In search of a league average 2nd baseman.
Question: Will Skip Schumaker be a league-average 2B this year?
Further Question: What is a league-average 2B, anyway?
Trying to answer Question 2, I looked at who played 2B for MLB teams last year, and used wOBA and UZR/150 to gauge how they performed offensively and defensively. Then I took averages (arithmetic means) and medians, and tried to see who (offensively, defensively, and combining the two together) were the league-average 2B last year.
(All stats are from Fangraphs. I didn't count anyone who played in less than half the games last year. That did include several players who were utility players, or who played other positions than 2B. But, these are who play 2B for a lot of MLB teams. If I am including Utley and Pedroia, I think I need to include them, too. I'm looking for an average. There were 39 players considered, in all. All stats are 2008 only, and UZR/150 is taken only for the players time at 2B.)
League Average 2B by wOBA:
The average (arithmetic mean) for the 2B I looked at was 0.333. The median was 0.328.
The closest 2B around the median were:
Aaron Miles (0.331)
Mark Grudzielanek (0.329)
Felipe Lopez (0.328--taking WAS and STL combined)
Howie Kendrick (0.328)
Mark Loretta (0.326)
Jeff Kent (0.326)
League Average 2B by UZR/150:
The average (arithmetic mean) for the 2B I looked at was 1.4. The median was -0.9.
The closest 2B around the median were:
Howie Kendrick (0.8)
Ray Durham (0.7)
Freddy Sanchez (-0.7)
Jamie Carroll (-1.0)
Alexei Casilla (-2.0)
League Average 2B by combining wOBA and UZR/150:
I used Dan Cameron's formula to convert wOBA to runs above or below average, given in his blog post on Fangraphs about Replacement Level 2B. It is ((wOBA-0.330)/1.20)*600. UZR/150 computes defensive runs gained or lost above average. I took these two stats, both in runs, both adjusted for a full year (more or less), both referenced to "average," and added them together.
The league average 2B (offense and defense combined) had an average (arithmetic mean) total of 3.1. The median was 1.7.
The 2B who were closest to the median were:
Kaz Matsui (2.6)
Orlando Cabrera (1.9)
Aaron Miles (1.7)
Howie Kendrick (-0.2)
Mark Loretta (-1.2)
Back to my original question, it seems that if Schumaker is going to be a league-average 2B, he will have to have a combined offense and defense that would be at least in the Mark Loretta range. Skip's wOBA last year was 0.341. That translates into 5.5 runs above average (that means he would be comparable to Joe Inglett, offensively, as a 2B.).
Therefore, he would need to lose no more than 6.7 runs defensively. The comparable 2B to that (and there are several much worse ones in MLB) are Matzui and Cano.
1. Typing this data into Excel, I noticed how much UZR/150 varies from season to season for the same player. Much more than any offensive stat. It is the best metric I have access to for defense, but I just have a hard time believing that players' defensive performance really is that variable.
2. A replacement level 2B (according to Cameron) has a wOBA of .306 and a UZR/150 of -5. In case you are wondering, Brendan Ryan performed worse than that last year when he was a 2B. He projects to do better, and think he should, but he did not show it.
3. Adam Kennedy had a combined total of 9.7, but almost all of that was from his defense, which, as I noted above, varies like a yo-yo. Felipe Lopez was considerably below average (-4.7), taking into account the whole year.
4. I did not include baserunning. Feel free to add it in, if you want.
5. If my methodology is faulty, please let me know. I'll correct it as soon as I can.
On sum, it seems to me that if Schumaker can slip in above the Matsui/Cano line as a 2B defender, and maintain his hitting, he should do OK. Otherwise, we might have been better off keeping Mighty Mouse.
What say you?