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  1. I’ll admit to being mildly faked out; I thought this was going to be yet another PED article.

    Comment by Chris from Bothell — January 31, 2013 @ 1:49 pm

  2. It seems that teams “know enough” as you say, and they make the change in the minors. I doubt we’ll see a guy in the majors given that much time at a position playing that bad day-in-and-day-out just because of his bat.

    Comment by Carlin Davidson — January 31, 2013 @ 1:51 pm

  3. Was he drafted as a SS?

    Comment by Eminor3rd — January 31, 2013 @ 1:53 pm

  4. Considering how bad Lucas Duda was in the field for the Mets last year, I am blown away that Braun was basically twice as bad…and was still a positive WAR player! Ryan Braun is stupid good at hitting.

    Comment by BurleighGrimes — January 31, 2013 @ 1:56 pm

  5. I was also faked out. I thought this was going to be about a third Ryan Braun in baseball (the Brewers outfielder and the Angels pitcher being the first two).

    Comment by Dan Rozenson — January 31, 2013 @ 1:57 pm

  6. Does UZR have a baseline that will remain in place forever and ever? Or does the baseline change based on the actual skill levels at the position?

    In other words, will it ever be possible for everyone to be an above-average defender? If not, I wonder what the lowest generally acceptable UZR/150 will eventually be for most teams. Maybe -10?

    Comment by ralph — January 31, 2013 @ 2:00 pm

  7. The main cause of Braun being so inept defensively at the major league level was that his bat was too good to keep down in the minor leagues. If a NL team finds a hitter that is truly elite but can’t catch a cold, I’m sure he will be trotted out there just as often as Braun was. If Braun had taken 3 or 4 years to get to the majors like most players, he probably would’ve been considerably better in the field just by sheer repetition.

    Comment by Pinstripe Wizard — January 31, 2013 @ 2:02 pm

  8. Unless, or course, you are talking about the Brewers. They did what they did with Braun here in 07, but they recently did this with Brett Lawrie. They were so willing to trade the guy away for a soft tossing pitcher, because they felt he was blocked by Rickie Weeks.

    If your team believes that they can get by solely on offense (much like the 2013 Brewers do), you will do whatever it takes to get a bat in the order, no matter the position, and no matter how bad said player may be at that position.

    Comment by smocon — January 31, 2013 @ 2:04 pm

  9. I could still see historically awful fielding performances on an individual basis from teams expected to lose 100 games, if a positional need arises. Would the current Astros really care if a new prospect they had next year played out of position, to give him MLB at-bats?

    Comment by Phantom Stranger — January 31, 2013 @ 2:05 pm

  10. Or he simply could have “done” somethign to make himself better. Cough* Cough*

    Comment by smocon — January 31, 2013 @ 2:06 pm

  11. I guess you could argue he should have been shifted to the OF in spring training of ’07, but you can’t really fault the Brewers for finding him 500 PAs. It wasn’t like they could put him at first or DH, and a 1 OPS is still a 1 OPS.

    Comment by dougiejays — January 31, 2013 @ 2:06 pm

  12. I thought this was a story about PED’s. He was really bad at one thing and then, *presto, he all of a sudden becomes adequate defensively while greatly improving in another.

    Comment by smocon — January 31, 2013 @ 2:08 pm

  13. I can’t help but chuckle at the notion that teams needed advanced defensive stats to understand how bad Braun was at 3B. The guy was a trainwreck, and the biggest luddites in the MLB world couldn’t stop talking about it.

    Comment by Sparkles Peterson — January 31, 2013 @ 2:11 pm

  14. And yet his defense single handedly kept the Brewers out of the post season that year. His UZR may have been worth 3 losses, but situationally, I counted around 5 games that that team lost because of it.

    Comment by smocon — January 31, 2013 @ 2:11 pm

  15. The difference in offense and defense is shocking, and Braun was a very athletic, fit dude. Makes you wonder how much he worked on defense in high school and college. He obviously could get by (even in the majors) even with awful defense.

    Comment by TKDC — January 31, 2013 @ 2:12 pm

  16. I totally forgot Braun was a 3B once upon a time. Imagine how awesome he’d be if he could’ve made that work.

    Comment by LK — January 31, 2013 @ 2:13 pm

  17. Jesus Montero? Word of mouth says he’s terrible at catcher, though I don’t know how much of that is supported by the numbers. For what it’s worth in 2012 he was 13th worst in the FSR you cite.

    Comment by The Humber Games — January 31, 2013 @ 2:19 pm

  18. The problem with that theory is that you have to have someone of worthwhile ability to be able to block a new prospect from playing (that position). Losing teams don’t typically have anyone so good they can’t be moved.

    Comment by supershredder — January 31, 2013 @ 2:24 pm

  19. It would not be surprising to me if Brad Hawpe posting the worst UZR in the history of the stat had nothing to do with park factor issues. I once saw him make a whole season’s worth of defensive miscues in one inning against the Giants.

