Wednesday, April 14, 2010
BP: More black hole positions
By Christina Kahrl, Baseball Prospectus
As Jerry Crasnick notes today, there are just some positions that teams can't get right. With that in mind, let's looks at some of the best examples through the lens of WARP2, an all-encompassing metric developed at Baseball Prospectus that values a player in wins, relative to what you would expect from a readily-available Triple-A player. It's particularly bad for Kansas City Royals fans, as Crasnick focuses on one position of failure for them (left field), and you can read below for another.
Red Sox -- shortstop
Ugly Fact: Spent $79 million on free-agent shortstops from 2005-09; total WARP2 of 19.8.
Replacing Nomar Garciaparra with a two-month rental of Orlando Cabrera to win their first title of the decade was a success, but the five seasons since have been a revolving door involving big deals and big mistakes, such as Edgar Renteria and Julio Lugo. This year, it's the turn of well-traveled Marco Scutaro, cashing in his career year with the Blue Jays for $12 million over two years. After buying high and getting burned with Renteria and Lugo, tthe Sox made a smaller but still-big commitment to Scutaro after his two seasons worth roughly six wins apiece for the Blue Jays. Maybe Scooter's the man who breaks the cycle of big money and big disappointment.
Cubs -- center field
Ugly Numbers: 38.6 WARP2, 1996-2009
Since trading Rick Monday before the '77 season, the Cubs have had a cycle of busted prospects. From 1989 Rookie of the Year Jerome Walton's flash in the pan, to the pumped, rushed, and dumped duo of Corey Patterson and Felix Pie. Patterson posted a WARP of 7.0 in 2003, and it looked the Cubs had the position solved. But that didn't turn out so well once pitchers realized he would swing at anything within two blocks of Waveland Avenue.
Royals -- shortstop
Ugly Numbers: 16.7 WARP2, 1996-2009 (MLB-worst for shortstops)
This crisis borders on existential, because it's hard to say that the Royals have ever had a good shortstop. Freddie Patek's still the all-time leader in games played, and he was a career .242 hitter. By combined Runs Above Replacement -- in this case, below -- the Royals are proud owners of four of the 12 worst seasons by a team's shortstops from 1996-2009. No other team has more than one.
Rangers -- center field
Ugly Number: 306 starts
Here, the problem has been a matter of finding a guy and sticking with him. Since 1996, Tom Goodwin (306 starts) is the only player who has started more than 300 games in center for the Rangers. That's less than two full seasons. Julio Borbon should hopefully beat that sometime in 2011.
Ugly Number: 42
Since Benito Santiago caught his last game as a Padre in 1992, the club has run through 42 different catchers. That's more than three different catchers for every season, and they've combined for a WARP2 of 31.7. That's less than two wins per man.
Expos/Nationals -- center field
Ugly Number: 34.6 WARP, 1996-2009 (MLB-worst for the position in that time)
The Expos had Marquis Grissom and then Rondell White, two good players, but then they traded White at the deadline to the Cubs in 2000, and things have been almost unrelentingly bad since. From prospects who didn't pan out (Peter Bergeron) to budding stars who withered (Brad Wilkerson) to the players pressed into action to fill the breach (remember Nook Logan or Manny Martinez?). The hope is that Nyjer Morgan breaks the cycle of failure.
Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus.