Tuesday, November 23, 2010

2010 Review: Outfielders

Well, we tackled the infielders, so it's on to the outfielders:

Drew Stubbs -- Expectations: Medium, Grade: B-

In 2010, Drew Stubbs (he of the unrivaled opportunity cost) flashed the type of well-rounded game that first piqued the interest of Reds management and ultimately prompted his selection in the draft.

Heading into the season, Stubbs was coming off a respectable, albeit not impact level, slash line of .267/.323/.439 in 180 ABs. So, that coupled with his draft position meant he carried a decent set of expectations into the 2010 season. When all was said and done, his 2010 level of performance, .255/.329/.444, resembled what he posted in 2009. Of course, Stubbs had to travel many peaks and valleys to arrive at those final numbers.

His OPS by month was as follows:

April: .572
May: .864
June: .611

July: .657

August: .870

September: .984

October: 1.125

October consisted of only a handful of ABs, so basically Stubbs had 3 strong months and 3 weak months. It all evened out in the end, but going forward it would be easier for the team to rely on Stubbs if his production was more consistent.

The knock on Stubbs has long been his ability to make consistent contact, so it's not surprising that his AB/K rate worsened from 3.7 in 2009 to 3.1 in 2010. He struck out basically once every three ABs, which in part helps explain his long slumps. If you can't consistently put the ball in play, then the chances increase that you will struggle to produce, as swings-and-misses never produce positive outcomes.

The acquisition of Jim Edmonds notwithstanding, the Reds showed commendable patience with Drew Stubbs, giving him ample time to work through his struggles and put it together. Given Dusty's preference for veteran players, the Reds deserve quite a bit of credit for running Stubbs out there day after unproductive day. Ultimately, that patience was rewarded in a big way, as Stubbs blew up in August (.296/.363/.507/.870) and September (.311/.406/.578/.984).

On the defensive side, Stubbs didn't quite perform up to his reputation. Scouting reports have long stated that Stubbs was a Gold Glove caliber centerfielder, even while he was still a Longhorn. That reputation aside, Stubbs rated around league average under both UZR/150 (0.2) and the +/- metric (+5, ranked 14th overall). According to the +/- breakdown, Stubbs struggled significantly on shallow hit balls. He rated as a +10 on deep balls, +3 on medium balls, and -7 on shallow hit balls. What's interesting about that breakdown is that all the scouting reports on Stubbs in the minors stated that his only defensive flaw was his struggles going back on the deep ball. When you pair those two facts together, I have to wonder if Stubbs played a deeper centerfield to offset his struggles on the deep ball. That would account both for his impressive performance on deep balls and his struggles on shallow ones. Regardless, watching him effortlessly glide across the outfield turf makes it almost impossible to imagine Stubbs not becoming one of the very best defensive centerfielders in baseball.

Perhaps the most impressive component of his performance was also the least heralded: his baserunning. Not only did he swipe bases at a very impressive clip (30 of 36, 83%), but he excelled in taking the extra base. Stubbs performed as follows:

1st to 3rd: 13 Advances in 31 Opportunities
2nd to Home: 17 Advances in 21 Opportunities
1st to Home: 8 Advances in 10 Opportunities

All of which was good for a +17 mark, so Stubbs was 17 bases above average. When adding together his stellar basestealing totals and his strong baserunning, Stubbs was a real weapon on the bases. His dual success rate speaks both to his plus speed and his strong instincts on the bases, but also serves as additional evidence that Stubbs possesses both skills and tools. He doesn't simply have speed, but also the understanding of how to effectively utilize it.

Despite the inconsistencies and the disappointing defense, it's difficult not to be optimistic about Stubbs heading into 2011 based solely on his final 2+ months of play. If Stubbs can perform at that level over the course of an entire season, then his value will go through the roof. In the future, we may look back at 2010 as being a big stepping stone in the career of Drew Stubbs.

Jay Bruce -- Expectations: Medium, Grade: B+

After his 2010 season, it seems crystal clear that Jay Bruce is on the cusp of stardom. Bruce told the press that he would be open to a long term deal with the Reds and they would be foolish to not have him locked up long term prior to the first pitch of opening day.

In 2010, Bruce hit a rock solid .281/.353/.493 with 25 homers and a 136/58 K/BB ratio. After a substantial drop in line drive rate in 2009 (13.0%), Bruce fixed his swing and was again ripping line drives at a very good clip (20.1%). His walk rate has increased from 7.3% to 9.8% to 10.1% in his three years in the majors. He also performed better against southpaws (.899 OPS) than righthanders (.822 OPS) in 2010. That may be a sample size outcome, but at the very least he has improved against lefties. Over the last three seasons, Bruce's HR/FB has dropped from 20.2% to 16.8% to 15.3%. While the rate at which fly balls leave the yard is considered a skill largely within a hitter's control, it's not difficult to imagine a homerun surge in 2011, as all of his other skills seem to be trending up so it seems logical that the homeruns will almost inevitably follow.

