Statliners Q &A #1: Michael Cuddyer and the Blue Jays Infield

With this post, I am going to be introducing a new idea I had for a series of sorts here at Statliners. I asked the writers and editors across the Fansided Network for questions they had regarding a player, team, or anything else in Major League Baseball that they wanted a statistical look at. We have many writers within the network that can and do answer these questions for themselves, but it can behoove everyone to get a different look at it. More information is never a bad thing.

So here, as often as possible, I am going to be doing a mailbag, Q&A of sorts, in which I take a look at a few different questions that I was asked. I invite you to leave your own questions in the comments, or tweet them at me @StatlinersFS.

Assuming the Blue Jays strike out this winter and are unable to solve their 2B issue. With options of Danny Valencia, Brett Lawrie, Maicer Izturis, Ryan Goins, Steve Tolleson, et al, what is statistically the best alignment for them to use? Defensively?  Offensively? – Shaun Doyle, Jays Journal

Our first question above, from Jays Journal co-editor Shaun Doyle presents a bit of a challenge. None of them are ideal starters, for various reasons. While Tolleson posted a 90 wRC+ last year, he holds an 81 for his career, and is 31 years old. He is nothing but a utility man at best, so we can eliminate him off the bat. Goins is probably in the same boat, posting a 40 wRC+ in parts of two seasons, and projecting at just 67 next year according to Steamer.

That leaves three contenders — two starters, obviously, and the backup infielder. All three have experience at both 2nd and 3rd, so there is some flexibility between them. Brett Lawrie seems to be a lock, as long as he is healthy. While his career has been a bit disappointing so far, much of that is due to his not being healthy. He has hovered around the league average of 100 wRC+ in his last three seasons (97, 93, 101), but his plate appearances have dropped every year, from 536, to 442, to 282. All in all, he has been a 104 wRC+ hitter, with 7.9 fWAR in 1431 player appearances, or 3.3 per 600 plate appearances. The talent is there, he just has to stay on the field. So far, in relatively small samples at each spot, he has graded out better at 3rd base, but appears to be fine at either spot. Which he plays next season depends on who else is in the lineup with him.

The Valencia versus Izturis piece is a little puzzling, for some reason. Over the last two seasons, Valencia has a 106 wRC+ and 1.4 fWAR in 454 plate appearances, while Izturis is at a shockingly low 64 and -2.0. That may seem like an obvious choice, but Izturis has been the better player in the past, and is making a little bit of money. Still, it seems that Valencia should probably get the nod at 3rd base, with Lawrie shifting over the 2nd. No matter how you slice it, it isn’t an ideal situation, and I think there is a chance they look at upgrading over Valencia this winter, though it isn’t guaranteed.

How is Michael Cuddyer‘s value affected by his struggles defensively? Has that been factored enough into the reactions to the Mets signing him and giving up the no. 15 pick to do so? – Hayden Kane, Rox Pile

This one from Rox Pile editor Hayden Kane is an important question that I was thinking about myself. Many in the stat community were heavily questioning the Mets’ decision to sign an old, oft-injured should-be-DH for two years, in addition to having to surrender their first round pick. Though his bat has been great the past two seasons, with wRC+ of 138 and 151, he played just 49 games last year, and just 101 if you go back to 2012. In addition to that, he has been heavily aided by playing in Coors Field, and we can be almost certain he won’t replicate the .200+ ISOs he has posted the last two years outside of Colorado.

And as I mentioned, he really belongs at DH, but that isn’t an option with the Mets, obviously. He will player either 1st or right field, with the other spot held by Lucas Duda. His defense is a massive drawback, and even in his 2013 when he posted a 138 wRC+, he was only a 2.4 fWAR player. He is roughly average at 1st base, with a DRS of 0 and UZR of about 0.5 in his last three seasons. If that’s where he plays, he won’t hurt too bad, but he also loses value by virtue of playing the least valuable spot on the field. In right field, he has posted a -26 DRS since 2012. He simply doesn’t belong out there, but neither does Duda, so it’s a bad situation for the Mets either way.

The deal itself isn’t horrible. 1 WAR on the open market costs about $7 million dollars nowadays, and Cuddyer could be a 1.5-2 win player. But when you factor in the lost pick, it becomes about more than just the money, and what was a borderline deal already becomes a blatant miscalculation by the Mets organization.

That’s it for this first edition, but please leave any questions you may have here or on Twitter. Thanks to Hayden Kane of Rox Pile and Shaun Doyle of Jays Journal for their questions in this addition.