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32 Seasons of zMLE

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At Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski has made available for download three decades of minor league to major league translations (he calls them zMLE). You may recognize his name as the brains behind the ZiPS projection system. You can find the spreadsheets and a discussion of his number crunching here.

It's pretty fun to go through and look at the numbers of Brewers minor leaguers who never got a shot in the big leagues.

Steve Scarborough was an organizational shortstop for seven years in the system and somehow managed to quit playing without stumbling into a hitting coach job. I only knew of him because I saw a player with a really long name listening intently to Ned Yost during a spring training special a few years back. Now I can see just how his stats would have translated into the majors:

Year Team Level AVG/OBP/SLG zMLE
1999 Helena
.303/.402/.507 None
2000 Beloit A .241/.323/.316 .227/.289/.281
2001 High Desert A+ .255/.335/.412 .219/.282/.306
2002 Huntsville
.265/.358/.418 .227/.303/.370
2003 Indianapolis AAA .241/.290/.388 .214/.264/.352
2004 Indianapolis AAA .246/.342/.383 .224/.319/.349
2005 Nashville AAA .255/.323/.413 .237/.293/.368

Okay, so I guess there's a reason he never made it to the big leagues. But still, how cool is it that this sort of thing is out there?

Some other players of interest are after the jump.

Tony Zuniga was a career minor leaguer when the Brewers picked him up in 2005. He started the season in Huntsville and wasn't particularly impressive in the first two months of the season, hitting only .258/.321/.342 in just over 200 plate appearances. He was promoted to Nashville when veteran Kevin Orie was released. Zuniga took off, hitting .323/.376/.472 in 255 plate appearances. As you might expect, his zMLEs were night and day as well:

AA zMLE: .247/.299/.335 --- AAA zMLE: .285/.329/.410

Odd years were Zuniga's favorite seasons, I guess, as he had even more impressive campaigns in AAA in 2001 and 2003:

2001 AAA: .271/.363/.504 ---> .258/.342/.403
2003 AAA: .295/.362/.510 ---> .270/.334/.464

In 2001, he was behind the 3B triumvirate of Russ Davis, Ramon Martinez, and Pedro Feliz in San Francisco. In 2003, he was behind a sophomore-slumping Eric Hinske. The 2005 Brewers had Russell Branyan, Bill Hall, and Jeff Cirillo manning the hot corner. It's kind of disappointing that Zuniga couldn't get a cup of coffee in one of those seasons. He played in the Mexican League in 2006 and then disappeared, having never appeared in the majors.

Derek Hacopian was an offensive force both in college and in the low minors. After three seasons hitting home runs in the Indians chain, injury limited him to only 79 plate appearances in 1994. Already 25 and having never appeared above A ball, he was roster filler for the Beloit Snappers in 2005. He hit 23 home runs and generally made Midwest League pitchers miserable that year, hitting only .324/.407/.552. His zMLE for that year was .279/.341/.441 - pretty good for someone in A ball, even if he was old for the league. His reward was being traded to the Tigers for reliever Kevin Wickander. Unfortunately for Hacopian, the Florida State League dampened his numbers and he was done in the minors after 1996.

Have you ever heard of a guy named Cheol-Sun Bak? How about Chel-Soon Park or Chel Sun Park? He was the first South Korean signed by a major league team - your very own Milwaukee Brewers. They signed him following a 1979 Korean-American baseball tournament and Park spent two seasons in the Milwaukee system before returning to Korea and having a crazy 24-4, 1.84 ERA season in the Korean Baseball Organization. Hampered by injuries, he never again came close to those numbers but pitched until 1996.

He threw only 32 1/3 innings in A ball in 1980, so there's not much to go on, but he still had a nice zMLE for a guy crossing an ocean: 3.03 ERA with 32 hits allowed, 9 walks, and 16 strikeouts. In 1981, he struggled as a starter at both Class A Stockton and Class AA El Paso and the Brewers let him go at the age of 25. It's interesting to think about what could have been if the Brewers had spent more time developing him, but you can't argue with their results in those years. Despite Jeff Sackmann's best efforts, the Brewers have yet to have a Korean player appear in a major league game (unless you count Tommy Phelps, born in Seoul).

Obviously there are many, many, many things you can do with a spreadsheet like this. These are just a few names that caught my eye right off the bat. I encourage you to download the info, peruse it yourself, and see if you can find  anything interesting.