA, UZR, PCA, DWS, FRAA, FRAR), and was known as a very good fielder from what I've gathered. He was a complete hitter, who could hit for very good average, walk a lot, and had good power. He also played in one of the strongest leagues of all time, IMO, and was one of the league's best hitters.

    I think Jose Cruz makes for a HOF caliber player. I'm interested to see what others have to say.
    Bobby Abreu kind of reminds of Jose Cruz but with a lower BA.
    Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Honus Wagner Rules
      Bobby Abreu kind of reminds of Jose Cruz but with a lower BA.
      Cruz was a MUCH better fielder than Abreu. Don't let that Gold Glove fool you. Have you ever seen Bobby play? I can't figure out for the life of me how he ever won the GG. Shows you how much Gold Gloves really mean.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by 538280
        Cruz was a MUCH better fielder than Abreu. Don't let that Gold Glove fool you. Have you ever seen Bobby play? I can't figure out for the life of me how he ever won the GG. Shows you how much Gold Gloves really mean.
        I said kind of...
        Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

        Comment


        • #5
          Funny how you try to turn Cruz's 120 OPS+ into a positive for him. Rice had a 128 in comparison, but you don't support him.

          Cruz was a fine player, an underrated player, but he belongs nowhere near the HoF, IMO.

          And we get it, the Astrodome hurt players numbers, so why don't we just open the Hall to every Astro. The Astrodome, for as bad as its dimensions were, was still not as bad as some of the monstrous parks that players played in before the cookie cutter stadiums of the 60s.

          Comment


          • #6
            This is one time I can even dispense with home/road splits or the ink and HOF standards metrics. Even if I went exclusively with win shares, Cruz doesn't make it:

            career win shares: 18th among LF listed in the latest BJHA (good enough, but barely)
            best 3 years in win shares: 35th among LF listed in the latest BJHA (rather short of the mark)
            best 5 consecutive years in win shares: again, 35th among LF listed in the latest BJHA.

            Jim Albright
            Seen on a bumper sticker: If only closed minds came with closed mouths.
            Some minds are like concrete--thoroughly mixed up and permanently set.
            A Lincoln: I don't think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.

            Comment


            • #7
              Jimmy Wynn was pushing it. Jose Cruz a Hall of Famer?
              "Hall of Famer Whitey Ford now on the field... pleading with the crowd for, for some kind of sanity!"

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by DoubleX
                Funny how you try to turn Cruz's 120 OPS+ into a positive for him. Rice had a 128 in comparison, but you don't support him.

                Cruz was a fine player, an underrated player, but he belongs nowhere near the HoF, IMO.

                Here Here!!!
                1968 and 1984, the greatest ever.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I've been thinking about it, and I think I'd put Jim Rice in long before I'd put Jose Cruz in (and I'm in no rush to put Rice in). The Hall is about a lot more than the intense scrutiny and nitpickiness of modern sabermetrics. It also is about perception of dominance and accolades. And the players that sabermetrics show to be exceptionally good, will be making the Hall anyway because they will be dominant and receive the accolades. This is not Cruz.

                  Some of these arguments that people have been putting forth in recent weeks, based on sabermetrics, have really turned me off to the appeal and value of sabermetrics in analyzing players. There is becoming far too much reliance on sabermetrics by some people, and while I think certain measures are indeed very helpful, a lot of it is still conjecture, and the people who rely so heavily on these stats, are really missing out on certain fundamental aspects of the game. It's like they think they can get the whole gist from looking at a composite of box scores rather than actually watching (or even playing) some games. I've said this before, it's like they may listen to Jimi, but they aren't hearing Jimi.
                  Last edited by DoubleX; 02-28-2006, 07:24 AM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by DoubleX
                    I've been thinking about it, and I think I'd put Jim Rice in long before I'd put Jose Cruz in (and I'm in no rush to put Rice in). The Hall is about a lot more than the intense scrutiny and nitpickiness of modern sabermetrics. It also is about perception of dominance and accolades. And the players that sabermetrics show to be exceptionally good, will be making the Hall anyway because they will be dominant and receive the accolades. This is not Cruz.

                    Some of these arguments that people have been putting forth in recent weeks, based on sabermetrics, have really turned me off to the appeal and value of sabermetrics in analyzing players. There is becoming far too much reliance on sabermetrics by some people, and while I think certain measures are indeed very helpful, a lot of it is still conjecture, and the people who rely so heavily on these stats, are really missing out on certain fundamental aspects of the game. It's like they think they can get the whole gist from looking at a composite of box scores rather than actually watching (or even playing) some games. I've said this before, it's like they may listen to Jimi, but they aren't hearing Jimi.
                    Very well said.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Brooklyn
                      Very well said.
                      Thanks.

