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The Glaus Experiment

Sorry for the late post. With family in town, access to the home’s 1 computer has been…dicey, we’ll call it. Anyway, I was tinkering around on the internet and a couple of things caught my eye. First is this post over at fangraphs. You may be aware that the site is counting down the trade value of players from #50 to #1 – the player w/ the greatest trade value. I think numbers 5-1 will be posted today and my suspicion is that ol’ #5 will be on that list somewhere. I was pleased to see that our very own Colby Rasmus was listed at #18 on the list which means, in fangraphs’ eyes, only 17 players in the majors have more trade value than Rasmus. He sits right between All-Stars Adam Jones of Baltimore and Felix Hernandez of Seattle. If you were thinking that maybe we should consider giving Rasmus up in a trade for Halladay, consider the fact that fangraphs had Halladay pegged at number 37 on their list. Part of that’s age, a $15 M contract, and the fact that it’s up at the end of next year. If the Jays want Rasmus in a deal for Halladay, they better throw in someone like Aaron Hill as well (and I still wouldn’t do it.)


But to me the more intriguing column came from this morning’s p-d. The surprising (to me, at least) activation of Mark DeRosa from the DL draws our attention to the fact that Troy Glaus, who has now less than 2 weeks left on his minor league rehab stint, still cannot throw across the diamond from 3rd to 1st. Over at fangraphs, our own erik (can we still call you "our own?") explored the notion of swapping Pujols and Glaus – putting Glaus at first and Pujols over at third. It’s certainly a potential option and Erik’s take on it is that, essentially, it would be better than trying to trade Glaus to an AL team needing a DH. Pujols wouldn’t be a standout at third but for a couple of months, it would help the team get Glaus’s bat in the lineup. The improvement of Glaus over Thurston at the dish would have to be much greater than the defensive hit the team would take by putting Albert at third and Glaus at first. Considering the fact that Thurston grades out as a below average third baseman it’s not even clear that the team would take a big step backwards at the hot corner. Pujols, OTOH, is one of the game’s best defensive first baseman but the step backward from him to Glaus couldn’t be that large. That said, it’s doubtful that Tony would even consider moving Pujols. It would allow DeRosa (if he’s healthy!) to move to LF, thus improving our offense by changing out Thurston for Glaus and Dunckiel for DeRosa.

The news from this morning’s p-d, however, indicates that the team is considering trying Glaus in left field which, in my mind, is an idea completely out of left field. Glaus has played exactly 0 major league innings in the outfield, though he has played 70 at shortstop and his minor league experience in LF consists of just 1 game – last night’s game for Palm Beach. The team is considering this experiment in the same vein as the way Pujols was used in 2003, when he couldn’t throw well at all. If you remember, Pujols was sent to shag flies in LF and, whenever a throw had to be made, he deferred to Edmonds or shot-putted it to Renteria who then threw the ball in. Maybe the Glaus experiment would work similarly.

In 2003, Pujols’s UZR in LF was minus 4 runs and minus 5.6 runs per 150 games. It was his worst defense at any position at any point in his major league career. That said, minus 4 runs isn’t awful, particularly in LF, especially when you consider the value of Pujols’s bat (Pujols was 76.8 wRAA at the plate in 2003 – highest in his career). Pujols, however, had some experience both in LF and in RF. He’s also a smaller guy than Glaus, who’s 6’5" and 240 pounds. That said, Glaus would essentially be replacing 2 injured and unproductive hitters – Rick Ankiel and Chris Duncan – so the threshold he’d have to meet in order to be an improvement over what we’re currently using out there isn’t very high.

In 2008, the worst defensive LF was Adam Dunn, whose UZR/150 was minus 20. Fortunately for the Reds and D-backs, Dunn only played 119 games in LF or he would have cost his teams 2 wins with his defense in ’08. Let’s say that Glaus as bad in LF as Dunn was last year. It’s reasonable to believe that he won’t be any worse than that, right? Ankiel right now is grading out as an above average LF and Duncan, as we are all too aware, is Dunn-like in LF (ok, he’s probably not THAT bad) so let’s assume that Glaus is replacing league average LF production. Given that he’d play LF for about a third of the season, we could say that he would likely cost the team about 6 runs defensively, compared to Chrick Dunckiel. So, as long as Glaus’s offensive production would be more than 6 runs greater than Dunckiel’s, it’s liable to be a reasonable conversion.

With Glaus’s injury, however, we have no idea how productive he’d be at the plate. He hasn’t exactly been tremendous at the plate for Palm Beach in the first 6 games of his rehab but it is just 6 games and he is coming off injury and…It’s not likely that he’d be as productive as he was last season for the team. For his career, he’s averaged about 19 wRAA per season at the plate. Having him for a third of a season would put him at, you guessed it, about 6 runs above average for the last 2 months. He gives up 6 runs in the field and gains 6 at the plate – if Dunckiel is a league average performer. He hasn’t been, of course. So far this season, Duncan’s been about 4 runs below average and Ankiel’s been nearly 12 runs below average in their 546 combined PAs this season. So they’ve been minus 16 runs in roughly a full season’s worth of PAs this year. If they continue at this pace, they would be worth roughly 5 runs below average through the end of the season. All told, Dunckiel expects to be roughly league average in the field and minus 5 runs at the plate whereas our best guess has Glaus coming in at minus 6 runs in the field.

The answer, therefore, to the question – "How much does Glaus have to contribute at the plate in order to justify playing LF every day?" – is about 1 run above average. Essentially, if we believe that Glaus can be at least a league average hitter, this experiment is worth trying. We may end up having the worst defensive 2B and LF in baseball but it’s still an idea worth exploring. That’s how bad we’ve been in LF this season.

What about leaving Thurston at third and putting DeRosa in left? Thurston’s been worth minus 7 runs at the plate and minus 1.2 in the field. Playing him every day at third, considering the pace he’s on, would probably cost the team about 7 or 8 runs over the last couple of months – and that doesn’t even consider the base running gaffes. He’s probably a worse option than Dunckiel. He’s just not an every day player. If Glaus can swing the bat and be pretty good – not as good as last year, but pretty good – moving him to LF, or at least finding out if he can do it, is probably the best option available to us right now. God knows it’s better than going w/ Stavinoha 5 times a week.

Perhaps Rasmus’s speed and range can help Glaus out some. I think that Ryan (UZR/150 of 15 this season and 14.5 for his career in 116 games) is a better defensive player than Renteria (UZR/150 of 8.6 in 2003) was so maybe his range could help even more than Renteria’s did in 2003. While the Glaus experiment sounds fairly crazy on its face, it’s a better option than leaving Glaus on the bench to pinch hit and I personally like it more than moving Pujols across the diamond. I’d prefer to leave Pujols where he is. It may be worth an extra run or 2 defensively but I don’t want to risk exposing Pujols to injury any more than we have to and if we can avoid having him throw the ball across the diamond 5 times again, I think it’s worth the 2 runs.