Tagged: Alex Gonzalez

VORPin’ it up Blue Jay Style

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I don’t consider myself a ‘stat guy.’  I was never a strong math student.  But I do like
to analyze baseball stats from time to time.  The world of baseball
statistics has ‘blown up’ in the past 10 years with sabermetrics.  Don’t
ask me to demonstrate what these stats are?  I just find them interesting to look at and analyze.  Two of the more trendy stats out
today are VORP, and a UZR/150 score.

UZR/150
is concocted out of graphs, charts and ‘god knows what’ to get an overall
rating of how many runs a player saved, or lost, above any average
fielder.  The moniker stands for ‘ULTIMATE zone rate per 150 games
defensive games.’  First of all, I love the name. It compares some of my favorite
defensive baseball players to my favorite wrestlers, ‘The Ultimate
Warrior.’
  Follow the link above if you actually want to know
what it is about:  

For all those not familiar with VORP,
it means (Value Over Replacement Player).  VORP is a number generated
in terms of runs that are contributed offensively over a general replacement at
a certain position
.  For example, Derek Jeter had a 65.0 VORP
and Hanely Ramirez had 75.0 VORP in 2009.  This means that Jeter
contributed 65.0 more runs to his team over a general replacement shortstop in
2009, and Hanley contributed 75.0 over a general replacement.  Not that
big of a difference for Jeter when you consider the ‘fantasy phenomena’ that is
Marlins shortstop, Hanley Ramirez.  Jeter’s offensive production in 2009
(VORP doesn’t account for a player’s defense) was among the game’s
elite.   Jeter’s VORP was really a testement to the immense contribution
he had on the Yankees 2009 A.L. East pennet team last season.   
    

For me, it helps to visualize these so called ‘replacement players’ for each
position in order to assess VORP.

In the case of shortstop, the last two years Tigers shortstop, Adam Everett,
has had a 0.3 VORP.  Epitomizing the stagnate offense of the shortstop
replacement – respected only for his glove.  Another guy would be John
McDonald from the Blue Jays – with a -2.3 VORP.  McDonald is even a little
worse than the 0.0 mark of the average replacement at shortstop.  He is
still replacement worthy, but that is not saying a whole lot as the 0.0 number
value is made to characterize any ordinary player that can fill the role.

VORP copy.jpg

 

Lets breakdown the Blue Jays 2009 season related their
VORP and judge each player’s offensive value based on their
salary:   

    

  1. Fred Lewis, LF, Blue
    Jays,  $455,000 – 2009 VORP 6.7

 

Anthopolous
acquired Fred Lewis this season taking a risk on a player that has
obvious athletic gifts.  2009 was a terrible season in San
Francisco for Lewis.  He lost his job mid-season
and was sent to the minors.  A 6.7 VORP in ’09 shows that Lewis very close
to replacement level in left field.  The Blue Jays hope their hitting
coaches can help Lewis reach his full potential.  At his current price, AA
should be commended because Lewis looks like a risk worth
taking.    

 

 

  1. Aaron Hill, 2B, Blue
    Jays, $4,000,000 – 2009 VORP 41.6

 

2009
was a ‘career season’ for Aaron Hill that saw him make the All-Star game
and win a Silver Slugger.  His VORP shows that 2009 put him well above
replacement level.  He is emblematic of the modern slugging 2nd
baseman.  Hill is a free swinger that is criticized for not getting on
base enough.  He is our player with the most value in a stage of rebuilding,
so trading Hill has been thrown out there.  Personally, I like Hill’s
swing and approach at the plate.  It is overly-aggressive but I don’t see
any indications of that hindering his ability.  At this point, I’d hold
onto Hill, as he fits right in with the current mold of offensive producing 2nd
basemen.       

 

  1. Adam Lind, DH, Blue
    Jays, $550,000 – VORP 44.7

 

Adam
Lind
also had a ‘career year’ in 2009.  The Jays locked him into a
long-term contract for the foreseeable future before 2009 began.  This was
an astute decision, in my opinion.  Lind performed on the level of some of
the best #3 and #4’s hitters in the game last year.  It was a good
decision to keep Lind in the Jays future.  We are getting great value out
him on a 4-year 18 million dollar contract with options for even more
years.   

