Justin has a quick and dirty study designed to answer this question: “Is the 2009 Reds opening day outfield worse than last year’s?”

His surprising conclusion:

So, what these data indicate is that our speed-focused outfield combination of Dickerson/Taveras/Bruce is projected to more productive–on the order of 40 runs and ~4 wins–than the combination we started with last season of Dunn/Patterson/Griffey. I certainly didn’t expect the difference to be this large, and wasn’t sure it would even be in this direction.

Go read the entire post; it’s very interesting. I’m not sure I can buy the conclusion, but the numbers are there. If nothing else, my high school geometry teacher would love Justin, because he always shows his work, not just the answer.

17 Responses

  1. per14

    I can buy it. And I generally loved Dunn and don’t get carried away with the excitement of HAVOC. Consider, however:

    1) Patterson was historically bad with the bat.
    2) Massive improvements defensively in LF and RF.
    3) I think LF could be more productive offensively than people realize (and Justin estimates) if Dickerson and Gomes are platooned properly. They won’t equal Dunn’s offensive production but I could easily see them combining for 25 HRs and a .350 OBP.
    4) Bruce should equal Junior’s offensive production.

    So, overall, big improvements in RF and CF. And theoretically, break even in LF.

  2. RiverCity Redleg

    I just hope we are as good defensively as we claim to be this year. I think we will, but as this study shows, our season is riding on it.

  3. per14

    Of course, the team was awful last year, so I’m not sure hoping for break-even in the OF leaves room to be excited.

  4. Steve Price

    John Dewan, one of Bill James’s long time compatriots, is author of “The Fielding Bible”….version II either has just been released or is near-release. Dewan is suggesting that defense has 50% value of offense…a report that he says is surprisingly higher than expected…and it surprises me, too.

    Now, don’t get me wrong…if an outfielder can’t catch a flyball, defense is probably worth more than offense, but players totally devoid of defensive ability don’t typically make the majors.

    Defensive skills have been one of the easiest way to track how baseball quality has improved over the years (and one reason I think former Red great Heine Groh is underestimated as a HOFer…another story), so I’m surprised that defense would have that much of an impact now…that is, because, essentially, everybody “can do it.”

    I don’t their methodology, but we’ll have to see…

  5. nycredsfan

    I can buy it, mainly because Patterson was historically bad at the plate and Griffey was historically bad in the field. Just replacing those two things with league average production will drastically improve the outfield. If only we still had Dunn in LF………

  6. NickP

    Dewan is suggesting that defense has 50% value of offense…a report that he says is surprisingly higher than expected…and it surprises me, too.

    I believe he includes pitching with defense, which of course makes the 50/50 split correct.

    If by defense, you mean fielding, it’s more like ~20-30%.

  7. jinaz

    What Dewan was saying is that an average position player contributes twice as much value on offense as he does on defense… That makes a player’s defense about half as important as their offense.

    That makes defense a lot more important than some saber-leaning fans are willing to give credit for.

    Dunn’s a classic example. He might contribute 5 wins in value with this bat, which makes him sound like like a superstar. But he negates 2 wins of that with his poor outfield range, and maybe another half-win with slow baserunning and a bad arm in the outfield. And that cuts his value in half and puts him at about 2.5 wins above replacement, which is barely above average.

    Dewan’s insight frankly wasn’t as revolutionary as he makes it out be, but his post was a nice, straightforward way to present that idea.

  8. preach

    So those of us ‘scout guys’ who have said that we like Dunn but his defense almost negates his offense and he isn’t worth a huge contract may not have been so far off from what Dewan and James think. Huh.

  9. Steve Price

    Dunn’s projected value over replacement player for this season is 34.6 runs.

    Projected Reds starters:

    Jay Bruce 29.4
    Chris Dickerson 9.5
    Edwin Encarnacion 34.4
    Alex Gonzalez 6.3
    Jerry Hairston, Jr. 14.6
    Brandon Phillips, 29.0
    Joey Votto, 32.4
    Willy Taveras, -0.2

    BRonson Arroyo 17.6
    Homer Bailey -2.1
    Bill Bray 11.0
    Francisco Cordero 9.9
    Johnny Cueto 14.8
    Aaron Harang 27.2
    Micah Owings 6.2
    Edinson Volquez 22.6

    So BP predicted that Dunn would be the best player on the team, with Encarnacion second…and those ratings include defensive and baserunning projections…

    Something else I was just reading is that prime years seem to be earlier for middle infielders, more like ages 26-27, catchers and third basemen are later, as are the “old player’s skills” like Dunn. Third basemen and sluggers seem to hold onto their skills, longer than speed players…

  10. doug

    While I disagree with what Justin’s projections suggest for Bruce and Dickerson (I see both of their offenses being better in 2009) I have been saying all offseason this years outfield would be better because the defense sucked last year and Corey Patterson got to much playing time.

  11. Steve Price

    The book’s apparently not out yet, but here’s a quote from Dewan’s article on the bill james website:

    “We look at each player individually. We then do a team summary by adding up all the individual players. How many runs does an above-average defense save compared to an average team?”

    When I read it first, I thought defense only (no pitching). Now, I’m not so sure…

  12. jinaz

    @Steve, Dewan should have said fielding, as that’s what he’s actually doing–summing up his +/- run saved estimates for each team.

    Defense includes pitching.

    Also, those ratings you posted–you say they’re VORP? Classically, VORP does not include fielding. SuperVORP does, as does the new (i.e. mostly fixed) WARP. I don’t subscribe to BPro anymore, so I can’t really check myself.

    @preach, Dunn’s offense doesn’t negate his offensive value, but it does come close to cutting it in half, which makes him just a bit above average as a player. That still would make him one of the best players on the Reds team, but that’s more of an indictment of the Reds’ position players than an accolade of Dunn…

  13. Steve Price

    Jinaz, you’re right, the VORP did not include fielding; that is included in WARP, which has raised the ceiling on replacement players; the difference has been lowered by two runs pretty much across the board. I can’t access your site from work but am looking forward to reading once I get home.

    For proper context on WARP:

    Bruce 3.7
    Dickerson 2.2
    Encarnacion 3.3
    Gonzalez 0.8
    Hairston 1.7
    Phillips 3.0
    Votto 3.9
    Taveras 1.3
    Hernandez 1.8

    Dunn is projected at 3.8, which would have put him 0.1 behind Votto, and 0.1 ahead of Bruce in hierarchy.

  14. Glenn

    Tavaras is the key. If he bounces back from last year it will set the table for a productive lineup. If he has the same type of production as he did last year, this will be a weak hitting lineup.

    I’m more concerned about Tavaras than I am Jacques Jones becoming the next Patterson.

  15. RiverCity Redleg

    You are correct, Glenn. Too many people are worried about JJ. But, it’s Taveras who has been given the keys to the leadoff spot. Hopefully he produces and renders the arguement moot. But, if he struggles, I can definitely see a long leash, while he drives our metephorical bus into the ravine.

  16. Y-City Jim

    and Taveras’ ST numbers don’t make one any more hopeful.

  17. Steve Price

    Now that I’ve read the original print, I don’t necessarily agree.

    Jay Bruce had more plate appearances for the Reds than Patterson and Griffey, and he’s not included in the equation.

    Patterson and Griffey didn’t play 150 games, so their ‘contributions” are vastly overstated.

    Gomes’s defense (or lack thereof) is not mentioned, and, from what i hear and read, he will remind us of Dunn in the outfield.

    And, anyway, I’m not convinced Dickerson will be with the team by mid-season, and a leftfield mix of Jones, Gomes, and Hairston isn’t going to make anyone forget dunn.