A three year Indians review: Right Field
There are only two positions left for this series, and it’s been a tight race to see if this offense has improved over the last two years. For all the money invested it has not been a slam dunk improvement. This has been due in part to early season injuries which seemed to short circuit both Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher to varying degrees.
Over the last five seasons one could argue that the Indians best hitter had been Shin-Soo Choo. He has always been an on-base machine with above average power who managed to steal some bases. He held the title of best player to never play in an All Star game during that same time as well.
This past offseason many thought the Indians would trade eitherAsdrubal Cabrera or Choo. In the end we do not know what trades were out there and what developed, yet it is hard to not see the choice to move Choo as a possible mistake. Asdrubal has been horrible and Choo has had another Choo year. Even if he leaves at the end of the year you get another first rounder which looks better than anything Asdrubal would bring in return.
Now it is time to look at right field and see if Drew Stubbs has been able to come anywhere near the value they got from the criminally under rated Shin-Soo Choo.
2011 Shin-Soo Choo - .259/.344/.390 358 PA
2012 Shin-Soo Choo - .283/.373/.441 686 PA
2013 Drew Stubbs - .240/.302/.370 399 PA
Choo was a solid producer for the Indians five of the last six years in Cleveland. The lone exception was 2011 when he was arrested for DUI during the year and then never got on track. He also ended up getting hurt and missing almost half the year. It was also the season were his defense started to unravel.
He rebounded nicely in 2012 and was again arguably the best bat on the team, but the Indians traded him before he could leave via free agency. It’s pretty easy to look at the slash lines and see just how much of a step down Stubbs is. Choo’s big “disappointment” year still is better than what Stubbs has managed.
For this stat remember anything below 0 is below replacement level, 2+ is a starter, 5+ an All Star:
2011 Shin-Soo Choo - 1.3
2012 Shin-Soo Choo - 2.4
2013 Drew Stubbs - 1.1 current (1.38 projected)
I found this very interesting because if you remember the last piece, Stubbs' projected WAR is nearly identical to Brantley’s. The reason is that Stubbs by metrics is the second best base running right fielder in baseball and is a league average defender. Brantley graded out as a solid base runner but as a below average defender. Just an interesting note for two players who were both forced to change positions to help this team win.
Choo had been a five to six win player in '09 and '10. His drop was due to his defense falling off a cliff and a dip in production. Still, even with those numbers, he was a better player. As mentioned before his worst year is still better than what Stubbs has done.
For this remember 100 is average and 120 is great. It means the player produces 20% runs more than your average starter.
2011 Shin-Soo Choo - 106
2012 Shin-Soo Choo - 131
2013 Drew Stubbs - 89
This stat just showed me what a dramatic change in production the Indians have in right field. Choo to Stubbs was a 50 point change. Think about it again. They are getting 50% less total production out of right field this year. On top of that Stubbs is below league average production, let alone production for a corner outfielder.
The defense is hugely improved but not enough to balance out just how little production the team has gotten out of the position. Stubbs' base running and defense make him an okay outfielder and he is a definitely a major leaguer. In the right place he would be a very solid defensive center fielder. He is miscast in his role as a corner outfielder, and really should not be a starter on any team with contending aspirations. This is something the Reds figured out, and moved him.
Of all the positions on this Indians team, the one I think they should look to upgrade the most is right field. Either by finding a new right fielder or moving Swisher back to right field and signing a new first baseman. I am curious what others think about this going forward so comment away. [Editor's note - Ryan Raburn could also get the lion's share of playing time in right field next year.]
For the record it’s now 4-3-1 for the Indians line up this year against the previous two years. With only one position to go it could still end up a tossup for the Indians hitters this year. After all that money spent how big a failure would it be to only tie the production they have had the last few years.
Also here is the compiled WAR and wRC+ for this team vs. 2011 and 2013:
2011 vs. 20013 WAR +3.33 wRC+ +66
2012 vs. 2013 WAR + 2.43 wRC+ +4
Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffmlbdraft, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
I hope to God they don't look at Raburn as an everyday player.