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The IBI Awards: Least Valuable Hitter

Cabrera leads the way in landslide

The IBI Awards: Least Valuable Hitter
October 16, 2013
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The 2013 season proved quite successful for Cleveland as the team completed a 24-win turnaround and made the playoffs with a 92-70 record.

As a part of recapping the year that was, IBI is once again giving out some year-end awards. Unlike last year, we will be focusing only on Cleveland-centric awards. Today we unveil IBI's Least Valuable Hitter:





Asdrubal Cabrera



Lonnie Chisenhall



Drew Stubbs



Mark Reynolds



Michael Bourn



Mike Aviles



Jason Giambi



Jason Kubel



Nick Swisher



Here is where he start to have some fun with the definition of "valuable." I decided to take it in a straightforward way as in who were the five worst players who logged significant time for the team. To do that I used my end of the season rankings from earlier in the month.

Which is why I did not vote for Cabrera.

Now I was the only one, but I stand by my vote. I put Reynolds first as Cleveland actually cut him midseason. I also voted for Giambi (I know there we not high expectations for him, but he still posted a .183/.282/.371 line in 216 plate appearances), Aviles, Stubbs, and Chisenhall in that order. The rationale is in the piece, but in the end, Cabrera did well down the stretch (110 wRC+ in September and October) and ended the year with a surprisingly decent line (.242/.299/.402 line, 95 wRC+).

Here's what the rest of IBI thinks:

Tony Lastoria:

1. Michael Bourn

2. Asdrubal Cabrera

3. Lonnie Chisenhall

4. Drew Stubbs

5. Jason Kubel

Asdrubal Cabrera had his worst season as an Indian thanks to both a declining defense and discipline at the plate. Lonnie Chisenhall was handed the keys to third base at the outset of the season but never really found a way to rev up the engine and get going. Drew Stubbs proved that his decline in Cincinnati was real and that he is a role player. As for Jason Kubel, well, nothing shows you have no value more than sitting on the pine for the final 16 games of the season after you were just acquired.

But to me, the least valuable hitter was Michael Bourn. Cabrera gets a lot of the angst, but if you look at his numbers they are almost a carbon copy of last season except he walked less and struck out more which is why his batting average and on-base suffered this season. But Bourn just never impressed me much in center field and didn’t look like the Gold Glove caliber defender he was made out to be. He stole very few bases and had a minimal impact on the bases, another thing he was supposed to bring to the Indians that didn’t show this season. In addition, the bat was inconsistent as he had 132 strikeouts and a .316 on-base percentage at the leadoff spot, which is not very good. Oh yeah, and the Indians are paying him $13.5 million next season. Everyone will be hopeful for a rebound from him next season, but I still think the Indians should look to trade him in the right deal this offseason.

Jim Pete:

1. Asdrubal Cabrera

2. Mike Aviles

3. Michael Bourn

4. Drew Stubbs

5. Nick Swisher

This one was easy at the top, but not really all that easy after that. There was absolutely nothing good about Cabrera at the plate in 2013. He had one good stretch of baseball, right after he returned from injury, but past that, he was utter garbage. He walked less than 40 times, while striking out more than 100, and his average with runners in scoring position was .197. How many times was he up, blowing scoring chances, with an empty at bat?

Steve Orbanek:

1. Lonnie Chisenhall

2. Asdrubal Cabrera

3. Drew Stubbs

4. Mark Reynolds

5. Michael Bourn

This is also a tough vote between Chisenhall and Cabrera, but I give the nod to Chisenhall simply for the fact that he essentially was relegated to a bench player by the end of the season. Chisenhall hit .225 with 11 home runs in 94 games. His struggles against left-handers continued as well as he went just 4-for-36 in limited opportunities. Chisenhall is still young, so maybe he turns it around, but it’s hard to be encouraged by much of anything at this point.

Michael Hattery:

1. Mike Aviles

2. Drew Stubbs

3. Asdrubal Cabrera

4. Lonnie Chisenhall

5. Michael Bourn

Perhaps it is unfair to punish a semi-regular with such an award but Aviles had nearly 400 plate appearances which puts him in the crosshairs. Mike’s surface numbers are not entirely disappointing, a .252 batting average with 9 homers and 46 RBI. However his OPS was only .650, which is caused mainly by his obscenely poor OBP. Mike’s inability to take a walk is his tragic flaw offensively and allowed him to win a close race over Drew Stubbs and Asdrubal Cabrera for least valuable offensive player.

