Archive for the ‘David Murphy’ Category

Has the Rangers outfield improved?

January 24, 2008

I haven’t written for quite a while, but I’ve been thinking about a few topics. Most of the last few weeks I’ve either spent reading or playing games at the end of the day, and haven’t had the feeling of wanting to write. I’ve stored up that idea list though, and intend to get to many of them sooner or later. Today I got a little push on one of my ideas, because there was an article on the Rangers site by TR Sullivan about the outfielders the Rangers will be going with this year. I’ve been wanting to look at Josh Hamilton and Milton Bradley from a Runs Created perspective, and see how much better they make the Rangers outfield in 2008.

You may recall I wrote a post about a month ago on Runs Created, comparing each position to the rest of the league to see where the Rangers were good or bad.  In it, I concluded that left and center were average or above average in 2007, but right was well below average.  While right could use improving, the other two outfield slots were nowhere near as bad as everyone assumed they were.

What I have been wanting to look at is how many Runs Created Hamilton and Bradley will increase (or decrease) the outfield by.  I have no expectation coming into this study, except that it will not be anywhere near the miracle cure the Rangers are looking for, and that it won’t improve the pitching any, which is where they really need help.  Now, first off, given that last sentence, I will agree that improved outfield defense should help the pitchers some.  That’s hard to quantify though (maybe another day), and since Runs Created only deals with offense it’s not at all considered here.

This post is looking at individual time played at each position, and so there is going to be a bit of rounding error popping in, so please excuse if I’m off a little here or there, or not consistent with the numbers from that last post.  It’s all relative anyway.  Plus, this is a fairly basic version of Runs Created, so there may be aspects of a player’s game that are not considered (again, it’s relative).  For the mathematically inclined, I’m using ((H+BB)*TB)/(AB+BB).  Easily obtained stats, and easily broken out into positions.  Even something as simple as SB by position is hard to come by without crunching my own data to get it.

So, my assumption is that Hamilton and Bradley will each have 500 ABs in the Rangers outfield this year.  This is a wild assumption, but it’s a starting point.  You would want to see that kind of output if you are Jon Daniels.  I mercilessly point out that in Hamilton’s entire career, his high is only 391 ABs, and that was in the minors in 2000.  In fact he has not had 500 ABs in the last five years combined (having missed 2003-05).  So projecting him for 500 is risky – although since his missed time was just as much due to drug use and suspensions, it’s not like he was injured all that time.  Bradley, on the other hand, has no such excuse.  In his eight years in the majors, he has had 500 ABs just once, in 2004.  Add in his minor league career, and going back to 1996 he has one more 500 AB season (with two near misses, both in the 490s combining minors and majors).  His last three years gave him 283, 351 and 209, so hope for 500 is possibly a stretch.  Hope for 500 in a Rangers uniform may be a stretch too, since I’m sure he’s going to be traded by the deadline if he is doing anything worthwhile, a la Lofton and Gagne last year (when did the Rangers decide that was a good strategy, signing old free agents to one year deals so they might be able to pick up some prospects?  Isn’t that a sign of a terrible team that knows it is going nowhere?).

Given all that, let’s project Hamilton and Bradley based on their 2007 stats.  A very small sample statistically, but it will serve our purposes (and avoid me having to dig through and weigh a bunch of data).

First, Hamilton:  in 298 AB, he produced 59.8 RC, a very good 5.42 RC/27 AB (which in itself is a simplistic version of RC/G).  Multiply it out, and he would give 100.3 RC in 500 AB.  For comparison, the Rangers center fielders last year produced 95 RC in 657 AB, so Hamilton immediately proves to be an upgrade.  Assume that Marlon Byrd will pick up the slack, the remaining 157 AB after taking out Hamilton’s 500, Byrd would give an additional 24.5 RC (at his 2007 rate) for a CF total of 124.8, a huge improvement of 29.6 over 2007’s 95.2.

