Monday, September 20, 2010

Let's Talk About JoBau: Where does he play?

Let's face it: We're all probably going to spend much of the next few months talking and kvetching and worrying about José Bautista, and what happens to him in the offseason and through to next year.

Which isn't such a bad thing, if you consider that it will give us the chance to think fondly about the otherworldly 2010 season he has had. (Really: This year has been way too ridiculous to even begin to wrap your head around, and it's going to take a few months to even let it register.)

Since we fully expect to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the Bearded One, we figured that we'd start a new feature that we'll call "Let's Talk About JoBau". There's the temptation to toss out everything about him all at once in one post, but we know that you kids get bored of us after about 300 words, so we'll split this up into bite-sized chunks.

Other than "batters box", what is JoBau's best position?
So where should he play? Since coming to the Jays, Bautista has played games at first, second, third and all three outfield positions, though the majority of his games (102) have been played in right. And the temptation amongst many that we've heard is to keep him into right field, where his strong arm could be maximized to help keep fear in the hearts of baserunners rounding bases.

If only that were the only aspect of playing the field.

It might surprise some that JoBau's fielding numbers in right have been pretty dismal this season: His UZR is -4.0, and the UZR/150 number shows him as -10. And this is even with an Outfield Arm Runs Above Average number of 5.1 (which falls only behind Jeff Francoeur, Shin-Soo Choo, and Brett Gardner in the Bigs.)

Bautista's numbers slip so far in part because of very weak range in right. His Range Runs Above Average sits at -8.8, which puts him towards the bottom of all Major Leaguers. And if we're pulling our head away from the metrics and towards our memory, we can say that we can remember a number of bad paths to the ball that JoBau has taken this season, and a few drops that should not have been. (The sort of stuff that would have been harboured and rehashed about the former right fielder, who never posted numbers anywhere near that low, even in his worst year with the Jays.)

So does that settle it, and do we just ship JoBau to third? Not so fast, Speed Racer: Bautista's -10.2 UZR/150 (fueled by a -4.4 Range number) is hardly enough to get him crowned at the hot corner. For that matter, his fielding metrics at third are nowhere near as positive as Edwin Encarnacion's. (No, really). E5 has earned that title somewhat, but his range number (5.0) shows that he gets to many balls hit near or around him...he just doesn't always do goodly with them once the ball is in his hand (-4.4 Error Runs Above Average).

(Which isn't to say that we even think that Edwin returns next year. But we just use this to provide some perspective.)

Beyond those two likely fielding positions, there is a chance that JoBau could see time back in left, though it is more likely that position will be reserved for the "weak-fielding" Travis Snider (he of the 8.1 UZR/150, second best amongst Jays OFs). First base might well be available after Lyle Overbay's seemingly imminent departure, and we'd be inclined to make an argument for JoBau to take up residence there, though we think it's unlikely enough that we needn't bother.

If there is one thing that we can say positively about Bautista's place in the field next year, it is that the flexibility that the Jays have with him will provide them with greater flexibility in looking to bring someone else in. Bautista's not blocking anyone from any of those positions, and should a third baseman or right fielder of any consequence advance through the system or become available before next season, there's nothing to preclude the Jays from grabbing them.

46 comments:

GSJays said...

I agree on JoBau's deficiencies in right field and how flexible he is to play other positions. I guess no one ever expected a utility player to hit 50 hr's, cause thats what he is..

Gil Fisher said...

I can live with JBau's defence at either posistion. I'll be damned if I have to watch a single game in 2011 with Flew in the outfield. I'll take EE at 3B before I take Flew in the outfield.

Which is to say, JBau's position will be determined by other options, internal or external, for 3B and OF.

Anonymous said...

The answer is.... either.

In my opinion the goal this offseason should be to find a high OBP, speedy, superior defender to lead off (i.e. a better version of Fred Lewis). This perhaps non-existant player could be a CF, RF or 3B and you just slot Bautista in based on that.

Torgen said...

Anonymous, that player is named Carl Crawford. Bautista basically has to play 3B because it's the position with the fewest good external options.

Torgen said...

Addendum: if Bautista's defensive value its the same in RF as it is at 3B then obviously he should play 3B to maximize his positional value.

Anonymous said...

