Thursday, March 25, 2010

At Least No One Else's Right Fielder is Any Good Either

The Nationals announced that Willie Harris will start on opening day for the Nationals in right field, and presumably he'll get a big share of the playing time after that.

This is not very good news, because Willie Harris really isn't a very good player. And he certainly doesn't stack up against other rightfielders around the league. After all, last year, the average rightfielder hit .270 / .345 / .446. Harris hit .235 / .364 / .393, and CHONE projects him at .243 / .350 / .377 for 2010. That's a big gap.

But here's the crazy thing (and I literally realized it just as I was sitting down to write a different post altogether). As underwhelming as Harris is, there's a good number of right fielders who aren't much if at all better.

Check it out. Here's the list of 30 projected starting right fielders around the league, ranked by projected wOBA (the Tom Tango rate stat for overall offensive production):

Justin Upton ARI .296 .372 .515 .383
Jay Bruce CIN .286 .351 .539 .379
Nick Markakis BAL .301 .373 .484 .374
Jayson Werth PHI .265 .365 .475 .372
Carlos Quentin CHW .265 .358 .494 .371
Brad Hawpe COL .273 .367 .484 .370
Shin-Soo Choo CLE .284 .372 .460 .367
Nelson Cruz TEX .267 .340 .508 .366
Andre Ethier LAD .281 .356 .488 .365
Nick Swisher NYY .242 .362 .459 .361
J.D. Drew BOS .263 .372 .443 .359
Hunter Pence HOU .285 .345 .488 .358
Magglio Ordonez DET .295 .362 .453 .357
Ryan Ludwick STL .269 .341 .482 .356
Michael Cuddyer MIN .268 .342 .459 .351
Bobby Abreu LAA .273 .368 .415 .351
Garrett Jones PIT .270 .324 .476 .346
Corey Hart MIL .271 .333 .456 .344
Kosuke Fukudome CHC .260 .364 .405 .343
Nate Schierholtz SFG .286 .325 .457 .339
Cody Ross FLA .262 .320 .460 .339
Ichiro Suzuki SEA .313 .346 .410 .338
David DeJesus KCR .278 .351 .410 .336
Ryan Sweeney OAK .286 .350 .409 .335
Matthew Joyce TBR .242 .327 .427 .330
Willie Harris WAS .243 .350 .377 .328
Jeff Francoeur NYM .277 .317 .435 .327
Jason Heyward ATL .258 .324 .416 .325
Jose Bautista TOR .230 .326 .393 .320
Will Venable SDP .249 .315 .406 .318

We see Willie's near the bottom, but he's not the worst by any means. The whole bottom half of this list is pretty grim. And factor in that CHONE don't really like Harris very much (Marcel, PECOTA, and ZIPs all expect a little better), and if he's average or better in the field, you could easily seeing him as the second best rightfielder in the division, somewhere in the Garrett Jones/Kosuke Fukudome range of overall value.

He doesn't look the part, and he'll never be the guy who delivers a World Series trophy to DC, but Willie Harris in right field clearly is not the team's biggest problem.


Harper said...

"he's not the worst by any means"

actually wouldn't he be the worst by power?

(but point taken)

Steven said...

lowest slugging. looks like Ryan Sweeney and Ichiro are projected for less ISO power.

But point taken :-)

Will said...

"This is not very good news, because Willie Harris really isn't a very good player. And he certainly doesn't stack up against other rightfielders around the league."

Then you go on to write the opposite....

What the large majority of those RFs you mentioned don't have is excellent defensive abilities. Willie Harris does. So by all means, go ahead and convince yourself that Brad Hawpe is a better alternative.

Harris is going to be getting a lot of work, chasing down balls hit down the first baseline, because at the very least we had the sensibility to not move that statue at first back to rightfield.

estuartj said...

I'd love to see those players ranked again by UZR150. There are precious few Markakis and Swishers in the league, and most teams (not NYY of course) don't have the budget to have other All star players at the other premium offensive position (1B, 3B, LF).

Offensively I'd say we are at or above average at those other 3 positions (depending on how Hammer and Dunn turn out defensively at their "new" positions for a full year).

Deacon Drake said...

Harris will be an upgrade over last season's Kearns/Dukes fiasco.

He'll hit a little better with regular playing time... Willie is just keeping the seat warm for Mythical 5-Tool Free Agent in 2011.

Sam said...

If we have a list by wOBA, and we want a list by UZR/150, why not just kill two birds with one stone and list WAR/600 PA (or something, just to make it a rate stat) and have wOBA and UZR included?

Steven, I agree with you 100%. Harris isn't that bad. He's not a typical right fielder, but then again, neither is Ichiro. Granted, I still think Maxwell should get a chance because, quite frankly, why not?

Steven said...

You can do that. The biggest problem is that UZR is pretty unreliable in small sample sizes. But that's basically what fangraphs does in their value tables.

phil dunn said...

Releasing Dukes without having a decent replacement was really a stupid move by Rizzo. Willingham, Morgan and Harris--that's a weak outfield line up. Combine that with the weak pitching staff and it looks like another painful season.

Anonymous said...

"Granted, I still think Maxwell should get a chance because, quite frankly, why not?"

Because he can't hit major league pitching. He's never proven he can hit Triple A pitching either.

Will said...

Ask and you shall receive.
Fortunately, Fangraphs allows you to look at the past 2 or 3 seasons, so this should give you a good idea of many RFs defensive talent.

Notable UZR/150s:
Werth: 19.3
Cruz: 10.5
Ichiro: 9.5
Drew: 9.2
Markakis: 2.7
Upton: 0.1
Ethier: -8.2
Abreu: -12.9
Cuddyer: -13.0
Dye: -22.4

And the worst defender in baseball (and the only player who could manage to out-suck Adam Dunn in the field).......
Brad Hawpe: -33.0

It's amazing that Hawpe has managed to keep his starting job in right when he's giving away three wins per season.
It's not amazing that Jermaine Dye is unemployed.

Steven said...

Hawpe is awful. Keep in mind though that UZR is a stat that's derived by comparing RFs to EACH OTHER. So if you just instantly made every other RF in baseball 5 runs worse, UZR would instantly say hawpe is 5 runs better, even if he didn't change at all. The point is that there's an element of self-fulfilling prophecy in that GMs get only as many runs out of fielding as they think it's worth to get.

Anonymous said...

Theses stats look at hitting. Willie Harris is not a first-class hitter. He looks like a guy who hits the mistake pitches, but gets overpowered by a really good pitcher.

When he plays, he hits around .250, which is around Elijah Dukes and that previous RF who broke Nick Johnson's leg.

When he plays, Harris covers more ground than almost anybody. His fielding makes "play of the week". His fielding improves the Nats pitching...imagine an outfield of Dukes, Milledge, and Dunn...nightmare.

The last time I trudged out to Shea to watch my Nats play the Mets, Kearns misplayed a line-drive into a game-clinching RBI. The official scorer ruled it a double, but I watched Kearns charge the ball, stop, run back, and leap hopelessly. Painfully, I watched Ryan Church make the same play, without theatrics, and hit a home-run. That's pain.

To repeat: don't forget that Harris's fielding will turn "hits" into "outs", and that helps the pitchers...who need help.

John Welch
(Life-long Senators/Nats fan. Saw my first game, at Griffith Stadium, when Mickey Vernon got the Silver Bat at AL batting champ. Heard Arch MacDonald or Bob Woolf call Harmon Killebrew's first home-run. Listened, in grief, to the Scooter on Yankees radio call the last Nats game in '71.)