Better things may lie ahead for Dayan Viciedo
BY JOHN GROCHOWSKI For Sun-Times Media March 18, 2014 7:02PM
Chicago White Sox's Dayan Viciedo hits into a two-run fielder's choice, scoring Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko after Detroit Tigers second baseman Omar Infante was unable to turn the double play, during the fifth inning of a baseball game, Monday, Sept. 17, 2012, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Updated: March 18, 2014 8:17PM
When Dayan Viciedo broke in with the White Sox in mid-2010, fans had visions of a star in the making. His .321 on-base percentage and .519 slugging percentage yielded an .840 OPS.
Adjusted for ballpark effects and normalized to a scale where 100 is the league average, that was a 122 OPS-plus. He was 22 percent more productive than a league-average hitter.
His performances since haven’t been of star-caliber. In another partial season in 2011, his OPS/OPS-plus dropped to .641/74, followed by full seasons of .744/98 in 2012 and .731/94 last season.
Viciedo has been holding just below league-average OPS-plus, but he’s entering his age-25 season, two years shy of the average age of a player’s peak. Baseball history is littered with players who make breakthroughs at about his age.
On player-profile pages at Baseball-Reference.com,
there are lists of comparable players using similarity scores. Similarity scores were devised by Bill James during the 1980s and have been tweaked at Baseball-Reference. Any comparison of two players starts with a score of 1,000, then deducts points for ways in which the players’ statistics differ.
For Viciedo, the most similar player through age 24 is former outfielder-first baseman Mike Marshall, who played the bulk of his 11-year career with the Dodgers in the 1980s. Like Viciedo, Marshall had partial seasons at 21 and 22, then came up to stay at 23. In his first full season in 1983, he had a .782 OPS and a 117 OPS-plus with 17 home runs. In 1984, he dipped to .753/112 with 21 homers.
At 25, Marshall had his breakthrough. He soared to an .857 OPS and a 141 OPS-plus with 28 homers. It was his best season by far.
What about the second-best comparison? That’s George Hendrick, who had a .767 OPS and a 120 OPS-plus for the Indians as a 24-year-old in 1974. He exceeded that OPS-plus seven times in his career, with a best of .873/145 at 27 for the Padres.
Next is Joe Adcock. His best OPS-plus through age 24 was a 115 for the Reds in 1952. Two years later, he jumped to 134 for the Braves at 26, then to 152 for the Braves at 28.
Then comes Larry Walker, who had a 127 OPS-plus for the Expos at 24. He jumped to 141 at 25 and had a career best of 178 at 30 for the Rockies.
The picture gets less rosy as you scroll down the list. The fifth-most similar hitter to Viciedo, Carmelo Martinez, had his peak OPS-plus of 123 at 24. Jeremy Hermida had his best of 125 at 23. And Bernie Carbo never matched his age-22 season, when he had a 164 OPS-plus in 467 plate appearances.
There are no guarantees Viciedo will make a great leap forward. But it’s not too late, either. Similar players who have made that leap have done it within a year or two of his age.