No, it's not Crawford. We're looking for the next Crawford here. Also, this player should be good enough defensively to play CF or RF (I've never been sure why Crawford plays LF). Snider plays LF.

meanguygary said...

Crawford won't be calling the Dome his home field going forward. The last few times the Rays have been in town, CC has taken at least 1 game off. With a career so heavily dependent on his legs, he'll be looking for a natural surface as he approaches his 30's.

Anonymous said...

No one is suggesting the Jays try to outbid the Yankees for Crawford. I'm saying they should be looking for a Crawford-type, as I think that's currently their biggest impediment to competing in 2012.

gsjays said...

They already have the next "Crawford type player", its Anthony Gose, but he's 2-3 years away

Anonymous said...

Let's not pencil Gose into any MLB starting lineups just yet.

Torgen said...

I'm suggesting the Jays outbid the Yankees for Crawford. Do they even have a space for him in their outfield?

Brian Tallet's Moustache said...

They can outbid everyone on CC, but he's still got to sign the contract.

Navin Vaswani (@eyebleaf) said...

Crawford and Maddon. Coup of the century, going this winter at the SkyDome.

I don't care where Bau plays, as long as he's a Blue Jay. And, really, I still can't find it in myself to get behind UZR. Is it just me, or has Bautista looked better than Encarnacion at 3B? And Snider's got the second-best UZR among Jays OFs? Weird. It's Snider who I think of when picturing bad routes, and dropped balls. Not JoBau. Perhaps the home runs have wreaked havoc on my memory.

Kasi said...

Bautista is very good at completing a play once he gets to it, but getting to it is the issue. Snider has a lot more range, but he makes more errors. This makes Snider look like the worse defender, even though he makes plenty of plays that Bautista would have never gotten to.

Ian H. said...

Snider's UZR is second best among Jays outfielders because he's only played 72 games out there.

Lewis has played 101, Vernon's at 159 and Bautista has played 103 games in the OF.

As I'm sure George Costanza can attest to after exiting a cold pool, that small sample size of Snider's looks better when it isn't compared to the big boys.

Tao of Stieb said...

"Snider's UZR is second best among Jays outfielders because he's only played 72 games out there. "

No, that's not the only reason. And the number I'm looking at is the normalized number (UZR/150), which is supposed to give you what you would expect over 150 games.

Are you really telling me, Ian, that you thing the 29-31 additional games are so significant that you can discount Snider completely as compared to the other two?

What's our standard of materiality?

I think you're making a false distinction here.

Parker said...

I wonder if the issue of Bautista's lack of range at third is somewhat mitigated by a shortstop with outstanding range playing next to him. Escobar is an elite defender, and so is Hechavarria.

Bautista's poor defence in RF (other than his arm) is more glaring given that Vernon Wells is average at best in center. Unless the Jays end up with Wells in right and a Franklin Gutierrez type in CF, I think the team is better off with Bautista at third.

In a perfect world, I think Bautista would be an ideal full-time DH and part-time corner infielder and outfielder.

Mark said...

"No, that's not the only reason. And the number I'm looking at is the normalized number (UZR/150), which is supposed to give you what you would expect over 150 games.

Actually, it is a very valid reason. One full season of Defensive stats is the equivalent of half a season of offensive stats. Which is to say, completely unreliable. We wouldn't judge a hitter on 300 PA, and you shouldn't judge a fielder on one year's worth of UZR. UZR/150 is even worse than UZR for a single year, but I'm not getting into that at the moment.

It's extremely relevant that Snider has only played 72 games, because you shouldn't use UZR/150, and you shouldn't use UZR to judge anything on less than 2-3 full seasons worth of data.

No offense intended, but anybody who uses UZR on a single season (or half season in this case) isn't using UZR properly. It's a guide that should be used over multiple seasons, not something that should be pointed to for half a season's worth of data to show why UZR is flawed.

There still isn't enough data to say how good Snider is, because he's only started 98 games in LF and 151 in right. He's been slightly below average in right, and average in left. More likely than not that's pretty accurate, although I'd probably say he's slightly below average in left too.

Tao of Stieb said...

Okay, I probably should have included something in there about how reliable defensive metrics are.

But that's not what I was disputing. And I wasn't disputing 72 versus 162 or an even greater sample size.