                      It's like in 30 or 40 years people will be arguing solely on sabermetrics that Bobby Abreu should be in the Hall. He's good player, underrated for most of his career, and the sabermetrics will show. But I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a number of people who saw him play or followed baseball during his career, that would consider him a Hall of Famer.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by DoubleX
                        I've been thinking about it, and I think I'd put Jim Rice in long before I'd put Jose Cruz in (and I'm in no rush to put Rice in). The Hall is about a lot more than the intense scrutiny and nitpickiness of modern sabermetrics. It also is about perception of dominance and accolades. And the players that sabermetrics show to be exceptionally good, will be making the Hall anyway because they will be dominant and receive the accolades. This is not Cruz.
                        Step back, and ask yourself why Cruz didn't get the perception of dominance from the public or accolades. It's not because he wasn't good enough.

                        I've gotten a different reception here from what I thought. I wasn't expecting everyone to agree, but, well, I thought people would think Cruz is at least a borderline candidate. At least I know some people agree with me. Michael Humphrey's, creator of DRA (defensive metric), wrote this about Cruz once:

                        Jose Cruz and Luis Gonzalez were (have been) Excellent-to-Very Good. Jose
                        belongs in the Hall of Fame, but of course will never get there. As Bill James has pointed
                        out, his batting statistics were “ruined” by playing in the Astrodome. If you include his
                        right field ratings, his career runs-saved in the outfield was +115. I thought there might
                        be a park effect helping him in the field in a manner analogous to the park effects that
                        hurt him at the plate, but the left field ratings in the Astrodome are almost exactly
                        average in the years before and after he played, with one significant exception.

                        Namely, Luis Gonzalez. He started out like gangbusters as a young left fielder in
                        the Astrodome, and had one very high rating +44, at age 25. I would’ve been inclined to
                        consider that a “wrong” rating, and perhaps it should be discounted a bit, though UZR
                        shows similarly high outfield ratings sometimes, and DRA shows Andruw Jones and
                        Jesse Barfield reaching numbers that high, although on a more consistent basis. In Part
                        II, in the discussion of 1999-2001 left fielder ratings, I note that DM says that Gonzalez
                        has generally provided “good defense in left field.” His DRA ratings are only slightly
                        above average during that period, but by that time he was in his thirties. All of his ratings
                        outside of the Astrodome are positive (except one –1 rating with Detroit in 1998), though
                        not as good as those in the Astrodome. I suppose it is possible that a player who plays in
                        any unusual environment for a fairly long time probably can develop an unusual skill in
                        exploiting that environment. (Think Yaz and the Green Monster.) But, to repeat, there
                        were at least a dozen “average” ratings at left field in the Astrodome during the seasons
                        neither Cruz nor Gonzalez were playing, so I don’t believe they were obtaining an
                        “unfair” advantage through a park effect.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by 538280
                          Step back, and ask yourself why Cruz didn't get the perception of dominance from the public or accolades. It's not because he wasn't good enough.
                          Why don't you tell me? Because he played in Houston in the Astrodome? That didn't stop Cesar Cedeno from winning 5 Gold Gloves and making 4 All-Star appearances. Playing in relative obscurity in Montreal didn't stop Gary Carter and Andre Dawson from recognition. So you tell me why Cruz wasn't perceived to be dominant? You tell me why he only made 2 All-Star appearances, won no Gold Gloves (despite sabermetrics saying he was so obviously a good defender), you tell me why his most similar player is the legendary Amos Otis? Why he received only 2 votes for the Hall of Fame? Why did he lead his own team in OPS only 4 times, finishing behind such greats as Bob Watson, Art Howe, and Ray Knight in various years?

                          If you think Cruz is a Hall of Famer because some nifty numbers tell you so, then you've the missed the game. The numbers are helpful, but there is more to baseball than those numbers, and there is reason Cruz was not perceived as dominant - it's because he wasn't, and playing in Houston had nothing to do with that. If Cruz was really as good as some of those nifty numbers say he was, then he would have received some more recognition.
                          Last edited by DoubleX; 02-28-2006, 01:47 PM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Very good player, but to me when the strongest thing you have to say about him is "his numbers were suppressed by the Astrodome" you really don't have much going on.
                            Buck O'Neil: The Monarch of Baseball

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Even with excusses, I can't place Cruz are coming all that close to even borderline.

                              How much should we give Bob Watson or Glenn Davis?

                              I want to add that being an Astro helped Jerry Mumphrey be an All Star for once.

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