21 May 2008
The Wieters Shift
Posted by Jon Shepherd
A few posts back I discussed our catching. Along with what I wrote I brought up a possibility with Posey being drafted and Wieters shifted to 1B. The logic behind that goes that if Wieters hits well enough to be an all star 1B, he should be moved to a position that causes less duress. Catching is more likely to cause injury and also requires time off. I thought that we probably should go beyond the abstract and get a little bit more concrete.
In order to determine production, I will use the generalized formula is used in previous exercises. I don't really know how the lineup would be, so I think it is more applicable if we just view differences from a more comprehensive metric. So, the numbers generated are basically from a team of potential Wieters and a team of a comp . . . which is then divided by 9 in order to put it all in a basic predicted runs saved or lost product.
I tested Wieters performance as restricted by 120, 110, and 100 games as catcher along with him being unable to DH. These numbers will give a conservative perspective as to what we can expect. As a first baseman, I used 150 games played as the benchmark. I paired Wieters with a replacement level first baseman (.333/.420) when he caught and with a league average catcher (.320/.403) when he played first base. Under this scenario, we would expect this to be a liberal predictor of Wieters worth as a first baseman. A league average catcher is not always the easiest thing to find and catcher tend to degrade (everyone wave to Ramon and Javy!). I added these pairs for combination of Wieters hitting ranging from .300 to .450 for obp and .350 to .600 for slg. In turn, I subtracted the 1B Wieters scenario from the C Wieters scenario. Simply put, a negative value is the number of runs you gain by switching Wieters to 1B. A positive value is the number of runs you gain by keeping him behind the plate.
If Wieters can average 120 games as a catcher.
At 120 games, differences are just not very significant. Within the study range, there was no combination of OBP and SLG that would result in Wieters shift being worth more than a gain of 8 runs (0.8 wins). The break even line is about the type of player Russell Martin was last year. Victor Martinez is slightly above the line and Jorge Posada was worth about 0.5 wins above average if he was switched. As you can tell, you really have to rake to be worth the move at this level and a move does not result in as many wins as you may think.
If Wieters can average 110 games as a catcher.
Not much has changed with respect to group players from last year. Martin and Martinez are above the line more noticeably now, but Varitek is still below. Posada is now worth 0.9 wins above average. This is starting to be significant. I would probably think hard about moving a player if I could improve by a win. Of course, this scenario suggests that I can only find replacement level 1B and I can procure a league average catcher. It still does not seem viable. Although I does seem to suggest that the Yankees might be better off with Posada at first base and making a play for Varitek, Zaun, or Barajas.
If Wieters can average 100 games as a catcher.
2007 Jason Varitek is now the break even point. Martinez and Martion are clearly above the line. Shifting Posada-type performance would be worth 1.3 wins. This is probably where things get interesting. If Wieters would get injured so often catching that he is only averaging 100 games there each year . . . it may begin to make sense to shift him over to 1B. The most it seems to hurt a team would be about 1.5 wins.
Wieters should probably stay at catcher unless he shows a great propensity to get injured. Perhaps the ideal solution would be to sign some one like Teixeira to a seven year deal and at the end of the deal, shift Wieters to 1B, and bring in a catcher. Wieters bat looks pretty solid. It is the kind of bat where as he gets older . . . it may make sense to shift him so he stays healthy and potentially will hit better. Below is a chart that displays the break even points for the three game averages. That is probably the idea to take home.