Meet the ORPOFWSADs

Every free agent class has positions of strength and weakness. For reasons that are nothing more than cyclical, there’s always a group of similar players who hit free agency at the same time. This year is no different – there is one player type that is found in abundance, and that is the Overrated Run Producing Out Fielder Who Sucks At Defense. The ORPOFWSAD is the new black.

Obviously, the main attraction is Manny Ramirez. His monster finish to the year in Los Angeles has Scott Boras calling him a franchise player and talking about a contract that runs into his 40s. Manny can obviously still hit – Marcel has him projected at a .389 wOBA, which translates into 30 runs above an average hitter over 600 plate appearances, but his defense is miserable. Even if you charitably call it -15 runs over a full season, he’s giving back a huge chunk of his value with his lack of range. While Manny may get paid like a superstar, in reality, he’s more like a +3 win player.

For those who aren’t into the Manny Being Manny show, you can move right along to Adam Dunn. Like Manny, he can hit (Marcel projects a .372 wOBA), but his defense is miserable and he really should sign with an AL team where he can DH. Since he’s not as good a hitter as Manny but has similar struggles in the field, he ranks as a league average player (+2 wins compared to replacement level). You can bet he’ll get paid more than the $10 million or so he’s worth, though.

For owners who don’t want Manny’s antics or Dunn’s strikeouts, have no fear, there’s always Pat Burrell. Like Dunn, he makes up for a low average with a lot of walks, and he’s a pretty solid offensive player whose defense makes him a league average player overall. Not a bad guy to have on your roster, but if teams continue to overpay for RBIs like they have in the past, he’s not going to earn his money for his next employer.

If that’s enough options, or you just don’t like any of those three, Bobby Abreu might appeal to a team that wants a guy who can get on base and has some power. He isn’t the longball threat that the first three are, but he’s every bit as bad with the glove. He’s a decent enough hitter (Marcel projects him at .357 wOBA), but not good enough to be more than a slightly below average player.

Last, and probably least, Raul Ibanez has been lumped in with this group despite being a massively inferior hitter. He hits for a higher average, but he doesn’t have the same kind of power or patience as the others, and Marcel projects him for just a .344 wOBA in 2009. Combined with atrocious defense, Ibanez is a below average player in the +1 to +1.5 win range, but his reputation as a good clubhouse guy, hard worker, and run producer will get him a contract that he just doesn’t have the ability to live up to.

Historically, this player type gets paid very well in free agency. Guys like Carlos Lee and Jose Guillen have cashed in the last two winters, and their teams have simply not benefited from their presence as much as they expected, because this is probably the single most overrated player type in all of baseball. The good hit/bad glove corner outfielder is simply not an impact player, and almost always commands more money than they are worth.

If you find your favorite team bidding for one of these guys, you have my sympathy.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


16 Responses to “Meet the ORPOFWSADs”

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  1. Isaac says:

    If you think it’s bad enough to have your team looking at one of these guys, imagine how it must be right now to be a Cubs fan, which I sadly am. Dunn, Abreu and Ibanez have all been rumored to be on Hendry’s wish list, and seeing how left handed hitting is his number one priority, he is almost sure to land one of these three.

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  2. staplemaniac says:

    If I’m a fan of an AL team, I’m kind of happy about it. Since there are so many of them out there it’s likely to drive the price down, and if they can play DH every day getting one of those guys (or a sketch 1B, more DH-ey guy [like Giambi]) doesn’t seem like a bad move.

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  3. Benne says:

    I hope whatever NL team signs Ibanez will enjoy watching his lawn darts in ’09.

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  4. philosofool says:

    As popular as it is to trash Dunn’s defense, I have no idea why people do so. None of the defensive metrics on Dunn that I’ve seen (RZR, PMR) show Dunn as other than average left fielder in 2008. Is this a case of “big guys can’t field” fallacy I don’t actually know why you say Dunn is so bad in the OF. His PMR has him at exactly league average for a left fielder. As a 20 Runs above replacement hitter (650pa*((.372wOBA-.335 lg wOBA)/1.15 = 20.9 runs above average) and an average fielder, doesn’t that make him about +2 wins above average, +4 above replacement? And hence doesn’t that mean about $16M a year? What’ll he actually get… five years at $16-18 a year? Actually sounds to me like Dunn’s a pretty good buy as 29 year-old free agents go.

    (Don’t get me wrong, all free agents are overpriced and Dunn will be too. But I don’t think you’ve given his defense a fair shake and you’ve thus given him a bad valuation.)

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  5. philosofool says:

    Previous comment should have called Dunn 20 runs above *average* hitter, not 20 above replacement.

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  6. Dave Cameron says:

    There’s no reason to believe Adam Dunn is an average defensive outfielder.

    +/- has him at -18 in 2006, -28 in 2007, and -23 in 2008.

    MGL didn’t publish his full UZR list this year, but he had Dunn at -29 in 2007, -19 in 2006, -6 in 2005, -6 in 2004, and -14 in 2003.

    On the Fans Scouting Report, Reds fans ranked him as a 27 (out of 100), one of the lowest scores for any OF in baseball.

    PMR is the outlier here (and it’s had some really bad results this year, leading me to believe that there’s an error in Pinto’s calculations for 2008), and RZR isn’t worth bringing into a discussion of PBP metrics.

    Dunn is a putrid fielder. There’s no evidence to suggest otherwise.

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  7. philosofool says:

    There are two reasons to believe that Dunn is an average outfielder, which are that PMR and RZR both rank him as such. While RZR is inferior, it is not horrible, (Is it about on par with using OPS in place of wOBA or EqA as hitting metrics? Is it better or worse than Fans Scouting Report?) You might not like what PMR has to say this year, but part of the point of statistical methods of evaluation is that we let them be an antidote to our biases; I’m not aware of your reasons, and that’s not to say you don’t have good ones, that PMR is mistaken this year.

