10 September 2014

Postseason Roster Crunch: David Lough or Alejandro De Aza?

Photo by Keith Allison
Previously I looked at the Orioles postseason roster crunch in terms of the pitching staff. This post will look at the outfield roster crunch on the Orioles bench.

On August 31st, the Orioles acquired Outfielder Alejandro De Aza from the White Sox in exchange for minor leaguers Mark Blackmar and Miguel Chalas. De Aza, 30, saw his first MLB action in 2007 with the Marlins, but he never appeared in more than 54 games in a season until 2012, when he played in 131 games for the White Sox.

Before looking at the choice, a few words on why I think only one of these two guys will be included on the roster. Jones, Markakis, and Cruz will all obviously be on the roster. Steve Pearce, though he’ll likely be primarily used at 1B, will also be on the roster and able to play in the OF. Around the rest of the infield, Schoop, Hardy, and Davis bring us to 7 of the 13 hitters the Orioles will likely carry (I looked at why that is the case in my last post on the postseason roster crunch). Add in the two catchers and Flaherty and we’re at 10. Delmon Young will be the 11th player. The final two spots will go to an infielder and then Lough or De Aza. This may be glossing things over a bit, but I don’t see much controversy in these assumptions.

So, who should the Orioles carry on their postseason roster, Lough or De Aza? I’m glad you that you asked. First, we'll take a look at their offensive production. 

2014 wRC+
Sample size warnings apply, as this is only numbers from 2014. De Aza's plate appearances from left to right go 84, 373, 457. Lough's are 18, 159, 177.

Lough and De Aza shouldn't come anywhere near a bat when a LHP is on the mound. Whichever one makes the postseason roster should find themselves on the bench vs. LHPs, with Young likely playing instead. Vs. RHP, while both are vastly improved, Lough has still been below league average production, while De Aza has been slightly above. However, De Aaza's complete incompetence vs. LHP keeps him below league average production for the year.

Career wRC+
For context, De Aza's PA go, from left to right, 448, 1567, 2105. Lough's are 95, 482, 577.

The splits are much less drastic over a larger sample size. However, neither player should be considered a viable option when facing a LHP. Lough shows improvement vs. RHP, but is still a decent bit below league average. De Aza's career numbers vs. RHP are just a tick above average, while his career production is just a bit below league average, but better than Lough's.

In summary, neither of these players should be considered vs. LHP. Overall, De Aza has been the more productive hitter and the sample size we are evaluating him based off of consists of nearly 4 times as many PA's than Lough. 

Fielding is going to be an important piece of this decision, as neither of these players is expected to be in the starting lineup everyday, but will likely regularly serve as a defensive replacement for Young or Cruz in LF. Whichever one is on the roster will be the emergency CF, should something happen to Jones, and could also both play RF, if needed. 

Here's a look at their career UZR/150 at each OF position. 

Career UZR/150

Innings left to right for De Aza are 1406.1, 2618.1, and 227.1. For Lough, 478.1, 179.0, 629.2. Obviously there could be a lot of noise here, particularly in Lough's numbers. But, it would be safe to say that neither is a liability in the field, while Lough looks like a plus defender in his limited innings.

Scouting is always an essential part of player evaluation. I find it especially helpful when looking at fielding data. I talked to our very own Jon Shepherd for a feel of the general scouting consensus on both players. For Lough, Jon said that the scouting report is that he's an above average fielder, which aligns with what UZR tells us. Jon told me that De Aza's running and instincts are considered his strengths in the field. However, his arm has often been thought of as inadequate in CF or RF, but okay for LF. 

In summary, both of these guys can play the field well. Lough is generally regarded as the better fielder, but De Aza is far from a liability and would be the Orioles best defensive option in LF if Lough is not on the postseason roster. 

One thing that the Orioles will consider when choosing between these two is how they match up against the opposition's pitching staff. Yes, sample-size concerns are legitimate here, but Showalter is known to heavily weigh match ups. My decision making process wouldn't weigh the following info as heavily, but I'm not the one making the decision. I looked at the 4 members of each rotation with the most starts this year. The numbers are the player's slash line with the number of AB's in parenthesis. Here's how they line up against potential opponents.  


De Aza
.167/.219/.200 (30)
.500/.500./500 (2)
.000/.333/.000 (2)
No AB’s
.000/.000/.000 (2)
.000/.000/.000 (5)
.250/.351/.313 (32)
.167/.167/.167 (6)

De Aza has hit poorly against Shields and below average against Guthrie. There's really not much here that I see as a make or break decision, even for Showalter, should the Orioles face the Royals.


De Aza
.286/.333/.571 (14)
No AB’s
.083/.083/.083 (12)
No AB’s
No AB’s
.000/.500/.000 (1)
.667/.667/.667 (3)
.000/.000/.000 (4)

De Aza'a success vs. Lester really shocked me. Yes, it's only 14 AB's. But considering De Aza's awful splits vs. LHP combined with how good of a pitcher Lester is, I didn't expect his numbers to be anywhere near their respectable level. Could De Aza, who is generally inadequate against LHP, be included against the A's in part because of his success against LHP Lester? 


