Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fielding Improvement from SS to 2B

As I pointed out a couple weeks ago, Cristian Guzman's fielding at shortstop hasn't really been any worse this year than it's been in the past. And, in fact, it's never been that bad. He's never been that good either, but he's been consistently a touch below average pretty much since the day Jim Bowden overpaid for him back in November 2004.

In addition to the stats presented in the post linked above, consider these numbers by year for Guzman since he came to DC:
  • UZR/150 ('05, '07-'09): -2.7, -5.9. -3.7, -2.1
  • Rate2 ('05, '07-'09): 84, 91, 101, 88
  • Plus/Minus (I only have the '05 and '08 Fielding Bibles handy): -6, +15
Whichever advanced fielding metric you look at, there's no real declining trend. So like I said before, my feeling is that the talk of a position change simply reflects a change in priorities in the front office.

Especially in the middle infield, Mike Rizzo doesn't want adequate or average defense. He wants superior defense. He wants a middle infield that will do what Nyjer Morgan did for the outfield. He's never going to get that from Guzman at shortstop. Might he get it from him at second base?

It's a good bet that any player moving from shortstop to second will play better defense. Second base is easier to play, a step easier on the Bill James defensive spectrum. Of course, he'll have to learn a new position, but all things equal, the plays are easier to make, and Guzman's defense should be better there.

How much better? To get a solid estimate, I pulled the UZR numbers for the 70 players played at least 80 innings at both shortstop and second base in the same season since 2002, the first year that UZR is available.

In just under 25,138 innings at second, these 70 players were a total 72.6 runs above average. In 27,217 innings at short, they were a total 8.3 runs below average. That probably sounds like a bigger difference than it is, since players don't play 27,000 innings per year. But in the 1350 innings a full-time player will log over 150 games or so, that's still a 4.31 run difference, a little less than half a win's worth.

Certainly not every player improved by the same amount. Maybe a third of them played better at short than second. And Guzman will be a year older. Still, it's reasonable to assume that the move from short to second is worth a little more than four runs, all things equal. If Guzman is a two to four runs below average second basemen, he won't become a top-tier second baseman, but he could improve to average or slightly above.

If you're interested, here's the full list of 70 players and their numbers (forgive the awkward formatting--lately I can't get blogger to agree with Excel very well):

First Last Year 2B Inn 2B UZR SS Inn SS UZR
Rich Aurilia 2005 547.3 5.1 237.66 -1.6
Mike Aviles 2008 114.3 0 747.66 15.6
Clint Barmes 2008 486 5.1 285 -2.2
Clint Barmes 2009 997.333 4 102.33 2.7
Willie Bloomquist 2006 254 1.9 180 1.1
Geoff Blum 2005 180 -3.9 122.33 2.9
Asdrubal Cabrera 2008 776.66 5.1 154.66 -1.8
Asdrubal Cabrera 2009 244 -2.9 748 -2.6
Jamey Carroll 2005 427.66 3.4 241 -0.9
Juan Castro 2003 421.33 5.3 154 2
Ronny Cedeno 2006 126.2 0.7 1129.66 -1.7
Alex Cintron 2004 147 -1.2 1099 -4.8
Alex Cintron 2005 144.2 -2.2 271 1.2
Alex Cora 2002 153 0.8 453 2.9
Craig Counsell 2007 195 2.9 140.66 -0.5
Craig Counsell 2008 112 0.6 185.33 1.9
Craig Counsell 2009 369.33 3.7 177.66 -0.4
Mark DeRosa 2003 229.33 -2.2 100 0.5
Damion Easley 2005 324 -0.8 215.66 -2.4
Kevin Frandsen 2007 343.33 2.6 138.33 -1.9
Luis Gonzalez 2005 579.33 -1.1 132 -2.9
Bill Hall 2004 418.1 -0.1 303.66 1.3
Bill Hall 2005 185 0.2 500.33 1
Shane Halter 2003 196 1.7 171 0.9
Brendan Harris 2007 319.66 -0.4 751.66 -6.9
Brendan Harris 2008 85.33 -1.5 464.33 -3.6
Anderson Hernandez 2009 542 2.6 254.66 -1.5
Aaron Hill 2005 177.66 1.7 121 1.3
Aaron Hill 2006 914.33 18.1 428.33 -9.3
Denny Hocking 2002 393.66 -2.1 172 -2
Omar Infante 2004 871.66 -1.5 188.66 -0.9
Omar Infante 2005 591.66 -4 389.33 3.4
Damian Jackson 2003 147.33 -3.4 82 -2
Damian Jackson 2005 265 3.9 189.33 -7.1
Felipe Lopez 2007 373.33 2.4 927 -9
Mark Loretta 2007 201 2.2 486.66 -5.9
Julio Lugo 2006 159.33 0.9 1228.1 -4.1
Hector Luna 2006 469.66 -5.9 155 -1.9
Joe McEwing 2003 357.33 -3.6 242.2 3.5
Aaron Miles 2006 649.66 1.6 298 -3.8
Aaron Miles 2007 590.66 0.7 301 -7.7
Aaron Miles 2008 499.66 0.7 172.33 1.6
Abraham Nunez 2002 336 0.7 143.66 0.1
Abraham Nunez 2003 526.66 5.7 149.66 -2.1
Abraham Nunez 2005 132 0.3 91 -1.7
Augie Ojeda 2008 286 4.5 126.66 2.1
Neifi Perez 2003 371.66 6.6 311 5.8
Neifi Perez 2004 302.66 5.3 560.33 3.7
Neifi Perez 2005 160 -2.6 1063.33 10.5
Neifi Perez 2006 446 4 171.2 0.6
Nick Punto 2005 114.66 -0.9 146.66 4.3
Nick Punto 2006 172.33 -1.5 210.66 5.7
Nick Punto 2007 215.66 1.7 530.66 7.5
Nick Punto 2009 436.33 2.7 491 1.6
Alexei Ramirez 2008 1017.33 -8.3 1258.66 4.1
Brendan Ryan 2009 95.2 1.7 793.66 12.4
Freddy Sanchez 2006 165.33 0.4 240 -2.5
Ramon Santiago 2003 461 -6.8 724 -4.3
Marco Scutaro 2004 986.66 -6.2 113.33 -2.5
Marco Scutaro 2005 267.66 5.6 663 -2.4
Marco Scutaro 2006 301.66 3.2 542.66 -12.8
Marco Scutaro 2008 354.33 -1.4 472.33 7.6
Ryan Theriot 2007 236 4.3 859 4.1
Juan Uribe 2004 625.66 4.6 287.33 -0.9
Juan Uribe 2009 299.33 3.4 273.66 -2
Ramon Vazquez 2002 574 -0.4 256 2.3
Jose Vizcaino 2002 181.33 1.2 429.33 5
Jose Vizcaino 2004 173.66 1.2 455.33 2.6
Josh Wilson 2007 182 0.4 453.66 -7.1
Tony Womack 2003 137.33 2.1 557.33 -4.4