I was disputing looking at the numbers using 72 games versus 101 or 103 games played. It was a question of "what is a relevant and material sample to at least be able to make some comparison."

Because to be frank, you can make the sample size as large as you want, but you'll start to capture other variables within it if you do (park factors, for instance, if you insist on going to 500 games played, when a player changes teams or leagues.)

And as a side note: Yes, we absolutely do compare hitters after 300 at bats. Or 200. And we wouldn't necessarily hold a guy with 150 ABs up to a guy with 220 and say: Let's absolutely -down to the very decimal point! - compare their WAR, or OPS or whatever. But if you saw a subustantial difference (say, a 3.0 WAR versus a -3.0 WAR), you could and probably would come to some conclusions.

And if you don't, well then congratulations on your patience.

gabriel said...

At this point, I'd argue that Bautista is probably slightly below average both at third base & right field. We simply don't have enough data to rely on UZR or other defensive metrics, although I would note that +/- has been kinder to Bautista than UZR this season at both positions.

My subjective impression is that Bautista does not take particularly good routes, nor does he get great reads; his arm is excellent, of course. At third, Bautista seems to have a good first step, and throws to second quite well; he also makes some intelligent choices. I'm surprised the range data isn't more flattering to him at third; although he was horrid with Pittsburgh over a longer time period.

Moving Bautista to third adds about a full win of value; I doubt any observer thinks that he's that much better in Right to make up for the positional value of playing third.

Bautista playing third enables some potentially useful shifts. Despite the numbers, I've been better impressed with Snider in right than left. That leaves left for someone with a poor arm, like Lewis (if he returns), a free-agent signing, or eventually, Wells.

Peter D said...

I'm probably going to get killed for this but what the hell, the likely best thing to do with Bautista is Sell High.

Peter D said...

I believe the two most likely outcomes if the Jays keep Bautista are the following:

A) The Jays get two draft picks when he leaves as a free agent next season.

B) The Jays give Bautista a big contract his production drops off, fielding continues to decline and fans turn on him like they did with Wells.

The Ack said...

no offense Peter D, but it seems your answer to every player that has a big season is "Sell high!". Bautista, Hill, George Bell from the post below....c'mon, man.

Peter D said...

It definitely appears that way, however in reality I believe you pay to keep the good ones. What I am against is overpaying to keep second tier to possibly mediocre players. This is how a team gets in trouble if they don't have an unlimited payroll. Teams like the Blue Jays can't afford to pay big salaries to guys like Lyle Overbay, Vernon Wells, Gil Meche, BJ Ryan, AJ Burnett, etc. Now a guy like Halladay, that's a different story, but unfortunately he indicated that he wouldn't stick around which forced the Jays hand.

Also, was I wrong on Hill, George Bell, (and in the past Vernon Wells, Kelvim Escobar, AJ Burnett, etc.)

Peter D said...

Also, it would be different if I believed that the Jays were a serious threat to win the division next season.

Anonymous said...

Bautista should be offered a mid-range contract. I don't think it has to be as extreme as 6 years $66M or get rid of him.

Gil Fisher said...

I don't like extending players after career years. If it must be done, I hope it's a 3/$40m deal with front loading.

Othewise, I'd take my chances trying to extend him in July or trading him at the deadline.

Ty said...

Peter, what makes you so sure you were right about Hill? Why should his disappointing 2010 season be more indicative of his long-term value than his excellent 2009?

And George Bell, really? It's not exactly difficult to make that call with 20+ years of retrospect on your side.

Ty said...

Re: Bautista's position... they definitely maximize his value by using him at 3B, for all the reasons already mentioned, and - assuming he's about equal defensively at both positions - because Escobar does a lot more to make up for his range deficiencies at third than Vernon Wells does in the outfield.

Really though, how many GM's have the luxury of knowing that they can plug their best hitter into one of four or five different positions next year, depending on who else they pick up? It gives AA a heck of a lot more options, and should make for a pretty interesting offseason.

Anonymous said...

Another question to consider with J-Bau - is there a noticeable differential in his offensive numbers this year depending on what position he plays? I only bring it up since his ten home run stretch in Sept 2009 was achieved after he became the full-time RF, and it seems like his numbers really began to heat up this year when Snider got DL'ed and J-Bau was moved back out to RF (E5 was activated at that time). If anyone has the 2010 numbers on a positional basis it would be appreciated.