On to Bradley.  In 2007 he had 209 AB, but still produced 45.1 RC, at a rate of 5.83, even better than Hamilton (by the way, David Murphy at 5.73 and Matt Kata at 5.72 were the only Ranger outfielders over 4.5 in 2007, and Kata’s 23 ABs in the OF didn’t save him from the chop).  Project Bradley all the way out, and you get 107.9 in 500 AB.  Again, a big jump over last year.  Now, Bradley is supposed to play RF for the Rangers this year, with Byrd leading from the left and Murphy being fourth outfielder.  I’m going to make Byrd be the swing man, so he can get as many ABs as he did in 2007, so I’m going to project 108 of his ABs in right, to get to the Rangers 2007 RF total of 608.  At his 2007 rate, Byrd gives an additional 16.9 RC to RF, bringing the total to 124.8 – exactly the same as CF projects.  Curious.  Anyway, last year RF gave us 86.8, so that’s an improvement of 38 RC.  Wow.

But now we’ve got to pay attention to LF.  Left in 2007 was a mish-mash, a whole bunch of players thrown in for a short period of time.  Catalanotto led the way with 216, but next best was Wilkerson at 109 AB.  We’ve got to get to a total of 615 though.  Marlon Byrd has used up 265 in CF and RF, so only has 144 for LF.  Murphy will put in his 105 all in LF.  Botts had 99.   If we take all 216 outfield ABs of Catalanotto, we’re still 51 short.  Let’s give them to Nelson Cruz, who had 302 in 2007, and will probably get some in 2008.  Of course, many of these guys will have drastically different totals (you hope to see a lot more for Botts and Murphy, Cat is supposed to play first base instead of the outfield, and Cruz may even end up not getting any).  But trying to project playing time is pretty hard, especially when you have a team like the Rangers which gives up on people after just a few ABs.  We’ll leave in Cruz to represent all those who will get a small shot.  And leave the others where they are for similar reasons, and also to try and measure the impact of adding Hamilton and Bradley while keeping everything else the same.  So, 144 ABs of Byrd would be worth 22.5 RC.  Murphy had 22.3 in his 105, Botts had 13.8 in his 99, Cat got 33.9 in his OF time, and 51 ABs of Cruz would have earned 5.7.  Add them all together and LF projects to be 98.2 RC.  This compares favorably to the 90.7 that LF actually produced – an increase of 7.5 based on cherry-picking the best of the 2007 outfielders.

So, add up the increases.  LF gives 7.5, CF gives 29.6 and RF gives 38, for a total of 75.1 RC added by the addition of 500 ABs of Bradley and Hamilton.  With the standard calculation of 10 runs being worth one win, the Rangers potentially added 7.5 wins, which would push them over .500 (for just the second time since 1999).  That would suggest that these were valuable moves (not the getting over .500, but the 7.5 wins), especially given that Bradley only cost money, and Hamilton cost a good pitching prospect (and only time will tell how good or bad that works out).  The argument might be made that by spending their time working on the outfield, they didn’t spend enough time on the elephant in the room, pitching.  And since the Rangers have only added the likes of Eddie Guardado and Jason Jennings, it almost feels like a complete surrender in the pitching ledger.

Is this a reasonable projection?  These numbers seem to make sense, but I’m certainly open to someone else’s interpretation.  As noted earlier, neither of these players has had a good track record of staying on the field.  To suggest that both of them will get to 500 ABs is a pretty big stretch.  If Bradley gets 250 for the Rangers and 250 for someone else, I’ll consider that a success.  His 250 elsewhere would bring something back in trade, so that can only be good.  Knowing that he is likely to start the year on the DL, or playing DH, it already puts the projection in jeopardy.  And the whole Hamilton thing is a giant risk anyway, he is very likely to have a sophomore slump compared to the small sample of his first year in the big leagues.  So putting all these numbers together is a long-shot, but one probably worth doing for the Rangers.  Come August, if Bradley is in San Diego, Hamilton is in rehab, Volquez is in the Cincy rotation, and Nelson Cruz (or worse, think this year’s version of Jerry Hairston Jr) is patrolling right field, then I reserve the right to point a lot of fingers at Jon Daniels.  But right now I’ll give him credit for improving a position perceived as a weakness last year.

Rangers Review: Right Field

October 11, 2007

Another mixed-up position, where the traffic flowed through, and anyone handed the chance to take the job threw it away.  Nelson Cruz threw it away at the start of the year, went to AAA and tore up the place, came back up and stank again.  Victor Diaz got time there early on, was doing okay but went down anyway.  Marlon Byrd got in there when David Murphy took over in center, and Sosa and Wilkerson tried there too.  All three outfield positions were the same, running people through to try and get someone to stick.