De Aza
.444/.545/.889 (9)
.500/.500/.500 (4)
.000/.300/.000 (7)
No AB’s
1.000/1.000/2.000 (2)
No AB’s
No AB’s
.333/.500/.333 (3)

Not a lot that separates either guy here, which is not surprising when looking at sample sizes that are so minuscule. If anything, I suppose there's a slight edge to De Aza


De Aza
.333/.333/.333 (6)
No AB’s
.256/.333/.349 (43)
.143/.143/.571 (7)
.226/.294/.516 (31)
.167/.211/.222 (18)
.206/.270/.235 (34)
.286/.375/.429 (7)

De Aza isn't going to force his way onto a roster vs. Detroit because of these numbers. However, Lough's numbers, in less AB's, are pretty poor as well. They both have hit one pitcher decently (De Aza vs. Price, Lough vs. Porcello) in very few AB's and the rest is poor. If the Orioles face the Tigers, I'd expect whichever one is on the roster to spend much of the series out of the lineup.


De Aza
.200/.333/.200 (10)
.333/.333/.333 (3)
.111/.200/.111 (9)
.333/.333/.333 (3)
No AB’s
No AB’s
No AB’s
No AB’s

I think Showalter weighs match-ups enough that, despite only having 6 total AB's, Lough's best chance for making the postseason roster is if the Orioles face the Mariners. De Aza hasn't had success against the two guys he's faced and Lough has managed to do okay in a grand total of 6 AB's. 

And finally, a quick look at base running. De Aza 78 steals and has been caught 35 times in his career. His career BsR is 6.2. Lough has 13 steals and has been caught 7 times in his career. His career BsR is 3.1. Some in Chicago were concerned with De Aza'a base running. Ultimately, both are solid options off the bench to pinch run late in the game for someone such as Cruz or Lough and I don't see either gaining the upper hand because of their base running. 

So, who makes it? I think Lough was given too hard of a time by Orioles fans for his early season struggles at the plate and not given enough credit for his glove. That being said, De Aza is a competent fielder. De Aza also offers more at the plate and has done so over a larger sample size, which is noteworthy because Lough has, so far, outperformed what scouts projected for him as a big league hitter. If I'm deciding the Orioles postseason roster (spolier: I'm not), I'm picking De Aza over Lough. 

All stats courtesy of Fangraphs and ESPN (current as of 9/9/14).


Rick said...

Not to mention De Aza's performance since joining the O's.

Is it safe to assume the O's would start De Aza in LF against righties with Cruz at DH, and then start Cruz or Young against lefties with the other playing DH? And who do you like more fielding between Cruz and Young? Both seem to have been pretty similar to me but I'm wondering if the stats give either a nod.

Pat Holden said...

Rick, I'd say your assumption about who will play vs. LHP and RHP is the safest assumption to make on that topic.

In terms of Young vs. Cruz in the field, both are liabilities.

Your question about the stats...They have both played ~ 7,000 innings in the field in the majors. Cruz has a 2.9 UZR, Young is -6.

My subjective and inaccurate "eye-test" prefers Cruz over Young, but both are poor.

Jon may have more insight into if the general scouting consensus finds one less awful than the other in the field.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Cruz is better. Young in the outfield is terrifying -- and hilarious.

Rick said...

I guess we will just have to hold our breath when Cruz is out there then. I'm very excited to see what each does at the plate though (23 combined postseason HRs!!)

Jeff H said...

Who do we think will be that extra INF, Johnson? Paredes?

Pat Holden said...

Jeff, I'd guess Johnson. I'll have a post about that and some other loose ends on the postseason roster sometime soon, hopefully early next week.

Michael Wallace said...

De Aza has looked somewhat revitalized since joining the O's, although it's over a very small sample. I think he's like 8 for 20 or something around there, with the 2 HRs and 1 2B. I'm thinking he gets the nod here.

Also agree that Kelly Johnson probably ends up being the extra INF.

Erik said...

At the margins, you have to take the marginal player to cover your worst-case scenario. For these players it is Adam Jones going down.

De Aza has hundreds of games in CF as a pro, and Lough has tens. De Aza is a better hitter. This does not seem like a hard choice.

Pat Holden said...

Sometimes what doesn't seem like a hard choice on the outside is a bit tougher on the inside. If you think Buck and Duquette won't factor in loyalty to Lough being with the club all year, you're mistaken. De Aza also has more MLB experience in general than Lough. The fact that he's played more in CF doesn't mean he's the stronger option out there. That being said, I agree that De Aza will make the roster, not Lough.

Anonymous said...

A week later: I assume the infielder you mentioned above is Kelly Johnson. Now that Davis is gone that is surely the case. That leaves room for both DeAza and Lough. De Aza has definitely played himself onto the post season roster at this point. But Lough hasn't. I think there's a very strong case for Paredes over Lough. For a better pinch runner and better late inning outfield defense, Lough. But for better infield flexibility and an extra pinch hitter, Paredes.

Pat Holden said...

Anon, My post today talked about that. I don't think the Davis suspension changes anything for Lough.

Fighting Bonhead said...

De Aza. He is excited to play for a contender