We are about to start digging into our off-season 25-man and 40-man roster projections for 2010. But before we do, it will help if we have a good idea of where the Rays can improve.
Most teams set a goal of being at least average at every position and above average at a few positions. A .769 OPS is good for the catcher position. But that same OPS doesn’t cut it for a position like right field that is expected to produce offensively.
So let’s take a look at how the Rays performed at the plate by position and look at how each position compares to the rest of the AL…
And if line drive rate and wOBA are more your flavor, we have those also (but without league average)…
A few notes on the above tables…
- It is no surprise that SS (Jason Bartlett), 3B (Evan Longoria) and LF (Carl Crawford) carried the Rays this season offensively, with all three positions ranked in the top 2 of both OPS and wOBA
- It is also no surprise that the three positions that struggled the most in 2009 were catcher, center field and DH. Most indications are that BJ Upton and Pat Burrell will be back in 2010, so the Rays will just have to hope that both players rebound offensively. Dioner Navarro on the other hand is no guarantee to be back, as the Rays could decide to non-tender him and not offer arbitration. However, some quotes from the front office suggest Navi will be back in 2010 also.
- The other two positions that could use an upgrade in 2010 are second base and right field. This is a bit surprising as Ben Zobrist logged a lot of playing time at both positions and had a great offensive season. However, these numbers suggest that when Zorilla wasn’t playing that particular position, the other inhabitants struggled mightily. Both positions could have new full-time contributors in 2010. Zobrist figures to fill one of those positions, however at this point it is anybody’s guess whether he roams the infield or the outfield. If Zorilla is the most-days right fielder, that opens second base for Reid Brignac or Sean Rodriguez. If BenZo is the most days second baseman, Matt Joyce could be in right field.
- If we take a look at LD% and BABIP, we can see which positions were lucky/unlucky in 2009*. SS and 3B almost hit their expect values, so the performances of Bartlett and Longoria were no fluke. LF (Carl Crawford) had a BABIP about 20 points higher than expected, so we might expect a slight regression in 2010. On the other hand, C (-54 points), 1B (-48), RF (-44), 2B (-24) and DH (-24) were all well-below their expected BABIPs which suggests they hit the ball a little better than their numbers. Of course, the shocking number might be CF (BJ Upton). Rays center fielders ranked 12th in OPS and wOBA and yet their BABIP was 32 points higher than expected suggesting that Upton was even worse than advertised. If that is possible.
*It is not perfect, but if we add 12% to a position’s LD% we get the expected BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play). If a position is well-above that expected value they might have been lucky and if well-below they might have been unlucky. However, there are reasons for some players to have higher or lower BABIPs than expected. A player like Navarro that doesn’t get a lot of bat speed and doesn’t have a lot of speed himself is going to have a harder time getting balls past infielders and beating out basehits. On the other hand, Upton has a ton of bat speed and is very fast, so he will get more basehits naturally.