FanPost

An Intervention for Ryan Lefebvre

This needs to be said, as an intervention of sorts to our dear friend Ryan Lefebvre. Ryan, sit down. You're with family here. We're all part of the Royals Kingdom. These are your friends. This is very important.

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Now listen to me and listen well.

Tony Pena Jr. is not good.

He's not. He's not a good hitter. He's not even an adequate hitter. He's quite terrible. His glove isn't even that good. He'll make a flashy play now and then but overall he's probably not much better than average. Listen to me, I know you just got married and perhaps you are stressed and that affects your judgment. We all expect a bit of homerism in Royals broadcasts, and certainly most of us appreciate how you talk up Gil Meche's grittiness. But listen to me.

Tony Pena Jr. is not good.

He was never good in the minors. Last year, yes, he was passable. But even then he had absolutely no power and no ability to draw a walk. He went 244 consecutive plate appearances without a walk last year. That is awful. He can't even bunt well. Ryan, are you paying attention?

Tony Pena Jr. is not good.

Say it with me. I know you can. Listen, we've tolerated your talk of Tony for awhile now. When you mentioned that Aviles playing was good for Tony so he could clear his mind and focus on hitting again, we could ignore it. After all, you have three hours of airtime to fill, and a 40-50 team to talk about, so a silly statement or two can be excused.

But last Sunday was the last straw my friend. You had the audacity to make this comparison.

Tony Pena Jr.

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First 256 games

.237 Batting Average

59 RBI

87 Runs

31 Doubles

8 Triples

Frank White

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First 261 games

.235

59 RBI

82 Runs

22 Doubles

6 Triples

I'm not quite sure why you used 256 games for Pena and 261 for White. I guess because 261 games coincides with the end of the 1975 season for Frank. Did you know Baseball-Reference now allows you to see a player's career numbers through a certain number of games? Baseball-Reference.com. Yes, its a website. Look it up, its a lot of fun.

Anyway, there are more than a few things wrong with your comparison. First, Frank, despite being quite inept with the bat early in his career, still was able to hit for some modest power. He hit eight home runs in those first 261 games, seven more than Tony. Still, his slugging percentage was pretty similar to Tony's. You may think that makes the comparison valid. Not quite.

Frank, despite being a hacker, drew more walks than Tony. Almost twice as many - 33 to Tony's 17. Still, his on-base percentage was similar to Tony's. You may think that makes the comparison valid. Not quite.

For you see Ryan, and remember, you're with family here, in 1975, when Frank was playing his 261st game, the average American League team averaged 4.30 runs per game. Last year, the American League averaged 4.90 runs per game. That may not seem like a lot Ryan. But it is. In 1975, the Royals won 91 games. And they scored 706 runs. Last year, the Royals won 69 games. And they scored 710 runs.

In 1975, Toby Harrah was the only AL shortstop that reached double digits in home runs. Last year, six AL shortstops reached double digits. The average AL shortstop in 1975 hit .240/.296/.314. The average AL shortstop last year hit .269/.322/.391. Do you get what I'm saying Ryan? Teams today score more runs. It isn't 1975. Teams built on light hitting infielders who field well, with centerfielders who steal 80 bases a year with no power are gone, just like Astroturf, Morganna the Kissing Bandit and those ugly yellow Padres uniforms.

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There is a new-fangled stat, and yes, I know you don't like new-fangled stat because they take away from the game and the grit and old school baseball men like Buddy Bell know better, but just bear with me. Its a stat that combines on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, two of the most important simple statistics we can use to judge a hitter. It then compares those stats to the rest of the league. And here's the great part - it also takes into account ballpark and era! So when we see that George Brett slugged .467 in 1978 and see that Jose Guillen is slugging .465 this year, we know that George's slugging percentage is much more impressive because he played in an era before Barry Bonds robbed us of our national innocence.

Anyway, this stat is called OPS+, and an OPS+ of 100 is considered league average. For his career, Tony Pena Jr. has posted an OPS+ of 49. For his first 261 games, Frank's OPS+ was 66. Now, 66 may not seem great - its not. But its adequate, especially in that offensive era, and with a player who is quite possibly one of the best defenders at his position in baseball history. 66 coincidentally, is what Tony Pena Jr. put up last year, which was passable.

But this year, his OPS+ is 1. That's not a misprint. One. Uno. Un. Ichi. There have only been three seasons in MLB history with an OPS+ of 1 or less for players with at least 200 plate appearances. Two were done by Bill Bergen. That's over 100 years of baseball , Ryan. Not even Neifi Perez was this bad.

Tony Pena Jr. is not good.

Furthermore Frank was 24 after his first 261 games. He was just a young kid, still getting better. Tony Pena Jr. is 27. He has entered his prime. He is not likely to get much better than what he is. Frank had room to improve - and he did. By the time he was Tony's age he was an All-Star. Still, you may think that Tony will improve. After all, Frank had his best years in his 30s. But it would be absurd to project the kind of improvement Frank had to Tony Pena Jr. What Frank did was an aberration, not the rule. That's why Frank was as great as he was. Not everyone has his kind of talent. To illustrate the absurdity of projecting this kind of career explosion on Pena, let's take a look at George Brett's first 146 games:

.270/.298/.348 2 HR 47 RBI

Here's a guy that was similar through 146 games:

.270/.290/.365 2 HR 41 RBI

Who is this mystery guy? Why its Tony Pena Jr.! Why compare Tony to Frank White when you could have compared him to George Brett! Shall we begin the Tony Pena Jr. Hall of Fame campaign now?

This also reveals a downward trend for Tony Pena Jr. After 146 games, he hits like George Brett. After 261 games he hits like Frank White. After 400 games, we should expect his numbers to match...Onix Concepcion?

Look, I apologize for the length of this intervention, but it is for your own good. Now look, we can overlook your ramblings on how many runs Ross Gload's glove saves, or how Joey Gathright's speed distracts the pitcher, or how awesome the Royals defense is because of their fielding percentage. But Tony Pena is not good. He's not likely to get better. He's one of the worst hitters in baseball, and his glove is not good enough to make up that deficit.

Tony Pena Jr. is not good.

To compare one of the worst hitters in MLB history to one of the greatest Royals in franchise history not just embarrasses Frank, but it embarrasses yourself. And we don't want you to embarrass yourself Ryan. Like I said, you're with friends.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Royals Review community. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors and writers of this site.

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