Chris Burke

On Friday, the Arizona Diamondbacks decided not to tender an offer of arbitration to Chris Burke. After coming over from the Astros in the Jose Valverde trade, Burke was a massive disappointment, hitting .194/310/.273 in 165 at-bats, yielding an awful -11 wRAA while only playing about 1/4 of a season. In short, he was a total disaster, and the D’Backs decided that they didn’t want to give him a chance to get a raise in arbitration after such a poor season.

For some team looking for a middle infield/utility player option on the cheap, however, Burke should be near the top of the list. Even with his poor 2007 and miserable 2008, his career is .241/.318/.363, which translates to a .304 wOBA. That’s not good, certainly, as Burke has racked up -29.5 wRAA over his career, but that averages out to about -13 runs per 600 plate appearances. That’s not good – Burke almost certainly won’t be an asset offensively going forward.

However, Burke is a good defensive player. In his career, he’s logged 854 innings at second base and has posted a UZR/150 of +10. He’s also logged 1,111 innings in corner outfield spots and posted a UZR/150 of +14. While he’s been used as a utility player, he’s put up very good numbers in his two primary positions of 2B/LF. Combined with positive scouting reports, we can be pretty certain that Burke’s a defensive asset.

As a guy who can be an asset as a defender at multiple positions, he doesn’t have to hit much in order to be a useful utility player, and if his offense rebounds to anything close to his 2006 performance, he’d be a league average starter.

At 29, Burke is simply too young to give up on and assume that his struggles the last two years represent a true collapse of his skills. Jerry Hairston Jr provided a great template for a resurgent player of this skillset, bouncing back from a horrible 2007 to be quite valuable for the Reds in 2008. A smart team with a need for a solid backup middle infielder with upside will bring Burke into camp and find a way to get his glove in the line-up on a semi-regular basis.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Jason T
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Jason T
7 years 6 months ago

So, he’s like ‘Super Willy’? Is Burke someone the M’s could use to push Lopez and Betancourt a little? Betancourst especially.

Jack
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7 years 6 months ago

He’d be perfect for Milwaukee.

drew
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drew
7 years 6 months ago

So what kind of money is he worth? 2yrs 6mil?

PhillyFriar
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PhillyFriar
7 years 6 months ago

Burke’s the kind of guy that seems to make a bit more sense for an AL club. His strength (as a defensive replacement) would be highlighted, while he’d be less likely to be pressed into service as a pinch hitter in a high leverage situation (which would happen more often in the NL).

Matt
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Matt
7 years 6 months ago

Here’s what I just posted on VivaElBirdos.com:

Crunching Numbers on Burke

Using his career wOBA to convert his offense into runs above average, and an arbitrary 400 PA’s: ((.304-.331)/1.15)*400=-9.39

Using Fangraphs, his defensive value (again, using career averages): UZR/150 at 2b=+10

Adjusting for the 2b position: 10-9.39 = .61….6122.5= +23.11 above replacement level 2b for 400 PA’s, which equates to 2.31 Wins. At an FA market value (5mil/win), he’d be worth 11.55m/season. Getting Burke would probably come out as a great deal for the Cards.

In addition, these numbers I picked worked out well since Miles received almost the same number of PA’s in 2008 as I abritrarily set for Burke (408), and his career wOBA is the exact same (.304). Thus, he will also be -9.39 runs below average.

However, Miles’ defense at second base (career UZR/150) is -3.5 runs below average. Adjusting for 2b again gives you (-9.39-3.5+22.5) 9.61 runs above replacement level, or .96 Wins. Thus, it behooves the Cards to go with Burke over Miles, since Burke is going to be between 1-1.5 wins MORE than Miles at probably the same cost.

The interesting thing is, I’m not even mentioning the fact that Burke is 4 years YOUNGER than Miles! Burke is in his prime right now (28) while Miles is 32.

Basically, Burke needs to be signed by some team since he is likely to be a seriously cheap upgrade to 2b or possibly the outfield. I’d advocate the Cardinals to do it, but they’re probably more likely to resign Miles, unfortunately.

Alex JN
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Alex JN
7 years 6 months ago

Burke’s true importance is not in his baseball numbers but the fact that HE COMES FROM THE ST X TIGERS WOOHOO REPRESENT ETC.

CJ
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CJ
7 years 6 months ago

As an Astros’ fan, I watch Burke’s career with interest. And maybe I can add some context (or perhaps speculation), for what it’s worth. I think many Astros’ fans wondered if Chris Burke’s shoulder injury changed the course of his career, as an offensive player. After a rocky first half season as a rookie in 2005, Burke came on offensively in the second half, with a high .700’s OPS post-ASB. And he was the hero of the NLDS and continued his hot hitting in the NLCS and WS. In 2006, Burke had a fine first half season, with a pre-ASB OPS of .859, but he tailed off in the second half with a .675 OPS. Burke suffered his second shoulder dislocation in May 2006 but opted to continue playing for the remainder of the season; most people generally assumed that it affected his hitting. Burke had shoulder surgery after the 2006 season, but his 2007 and 2008 offense never look as promising as it had in late 2005 and early 2006.

My only point is that his career stats may or may not be a good indicator of his future performance, depending on whether his batting was permanently affected by the shoulder dislocations.

I think Burke’s value would be higher if he could play shortstop well…which he cannot. Burke has good range, but he has a below average arm, which limits his ability to play RF and also reduces his value as a SS or 3d baseman. His best outfield position is LF and his best infield position is 2d base; so he is best for a team which needs a utility infielder based mainly in those positions.

D Wrek
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D Wrek
7 years 6 months ago

Matt,

If the Cards signed Burke instead of Miles, wouldnt they need to use yet another roster spot for a back up SS? And they still need room for a back up 3B. I guess Ryan could play SS/3B, but Ryan/TLR said there isnt a comfort level there and his bat doesnt really play there (even as back up).
One bonus for Burke would be that he would be a needed RH bat in the OF.

Im just not sure theres enough room for all of that, b/c you know TLR has to carry 12 pitchers.

Terry
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Terry
7 years 6 months ago

Another flaw-Burke hasn’t logged enough innings at either position to allow precise estimates of his true defensive abilities. It’s safest to interpret the small slices of defensive innings and the scouting reports as evidence he’s at least a neutral defender at second.

I think a fair but conservative estimate would be that Burke could be a .5 to 1 win player over 400 PA’s at second. (-9 runs for his bat+2.5 position adjustment+14 replacement+0 or 5 runs defense)

Paqs
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Paqs
7 years 2 months ago

He’s a train wreck :)

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