Projections are a weird beast. The grinding mathematical efficiency of the whole thing leaves a bad taste in many people's mouths. The wide range of offensive projections run the gamut and give hope to those searching for it, provided they search long enough. Jeff Zimmerman of Beyond the Box Score uses age regression and past performance (explained here) to project UZR for every player with at least 63 games played at a given position over the past 4 years. Guess what? It doesn't look good for our Blue Jays.
I've created three groups: Current Blue Jays, free agent Blue Jays, and potential Blue Jays as targeted by myself or the greater rumour mill.
|Name||Position||Projected UZR||Number of Games at Position in Last 4 Years||Age on Opening Day|
Before we get into a big fight, let's get this out of the way.
- No, UZR is not perfect. What it does, especially with 3 years of data, is paint a pretty good picture of a player in the field.
- No, projections aren't perfect either. While the varieties of offensive or pitching projections swing wildly, I think defense is the type of thing that can project well. For most of these dudes, this is who they are.
- A lot of these guys, especially the young guys are close to average. This is because, well, that's how it gets to be the average. Young players require more games to truly show how crappy they can be, so they tend to get the benefit of the doubt.
Safe to say this bad defensive team isn't about to get much better. Some of these stiff corncobs will benefit from a healthy slathering of Butterfield, but let's not expect too much. EE displayed a strong arm at third base, but he is who he is. If anything, his rocket arm is detrimental to his chances of improvement as a fielder (his strong arm overcame other deficiencies, allowing bad habits to creep in at an early age.)
Had Jose Bautista done ANYTHING at the plate in the parts of 2009 that "mattered", I'd be tempted to give him the everyday rightfielder's job in
As for the "targets", not much to choose from there. Rocco's best days in the field are behind him, Matt Murton is pretty much average all around. Brandon Philips is a fine second baseman but the Jays already have one of those. The numbers suggest both men are good where they are. Former Jay Felipe Lopez had an outstanding year with the bat though his defense is pretty much awful. Two of the young outfielders that would come to town at a terrible, terrible price are speedy glovemen with limited offensive upside (Gardner & Grand Theft Auto) while Fowler is a toolsy stud that is charitably described as raw (read: black dude!) with great potential.
Additionally, the Jays added a couple quad-A nawspects this month. Either of these guys could become another Marco Scutaro or Johnny Mac. Mike McCoy played all over the diamond with the bulk of his time coming at short. His defense was worth +7 runs according to TotalZone. He also pitched an inning in 2009, something I haven't seen a Blue Jays position player do in a long, long time. Jarrett Hoffpauir plays second base almost exclusively and doesn't appear to do it particularly well. So we can pretty much count him out.
I'm of two minds when it comes to shoring up the Jays potential defense. It would be foolish to overemphasize the impact of marginally better fielders. The difference between a good fielder and an average one (or an average fielder and a bad one) is rather slight. A large percentage of plays made are pretty routine, whomever you choose to send out there at the big league level has a pretty good shot of making a clean play on it.
That said, we must all recognize one thing: if Roy Halladay goes, so go a whole lot of strikeouts and a whole lot of groundballs. If Shaun Marcum is to step in and reclaim his place in the rotation, many flyballs come with him. Dustin McGowan has a GB/FB above 1, but he certainly puts his share of runners on base. Cecil, Romero, Rzepczynski, Purcey, Janssen&mdash none of them are as efficient as HALF of Roy Halladay. Defense will matter for this club now and in the future, to support the burgeoning pitching staff and give a team in need of every possible break slight edge.