It won’t be long before the Rays are going to have an interesting decision to make. Jason Bartlett has been on the disabled list since May 30th meaning he would be eligible to come off on June 14th, or tomorrow for the calendar-inclined. It should be expected that he’ll play a couple of rehab games down on the farm, so he’s all but assured to be back in the show sometime this week. During a gameday thread today, CubFanRaysaddict pondered what the difference would be if we just continued to roll with Briggy at SS. After watching the Cajun flash leather all over the place over the last week I thought it was an interesting question that deserved further analysis than an off-the-cuff response. Below you will find a matrix that can show the different expected outcomes:
In the case of Bartlett I looked at a pessimistic Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA) of -5 and an optimistic FRAA of 0, or league average. The middle number was a weighted 5/4/3 ratio for his Total Zone rating over the last three seasons. I then took a look at his wOBA in three different scenarios. Thus far he has put up a wOBA of .298, but ZIPs projects him to finish the season putting up a .327. His career average is .331.
For simplification purposes we can say that each player is going to get about 350 PA at SS (3.5/game) from here on out which means that we can convert their wOBA to runs with this formula
Adding in the FRAA component gives us the weighted Runs Above Average (wRAA) that you find in each cell of the matrix. Basically, the only way that Jason Bartlett has one chance of being a positive contributor the rest of the season (optimistic defense, career offense).
We can take this same look at Reid Brignac. As a younger player that has shown great range thus far I believe that league average defense should be his worst case scenario with +5 defense equally likely and he’s most likely to play at a +3 level. On the offensive-side he is projected to have a .299 wOBA the rest of the year, while he has been at .350 thus far, and I feel .330 (AL league average) is a fair evaluation. You can see that he is a better option, nearly across the board compared to Jason Bartlett. Feel free to use your own numbers for how you think these two will perform the rest of the year. I’ve given you everything that you need here so feel free to post your inputs and outputs in the comments if you would like.