Saturday, January 31, 2009

Teahen to Second?

After church on Sunday, a knowledgeable Royals fan and I were having a discussion about the acquisitions the Royals have made this offseason, when he asked me what I thought about moving Mark Teahen to second base since DeJesus, Crisp, and Guillen are a lock in the outfield. I told him that Teahen is probably too tall to play second base, but if anybody his height could pull it off, it would probably be Teahen because he’s so athletic.

I came home after that and heard that Trey Hillman is thinking about giving Teahen a shot at second base. How about that? But we already have a log jam at second base: Willie Bloomquist, Esteban German, and Alberto Callaspo. The question is, would Teahen be better? Hard telling. He’s an above average fielding third baseman, but second base is a different animal. We’ll see how he adjusts during Spring Training. My fear is, if he is below average defensively that we’re going to have some problems because Mike Jacobs isn’t exactly known for his glove work over at first base. Another option is to use Teahen as an uber-utility man and put him in a different spot every day.

But I have another option:

1B: Alex Gordon (his best fielding position)

2B: Willie Bloomquist/Alberto Callaspo

3B: Mark Teahen (his best fielding position)

SS: Mike Aviles

DH: Mike Jacobs

Yes, this leaves Billy Butler, Ryan Shealy, and Kila Ka’aihue out of the equation. But we knew that somebody’s playing time was going to get cut when Moore signed Jacobs. If Moore was convinced that one of these three guys was going to turn into a 25+ home run guy in the next year or two, he wouldn’t have singed Jacobs. And if the Royals went with the infield I’m proposing, it would be their strongest defensive infield because nobody would be playing out of position. Of course, Butler or Shealy could play first base or DH once in a while.

What do you think?

6 comments:

Antonio. said...

What I think is that the Teahen fetish really needs to end. His numbers have plummeted. He's been going down ever since his season was ended in 2006. Moving a superior talent, Gordon, and putting a developing talent, Butler, on the bench for Mark Teahen is ridiculous. And as far as his uber-athleticism, why? Because he can move to easier positions and play them decently enough? He moved from third to RF/LF/1B. Is this evidence of great athleticism?

Lee Warren said...

Okay, I'm not sure where the hostility is coming from, but I'm always open to having a friendly conversation.

I'm not sure what you mean when you say Gordon is a superior talent. Superior to whom and at what? Surely not Teahen. He's not superior to Teahen defensively at third base. Gordon has a career fielding percentage of .958 at 3B. Teahen's percentage at 3B is .951. Percentage-wise, Gordon is better, barely. But clearly not superior. And in my opinion, Teahen has more range. Gordon has slightly more power than Teahen does (if you project their HR totals, Gordon hits 17 HR ever 162 games compared to Teahen who hits 14). And their career OBP is identical (.332). Again, Gordon has a slight advantage, but he isn't superior.

I agree that Teahen has been a disappointment. He's had four years and he hasn't lived up to expectations. But at this point in their careers, Teahen's numbers are similar to Gordon's, and that's what we have to work with.

Butler's offensive numbers are similar to Gordon's and Teahen's. He averages 14 HR per 162 games played and his OBP is .002 higher than both guys. If I had to choose between Teahen or Butler, I'd choose Teahen because he can play so many positions.

My uber-athleticism comment about Teahen is based on his ability to play many defensive positions adequately or above average. Would you stick Alex Gordon in center field in a pinch? How about Billy Butler? Teahen has played CF 6 times for the Royals and hasn't made an error once at that position. He reads the ball well in center field and is able to track the ball down ball out there.

To be honest, I'm disappointed in all three of these guys. I know that Gordon and Butler have had less time to prove themselves than Teahen, but none of them have put great numbers. Bailing on Teahen because he's had four seasons instead of two would make sense in the abstract, but baseball isn't played in the abstract. We have what we have and in Teahen, we have a guy who can play nearly any position and put up modest offensive numbers. In Butler we have a defensive liability who is putting up modest numbers.

Bryan said...

I think Teahen got hosed when KC moved him from 3rd. He had that stellar half season there, then the Royals move him to the OF and he was never the same. I'm not saying if we move him back the second-half-of-2006-Teahen returns, I just think we messed up a good thing. Yet another reason not to move Soria to the rotation – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Lee Warren said...

I agree with you Bryan.

Jack said...

"Okay, I'm not sure where the hostility is coming from, but I'm always open to having a friendly conversation."

I didn't sense any hostility in Antonio's post. Maybe I'm mistaken, or maybe he's made posts in the past to which you are referring...

"I'm not sure what you mean when you say Gordon is a superior talent. Superior to whom and at what? Surely not Teahen."

Gordon's projection has always been considerably higher than Teahen's. It still is, now. Virtually every scout would agree. Things can change, but the consensus was that Gordon would be a star, while Teahen might prove to be a star, but would more likely (best case scenario) be an everyday/complimentary player.