Nelson Cruz summary:  Still waiting for Cruz to put it all together at the big league level.  He’s been a minor league MVP, and was one of the keys when Coco was traded to Milwaukee, but he’s taking his sweet time adjusting to the majors, and Ron Washington has let him know it.  Now 26, what does he have to do to win the job?  Maybe nothing, because maybe Washington is already so frustrated with his inconsistency that he won’t give him a chance.  He struggled badly in the early part of the year, went to AAA and tore up the place, then came back with a new batting stance, started out really well (two homers in his first game back), but then stumbled and bumbled to the end of the year.  His minor league OPS was 1.126, in the majors it was .671.  With an improved second half, he will get another shot, but he may have already burned too many bridges to get a good go next time round.

Victor Diaz summary:  Hit exactly league average during his month with the big club, but only had 104 at-bats in that time, and was used sparingly by Washington while he was up.  His prospect status is still intact though, because he’s only 25 and killed at AAA (.917 OPS) when he went back down.  Combined 23 home runs in both places, in under 400 at-bats, but will he be given the opportunity to play every day?

Others:  Everyone else who played here (Byrd, Sosa, Wilkerson, Murphy, Hairston and Mahar) has been or will be covered elsewhere.

Minor leagues:  Once again the Rangers have prospects in the middle minors, but little elsewhere.  If anything they have too many average guys at the top, none of whom have enough opportunity to stand out.  Byrd, Cruz, Diaz and Mahar all took turns at right in AAA, with Mahar spending the most time there.  He’s getting old for a prospect (26) and isn’t hitting very well, so may have leveled out.  John Mayberry is one of the Rangers top prospects, combining for 30 home runs at A and AA.  Following behind him are Anthony Webster and Jon Weber, similar names but neither is likely to do much.  Weber in particular hit well at High-A, but is much older than the league, so is probably no prospect.  In Low-A, KC Herren worked very well at an age-appropriate level, so could either continue to develop or fall off the tracks.  Victor Barrios and Eric Fry split time at Spokane, neither showed much but each has time to put it all together.  And in rookie ball, Miguel Velazquez did some good in a short period of time.

2008:  It’s almost as if there are too many players for this spot, and if one slips even slightly, he will quickly be replaced.  Long gone are the days when Juan Gone roamed right field, banging home runs all over the place.  Now there’s a bunch of prospects, each one able to hit home runs in the minors but not yet in the majors.  Unless they look for a free agent, the Rangers will likely begin with Cruz or Diaz in right, with Murphy/Byrd playing fourth outfielder and getting in there every so often.  Don’t plan on any kind of stability here yet.

2009 and beyond:  Surely one of these guys will step up and grasp the brass ring?  Like the other outfield spots, it’s in so much flux that there’s no way to predict what might happen.  Either the Rangers will go for a big name center fielder and let the four or five guys left behind battle for the left and right field spots, or they’ll decide they don’t have what they need and another big name will come into right as well.  It’s been years since the Rangers had a productive outfield, they’ve let all three positions lag, and they need to get them working again before they can contend.  John Mayberry is the great hope of the minors in right, and although he might have a chance at 2009, he’s more likely to be in Arlington in 2010.

Rangers Review: Center Field

October 10, 2007

With the loss of Gary Matthews Jr to free agency, a very smart decision by the Rangers since he took the Angels millions and performed well below that level, the Rangers were left with a hole which they attempted to fill in a way that had worked previously:  hire a veteran, trade him before the deadline, and let a bunch of others fill in for the rest of the year.  This time it was Kenny Lofton, and he did admirable service, not while he was playing, but by bringing back a decent prospect when he left.  Then the Rangers tried out several people, even announced they were giving some of them trials for the rest of the year, before finally splitting time mostly between Marlon Byrd and David Murphy.  As the season wound down, it felt like Murphy was getting more of the time, and that may be an indicator of where the future lies.

Kenny Lofton summary:  Hit and ran nicely while he was here, but was here for one reason, which was to get us a prospect when he was traded at the deadline.  Max Ramirez was that prospect, and he is immediately one of the Rangers’ top prospects, so Lofton did the job he was hired for.  Ended up in the post-season with the Indians, so they’ve got to be happy with the trade.

