The Optimist / Pessimist Guide to the 2013 Season: Position PlayersThere are often two keys to winning an argument: loudness of voice and having the appearance of have some solid evidence behind your point of view. The point of this post is to equip you with the bare minimum you need to win a battle of words on any player on the team’s opening day roster. while you drink away at one of the local watering holes around Camden Yards. Alas, if you running into someone with two pieces of evidence then I have no promises.
This is the first of two articles. This one will focus on the position players.
Matt Wieters (ZIPS – 256/330/433; .329 wOBA; 7.0 UZR; 4.5 fWAR)
Optimist: Age 27. This is the age year where players, as a population, deliver their best offensive season. Catchers tend to see their batting mature slightly later, so this may be the year Wieters breaks out with the bat to go along with his elite defense.
Pessimist: .262 BA. Stats guys who do not understand stats will tell you that batting average means nothing, but it does. The issue with it is that it fluctuates a great deal. Wieters best season was two years ago with a .262 BA and it appears flatlined at best. He is not a complete masher and his walks are around league average. He simply does not connect with enough pitches successfully to be an effective middle of the order hitter. He is a 7 or 8 hitter in a good lineup.
Taylor Teagarden (ZIPS; 191/226/316; .240 wOBA; -2.0 UZR; 0.1 fWAR)
Optimist: .152 ISO. Teagarden carries around a good deal of power for a catcher. If he is able to move his batting average above the Mendoza Line (.215 BA), then he is going to be a valuable backup catcher who could start in a pinch.
Pessimist: .215 BA. Again…batting average can matter. Teagarden’s career batting average is .211, below the Mendoza Line.
Chris Davis (ZIPS; 252/308/450; .323 wOBA; -3.0 UZR; 0.9 fWAR)
Optimist: 6 of 33. Only 6 of Davis’ home runs barely cleared the fence. Davis’ power is real and he does not need to walk much or hit much to be league average.
Pessimist: -2. That is the cumulative fWAR Davis earned from 2009 through 2011. Is last season’s performance really enough to outweigh his horrible three years preceding?
Brian Roberts (ZIPS; 244/309/363; .294 wOBA; -3.0 UZR; 0.2 fWAR)
Optimist: 63 plate appearances. Brian Roberts has accumulated more spring training appearances than any other Oriole. Given his concussion and other injury issues over the last three seasons, this alone is a great accomplishment.
Pessimist: 2009. This was the last year Roberts was a meaningful MLB player. Concussions are difficult medical issue and we will all be worried anytime he gets turned up while manning second.
Manny Machado (ZIPS; 252/311/315; .315 wOBA; 4.0 UZR; 2.7 fWAR)
Optimist: 1.3 fWAR in 55 games. Over a full season, those numbers project Machado as a fringe All Star player as a 19 year old. Sky is the limit.
Pessimist: 0.5. That is how much of his fWAR was due to fielding. 51 games of fielding means little. Machado is a good 3B, but he is not the best thing since Matt Wieters with the glove. He’ll probably be a solid average player, but lets not get carried away.
J.J. Hardy (ZIPS; 258/304/424; .313 wOBA; 9.0 UZR; 3.5 fWAR)
Optimist: 52 home runs. After spending a couple years in the wilderness, Hardy found his power stroke again over his past two years in Baltimore and is the most feared SS power bat in the AL. Plus, with his glove, any hitting at all is just gravy.
Pessimist: 141 games. From 2009 through 2011, Hardy missed an average of 47 games a year. Last year, he missed 4. Did he really set a new level for health? If not, welcome Ryan Flaherty to the daily lineup at third base with Machado shifting to short.
Alexi Casilla (ZIPS; 250/304/347; .285 wOBA; -3.0 UZR; 0.3 fWAR)
Optimist: 13.1 BsR. Over three seasons worth of plate appearances, Casilla has been worth a little over a win on the basepaths. Even if he adds nothing else, his versatility in the field and his base running gives the Orioles options late in the game.
Pessimist: $25,000. If I remember correctly, that is the cost of making a waiver claim. Rarely do you get a useful player with 478 games with a club. Most front offices will notice players who profile as average or better players. What do the Orioles know that the Twins do not?
Ryan Flaherty (ZIPS; 232/285/372; .286 wOBA; 0.0 UZR; -0.1)
Optimist: .330 wOBA. In the second half of the year, Flaherty showed that he has grown accustomed to the game. He delivered an above average wOBA. That is a solid way to end the season.
Pessimist: .231 wOBA. In the first half, his wOBA was 90 points below average. Add to that his Rule 5 status. Again, good regimes (like Theo Epstein’s Cubs) typically do not let good players get away for free.
Steve Pearce (Oliver; 260/341/448; .340 wOBA; 0.1 UZR; 1.3 fWAR)
Optimist: 7. Home runs hit in spring training. He is on a roll.
Pessimist: 10. Home runs Jake Fox hit in spring training back in 2011. Home runs in spring training? Don’t give me that weak sauce.
Nate McLouth (ZIPS; 231/318/379; .307 wOBA; -3.0 UZR; 1.2 fWAR)
Optimist: .338 wOBA. McLouth’s 55 game stint was in line with his career average wOBA of .331. McLouth did nothing that he did not do before. Why should we not expect this level of performance going forward?
Pessimist: -1.9 fWAR. McLouth accumulated this level of performance in two and a half injury plagued and ineffective years for the Braves and Pirates. Are 55 games at his career average really enough to erase two and a half years of poor performance?
Adam Jones (ZIPS; 277/326/474; .343 wOBA; -4.0 UZR; 3.6 fWAR)
Optimist: -8 runs. This was how many runs that UZR appeared off when measuring Jones in the outfield. If you believe in offensive metrics and gold gloves then consider Adam Jones as a top 5 player in the American League.
Pessimist: -1 runs. Jones’ rARM in 2012 was the first year registered below 5 runs. His defensive game primarily runs around his arm. Good outfield arms tend to break out early and then fade away. With each year, Jones inches closer to belonging in LF. Maybe he is already there. You know, Raffy got a gold glove once for being at 1B for only 27 games or so.
Nick Markakis (ZIPS; 281/350/428; .335 wOBA; -4.0 UZR; 2.0 fWAR)
Optimist: .174 ISO. Markakis’ power increased about 40% from his past two years. At that level, he is an All Star player over a full season, assuming defensive metrics are a mess in Camden Yards.
Pessimist: 2. Markakis has had to deal with wrist and neck issues. Wrists blow out power and necks are often troublesome, chronic injuries.
Nolan Reimold (ZIPS; 246/322/420; .322 wOBA; 0.0 UZR; 1.0 fWAR)
Optimist: 24. Even with his awful 2010 season, Nolan Reimold profiles as a solid average power hitter. This team could have eight players with 20 home runs.
Pessimist: 3. Number of seasons since 2006 that Reimold has not spent time on the disabled list. Do you really want to count on his health?
Next: The Pitchers