Thursday, March 29, 2012

Finding Clarity For Flaherty

   Every year it seems as if the baseball world spends an extensive amount of time discussing the utility infield spot for their respective team. The amazing part is that the utility player primarily tends to be one of the last players to make the 25-man roster each year. Funny enough, they also usually provide minimal impact on the major league roster. Last season, only three AL utility players actually provided their team with a fWAR over 1.0. Regardless, it's extremely exciting to figure out whom should take over this utility role.
Image From Baltimore Sun

   The Orioles seem inclined to keep Ryan Flaherty on the roster after his "torrid" spring. Flaherty, a Rule 5 pick from the Cubs, has batted.265/.321/.449 in 49 AB so far. He also has tallied 10 RBI and played practically every position except P, C, and CF. Obviously the Orioles are happy that he has shown some form of success at the plate, but I think they are probably more impressed with the positional eligibility he has provided them. If there is any chance for Flaherty to stick the entire season on the roster, that would primarily be the main reason. But even if Flaherty turns out to be a below-average hitter, he still could provide some value for the club. Well, at least the minimal value that most utility players provide. Check out the utility players from last season:

- I only used players that had played at least 20 Innings at three different positions, not including OF. For example, Jack Wilson played 20+ innings at 2B, 3B, and SS. They could also play OF, but needed at least two other positions to classify as a true utility guy (Playing OF is just considered a 4th OF to me). So a guy like Ezekial Cabrera does not classify as a utility guy, but Brent Lillibridge does.
- They needed to have at least 150 PA or 50 games played.
-I did not use anyone with over 500 PA, as they essentially were starting and no longer being used in a utility role. Robert Andino would be an example of that.

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   As shown above,the average statistics of an AL utility infielder were not exactly mind-blowing. Maicer Izturis is essentially a top-line utility guy, and border-line starter. Ramon Santiago and Brent Lillibridge proved to be excellent utility options. Everyone else practically was indifferent to their club from a value aspect.
   So in reality, it does not seem like much of a stretch to envision Flaherty putting up a line of .239/.294/.360 in 2012. Oddly enough, ZIPS projects Flaherty to produce a .238/.289/.376 batting line, which is extremely close to the average utility players' line from 2011. It remains to be seen what positions Flaherty will actually play the most, and that could fluctuate his fWAR substantially since fWAR calculates defensive metrics into its total. If he plays much SS, I wouldn't expect him to reach that 0.4 fWAR.
   In conclusion, the utility infielder role really is not a season-changing role, but Flaherty seems capable enough to live up to the utility standards set last season.

1 comment:

  1. You stay be bloggin that heat big ups fam