    Comment by Nick O — January 31, 2013 @ 2:25 pm

  20. I know right. Imagine if Ryan Braun was an awesome baseball player.

    Comment by Garth Hammers — January 31, 2013 @ 2:25 pm

  21. Yes, ignore his contributions with the bat. Or the miscues/meltdowns of his teammates. It was all Braun’s fault, single-handedly.

    Comment by El Vigilante — January 31, 2013 @ 2:37 pm

  22. Miguel Cabrera is a pretty obvious answer. Detroit probably assumed that he would be the worst fielding third baseman, and he was, yet they most likely expected him to be even worse than -10.0.

    Comment by jdbolick — January 31, 2013 @ 2:41 pm

  23. They didn’t need the numbers. Just like how you keep pitchers starting until they definitively prove themselves incapable, you keep hitters at a premium position until you’ve given up all hope of them being able to stay there.

    Comment by jdbolick — January 31, 2013 @ 2:43 pm

  24. Possible candidate is Miguel Sano. Signed as a shortstop, but moved to 3B. Most likely he will stick at 3B, but maybe he struggles defensively then moves to a corner outfield spot. It could happen!

    Comment by Jimmy D — January 31, 2013 @ 2:44 pm

  25. The 677 innings of 4.9+ ERA thrown by Jeff Suppan, Dave Bush, Chris Capuano, and Claudio Vargas had nothing to do with it. Nothing at all.

    Comment by Jake — January 31, 2013 @ 2:48 pm

  26. As far as I’m concnered the worst 3B defensive performance goes to Mark Reynolds. Dude munches sunflower seeds in the middle of a double play.

    Comment by shibboleth — January 31, 2013 @ 2:49 pm

  27. And he wasn’t even close to as bad as 2007 Braun, making half as many errors in almost 400 more innings.

    There’s a difference between a guy who is too fat to play third, and a guy who is just incapable of playing third.

    Comment by Big Daddy V — January 31, 2013 @ 2:52 pm

  28. I think Shin-Soo Choo has a good chance to come close next year for three reasons:
    1) He is playing CF for CIN next year.
    2) He didn’t have stellar Fld ratings when playing corner OF.
    3) Dusty Baker will keep Choo in CF regardless of his defensive performance because Dusty Baker likes to piss the baseball world off.

    Comment by Cody — January 31, 2013 @ 2:52 pm

  29. >If a NL team finds a hitter that is truly elite but can’t catch a cold, I’m sure he will be trotted out there just as often as Braun was.

    My take from the article is this is going to be more rare. Defense is more consistent than offense, so the FO mentality is shifting so that a defender who saves 3 runs above average is going to be more valuable than one who produces 3 runs more on average.

    Comment by Rickettsia — January 31, 2013 @ 2:58 pm

  30. Drafted as a 3B, but played SS until his junior year at Miami.

    Comment by Nick C — January 31, 2013 @ 3:02 pm

  31. Yes

    http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=5648&position=P

    Comment by suicide squeeze — January 31, 2013 @ 3:06 pm

  32. What about a guy like Sano with Minnesota? Most of the reports I’ve read aren’t particular glowing about his defense, but he could get the majors based on the raw power alone.

    Comment by Pinstripe Wizard — January 31, 2013 @ 3:11 pm

  33. It is irresponsible and frankly pathetic to write a post about Braun and not point out that he was using performance enhancing drugs. Braun is a cheat and he was let off on a technicality. The synthetic testosterone was not a result of the sealed package being delayed. You could keep a clean sample for years and no synthetic testosterone would magically appear. The lab tech swore that the package was not tampered with and the collection was sealed.
    It is strange that statisticians write about small differences that can only be quantified by using upper level mathematics yet they ignore the elephant in the room that is anabolic steroids.

    Comment by enhanced performance — January 31, 2013 @ 3:25 pm

  34. enhanced performance, this article references Ryan Braun’s 2007 performance. His abnormal test results were leaked to the press in 2011.

    Also, you mention that synthetic testosterone was found in his sample then go on to bemoan the ignoring of the elephant in the room, “anabolic steroids”. Those are two different substances.

    Comment by grandbranyan — January 31, 2013 @ 3:38 pm

  35. Michael Morse was a SS. Jayson Werth was a C. Baseball is weird.

    Comment by Atari — January 31, 2013 @ 3:38 pm

  36. The team had a worse winning % with Braun on the team so he obviously cos them the post season. It wasn’t Cordero blowing two saves when he only had to get one more out. In one case one more strike.(against the Cubs)

    Comment by llogan — January 31, 2013 @ 4:07 pm

  37. In 2007, nobody really expected the Brewers to compete. They didn’t have a winning season in 14 years before Braun.

    Good fielders aren’t rare either. The minor leagues have enough “all glove/no bat” players to go around the world twice. A team can only save so many runs with fielding before it becomes counter-productive. Better off being terrible at fielding, than anything else. You won’t get anywhere with terrible pitching and terrible hitting.

