I can picture it so clearly – Ruben Amaro Jr., on a cold December day in 2012, finalizing a trade with the Twins, patting himself on the back while sipping on the finest scotch in the office. He just cashed in on Vance Worley‘s irrationally high stock and added a top-of-the-order center fielder, filling both a defensive void and a lineup void - one that could push the impatient Jimmy Rollins out of the leadoff spot. That player, little Ben Revere, also happened to be one of the fastest in baseball. What was there to like about need-filling Revere in the winter of 2012?
Of the outfielders who logged 1,500 innings from 2011-2012, only four of them had higher UZR/150.
And only Jason Heyward posted a higher RngR.
Of the 262 players with 600+ PA from 2011-2012, only Marco Scutaro and Juan Pierre posted better Swinging Strike rates.
Over those two seasons in Minnesota (241 games), Revere stole 74 bases and posted a WAR of 4.7.
He was an incredibly fast, rangy center-fielder who put the ball in play and walked just enough to give his speed a chance to create extra bases. He had holes in his game, namely arm strength and a complete lack of XBH potential. Still, I was all-in.
Fast forward roughly 18 months, and I’m sitting in Citizens Bank Park, watching a bases-loaded, zero out line drive sink into left-field, where Carl Crawford slides to make the catch. I turn my head back towards the infield and Ben Revere is running in the wrong direction. “Oh no!” I blurted out. He raced back to third base to avoid being doubled-up instead of racing home on a tag.
I sat and watched Dee Gordon – he of speed and contact – foul off numerous pitches, eventually work a walk, and then steal second as a formality – all while double-checking that Revere still has a 2.0% walk rate this season. He still does.
His arm strength remains Pierre-esque, but his route-running has transcended legendary status to a place I’ve never seen before. It’s a dark place. It’s trepidation to a Westerosian extent. It’s a gasp, then a breath-hold, followed by either a head shake or an exhale, depending on whether Revere recuperated from his disastrous first step and somehow worse second through tenth steps to catch the ball.
Of the 98 outfielders with 750 innings played from 2013-2014, Revere’s panic-inducing time in Philadelphia, 69 of them have posted better UZR/150 than Revere.
His RngR has gone from 27.4 as a Twin to -1.8 as a Phillie. That’s good for a drop from 2nd in all of baseball to 62nd out of 98.
One of the fastest outfielders in the majors is posting a below average RngR. One of the best contact-makers in the majors is unwilling to work the count.
In a sports world of placing blame, where does it lie? Should the general manager have seen through the lofty defensive numbers and recognized flaws? Should Amaro Jr. have known this player won’t get on base enough to utilize his best asset? Do we blame the player for being unable to improve aspects of their game that have shown to be improvable over time?
Or do I blame myself, for looking at this player, looking at these numbers, and still seeing hope on the horizon? If only he could… If he just…
Revere’s 0.9 WAR in an injury-shortened 2013 season - in which all of the aforementioned regressions occurred – gives hope for a 2-3 WAR per season player. He just needs to…