Monday, February 27, 2006

Who are These Guys? - First Base

Allard Baird has made it sort of a hobby to stockpile guys who can’t field very well, but do mash the ball a bit. The staggering amount of offensive talent the Royals have jammed at the wrong side of the defensive spectrum would cripple most fans’ spirits. I prefer to refer to it as “depth.”

Mike Sweeney
OPS+ 127

Sween-dog is officially listed as the third-string first baseman behind Doug Mientkiewicz and Matt Stairs. Setting aside the injury risk associated with playing in the field, here are Sweeney’s fielding percentage stats against the league over the last four years:

Sween League
2002 .991 .993
2003 .990 .993
2004 .992 .994
2005 .998 .994

Sweeney has consistently bested the league in range factor and ranks as above average over the last four years using David Pinto’s probabilistic model of range (admittedly, barely).

Look, I’m not saying I’d rather have Sweeney digging Angel Berroa’s throws out of the dirt instead of Minky (as I have decided I shall call he who cannot be spelled correctly), I just want it to be noted that the conventional wisdom about Sweeney being a terrible first baseman is over-hyped.

As for batting, Mike is still the best stick in the clubhouse and even with a decline in productivity will probably lead the team in a variety of categories.

Doug Mientkiewicz
OPS+ 91

The human scrabble test brings his gold glove to Kansas City with high hopes on improving what was a horrible defense in 2004.

Along with the defensive rep, Minky also brings the baggage of having been demoted to a defensive back-up for the 2004 Red Sox and struggling through nagging injuries with the Mets last year.

While he’s never been much of a power threat, Doug has been a good on-base guy who doesn’t strike out that often. According to this fun toy from SG at Replacement Level Yankees Weblog, they Royals would benefit the most from having Minky lead off the lineup. Unfotunately, I have a feeling that his 11 career stolen bases will keep the team from doing something so radical.

My Best Guess: David DeJesus continues to get thrown out at a 50% rate on the base paths while Minky keeps taking walks after Angel Berroa strikes out.

Matt Stairs
OPS+ 118

My second-favourite Canadian returns to the team this year and finds himself listed as the number two option at first base, right field and designated hitter. Over the last three years, Stairs is a 285/373/496 hitter against right-handed pitchers, which makes him a very valuable commodity on a team with injury risks like Reggie Sanders and Mike Sweeney.

The big worry this year is that Stairs will be blocking a young talent like Justin Huber from having a chance at steady playing time at the big-league level. This is really the tip of the iceberg for the Royals, who have prospects like Huber, Billy Butler and Alex Gordon who are all piling up in the minors with big sticks and concrete gloves.

Fun Fact: Stairs placed 17th in MVP voting in 1999, probably coming up short because the voters were unimpressed with his two stolen bases.

No comments:

Post a Comment