 

  1. Vernon
    Wells, CF, Blue Jays, $15,687,000 – VORP 15.4

 

As
if having a VORP at 15.4 wasn’t bad enough, Vernon Wells posted a -15
UZR score ranking runs gained/or lost on defense.  Defensively, Wells was
scored among the worst centerfielders in the league last season.  When you
deduce the defensive scores from the VORP, you get a replacement level
player
making seven figures.  2009 was a horror story.  It got
down right ugly for Vernon Wells.  At times, I couldn’t watch.  It
would give me nightmares.  However, 2010 is beautiful!!!  Wells is
hitting at a very high level, and actually earning his contract!!!  The
nightmares are gone.  15MIL is a huge commitment to any player.  It
could be argued that no player deserves that amount.  Wells streakiness,
injury prone seasons and age will definitely make him a contract that the Jays
will part with or trade at some point.  Right now, Wells is looking much
more athletic in the field and very savvy at the plate.  What a difference
a year makes?          

 

 

  1. Lyle
    Overbay, 1B,
    Blue Jays, $7,950,000 – VORP 18.4

 

Lyle
Overbay is hard to gage
because he is a player that saves runs on defense, having a UZR/150 score of
plus 6.  His VORP is slightly above replacement level, but at a position
where the offensive output at the replacement level is the highest. 
Overbay is a contributor, but the raw stats like AVG., doubles and RBI’s have
declined.  Overbay will earn 8 million this season and the Jays will
likely look to Brett Wallace (a centerpiece in the Roy Halladay trade) to fill
1st base in the future.  I wouldn’t be too patient with
Wallace.  If the Jays get in contention in the next few seasons, I’d chase
after a guy with some proven production.      

 

  1. Edwin Encarnacion, 3B,
    Blue Jays, $5,175,000 – VORP 9.6

 

Edwin
Encarnacion
played his best year at the Great American Smallpark in Cincinnati. 
He had a couple years with great offensive production, amid horrible defensive
skills.  He was acquired with a number of prospects for Scott Rolen last
season.  The Jays picked up Encarnacion’s hefty contract.  A very low
VORP compounded by injuries and terrible defensive skills puts Encarnacion at
replacement level in the 2009 season.  Nobody is expecting much from
Encarnacion, so there is room for him to prove himself with the
organization.  If the Jays aren’t drafting, looking or thinking of
establishing 3rd base help now, they are not doing their job. 
      

 

  1. Alex Gonzalez, SS, Blue
    Jays, $2,750,000 – VORP 5.8

 

The
injury riddled 2009 season for Alex Gonzalez in Boston
was probably a legitimate gripe.  Gonzalez has burst on the scene in
2010.  He is proving himself much more than a replacement level SS,
hitting .277, with 7 HR’s and 19 RBI’s thus far.  The Jays only saw
Gonzalez as a stopgap option, so they signed him to only one year.  He may
for a larger, longer contract next season while the Jays wait on young top
Cuban prospect Adeiny Hechevarria to develop in the minors.  I’d give
Gonzalez another 2 years if he keeps playing like this? 

 

  1. John Buck, C, Blue Jays,
    $2,000,000 – VORP 7.4

 

Another
‘stopgap’ for the Jays was John Buck, although he is a player that is
not playing well above his head right now.  The Jays signed him for one
year while they develop some catcher talent in the minors (i.e. J.P. Arrencibia
and Travis D’Arnaud).  The depth of talent at the catcher position is not
that significant.  I wouldn’t be worried about this position.  Buck
provides some pop in his bat while playing near replacement level.  I
don’t think we will get much more out of him.  The best that the Jays
could do is draft, and try to develop their young catchers into a rare case of
Brian McCann or Joe Mauer.  If this takes longer than expected?  Buck
might get another one-year contract with the team? 

 

  1. Travis Snider, RF, Blue
    Jays, $405,800 – VORP 6.5

 

Travis
Snider
is a case of a guy that crushes the minor leagues, but has not
nearly translated that into the majors.  The near replacement level VORP
indicated a lack of playing time last season, and some relative struggles for
Snider.  The Jays should be patient with Snider, as he is still very young
and could be an emerging star that we could get very good value out of. 
It depends how well the Jays do, if Snider tests their patience level.  I
might upgrade this position if the Jays turn into buyers at some point, and let
Snider take more time in the minors.  Just being here at this age, 22,
Snider is well above the curve.