Bruce's OPS by month was as follows:

April: .833
May: .827
June: .824

July: .508

August: 1.076

September: 1.025

October: 1.944

Unlike Stubbs, Bruce had only 1 bad month. He also had 3 pretty good months and 2 outstanding ones. As with Stubbs, if Bruce can maintain his final 2+ months of production in 2011, then he'll be on the verge of superstar status. And, of course, superstars are both incredibly valuable and incredibly expensive. (Subliminal message: Lock him up NOW!!!)

On the defensive side of the ball, regardless of the metric, Bruce graded out as one of the best rightfielders in the game. Under UZR/150, Bruce posted a robust 19.0. Under the +/- metric, he posted a stellar +25, which translates into 14 runs saved with the leather. That level of performance graded out as the best defensive rightfielder in baseball. Additionally, unlike Stubbs, Bruce excelled on all batted balls (+4 shallow, +6 medium, +15 deep), so there is little question that Bruce is already a legitimate impact talent on defense.

Bruce was also strong on the bases, albeit not in the stolen base department (5 stolen bases in 9 attempts). On the bases, Bruce grades out as a +9, so he was roughly 9 bases above average.

Bruce performed as follows:

1st to 3rd: 11 Advances in 25 Opportunities
2nd to Home: 15 Advances in 18 Opportunities
1st to Home: 6 Advances in 7 Opportunities

Overall, I'm more than a little bullish on Bruce going forward. He struggled in 2009, but showed his ability to deal with adversity by bouncing back strong in 2010. His peripherals are trending in the right direction and he already possesses an incredibly well-rounded game. Bruce has performed up to his considerable ceiling at times, now all he needs to do is maintain that level of performance over a full season.

Jonny Gomes -- Expectations: Medium, Grade: D-

On a certain level, I'm a fan of Jonny Gomes. I like his attitude and feel his skill set can create value if used properly, especially when his cost is low. Unfortunately, the cost is rising and the Reds failed to properly utilize Gomes. As a result, the "cost per unit of production" about which I was optimistic when he was first signed vanished in 2010. The production has been hindered by improper usage and the cost continues to escalate along with his service time.

Heading into the season, Gomes was coming off a strong slash line of .267/.338/.541 which raised expectations for 2010. Unfortunately, his production tailed off as he posted a slash line of .266/.327/.431/.758, which isn't terrible except when you factor in that his performance was skewed heavily by one very strong month.

Gomes's OPS by month was as follows:

April: .621
May: 1.056
June: .704

July: .673

August: .700

September: .768

October: .546

He basically had 1 Ruthian month, 1 decent month, and 4 really poor months. His offense simply needs to be significantly better than that to justify the Reds carrying his glove. In keeping with his career norms, he performed better against southpaws (.285/.378/.479) than he did against righthanders (.257/.301/.408). On defense, there's no kind way to put it, Gomes was atrocious. Under the UZR/150 mark, he posted an abysmal -19.1 mark. Under the +/- metric, he posted an awful -18, which translates into a -10 runs saved.

On the plus side, Gomes actually ran the bases fairly well. In 2010, he graded out at as a +7, so he was roughly 7 bases above average. Gomes performed as follows:

1st to 3rd: 14 Advances in 39 Opportunities
2nd to Home: 8 Advances in 21 Opportunities
1st to Home: 5 Advances in 9 Opportunities

In light of all the success the Reds are having running the bases, it may be time to give some credit to the base coaches. The Reds obviously have talent, but Billy Hatcher and Mark Berry seem to deserve a bit of credit as well.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly given his struggles on offense and defense, Gomes actually graded out as below replacement level. His WAR (Wins Above Replacement) was a mere -0.1. By definition, that level of performance can be obtained from a minor league free agent or a AAAA caliber player.

I still believe Gomes can generate positive value, but he needs to be utilized in a fashion that minimizes his weaknesses and emphasizes his strengths. Namely, he needs to be a platoon outfielder or a source of power off the bench.

Lanyce Nix -- Expectations: Low, Grade: B

Nix posted a .239/.291/.476 line in 2009, so expectations for 2010 were rather muted. The slugging percentage was strong, but when two of the three slash line numbers fall below .300 there is cause for concern. Regardless, Nix took his performance up a notch in 2010 and provided a nice bit of production for minimal cost.

