how to be dumb, vol. 2

there have been several well-thought out comments - which danup addressed in part yesterday - regarding the trade for feliz, and the usage of felipe lopez and brendan ryan in the aftermath of the trade. particularly, there's a huge disconnect between what we were told about the feliz trade - and one of the only explanations that approached making sense - and how the playing time has been distributed after the trade.

first, let's set out some background data on what we're actually discussing. some of the players we are discussing are talented defenders. some are nightmare suckfests of defensive incompetence. take a look below at the numbers for our infielders and their relative skill at various positions.

player/UZR/150 at

2b/career

2b/2010

ss/career

ss/2010

3b/career

3b/2010

felipe lopez

-0.8

-0.4

-10.5

-31.8

-0.7

3.8

pedro feliz

--

--

-18.2

--

15.6

-7.9

brendan ryan

-2.4

--

11.6

13.7

-2.6

--

aaron miles

-3.8

19.5

-18.2

13.0

-10.4

-91.9

skip schumaker

-11.6

-15.3

--

--

--

--

in looking at the data above, you quickly notice that the small sample size data from this year is not worth a great deal. aaron miles is not a top-flight shortstop, nor would he likely be worth nine wins below replacement value (negative one pujols, in metric terms) at third over a whole season. ignore this years numbers - he's slightly below average at second, and dreadful at short and third.

the disparity between feliz's 2010 numbers and career numbers have been discussed before, but bear some repeating. feliz for many years was a world-class third baseman. over the last three seasons, his defense has declined. in 2008 and 2009, he was merely a plus third baseman (in the +7 or +8 run region) and this year, he's been described as far below average. i suspect the truth lies somewhere in between and he's a slightly above average third baseman now. he is 35, and expecting substantial defensive dropoff makes sense.

based on his career numbers, lopez is a replacement value defender at 2b and 3b, and significantly below average at short. brendan ryan is putting up consistent numbers and is clearly a great defender at short. skip does not look like he's made the defensive adjustments that we'd hoped. it's an open question whether he makes any sense on the team right now. he's a far below average 2b, about a win worse than anyone else on the list. if he were hitting to his career norms, he'd be worth about a win. right now, he's replacement value.

mo explained the trade by saying that he had polled the pitchers as to whether they preferred getting an offensive star to get more run support or a defensive star to prevent runs behind them. he also cited to felipe lopez's overexposure at third.

"[Lopez] has been playing through some stuff with his knees," Mozeliak said of Lopez. "Also, he was also thrusted to play a position that was not his natural position and when you look at when this club was playing its best, we had David Freese in the lineup and then had Felipe being able to play multiple positions.  This will allow is to do that. By no certainty are we going to necessarily play Feliz every day but it’s just going to give Tony a much more flexible lineup and I think defensively, it’s a big help to us immediately."

as an aside, in looking back, it's remarkable to me - maybe not surprising, but remarkable in its literal sense - that in the round-table of commentators reviewing the trade for the p-d, the response of "well, we had to do something" echoed in one way or another from most of the members of that distinguished baseball loya jirga. derrek goold ("the smart one") and our own VEBfather, larry borowski, were the only ones to point out that "doing something" in a tough situation is not better than doing nothing when the player makes your team worse.

let's say you are stuck in a room, and the door is locked, and the room is filling with poison gas, and the only furniture in the room is a table and a toaster,  and there are no windows, and it becomes clear that you are going to die. "doing something" may seem like a good idea. putting your penis in the toaster and turning it on constitutes "doing something." now you are still going to die, and your penis really hurts. in fact, what little chance you had of escaping the situation is diminished, because now you can only think about the fact that your dick hurts. the moral of this story is: "doing something" without regard to whether it "makes things better" is actually a bad idea, and may compound a challenging situation.

take a look at the below table. this shows the usage of players in the nine games before and after our trade for feliz. prior to the trade, we had settled into a regular lopez at 3b, ryan at ss, and schumaker at 2b, with some spot appearances by aaron miles at 2b and one start by craig at third.

player/innings at

innings before trade

inningsafter trade

felipe lopez (ss)

0

16.33

felipe lopez (2b)

0

28

felipe lopez (3b)

63

0

pedro feliz (3b)

0

73.33

brendan ryan (ss)

72

53

aaron miles (2b)

15

11.33

skip schumaker (2b)

57

30

 

now, after the trade, brendan ryan's innings at short have been cut substantially, even though he's an even better defender at short than feliz at third. schumaker's innings at second have taken a serious hit, which would be fine if lopez were taking all of them, rather than leaving miles to get regular time as a replacement value type. aaron miles innings have hardly dipped at all. 

i think there's very little doubt that the usage of feliz and ryan and lopez (at short) has made the team defensively WEAKER, not stronger. feliz is -- and i'm being generous here -- a replacement value player today. i still think the internal options were better. feliz probably makes the most sense for this team as a replacement to spell lopez at third, not as an everyday player. in fact, that usage was what mo had suggested as the intent for feliz. instead, we've seen a dramatic cutback in the innings of other, better players. i hope this trend does not continue.

there's no doubt that a four-man infield was not working for the cards prior to the trade. the club had some nice internal options, however, in tyler greene and ruben gotay. if the scuttlebutt is correct that tyler greene went to the DL rather than accept a demotion, then that raises the question of why on earth we would demote him. it seems fairly clear that the net effect of these switches has been to make the team worse defensively, rather than better, especially when we have lopez at short and schumaker or miles at second while brendan ryan sits.

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