Tao of Stieb said...

OPS+ as 3B in 2010 - 178 (in 188 plate appearances.)

OPS+ as RF in 2010 - 146 (in 432 PAs)

And before anyone jumps down my throat...

I think it is really difficult to come to much of a conclusion based on those numbers. Moreover, I wouldn't want to look at the career numbers (which favour RF over 3B, if you're curious) because I think that JoBau is a completely different machine since September 2009.

Ian H. said...

Anon, here are the numbers:

Bautista in RF (102 games): .254/.382/.593, 32 HR, 74 RBI

Bautista at 3B 47 games): .281/.383/.676, 17 HR, 40 RBI

Tao, I'm not discounting Snider's prowess in the outfield at all. I just think he needs to be out there consistently so we can grasp some kind of idea of what to expect from him out there.

He barely has over a season's worth of games in the OF (169), and I think the rule of thumb with UZR is you need a sample size of three season's worth to get a true idea of the range for an outfielder.

I'm not hating on Travis, I just think it's too soon to judge whether this kid has range out there or not.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your help guys. Doesn't look like position has played too much of a role in his performance. Interestingly I've never heard J-Bau comment on what position he prefers. I wonder if he is truly indifferent, or whether, along with the dollars, he will want his place in the field specified as well prior to signing an extension.

Ty said...

^^^
He doesn't seem like the type of guy to make those demands, but even if he were, he'd be hurting his own value by doing so since his versatility is one of his biggest strengths. And you're right, I don't think I've ever heard anything about him preferring one or the other... I'd be curious to find out which one he likes better. Either way I hope they keep him at 3B next year.

Anonymous said...

I think I recall reading a newspaper article in which he phrased it as something like "I guess I'd prefer RF as that's what I came up as", and I think the article noted that he shrugged while saying it. I don't think it's a big deal one way or another for him.

Peter D said...

Ty,

The mention of George Bell was in reference to my comments in the previous blog. I know it's 20 years ago, but the article was about what Bautista and Bell have in common, and I thought the commonality between the two is probably that their big home run year will be the high points of their careers, and the point at which they have the most value.

As for Hill I know implied that I was right by saying "am I wrong"? However, if you could go back in your hot tub time machine, would you not at least try and see what you could get in a deal for Aaron Hill after last season. Not to suggest that this year is representative of his future, just that if they did trade him last year it would have been the point at which they could have garnered the greatest return.

Ty said...

The Hill situation is a lot different, though, given that he had already signed the long-term contract and, after 2009, he appeared to be worth a lot more than he was getting paid. Certainly that would have increased his trade value too, but a young second baseman who just hit 36 home runs on a team-friendly contract that extends well into the years when that team plans on contending is the type of guy I'd assume the Jays would value very highly. I'm sure they did feel around for offers but it's hard to blame them for deciding that whatever was out there wasn't worth giving up Hill for, at least after last year.

Obviously 2010 was a career year for Hill, but even with that in mind, it's a bit silly to automatically suggest that teams trade guys like that as soon as they have a breakout year.

Ty said...

Oops, that should say "2009 was a career year", of course.

DaveC said...

Perpetually selling high is much better in theory than practice- works in the franchise mode in Madden because teams will give you a ton of picks, but the Jays can't delay the future forever.

I think AA's smart enough to explore that option, and knows this season is an outlier for Jo-Bau. But I think most teams were thinking the same thing: Let's see him do it again.

Jo-Bau should start at 3B for the Jays next year. Let's not jerk him around.

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, you can't not reward players for hitting 50 HRs. I'm not saying you HAVE to sign him long-term for Wells money, but he needs to be treated well as a message to the other employees that hard work pays off in this organization.

Chill said...

40+ Comments! Tao, how DJF-esque of you!

I'm on board with the school bus of thought that says you find the best 3b or outfielder or 1b that you can get in the offseason and Bautista plays wherever you need to plug him in defensively next year. Hopefully The New Manager will have a modicum of sense when it comes to lineup construction and we can see him with a couple of high obp-type guys in front of hime and Snider not far behind with Wells moved into the 5, 6, 7 range.

Hope!!!!1

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