 

Jose
Bautista, Blue Jays, Utility

 

Last
season Jose Bautista mainly played a utility role with the Jays. 
This season he has moved around positions on a more permanant basis. 
Edwin Encarnacion’s recent injury has Bautista currently filling in as the Jays
starting third baseman.  Before the arrival of Fred Lewis, Bautista was
rotated around the corner outfield position.  Regardless of where Bautista
ends up playing, he has proven to be a very useful acquisition – providing some
extra base pop in the order, hitting 6 HR’s with 20 RBI’s this early in the
season.  Upon the return of Edwin Encarnacion, he may relegate both Edwin
and Fred Lewis to a utility role.          

 

Conclusion

 

Looking
back on last season, the Jays only had 2 players here that produced significant
VORP.  They need to raise the depth of production in different
ways to help a very young, inexperienced, but inexpensive pitching staff. 
That is the only way we could compete with likes of the Yankees, Red Sox and
Rays. 

 

2010
 

 

How
many guys have been stepping it up this year?

 

This
year has been very pleasing to those looking for improvement in the Blue Jay
lineup from last season.  The Blue Jays lead the entire league in
homeruns!  I would not have expected that.  Alex Gonzalez, Vernon
Wells and Jose Bautista look on pace to have breakthrough seasons and increase
their VORP.  If Snider, Overbay, Lewis and Buck can make solid
contributions to the lineup, then the overall output in VORP will be much, much
better than last season.  Nobody expected this kind of the production from
the Jays so far, it has me giddy, happy and definably over-joyed!  We are
VORPin it up, and slugging with the ‘big boys’ in the A.L. East.  
    

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Jays Interested in Furcal?

There is an unconfirmed report on ‘Yahoo Sports’ that the Jays are interested in signing Rafeal Furcal.  Back problems cut down Furcal’s year last season.  Although in the time he played, he did very well for the Dodgers in their late playoff push, hitting .350, with a .439 on-base and 5 homers in 143 at-bats.

The Blue Jay infield would look drastically different with Rafeal Furcal at short and Aaron Hill at second.  Better defensively!  Furcal is a dynamite shortstop with an absolute cannon
FURCAL[1].jpg of an arm.  This is not to take anything away from the crafty Prime Minister John MacDonald, Furcal has a fireball attached to his arm and range to boot.  

We all saw how comfortable and effective Aaron Hill got at second base.  We had some good production at second base last year (i.e. Joe Inglett).  Hill, however, can wield a devastating bat if he is ‘locked in’.

In getting Furcal, the Jays could aquire something that they have never had before, or in a long time at least.  This is a shortstop that can hit, and be a legitimate stolen base threat from the leadoff spot.  We wanted that in David Eckstein last season but didn’t get it.  It has been a long time since the Jays have had any stolen base threat, or legitimate lead-off hitter, for that matter.  Although I must admit, Alex Rios was very impressive stealing bases last year.

Past Blue Jay shortstop list (I realize I’m probably leaving a lot guys out, I’m just concerned with the primary shortstops we’ve had):  Manny Lee, Alex Gonzalez, Tony Batista, Russ Adams, Chris Gomez, Dick Scofield, Mike Bordick, Chris Woodward, Tony Fernandez, Alfredo Griffin (I don’t go back any further than him).

Okay, the latter two were pretty good in their day, but ever since Tony’s (??count them) 3rd arrival back to the Jays, we have had a lack of production from the shortstop position (Woodward had one good year, his defense was sub-par).  Aquiring Furcal would be refreshing in this area; however, there will be a price, and there will be large expectations on him.  Probably double that of what David Eckstein faced last season.

Looking at the Jays financial contraints, that by now have been well documented, we might only barely be able to afford Furcal.  This doesn’t give us room to hunt down other free agents to fill team depth.  Furcal might be all our ‘eggs in the basket.’  Just hope he is not another ‘bastaerd in a basket.’ Daniel Day Louis in There Will Be Blood