Uribe Bounces Back

Juan Uribe is eight plate appearances away from topping 1,000 for his Giants’ career. An absurd twist to Uribe’s career has him playing the role of starting shortstop on a playoff team in the year 2010. Absurd in the sense that Uribe very easily could be out of the majors right now. His 2007 and 2008 seasons were downright horrible. Rarely do defensive-first middle infielders nearing the wrong side of 30 continue getting looks when their defense seems to be on the brink of extinction.

Uribe signed a minor league deal with the Giants in January of 2009 to salvage his career. For a man with the reputation as a stranger to conditioning and offense alike, Uribe hit better than he had previously in his career. Perhaps giving flashbacks to his outstanding 2004 season with Chicago in which he hit 23 home runs and contributed a career best ISO as well.

The 31-year-old has not mimicked that performance this season, but his wOBA is a decent .319. One of the main differences between this Uribe and the one that bombed out of Chicago is his willingness to take a walk. Working free passes in nearly 8% of his plate appearances may not seem like a big deal, but Uribe has the finest walk-to-strikeout ratio of his career when combined with a slightly reduced strikeout rate.

His position and defensive prowess fail to translate into great speed. For his career, he only has 39 stolen bases (with 37 caught stealings) and that helps to translate into a .282 BABIP. This year, only a little over 25% of his balls in play are turning into hits. The rate is not out of reach given his recent history and reliance upon hitting balls into the air, but Uribe’s contact skills are probably better than his .246 batting average suggests.

A free agent at season’s end, Uribe could potentially get a multiple-year offer if a team is willing to put his history of portly disappointments behind them.




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26 Responses to “Uribe Bounces Back”

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  1. quincy0191 says:

    I’d say this is just a continuation of Uribe’s bounceback 2009. He signed a minor league deal and ended up as an everyday player on a contending team, which I find more impressive than his $3M deal this year for a contending team.

    As for the walk rate, Hensley Meulens does not get enough credit. The Giants as a team are taking free passes this year in large part thanks to his patience-first approach (the additions of Huff and Burrell certainly helped, though).

    I see Uribe with a 2/12 deal, maybe 3/15 if some GM gets suckered by the home runs. Hopefully the Giants offer him arbitration, though; he’d be a nice stopgap to Brandon Crawford and if he declines there’s always the comp pick.

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  2. The Wizard says:

    “willing to put his history of portly disappointments behind them.”

    haha, good one Mr. Anderson!

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  3. Not a hater, but says:

    This article doesn’t read very well. I counted more than a handful of awkward sentences and phrases.

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  4. Doug says:

    Back in may when the Giant offense was really struggling, Uribe was the only guy providing pop in the lineup. Extremely key player in the team’s success this year.

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  5. MikeS says:

    I don’t pretend he was ever a great player, but as a White Sox fan I admit to many fond memories. he went into the hole many times and nailed decent runners at first with his big arm, often late in games. And of course, the last two outs of the 2005 WS are indelibly etched upon my brain. If Derek Jeter would have made those plays, too many sportswriters would have been demanding that Cooperstown wave the 5 year after retirement rule and induct him into the HOF on the spot.

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  6. DrBGiantsfan says:

    Uribe has also been a team leader, is reputed to be the strongest man on the Giants team(impressive when you consider Brian Wilson is also on that team), and he keeps the team loose. Love the jazz hands when he hits one out. I don’t think i’ve ever seen a guy with more facial expressions and he never moves a muscle in his face!

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  7. GabeS says:

    Uribe has been a great addition to the Giants. It seems like everytime the Giants need a big hit it’s either Uribe or Burrell. I would love to see the Giants try and resign him to a 1 or 2 year deal.

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  8. Nate says:

    Unless he gets a 3+ year deal from someone else, I think the odds are pretty good that the Giants resign him. The SS FA is horrible this offseason and Crawford is more than a year away from being ready for the majors.

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  9. Doug says:

    Crawford might not ever be MLB ready. An Uribe return is greatly needed.

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  10. fang2415 says:

    Er, sorry… we’re calling .319 wOBA “decent”? With wOBA scaled up by 15% and LWTS of an out being -.3, that puts the break-even point of wOBA right around .345, meaning that anything under that number is a negative run expectancy compared to the average in the data used to calculate LWTS. IOW, every time Uribe comes to the plate, we can expect to score roughly .023 runs fewer than we would if an average player comes to the plate.