Nix posted a line of .291/.350/.455 to go along with a 39/15 K/BB ratio. He managed to club 4 homeruns in the process. Unlike Gomes, the Reds utilized Nix properly, giving him 149 ABs against righties and only 16 against lefties. Interestingly enough, Nix received about half as many ABs in 2010 as he did in 2009. On the flip side, Gomes received about twice as many ABs in 2010 as he did in 2009. Can it be mere coincidence that the more these two play, the less impressive their numbers become? The larger the sample size, the worse the production.

On the defensive side, the metrics are all stellar, but the small sample size limits their utility. They are in line with his reputation on defense, which has long been solid. Still, Nix has long had decent tools, but struggled to effectively utilize them. That may be why he always seems to have untapped potential, which is why Dusty once lovingly called him a "monster."

Unlike the aforementioned on this list, Nix struggled on the bases. He posted a -5, so was roughly 5 bases below average. He also lacks basestealing ability, so he's largely a station-to-station type player.

Maybe it's simply a sample size issue, but Nix was a better value in 2010 than he was in 2009.

Chris Heisey -- Expectations: Low, Grade: B

Despite his strong performance in the minors, Heisey came into the season with minimal expectations. It simply wasn't clear that he would get the opportunity and, if he did, that he would be able to produce. All in all, he did rather well with the opportunity he received.

Heisey posted a respectable rookie slash line of .254/.324/.433/.757 with a somewhat lackluster 57/16 K/BB ratio and 8 homeruns. His walk rate isn't great, but he supplemented his OBP with 6 hit by pitches, which may or may not be sustainable. If it's not sustainable, then he'll need to improve his walk rate in the future. Additionally, he hit line drives at a solid 19.4% rate. Surprisingly, he struggled against southpaws (.545 OPS), but performed well against righties (.925 OPS).

On defense, Heisey split time between all three outfield spots. The sample size is too small for defensive metrics to mean much of anything, but he actually grades out as above average at all three spots under both UZR/150 and the +/- metric. I question his range in center, but he certainly was up to the task in 2010.

As with all the outfielders on this list save Nix, Heisey was very effective in running the bases. Impressively, Heisey was roughly 12 bases above average, which is very strong in light of his limited playing time.

Heisey performed as follows:

1st to 3rd: 7 Advances in 13 Opportunities
2nd to Home: 6 Advances in 8 Opportunities
1st to Home: 3 Advances in 3 Opportunities

Despite his limited playing time, Heisey managed to post a 1.3 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), which was significantly better than Gomes. Overall, it was a strong overall rookie season for Heisey and one that could have him in line for more playing time in 2011.


  1. very nice, i completely agree. I was disappointed when gomes was resigned, but hopefully he is only a bench player next year

  2. Smitty,

    Yeah, it's difficult to believe that the Reds couldn't get better production out of Chris Heisey, Todd Frazier, or (the perennially overlooked) Danny Dorn than they do out of Gomes.

    I dislike giving Gomes such a poor grade, but the fact remains that he was below replacement level. So, there was simply no way to avoid it. In fact, if it wasn't for his one white-hot month, I'd say an F wouldn't be out of the question.

    Hopefully, he can rebound in 2011.

    Thanks for the comment!


  3. Excellent work Lark. I agree on everything especially Bruce who I suggested they sign long term last offseason. I do hope Heisey finds a way to get his bat into the hitting zone a bit more often I think he needs to bring the bat down sooner. If he does this then he will solidify our starting 9 (along with some improvement at SS). And simultaneously get more bench time for Gomes which helps us alot all the way around.

  4. Will,


    I'm not sure I'd change anything on Heisey just yet. He didn't set the world on fire, but it was a pretty nice rookie season. I'll be interested to see what he can do in his sophomore season. If he struggles, then I'd consider changes and adjustments. Just not sure he's gotten enough playing time to establish that he needs to alter what he's doing.

    I'd still love to see what Danny Dorn can do. Unfortunately, he was again left unprotected in the Rule 5 draft. Just like last year, he's clearly not in the team's plans. Still, I wonder what his lefthanded bat could do in GABP.

    In short, Free Danny Dorn!!!!!

    Thanks for the comment.


  5. Agree on Dorn as usual the kid can swing it. He really needs to find a way to come out swinging well early this season if he is ever gonna get a shot at all. If he tears up S/T (assuming he gets an invite) he has a miniscule shot to replace Nix on the bench.

    On Heisey: My thinking is it's never too soon to improve and he clearly has to get his hands down into the hitting position just a smidge sooner. I thought he struggled with contact enough to make it a point of emphasis.

    Anyway Happy Holidays to all and Go Bucks!

  6. Will,

    Yeah, I love Dorn at the plate. Can he really not outperform Nix and/or Gomes in left? I'd just like to see him get a shot.

    You may be right on Heisey. I'll be curious to see what his role will be in 2011. Will the Reds really sit him in favor of Gomes?

    Anyway, thanks for the comment!