Marlon Byrd summary:  Came up in May, hit like a superstar for a month, then lived off that reputation for the rest of the year.  Finished with a 110 OPS+, but his true level is probably below that.  He’s a free agent, but someone the Rangers should try and re-sign, because he provides cover all over the outfield.  Not a superstar, never will be, but he will give you everything you ask of him, and will give you 110 percent (or 110 OPS+, which is about the same thing).  If he stays, he should split time in center with Murphy, and that won’t be a bad thing.

Jerry Hairston summary:  Played all over the place, and as mentioned before, didn’t do anything well.  He is one of those players who drift around all the bottom-feeder teams, not good enough to play for a true contender, but just good enough that all the bad teams (like the Rangers) will bring him in, in hopes that suddenly everything will click and he will have a career year.  It’s never going to happen.  They’d be better off bringing up a prospect and letting them play, that way they would at least give someone some good experience.  Fortunately he is a free agent.  Hopefully management will recognize his inability to play and let him leave quietly.

David Murphy summary:  Came over in the Gagne trade, was considered almost an afterthought at the time (behind Kason Gabbard), but turned out to be better than expected.  Spent time in all three outfield positions, including an extended trial in center, and hit very well with the bat.  His 135 OPS+ is tempered by his small sample size of just 103 at-bats, but he showed promise.  According to the Red Sox, he’d been labeled as a fourth outfielder, and although that should be the expectation for the future, he needs time to prove otherwise.  In with a chance at a starting spot next year, he may end up doing the same as this year, and moving all over the outfield depending on where he is needed at the time.

Others: Kevin Mahar spent most of his time there, I don’t remember why he was even up in the first place.  Freddie Guzman got a few innings at the end of the season, and Brad Wilkerson had filled in for two innings at one point.

Minors:  A system with a bunch of prospects, but none of them blue-chip, especially at the higher levels.  The biggest thing was drafting Julio Borbon and signing him to a major league contract, meaning he needs to be up with the Rangers within three years.  That’s a lot of pressure, for both sides.  Freddie Guzman had the job at AAA, had a lot of speed but didn’t really hit enough.  Another year there is in line, but he’s starting to get too old (26).  In Frisco Brandon Boggs did most of the work, and put together a very good season to keep himself on the radar.  In Bakersfield, there was a three-way split between Craig Gentry, Truan Mehl, and Terrance Blunt, none of whom outshone the others by themselves, but since Gentry spent time at Low-A as well, where he hit better, and had a combined 40 SB (with 10 CS), he would be the better of the three.  Apart from Gentry there was also David Paisano at Clinton, he was the other part in the Danks-McCarthy trade, and although he struggled he was the youngest player on the team (19), so has time to get better.  Spokane spread it around, Tim Smith probably being the standout, although draft pick Julio Borbon (he of the major league contract) got a few games in after signing.  In rookie Arizona Engel Beltre stood out, after coming over in the Teixeira trade, and leapt into Ranger prospectdom.  No-one else there did anything to be excited about.

2008:  The Rangers have a bunch of third or fourth outfielders, so rumors abound about free agents.  First it’s Torii Hunter from Minnesota, who lives in Dallas, saying he’d love to play here.  Then he says he wouldn’t.  Andruw Jones is available.  Mike Cameron, if you want to go short and old.  And plenty of others, center field is one of the most full positions in terms of free agents this year.  The Rangers should commit to Murphy (and to a lesser extent Byrd), with the knowledge they’re not going to contend.  But they’ll probably do one of two things:  a) hire someone cheap, and try and get something good in trade in July, a la the way they worked Lofton this year, or b) throw a ton of money at Torii or Andruw, absolutely destroying their rebuilding credibility, but making that splash to try and keep the fans and Michael Young happy.  If they do that, at least Murphy and Byrd will be able to move to left, which would solve another position too.

2009 and beyond:  If they sign someone long-term, that of course is who it will be.  If they sign someone for a year, then Murphy will get another shot late in 2008 to prove if he can handle it for 2009.  Otherwise, hopes are probably being pinned on Borbon, who will have to make a few quick strides to get into the job, and Beltre, although he is still just 17 and very much a long-term project.