    I hope I’m not mixing up the details of my math, but it doesn’t really matter — .319 is the only meaningful number mentioned, and it’s just below the middle of the league. I haven’t followed Uribe very closely this year, but this article hasn’t convinced me of anything except that he’s a mediocre player who hasn’t completely flatlined yet. Maybe you left the words “…To Just Below Average” off of the end of the headline?

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    • richard says:

      Spoken like someone who has not watched him play all season…

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    • Raj says:

      This year’s wOBA is .321. You’ve shortchanged him by a dozen runs.

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      • fang2415 says:

        @Raj, that sounds like it could be right if we’re talking average for this year rather than the period over which LWTS are calculated. Do you know anyplace where league wOBA is posted?

        Anyway, .319 still puts him smack in the middle of the league, and if Raj is right, still below average. I guess we give him a break for being a shortstop, although I interpreted the article’s assertion that his defense is “on the brink of extinction” to mean that we shouldn’t give him that much of a break.

        Maybe he’s been an exciting player to watch, or maybe his defense makes his offense palatable, but I’m still wondering why I should get excited about any player knowing only that he has a roughly average walk rate, a roughly average wOBA, and a BABIP that’s only slightly below his usual.

        Am I missing something here? Otherwise it’s hard to get past “meh”.

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      • fang2415 says:

        Hmm, getting more and more OT, but come to think of it, does anybody know what dataset Fangraphs uses to come up with LWTS? I guess I was assuming Tango’s original static LWTS numbers which puts an out at -.3.

        Also just noticed that Cameron’s original article on wOBA mentions that because wOBA is scaled to OBP, league wOBA will always equal league OBP. So now I’m also wondering what they use for league OBP — does it move throughout the year?

        I love Fangraphs, but I could live with some more precise documentation for these numbers sometimes…

        None of which really changes anything for Uribe, of course…

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    • stratobill says:

      Maybe it’s a matter of semantics.

      You assume that a wOBA less than league average isn’t “decent”.

      Aren’t more than half of the players in the majors playing at least semi-regularly (400 PA+) are below league average in wOBA? If that’s the case, then by your logic less than half the players in the majors with 400 PA or more are decent players. Do you really believe that?

      How does Uribe’s .319 wOBA stack up against all the other shortstops in baseball? I don’t know the answer to that, but given that he’s 8th in the majors in OPS for shortstops with at least 250 PA, I’d say it is more than apporpriate to say Uribe is more than a “decent” hitter.

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  11. Kevin Yost says:

    @fang

    I think the “decent” WOBA is taken in context with other shortstops. A “decent” shortstop WOBA is much lower than at other positions. If Uribe were first basemen, he couldn’t make up for it, but since he plays at a premium position, his WOBA suddenly looks rather attractive.

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    • blackout says:

      I think this is spot on. Fang, take a look at SS around the league for the last couple of years. It’s been atrocious in terms of offensive production ouside of the usual couple of notable exceptions. If you’re willing to do the work, I’d be interested in where Uribe’s .319 (or .321) wOBA would check in.

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      • fang2415 says:

        Yeah, @blackout, I’m not really willing to do that work, but I’d love to see it if someone else does! You could be right that .319 might not be so bad in that bunch. (Although if that’s the case then R.J. should have mentioned it in the first place!)

        Maybe if I get bored enough today I’ll see if I can filter the wOBA list by position…

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      • fang2415 says:

        Well, color me an idiot: just realized that there’s a list of buttons right above the wOBA numbers to filter them by position. Uribe’s 7th among SS.

        So… yeah. About average on the whole, not half bad for a shortstop. Still a bit meh to my eye, but I guess it is impressive that he’s at that level rather than out of the league, as the article said. Although it would have been nice if the article had done a better job of saying why in the first place.

        Then again, I learned so much more this way…

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  12. oooreeeebaaaayyyy!!!!! says:

    How is Uribe today? “Uribe is UP!!!”

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  13. kennv says:

    @ fang

    also “league average” production is a lot better than “played himself out of the league” production. I don’t think the point is that Uribe is GREAT, or even notably good. But that he has bounced back to mediocre rather than terrible. The absurd twist is that he’s gotten to nearly 1000 PAs rather than 0.

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