    Comment by JChang — January 31, 2013 @ 4:08 pm

  38. I was also faked out. I thought this was going to be about the former Royals relief pitcher.

    Comment by jB4s7 — January 31, 2013 @ 4:10 pm

  39. that should be:
    A team can only save so many runs with “fielding alone”, before it becomes counter-productive.

    Comment by JChang — January 31, 2013 @ 4:11 pm

  40. Practice? He could have practiced, right? That’s where you were going with this.

    Comment by Joe — January 31, 2013 @ 4:18 pm

  41. Ruben Amaro Jr will take that bet

    Comment by tylersnotes — January 31, 2013 @ 4:18 pm

  42. Sure, but Sano may move to LF like Braun or share 1B/DH with Mauer. More interesting to me is what the Tigers would have done with Cabrera if he had been as bad as Braun. Would they have moved him to LF and kept Inge? Moved Fielder to DH? Or kept Cabrera at 3B?

    Comment by Ivan Grushenko — January 31, 2013 @ 4:19 pm

  43. Yes but losing teams sometimes have more than one terrible fielding good hitter and may want to play both of them to get them MLB experience or at least boost their trade value. For example, I bet the Indians play Asdrubal Cabrera at SS every day even if his defense deteriorates to -15 or -20. He’s not worse than Lonnie Chisenhall or Jason Kipnis, but they’re “blocking” him in the sense that the Indians want them to get playing time. They would have to give up on Chisenhall for Cabrera to be moved to 3B.

    Comment by Ivan Grushenko — January 31, 2013 @ 4:24 pm

  44. The other thing keeping the Brewers out of the playoffs was keeping Braun in the minors at the start of the season.

    Comment by Ivan Grushenko — January 31, 2013 @ 4:25 pm

  45. And what did Jeff Suppan, Dave Bush, Chris Capuano, and Claudio Vargas all have in common? They had Ryan Braun attempting to play 3B behind them.

    Comment by Sylvan — January 31, 2013 @ 4:26 pm

  46. “A team can only save so many runs with “fielding alone”, before it becomes counter-productive.”

    What number is that?

    Comment by Ivan Grushenko — January 31, 2013 @ 4:28 pm

  47. His offense single-handedly kept them in contention for most of the year.

    Comment by Dustin — January 31, 2013 @ 4:28 pm

  48. Clint Barmes’s 2012 tested that theory at the extreme. His wRC+ was 62, but he posted a 14.4 UZR and 1.7 WAR. Honestly having watched most of the games with him in there versus other SS, he was saving a lot of runs with his glove.

    Comment by Pirates Hurdles — January 31, 2013 @ 4:37 pm

  49. It was a crime that he won the ROY over Tulowitzki

    Comment by Jake — January 31, 2013 @ 4:58 pm

  50. Dante Bichette, 1999. 34 HRs, .295 AVG, 100 wRC+, -1.8 WAR

    Imagine a defense with him in the OF and Braun at 3B.

    Comment by Chummy Z — January 31, 2013 @ 5:04 pm

  51. But at the same time, Cabrera is only getting older and fatter. Sure he wasn’t as bad as 2007 Braun last year, but he might be this year, or next year. Will the Tigers be willing to move him (or Prince) to DH full time if that happens? Maybe not…

    Comment by McAnderson — January 31, 2013 @ 5:05 pm

  52. It’s pretty obvious that WAR and UZR are pretty fucked up.

    Comment by JChang — January 31, 2013 @ 5:22 pm

  53. Winning is not a number.

    Comment by JChang — January 31, 2013 @ 5:23 pm

  54. You can’t win without scoring runs.

    Comment by JChang — January 31, 2013 @ 5:24 pm

  55. Matt Kemp’s 2010 was also pretty atrocious defensively. He posted a 105 RC+, hit 28 home runs, played in 162 games, and was only worth 0.5 WAR due to a -26 UZR. And his DRS was -37. Wow. He was never great in CF (and still isn’t), but that year might take the cake.

    Comment by Fletch — January 31, 2013 @ 5:41 pm

  56. of course there will be another Ryan Braun. There is a spot in the batting order devoted to the Ryan Braun’s of the world. It’s called the DH…

    Now, if every team played REAL baseball, the Ryan Braun’s of the world would have to be managed somehow, but a spot has already been created for them…

    Comment by astrosfanatic — January 31, 2013 @ 5:47 pm

  57. Alternately, sometimes bad teams just don’t have anyone else to play infield spots.

    Comment by Trevor Plouffe — January 31, 2013 @ 6:39 pm

  58. Didn’t hear win a gold glove that year?

    Comment by Whatthebus — January 31, 2013 @ 6:57 pm

  59. Positional adjustments aside, I’m not typically surprised to see a guy switch positions and stink at it. Especially 3B. That’s a tough position and a totally different skillset generally, than SS. Was he even good at SS, or was he merely playable there? His bat, with a -25UZR at SS would be pretty awesome, and even kind of fun to watch, I bet.

