2010 defensive projections

Steve Sommer of Play a Hard Nine posted 2010 defensive projections in November, so let’s look at how the Pirates stack up. Steve combined UZR numbers and the results from Tom Tango’s Fan Scouting Report to come up with his projections. Check out his post for details on the methodology.

In an attempt to give the projections a more visual appearance, I created a knock-off version of Justin Bopp’s TargetView graphs. Above average defenders are in green while below average defenders are in red. Each ring represents one run away from average. For example, Lastings Milledge is projected to be a +5 defender, so he is represented by five green rings. Ronny Cedeno, a -3 defender, is represented by three red rings. My photoshopping skills are very limited, so things look a bit choppy. You can probably tell that the rings are not drawn to scale.

Steve did not have a projection for Jeff Clement, so I used his CHONE defensive projection.

2010 defensive projections
Image courtesy of Bing.com
1B Jeff Clement -2
2B Akinori Iwamura 1
SS Ronny Cedeno -3
3B Andy LaRoche 3
LF Lastings Milledge 5
CF Andrew McCutchen 1
RF Garrett Jones -4

I won’t go into a very detailed analysis, but the one thing that I wanted to touch on is Pedro Alvarez’s future position. The general expectation is that Alvarez will play third upon his arrival in Pittsburgh, with Andy LaRoche potentially moving to second base to make room. I would much rather see Alvarez plugged in at first base instead. Playing Alvarez at third weakens that position, and moving LaRoche to second would weaken another spot. On the other hand, Alvarez would be an upgrade over Clement at first and that would keep LaRoche’s above average glove at third and Akinori Iwamura on the field at second. That extra defensive value outweighs the minor offensive advantage that Clement is likely to hold over LaRoche or Iwamura.

I will finish with an encouraging thought. If we plug Alvarez in at first and Jose Tabata into right, there will likely be quite a bit of green on this picture in one year.





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Of course, when looking at defense you have to look at also the difference between the offense and defense of each player.

Pablo Sandoval was -5 defensively, but was a 5 WAR player anyway because of his .396 wOBA.

For the Pirates, there are only 2 players likely to produce a wOBA that high – Alvarez and Jones (.396 wOBA in 2009). They can’t both play first base.

If Jones continues to hit, you’ve got to keep him on the field with Alvarez, and the best way to do that is probably going to be with Pedro at 3B and Jones at 1B. That gives you two 5 WAR players on the infield.

As for Andy, we’re not really sure how he would do with the transition to 2B, but it’s worth noting that Aki and Freddy were both 3Bs that converted to 2B.

I could see Andy as a .350+ wOBA player, and if he is able to hit like that, his superior offense would likely more than make up for the loss of defense at 2B.

Even Clement/Tabata is question mark at this point as to who will be the best option. Clement will likely have to hit in the .370+ wOBA range to win this battle, but there’s always that chance he will.

What kind of team will the Pirates be? That’s a very good question. But, from Huntington’s own words, he believes that offense on the corners most often gives you the best chance and usually over-shadows defensive failings. The reasoning behind this is many times sound, as there is a 20 run difference between best and worst defensively on the corners, whereas there is usually a 40 run difference between best and worst offensively.

If I were to make a guess right now, I would guess the Pirates will end up with a highly above average outfield defense, and an average to slightly below average infield defense. That seems like it will give the best balance between offense and defense with the talents we currently have.


Yes, expecting Jones to hit .396 might be a bit much. However, do you think he can hit like he did the last 2 months? I do, in fact that’s what I am predicting he will do. That would be .373 wOBA and 3.5 WAR if he plays 1B the whole year without injury.

Where others believe Jones’ performance is an outlier fluke, I look at his AAA performance and see continuous and gradual improvement in his contact rates over the last several years. I saw a guy who adjusted very well over the course of 3 months as pitchers were adjusting to him, and did it very quickly.

Jones only had 2 times where he went hitless 2 games in a row. McCutchen had 6 times in the same period of time.

Of course, I could be wrong, but I haven’t seen any evidence to say I am. Jones has a big platoon split and Clement doesn’t, which might give Clement an advantage over Jones, as I also think Clement has a good chance at hitting .370 wOBA as well. Between the two of them, I think there’s a much better than 50% chance that 1B can give us .370+ wOBA for years to come, which is what what Adam LaRoche was supposed to provide.

I just don’t think there’s a very good chance that Pedro Alvarez’s most valuable position for us will be at 1B.

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