Jermaine Dye at First Base

Word from Ken Rosenthal is that Jermaine Dye is open to moving from his primary position of right field to first base in order to land a job in 2010. This is coming on the heels of some especially brutal defensive seasons from Dye. From 2006-2009, here are Dye’s respective UZRs: -22.5, -21.6, -19.4, -20.0. With the RF positional adjustment at -7.5, it’s pretty apparent that Dye is a liability in the outfield. Considering that first base is the easiest position to play (something that I can back up with personal experience), Dye’s openness to the move should help him get work. But can it make him a productive player?

The first question is whether or not Dye’s transition to first base would actually make him a better defensive value. Right now, he’s worth roughly 27 runs less than the average fielder over 150 games. I haven’t scouted Dye; I wouldn’t know if Dye has the necessary skills to become adept at picking throws or stretching off the base, or fielding ground balls.

We saw with Skip Schumaker‘s move to 2nd base from center field that the transition certainly wasn’t smooth at the outset. Schumaker’s situation is similar because Schumaker hadn’t seen any time in the infield in his professional career, much like Dye, who’s played all of one game in the infield over his 15 major league seasons. Dye just hasn’t shown much athleticism in the outfield, so it would seem that he would still be a below-average defender at first base anyway, even without considering the effects of the positional move. Because of that, I personally wouldn’t expect Dye’s transition to go nearly as smooth as Schumaker’s seems to have worked out.

Of course, we can entertain the possibility. Let’s say that Dye somehow ends up as a semi-respectable fielder at first base, somewhere around a -2.5 first baseman. Then his value relative to the average defensive player is -15 runs, which adds around 12 runs to his value and makes him even slightly more valuable in the field than at the DH position. How will his bat play?

Dye will be 36 next season. As such, it’s hard to imagine any sort of dramatic increase over his .344 wOBA from 2009, although his 2008 wOBA of .376 is encouraging. A good estimate would probably lie on the low end of that range, in the +7.5 to +12.5 wRAA per 150 games, which would make Dye a 1.25-1.75 win player per 150 games.

Honestly, though, I find it really hard to believe that Dye will be any sort of productive defensive player. His transition will likely mirror Adam Dunn‘s play at 1B for the Nationals moreso than Skip Schumaker’s, and Dye will probably continue to be a huge liability on defense. It’s possible he could be a slightly above replacement DH, but unless he’s willing to take a huge paycut, he’s not worth taking the spot of a prospect or some sort of freely available talent like a Brian Myrow or Jeff Fiorentino.

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10 Responses to “Jermaine Dye at First Base”

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  1. Mark Runsvold says:

    Dye’s second half this past year was DISASTROUS. He put up a .179/.293/.297 line after the break, which is the kind of bad that makes you wonder if he was hiding an injury going into free agency.

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  2. LeeTro says:

    Easy there about the personal experience. Someone might think you can really play…. About the actual article, one reason I could see Dye making a better transition to 1B is his better error rating. Most OF errors are due to fielding, not throwing, so his average error rate in RF should make it better than Dunn’s poor rate.

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  3. SteveP says:

    Eventhough Schumaker struggled transitioning to second, second also requires much more athleticism than first. I’m not saying your comparision is wrong though, just that Dye is coming from a position that doesn’t require tremendous athleticism to one that requires even less while Schumaker came from a position that requires a ton of athleticism to one that still requires a good deal of athleticism. Overall though, I think Dye is done. He’s suffered a lot of pretty serious injuries over the course of his career, and I think his body has finally given out on him. Someone may very well sign him as a 1Bman, but I think that’s a mistake. Given the fact that first basemen with pop are a dime a dozen there’s no need to pay Dye more than what the freely available guys are worth, as you noted in your conclusion.

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  4. vivaelpujols says:

    Skip Schumaker actually turned out quite well at second. He was only -7.7 by UZR at the end of the year, and he looked a lot better than that from watching him, almost average.

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    • Jack Moore says:

      I understand, but I was mostly referring to how, by most accounts, he struggled at the beginning, which teams signing him to a 1-year contract would have to deal with moreso than the Cards, for whom it was a long term move.

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  5. Ryan M says:

    Dye was still a pretty good outfielder after he lost most of his speed with the knee injury in Oakland. As he’s aged, he’s obviously gotten much worse, but his ability years back to man the position without his speed suggests to me he has good instincts. Plenty of outfielders have converted to 1B more or less on the spot when rosters demanded it. While this is really a question for a scout, it’s perfectly conceivable that he good be average-plus at first. At the very least, this opens up the possibility that he latches onto a team like the Giants or the Marlins who have (perceived) holes at 1B and tend to value veteran leadership.

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  6. Choo says:

    Even if Dye proves to be a quick study (positioning, reads, footwork), a certain level of lateral explosiveness is required to convert those batted balls into outs. Dye’s lateral explosiveness probably grades out somewhere between Jason Giambi and pre-oiled Tin Man.

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  7. MikeS says:

    As A White Sox fan, it seems that Dye gets decent jumps, takes reasonable routes and catches most of what he gets to. The problem is he just gets to so darn little. How dies that translate to 1B? Hard to know what kind of reflexes and first step he has to snare grounders and line drives. He’s tall and lanky (2″ taller, 5lb lighter than Konerko) so I think he can catch it but who knows how well he can scoop bad throws? I doubt he could field bunts well since that’s a similar skillset to tracking down flies.

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  8. DP says:

    I think Fiorentino is going to the Hiroshima Toyo Carp…

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  9. Rando says:

    I watched the Tigs and White Sox play 3 games of a 4 game series (two of those games were part of a doubleheader) and I sat in RF, right behind Jermaine Dye. He’s the worst outfielder I’ve ever seen, and the worst part is he didn’t put forth effort (didn’t appear to, at least). He’s a bum.

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