    Comment by That Guy — January 31, 2013 @ 7:20 pm

  60. Lucas Duda is a terrible defense outfielder but even if his defense is atrocious during 2013 I am not sure the Mets have many (any?) in house options to replace him…he could have a really, really awful year for outfielders.

    Comment by Yoko Ono — January 31, 2013 @ 7:39 pm

  61. 2011. He still wasn’t good at CF then either.

    Comment by That Guy — January 31, 2013 @ 10:14 pm

  62. Think about who was in the outfield “blocking” Braun.

    Corey Hart – Solid player all around.
    Tony Gwynn, Bill Hall, and Kevin Mench – All fairly sub-par.

    I guess we will never know the difference.

    Comment by Cory — January 31, 2013 @ 10:26 pm

  63. Kevin Mench.. While Carlos Lee may not have been an elite player, there is no way that Kevin Mench should have been the second best piece in a Lee deal.

    Comment by Jake W. — January 31, 2013 @ 11:06 pm

  64. No regression for 1 yr UZR? Shame.

    Comment by pft — January 31, 2013 @ 11:45 pm

  65. Jake mentioned it first…but the whole time as I am reading through this blog I am thinking How On God’s Green Earth did Braun win Rookie of the Year in 2007 over Tulowitzki. Tulo has gone on to greater heights winning a couple Gold Gloves and is regarded as one of the best Shortstops in the game…if we can only keep him healthy. +He is clean of PEDs as well…

    Comment by Boomer — February 1, 2013 @ 1:00 am

  66. Ditto! Judging by his numbers I would guess Duda is costing the Mets runs while warming up.

    Comment by RA Rowe — February 1, 2013 @ 1:23 am

  67. UZR should be 0 averaged over every position.

    Comment by Davor — February 1, 2013 @ 4:38 am

  68. He won ROY over Tulo because he had more HR and RBI than Tulo and that’s what voters look for. Setting a rookie record for SLG and Tulo having a typically abysmal road batting line didn’t hurt either. I guess I can’t really fault the voters for not having the foresight to know that years later Braun would have abnormal PED test results leaked to the media in breach of the CBA, but maybe that is just me.

    In regards to Tulo going on to “greater heights” I guess I’d take the guy with the MVP and 32 WAR to the guy with two gold gloves and 25 career WAR, but again, that could just be me.

    Comment by grandbranyan — February 1, 2013 @ 5:50 am

  69. He was utterly terrible at 3rd.

    Comment by Adam — February 1, 2013 @ 9:40 am

  70. Gold gloves have been a popularity contest for awhile now. Jeter is the perfect example. Though I do think he’s all time great player he’s been given a few undeserved GG’s based on name alone. He could really struggle this year coming back from a broken ankle.

    Comment by Adam — February 1, 2013 @ 9:49 am

  71. I think most teams would accept really bad fielding to get that offense for a short term solution.

    Comment by Hurtlockertwo — February 1, 2013 @ 10:00 am

  72. Yes, Braun may have always worked very hard at defense and just was not good at it and had an awful time trying to adjust to third base. Considering how good of an athlete he is, I’m skeptical that is the case, but I will admit I have no real evidence to refute that possibility.

    Comment by TKDC — February 1, 2013 @ 10:16 am

  73. Which is confusing since he was more than competent at first.

    Comment by Pinstripe Wizard — February 1, 2013 @ 10:27 am

  74. Yeah, and I would take the guy who has been clean his entire career, plays at an elite level for a premium defensive position, and if not for an injury last season would be regarded the best player in baseball.

    Braun’s MVP and all of the numbers associated with it have a huge shadow of doubt hanging over him because of the positive PED test. If this BALCO East situation has any mention of Ryan Braun in it, I will not be surprised, and it puts his entire career in doubt.

    Comment by smocon — February 1, 2013 @ 11:25 am

  75. I, too thought that. I am very delighted that it was not.
    One of Jeff’s best posts yet.

    Comment by Baltar — February 1, 2013 @ 11:40 am

  76. how has tulo gone on to greater heights? braun is one of 2-3 best players in the game

    Comment by jim — February 1, 2013 @ 1:29 pm

  77. Lucas Duda

    Comment by mikk402 — February 6, 2013 @ 10:59 pm

  78. Synthetic testosterone is a manufactured form of testosterone, an anabolic steroid.

    Comment by Cameron — March 29, 2013 @ 9:31 pm

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