    Now, the excellent counter evidence that your cite defeats those reason, but from the tone of your response, you’d think that you had made a case that Dunn is a putrid outfielder in your original post (you didn’t), and that I’d never even looked to compare Dunn with other fielders on any metric whatsoever (I did) or presented that evidence (I did.)

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  8. Dave Cameron says:

    RZR is more like batting average. If we lived in a world without PBP metrics, it’d be useful, but we don’t, so it’s not. When having a discussion of defensive value where PBP metrics are available, it doesn’t belong.

    This post was about five different players – if I laid out the reasons for all the statements I made, it would have been 4,000 words and taken all day to write. I was counting on an assumption of credibility from people who have been reading FanGraphs all year that I’m not just making these numbers up. I didn’t call Dunn a putrid fielder because he insulted my mother – I called him a putrid fielder because that’s the only conclusion that can be drawn from the available data.

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  9. philosofool says:

    How much do we know about OF arms and defense?

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  10. Trent says:

    A pretty good deal, actually. I love how you’re now trying to impugn the metrics after using them to make your point.

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  11. Trent says:

    philosofool, while it’s true that Dunn’s RZR is far from putrid, OOZ reveals his glaring deficiencies. In mid-July, THT posted season-to-date positional RZR averages which showed that the average left fielder made .215 Out of Zone plays for each Ball in Zone. Dunn, from 2006 to 2008, made .151 Out of Zone plays for each Ball in Zone as a left fielder, which, using his 721 Balls in Zone in this time frame, would give him 155 “expected” Out of Zone plays made while his actual total was 109. That’s 46 plays below average. Add to that the 14 fewer plays Dunn made on Balls in Zone than average (Dunn had a .864 RZR compared to a league average of .884, according to the same mid-July post) and Dunn was 60 plays below average in left field from 2006 to 2008. What does the +/- system think of Dunn’s left field defense in that same three year span? 58 plays below average. Perfect agreement.

    Congratulations, you just pwned yourself.

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  12. philosofool says:

    @Trent “A pretty good deal, actually. I love how you’re now trying to impugn the metrics after using them to make your point.”

    Dude, I’m not trying to be a jerk. So take a moment and ask “Is this guy trying to be a jerk?” before you step out and accuse me of hypocritical use of evidence.

    I was actually asking an honest question when I asked about OF arms. You’ll note that I called Dave’s response “excellent counter evidence” which hardly sound like “trying to impugn.” I’m not trying to be a jerk. I’m trying to learn about baseball from people that I think know more than me. They do. I’m learning. However, defensive metrics don’t count outfield arms; it’s not an unreasonable question to ask. (If THT metrics on OF arms are any good, Dunn is getting no help from that data. I’m wondering about someone like Rick Ankiel, who sucks by PMR but obviously has a cannon.)

    http://mlb.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?mid=200805072654685 This is basically the most amazing PAIR of the throws I’ve ever seen. Seriously, every person that reads this loves baseball and needs to watch these videos. Ignore everything else being said here, because this is amazing baseball, the thing we love so much.

    The only good reason to have forums on a cite like this is that people can learn from them by advancing the best reasons they have and seeing how well they fair under critical scrutiny. Dave’s provided just that, for which I thank him. Your point about OOZ is well taken. I’ve heard at least once that there’s concern about OOZ being a repeatable skill, so I don’t log it much when considering player performance.

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  13. Trent says:

    I never said anything about jerkiness or hypocrisy. It was more of an ill-spirited observation than anything. For what it’s worth, I’ve seen you around for a number of months now and you’re the furthest thing from a jerk or hypocrite. The only jerk in this thread is me. I’m the kind of person the phrase “don’t let him get to you” was invented for. I’m not a nice guy. That’s not your fault.

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  14. Chris Miller says:

    THT’s player pages have an outfield arms section, which I believe (I could be wrong) is Assists/Expected Assists above average. They have Dunn as being 4 runs below average in LF for both 2006 and 2007.

    http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/stats/players/index.php?playerId=319&firstName=Adam&lastName=Dunn

    Also, If Dunn ages like other three true outcomes, no fielding slugger on the wrong side of 30, some teams going to regret the contract they give him.

    Hopefully enough teams are past HR and RBI. Dunn’s a nifty player, but he’ll probably giving sub-average performances for superstar money before his contract’s up.

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  15. JLP says:

    Dave,

    Can you please hush up about Ibanez? We’re trying to get someone to sign him on so we can get our draft picks. Thanks in advance.

    Sincerely,

    Concerned Mariners Fans

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  16. RollingWave says:

    Dave, I think there is a slight fallacy in your argument here, if we use Manny as example, he would be worth the money if he were a DH most of the time (thus a +30 run player) but not if he’s a LF (where he’s more likely something of 10-15 range) you could argue that thus he’s as valuable as a 10-15 run guy, but if you just happen to have a 10-15 run guy (say.. Carl Crawfard.. let’s peg him at +7 with the bat and +8 with the glove) and Manny, then you’ll have a 40-45 run combo if you DH manny, but if you have 2 Crawfard, you’ll only have a 20-25 run ish combo no matter how you slice and dice it.

    sure, DH typically hit, but that doesn’t mean moving foward with a team giving no regards to a DH (in the AL anyway) is a good idea. replacement level sluggers is nice in theory but plenty of teams still come up with horrific results.

    Your overlooking that while the overall DH line seems pretty high, a lot of time that’s because teams are putting their star players a half day rest as DH, while putting putrid players on the field, the loss in offense is still there, it just doesn’t appear in the DH line.

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