He's not superior to Teahen defensively at third base. Gordon has a career fielding percentage of .958 at 3B. Teahen's percentage at 3B is .951."

Fielding percentage is a faulty stat. Some combination of UZR, Fielding %, +/- system, and raw scouting data should be used when determining fielding. Gordon's fielding % is still higher, and he is still 2 1/2 years younger than Teahen. How does their 'fielding' compare?

Percentage-wise, Gordon is better, barely. But clearly not superior. And in my opinion, Teahen has more range. Gordon has slightly more power than Teahen does (if you project their HR totals, Gordon hits 17 HR ever 162 games compared to Teahen who hits 14). And their career OBP is identical (.332). Again, Gordon has a slight advantage, but he isn't superior.

"I agree that Teahen has been a disappointment. He's had four years and he hasn't lived up to expectations. But at this point in their careers, Teahen's numbers are similar to Gordon's, and that's what we have to work with."

I think projections should count, as well. Gordon's career UZR at 3B is 3.5, while Teahen's is -16.7.

Since the last season should deserve the most weight when weighing the future, here is how their 2008 season compared.

Teahen 2008 - .255/.313/.402
Gordon 2008 - .260/.351/.432
....and the fielding discrepancies weren't enough to counter it. Not to mention Teahen barely played 3B and played a decidedly below average RF, and a well-below average LF. Teahen is more versatile, but there's no reason to hide Gordon's defensive talent/projection further by catering to Teahen, whose production has decreased markedly each of the last two seasons.

"Butler's offensive numbers are similar to Gordon's and Teahen's. He averages 14 HR per 162 games played and his OBP is .002 higher than both guys. If I had to choose between Teahen or Butler, I'd choose Teahen because he can play so many positions."

Consider their ages. Butler is a full two years younger than Gordon and about five years younger than Teahen. Consider their projections and upsides. The "What have you done for me lately?" mentality should only apply for past-their-peak veterans, not rookies and young 20's players with serious upside.

"My uber-athleticism comment about Teahen is based on his ability to play many defensive positions adequately or above average."

What positions can Teahen play above average? Sure, he can handily fill in at four positions (possibly five) - but good luck finding even average defense on three of those!

"Would you stick Alex Gordon in center field in a pinch? How about Billy Butler? Teahen has played CF 6 times for the Royals and hasn't made an error once at that position. He reads the ball well in center field and is able to track the ball down ball out there."

Versatility - or the ability to play multiple positions - shouldn't determine an everyday player. Not when you have two superior talents in Butler and Gordon. As I mentioned, there's really no comparing the upsides of Butler/Gordon vs. Teahen.

"To be honest, I'm disappointed in all three of these guys. I know that Gordon and Butler have had less time to prove themselves than Teahen, but none of them have put great numbers. Bailing on Teahen because he's had four seasons instead of two would make sense in the abstract, but baseball isn't played in the abstract. We have what we have and in Teahen, we have a guy who can play nearly any position and put up modest offensive numbers. In Butler we have a defensive liability who is putting up modest numbers."

As I mentioned, compare their Minor League totals. See a difference? And Teahen has had the majority of four seasons to prove himself in the big-leagues. So far, not so good.

Lee Warren said...

Jack, thanks for comments. Good stuff. You probably know though from reading this blog that I’m not into Sabermetrics. I’m old school. I never have believed that players can be analyzed solely by objective evidence/standards. Stats matter and they are important, but they don’t tell the whole story—at least not in my opinion. And even when evaluating stats, I’m not sold on the plethora of new statistical categories being created on a regular basis.

When guys go into the Hall of Fame, the last thing you hear about is their UZR, VORP, PECOTA, OPS, Wins Shares, or RC. You hear how many home runs they hit, how many runs they drove in, how many batting titles they won, how many games they won on the mound, and how many Gold Gloves they won, etc—all of which are determined by the same stats we’ve been measuring players by for generations.

When players are making their case for a raise with their current team or on the open market, they don’t refer to Sabermetrics. They refer to the old standbys.

When you ask a GM what he is looking for a in a player, he’ll often refer to things like power, range, speed, base running ability, arm strength, stamina, ability to throw strikes, intensity level, leadership abilities, etc. They evaluate tangibles plus intangibles. Some may dabble in Sabermetrics, but I doubt if most of them do.

And I highly doubt that Trey Hillman is sitting down with a chart during Spring Training that compares the combination of UZR, fielding percentage, and +/- coupled with raw scouting data to determine who should play third base. And I doubt that he’ll be evaluating a combination of OPS, VORP, RC, RC27 to determine who should hit where in the lineup.

I know we disagree. That’s okay.

 
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