MLB theme of the week: Filling needs

November, 22, 2013
11/22/13
9:03
PM ET
Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler wasn’t the only notable move this week, the busiest of baseball’s offseason so far. Let’s take a snapshot look at some intriguing notes related to other players who switched teams.

Bourjos, Young, find new homes to show off their ‘D’
The St. Louis Cardinals made a major defensive upgrade in centerfield in acquiring Peter Bourjos from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Though Bourjos has been hindered by injuries the last couple of seasons, he’s accumulated 33 Defensive Runs Saved in center field over the last four seasons. That’s tied with Craig Gentry for fifth-most at that position in that span. That’s just behind Chris Young, who agreed to a one-year $7.25 million contract with the Mets. Young is two years removed from his last really good defensive season. Young accumulated 38 Defensive Runs Saved for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010 and 2011, which ranked second-best among centerfielders in that span, behind only Austin Jackson of the Detroit Tigers.

Bourjos will be worth more to the Cardinals than he will to most other teams. Over the last four seasons, the Cardinals centerfielders have combined for -12 Defensive Runs Saved.

Young’s value to the Mets may depend on what position he plays and what other moves they make. Their centerfielder, Juan Lagares, ranked second in the majors in Defensive Runs Saved last season.

Angels fill a need
In obtaining third baseman David Freese from the Cardinals in trade for Bourjos, the Angels secured a player with a better history of offensive production at the hot corner than they’ve had in awhile.

The Angels have ranked 28th and 27th in OPS from their third basemen over the last two seasons.

Freese’s numbers dipped a bit from 2012 to 2013, but definitely represents an upgrade for the Angels.

Freese’s batting average on balls hit in the air was a near match in 2012 and 2013 (.473 and .481), though his homer total dipped from 20 to 9.

His overall batting average drop from .293 to .262 was attributable to hitting more ground balls (a 52 percent ground ball rate in 2012, 56 percent in 2013) and to his ground balls finding fewer holes (he went from hitting .310 on grounders in 2012 to .230 last season).

Under the radar: Bolstering the bullpen
With questions at the back of the bullpen, the Rockies went for experience by signing veteran LaTroy Hawkins, who had formerly pitched for the team with modest success in 2007. Hawkins pitched very well for the Mets last season, particularly filling in at closer in the latter part of the season when Bobby Parnell got hurt. Hawkins held opponents scoreless in 17 of his last 18 appearances (the only blip was a five-run outburst by the Tigers), striking out 16 and walking only one in that stretch.

The strikeout-to-walk rate was a key to Hawkins’ success. He had a career-best strikeout-to-walk ratio (55 strikeouts, 10 walks) at age 40.

Hawkins was one of five pitchers to throw at least 70 innings of relief last season with a strikeout-to-walk-rate of 5 to 1 or better. The other four are Koji Uehara, Mark Melancon, Kenley Jansen and Trevor Rosenthal.

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