05 May 2008
Shortstops and 2009
Posted by Jon Shepherd
As mentioned last week, Luis Hernandez has been awful. He was brought in to play defense and anything resembling offense would be appreciated. Well, according to RZR . . . he is the worst defensive SS in the AL. His offense 241/303/259 would inspire a Woody Guthrie tune about the collapse of production. It is not good and he cannot remain our shortstop. There is really no scrap of evidence that has been presented that shows he deserves to be above AAA, in my opinion. At AAA, he would be a league average hitter with decent defense. At the MLB level, he is one of the worst offensive players ever and a poor defensive shortstop this year. This entry will try to determine if there are any better in house options or players potentially available this offseason. If anyone wishes me to add anyone, let me know.
Using Cyril Morong's run expectancy formulas, I compared each player as potential 7, 8, or 9 lineup position hitters. The algibraic mean of their expected run performance was used and related to Luis Hernandez'. Defense was based on RZR. If defensive statistics existed for SS, an approximation of expected RZR was used. If not, below average defense was determined to be 7% worse than the average. Performance data for players with less than a season of information was taken from their accumulated experience. Players with more than a year of experience used ZiPS projections for offensive performance and an average of their last three years of defensive performance at SS. Due to the ages of most of the players, the predicted defensive performance is most likely a liberal estimate as SS play deteriorates rapidly with age (more so than with any other position, including catching). As we had done before, these are converted into saved and given runs. It was assumed that SS face 400 chances over 162 games. These numbers are converted to wins/162 games based on dividing runs produced and runs saved by 10.
Luis Hernandez and the Average SS
Luis Hernandez, based on his career, is a bottom of the latrine hitter and a good fielder. The average SS in 2007 had a batting line with a .330 OBP and .407 SLG. The average SS also had a .807 RZR. Luis' career .301 OBP and .315 SLG results in 21 less expected runs, which is divided by 10 to give -2.1 wins (compared to the average offensive production for a SS. His defense has been measured to be 0.842 RZR (we'll assume his career RZR is more accurate to his true production at SS than his 2008 .765 RZR). His defense is worth 0.8 runs above average or +0.8 runs. This reduces his cost to -1.2 wins (after rounding). This means that having Luis as our shortstop will cost us 1.2 wins in comparison to having an average SS in place. If he truly had the .930 RZR he showed in limited play last year, he would actually have been worth 0.9 wins . . . that is a difference of 2.1 wins. Using the same reason, this year's .765 RZR would mean his worth would be -3.1 wins. It should be noted that for the purpose of this study, we are using the "average" SS. Typically, replacement level performance is used. A player worth 2 wins below average is about what a replacement level player would be worth. Replacement level as I define it is your average AAA SS.
The in-house options are Eider Torres (.282 OBP/.314 SLG, 0.800 RZR; -2.1 bw, -0.2 fw), Alex Cintron (.291/.350, .765; -1.9, -1.0), Brandon Fahey (.316/.330, .800; -1.4, -0.2), Freddie Bynum (.307/.379, .750; -1.0, -1.4), and the improbable Scott Moore (.311/.409, .750; -0.5, -1.4). Of these five in-house options, none are better than what we project for Luis Hernandez. He seems to be our best SS option. We have no potential SS who are better than -1.2 wins.
2009 SS Options
Potential Free Agent Possibilities are as follows:
David Eckstein (336/344, .840; -0.7, 0.8)
Adam Everett (285/330, .860; -2.3, 1.3)
Orlando Cabrera (332/372, .800; -0.4, -0.2)
Rafael Furcal (347/387, .830; 0.2, 0.6)
Christian Guzman (302/342, .800; -1.7, -0.2)
Felipe Lopez (345/383, .780; 0.1, -0.6)
Cesar Izturis (296/318, .850; -2.2, 1.0)
Juan Uribe (304/427, .800; -0.5, -0.2)
Of these options, only Cristian Guzman comes off worse than Luis Hernandez and he does it by half a win (5 runs). Now, you may be shocked here, but we are using ZiPS as the measure of true performance. Guzman's recent play may be legit . . . if so, he will be worth 0.1 wins instead of -1.9 wins. The only free agent shortstops that are projected to be better than the average MLB SS are David Eckstein and Rafael Furcal. Eckstein is better by 0.1 wins and Furcal by 0.8 wins.
How much does a win cost?
A rough figure of 4.5 MM has been mentioned as how much a win costs on the open market. This typically ignores the reality that improving by a win is more important for a 90 win team than it is a 100 or 80 win team. What I mean is that wins are worth more to teams near the Wild Card or pennant than those who are further from that dividing line. For instance, a 90 win team signing a player who improves them by 2 wins for 12MM makes more sense than a 70 win team signing the same player for the same price. Why? Because 2 more wins will not get a 70 win team into the playoffs. Some fans demand a team win as many games as possible, but it can be easily seen that sometimes . . . that money can be better spent for production at a later date (i.e. prospects, saving up for a difference making free agent). So where does this leave the Orioles? They are a 70 win team this year for all intents and purposes. They could go as high as 80 and as low as 60. Next year, they will probably be a 75 win team. To be a playoff team we have to improve this roster by 15 wins. Furcal (+2), Teixeira (+5 guess over Millar), Sabathia (+7 guess over Trachsel), and our own player improvement (i.e., Markakis, Jones). The is about 50-65MM in annual salaries . . . maybe 400 MM in total contract money.
The difference Furcal makes in improving the Orioles offense, really doesn't mean much unless we go out and throw money around this offseason. So remember that the next time you curse Hernandez. Unless we acquire Teixeira and Sabathia . . . it probably doesn't matter.