Stat nerds overestimated Alex Rios’ value

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Good ole’ lazy friday. Here’s an article I prepared after Rios was dealt to Chicago. I went on vacation shortly thereafter and never got around to posting. The majority of this article was written right after the deal (and before Alex shit the bed in Chicago).

The dust has settled. The sabermetric community proclaims the Jays as the losers in the Alex Rios trade. Both Fangraphs and the Hardball Times had similar articles. The crux of their argument is that Rios’ fielding, namely UZR, adds so much value in terms of runs and in turn wins above average, that the Jays got screwed on the deal.

From the Fan Graphs article titled “White Sox Steal Rios”

Rios is having a down year defensively according to UZR (-.7) but in the last three seasons in right field he’s been one of the best defensive outfielders in the game – +15.5 last season, +9 the two seasons prior to that.

I can except this argument for a consistent hitter. Throwing around unlucky etc about Rios year after year gets old.

Ok, to get back my point here is a collection of UZR/150 leaders for the 2009 season (as of August 20something)

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I did have to use a low minimum threshold (min 50 innings). Sample variance aside look at the names on these lists. Not exactly the cream of the offensive crop. And there lies the answer. I can pull a soft hitting fielder off of a MLB bench or in the minors and plug him in my outfield and expect good defensive results.

Is it really worth paying a good/great defensive player $60 with questionable offence going forward? Or would I rather pay some bench player $400,000 for good/great D and expect less than stellar batting success to come along with it. I’m a numbers guy but these over-inflated contract valuations based upon outfielders fielding prowess need to be held in check.

Update (Sept 11th):

To illustrate what I’m trying to get at here is Joe Inglett’s LF UZR stats from 2006 – 2009 (42 games, 21 starts). Note: Super small sample alert!

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And Rios’ career UZR/150 in RF

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Of course samples exist. The way UZR is created a score is just as valid in LF as it is in RF. I’m not buying this but statistically this is how the system is set up.

Now I’m not saying that Joe Inglett is anywhere near the OF that Alex Rios is. (Of course Rios’ arm is one of the best in the majors.) Still, I stand by my logic of grabbing a 4th outfielder and inserting them into the OF for defensive fielding runs is a better allocation of payroll than paying a premium for an inconstant corner OF. (ie Alex Rios)

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  • So you’re saying our used car salesman of a general manager actually got this one right.

    Yes. Yes you are.

    RICCIARDI FOR LIFE.

  • I love the point, and everyday the Rios deal gets better. Riccardi probably won’t get credit for it because of everything else that has blown up on him since the beginning of his tenure, but there’s no way the Giants would be able to just send Zito’s salary to another team like that.

  • To be fair, yes, this is a Ricciardi move that went right. However, it doesn’t really take a genius to put a guy on waivers and have him and his bloated contract get claimed. He is lucky a guy like Kenny Williams is out there. Very lucky. Just like he was lucky the Yankees were around to take Raul Mondesi off his hands.

  • Ron

    The fact that he just let the guy go and got nothing for him doesn’t make JP a genius, it’s at best a wash. He still needs to be fired.