30 September 2011

With Reynolds in left and Fielder at first, O's improve by 12 games

Mark Reynolds had a very good year at the plate.  He hit 37 home runs, helping himself to a .483 slugging percentage and he walked 12.1% of the time that counteracted his low batting average.  It was in fact his second best offensive year in his career worth about 31 runs over a replacement third baseman.  However, his defense nearly negated his offensive worth.

Defensive Metric          1B (375.2 inn)      3B (984.1 inn)    proj 3B (1360 inn)   
UZR                                   -5.3 runs              -22.8 runs               -31.5 runs
Total Zone                          -6                        -18                           -25
DRS                                    -4                        -29                           -40

I typically like to have about 3000 innings to determine how well a player performs at an infield position.  If you include his season last year, you will wind up with about -15 to -20 runs.  Reynolds at his best provides about 30 runs above replacement level and with that level of defensive ineptitude, it is difficult to match what is passable for an average player (+20 runs above replacement).

However, the Orioles have the ability to make him a more valuable player.  By switching him to another position, his glove may not be as much of a hindrance on the team.  The Orioles did that by playing Reynolds at first base about 30% of the time.  With time, I think it is not unthinkable that Reynolds could be an average first baseman defensively.  That alone would save the team three wins assuming that his replacement at third base is average defensively and provides the same offense from first base that Reynolds in replacing (Derrek Lee's 706 OPS).

A shift to first base and maintaining his offensive production does not make Mark Reynolds a 3.1 WAR player because it is far easier to find offensive production at first than it is at third.  Due to this shift in expected offensive production for a replacement player, Reynolds' worth would actually be 1.8 wins above replacement, 1.3 wins less than if he was at third.  If you put him in as a DH, that value is 1.2 wins above replacement.  As a 3B, 1B, or DH, Reynolds is not an average player (~2 wins above replacement).

Reynolds would rate as an average or above player if he was capable of playing an average left field.  He has played three innings in the Majors, twenty three games in the Minors, and, as far as I can tell, he did not log any notable time in the outfield during college.  Reynolds should have the tools to play left field though.  He has good speed for a big man.  He has swiped over twenty bases during a season and collects a couple triples every year.  He also has a strong arm.  Although he has not logged any significant time out there, I think it could be a position he could handle.  In that case, he would be worth 2.3 wins above replacement.  These numbers should not be treated as guarantees, but the take home point is that Reynolds likely has a better chance of being useful as a LF than as a 1B, 3B, or DH.

Of course, these values rely on an abstract situation.  A major issue is to figure out who exactly would be playing at 1B, 3B, LF, and DH.  I will go through a few options for each position and then can determine which would be the best mix.

Reynolds (1.8 WAR; 7.5 MM), Prince Fielder (5.0; 20),
Chris Davis (0.5; 0.4), Carlos Pena (2.6; 10)
Reynolds (0.3 WAR; 7.5 MM), Aramis Ramirez (2.5; 15),
Robert Andino (1.0; 1), Marco Scutaro (2.8; 6)
Reynolds (1.2 WAR; 7.5 MM), Jason Kubel (1.5; 5),
Luke Scott (2.0; 6.4), Nolan Reimold (1.2; 0.5)
Reynolds (2.3 WAR; 7.5 MM), Michael Cuddyer (2.5; 10),
Scott (2.6; 6.4), Reimold (1.8; 0.5)

It is easy to see that if Marco Scutaro makes it to free agency, that he might be best suited for the Orioles.  There is doubt that the Red Sox will tender him a contract.  It might make sense to offer them something in a deal for him.  Scutaro actually has a decent amount of worth and has experience at third base.  The rest is a bit of mix and match.  The most reasonable set up would be to have Reynolds in left and Pena at first with Scott and Reimold working with the DH spot and Reimold backing up left and right field.  Adding Fielder in lieu of Pena, gives the team 2-3 more wins.

The most accomplished squad would deliver about 12 WAR.  Last year, the O's managed approximately 0.7 WAR total from those positions.  You read that right.  This team can go from a high 60s team to a low 80s team by merely adding Prince Fielder and Marco Scutaro in place of Derrek Lee and Mark Reynolds, shifting players around, and Scott getting healthy.

That is stunning to me.


kgwill said...

I'm also stunned. I figured it would take Prince Fielder plus Buehrle or C.J. Wilson to push the O's to .500. Now I've got the optimism bug again (had it in April).
The next question is... what if the pitching also improves? What if the Orioles sign Mark Buehrle, Strop, Phillips, and Patton perform well next year... Kevin Gregg reverts to his career average (which I think he will as a seventh inning guy)... are we looking at a playoff contender or am I dreaming.

Anonymous said...

So at DH the respective 2012 WAR projections are: Reynolds (1.2), Scott (2.0) & Reimold (1.2).

LF they're Reynolds (2.3), Scott (2.6) & Reimold (1.8) so their defensive WAR for the LF position would be +.6 for Scott & Reimold & +1.1 for Reynolds????

What evidence is there that Reynolds would be a better defensive LFer (he's played only 2 games) than Scott or Reimold? I don't see any real stats backing this up.

Jon Shepherd said...

Scott's and Reimold's sub-par defense is a known commodity, so that explains their shift.

The assumption stated in the article is if Reynolds could be an average LF...this is what could potentially occur.

Anonymous said...

ok...but in reality I'd bet you that Reynolds LF defense would be poorer than both.

Plus common sense tells me that the only way for the O's to improve by 11 games over 2011 is to improve their starting pitching.

Anonymous said...

I think Reynolds has the athleticism to be Reimold's equal.