7 comments:

sid bluntley said...

This makes sense, as you'd think most hitters are right-handed, and if they were pulling the ball, the SS and 3B would be getting the most chances and most difficult plays.

Steven said...

It's not really about chances. It's about the throw to first being easier, and then because the throw is shorter, range can be less. So for both range and arm less is demanded of the 2B position than SS.

Of course it should be noted that UZR is benchmarked against the average in MLB. So if there was a wave of great fielding SS's in baseball this year and Guzzy's fielding stayed the same, his UZR would go down. That's one reason to be cautious of small trend deviations.

Ben said...

The sad thing is that I've always felt that Guzmans arm has always been strong. He can drop back and play Belliard style short right field/second base but it won't mask the fact that a ball hit near him still has a good chance of getting by. What's more, right now he has Zimmerman to his right meaning he can play a bit tighter on the base.

At 2nd next year he will have to compensate for Dunn. Dunn and Guzman on the same side of the infield is a waste. Add to this the fact that Guzman and an offensively productive second baseman is a passable offense. Guzman and a defensive minded short stop means you have two holes in your order, as there is no need to throw Guzman a strike anymore.

In my opinion you eat his salary and get a trade of some sort, or eat his salary and get a spare roster spot.

estuartj said...

Given Guz lack of OBP what would a move to 2B do for his WARP?

On the same note, how much above his body weight would Desmond have to hit to be better than Guz at SS?

Final question, (which is really more of a Brian subject), assuming Espinoza is MLB ready by 2011 who is the better fit at SS, he or Desmond. All that assumes they won't go to the FA market for 2B or SS before then - and I'm hoping they will save that cash to grab Brandon Webb if he becomes a FA or one more veteran SP not named Livan Hernandez.

Steven said...

I forget exactly what goes into the BP WARP stat, as opposed to Tango's WAR. But basically the move would add a bit less than half a win, based on this.

His OBP will continue to track with his BABIP (with a lot of fluctuation), but because his contact rates are so good he can still put up good OBP numbers as he did in 07 and 08. He just never walks, so it's all on the vagaries of balls in play rates.

Re: Desmond--hard to say. The errors really hurt his fielding value. If he could eliminate that, he'd probably be as valuable right now overall. The bat also is hard to gauge given that he's had such a break-out this year. Will that continue or regress? HOw much was the hamate hurting him before? What happens the second time through the league. Desmond could be a lot better or he could be a lot worse. (He'll certainly be cheaper though, and Guzman has no chance to get a lot better.)

I'd say the most reasonable projection for Desmond is a 2-3 year career as a below-average starter and another 3-4 as a super-sub.

Re: Espinosa and Desmond--probably neither really gives you what you wan starting, but who knows. Espinosa's a long way away yet.

I expect we'll see Guzman and Polanco, Everett, or Jack Wilson starting next year on opening day.

Ben said...

Steven

Not a lot of youth in you guesses. And a fair bit of mediocrity.

No hope of a trade for some slick fielding youngster? Given it is apparently one of the only pieces Rizzo thinks he is going to trade for you think that we could get something decent.

phil dunn said...

Bowden overpaid for Guzman, not once, but twice. One of Bodes major weaknesses was extending the contracts of less than mediocre players when they were on hot streaks. (Meat Hook Young is the best example.)

I'd favor giving the SS job to Desmond, provided he can continue to hit anywhere near the level he has shown this year, and going with a new second basemen. Getting rid of Guzman is going to require giving him away and paying a good portion of his eye watering salary.