Stephanie Metzger:

1. Asdrubal Cabrera

2. Drew Stubbs

3. Michael Bourn

4. Nick Swisher

5. Lonnie Chisenhall

I stopped caring about Asdrubal Cabrera the moment I laid eyes on Francisco Lindor last year, and Cabrera’s 2013 campaign sealed the deal for me. The GIDP during the Wild Card may have also finalized my feelings for him. That said, though I wanted to trade him before the deadline, now I wonder if it’d be best to simply let him ride out the remainder of his contract. Lindor won’t be ready coming out of spring training, and perhaps Cabrera will resurrect himself with a decent 2014.

Jeff Ellis:

1. Asdrubal Cabrera

2. Lonnie Chisenhall

3. Mark Reynolds

4. Drew Stubbs

5. Michael Bourn

Bourn’s production didn’t live up to his contract. His walk rate really fell off last year’s total when he was eighth in the NL. Stubbs was Stubbs, which means he is a good fourth outfielder but a guy who shouldn’t be an everyday player. Reynolds had an excellent month then was cut. Chisenhall failed to hold down the third base job even though there was little competition. In the end Asdrubal was the biggest disappointment. He came into camp in the best shape of his life and then had the worst year of his career.  Worst part was he seemed to be completely indifferent about his play most of the year. He went from one of the top offensive players at shortstop to a guy who couldn’t crack the top 10 players at his position this year.

Jake Dungan:

1. Asdrubal Cabrera

2. Lonnie Chisenhall

3. Jason Kubel

4. Drew Stubbs

5. Mark Reynolds

It was a toss-up for me between Cabrera and Lonnie Chisenhall for least valuable hitter this season. However, the award, so to speak, goes to Cabrera, who had arguably the worst season of his career in 2013 and may have punched his ticket out of Cleveland this offseason. Even though the home run and RBI numbers weren’t that far off from last year’s numbers, his staggering drop-off in batting average, on-base percentage and walk total due to decline in plate discipline took a key bat out of consideration for most of the season.

Nathan Kemp:

1. Lonnie Chisenhall

2. Asdrubal Cabrera

3. Michael Bourn

4. Drew Stubbs

5. Mark Reynolds

Chisenhall gets the nod over Cabrera because of his meager production at what should be a premium offensive position. While I still believe Chisenhall can become a decent player, his .226/.270/.401 doesn't cut it for third base, especially given his defensive struggles. Next year, assuming it isn't already too late, is a make-or-break season for Chisenhall.

Arthur Kinney:

1. Mark Reynolds

2. Drew Stubbs

3. Asdrubal Cabrera

4. Lonnie Chisenhall

5. Mike Aviles

Reynolds is pretty much a no-brainer here. Other players may have had similarly bad numbers, but no one else was the total basket case Mark was at the plate. Stubbs and Cabrera get the next two spots due to massively underwhelming seasons. Chisenhall and Aviles get on the list in the last two spots largely due to the need to list five players. They were underwhelming, but nowhere near in the same class as the first three.

Charlie Adams:

1. Asdrubal Cabrera

2. Mark Reynolds

3. Jason Giambi

4. Mike Aviles

5. Lonnie Chisenhall

Asdrubal Cabrera leads the list of Indians players with 200+ plate appearances and a sub-300 OBP. Cabrera takes the top spot mostly because of expectations for being so much better with the stick.

Michael Goodman:

1. Asdrubal Cabrera

2. Mark Reynolds

3. Lonnie Chisenhall

4. Drew Stubbs

5. Michael Bourn 

Cabrera might not have been the WORST hitter on the Indians this season, but his lackluster performance certainly hurt the team the most of the guys listed. After a hot start Reynolds was a huge disappointment. The Indians could have used the Mark Reynolds from years past in the second half, but they cut bait on him at the right time. Some of Chisenhall’s struggles can be attributed to a low BABIP, a number that shows Lonnie is a good bet to perform better next season. Drew Stubbs really faded in the second half (.210 batting average) and lost playing time in September. I considered Mike Aviles and Jason Giambi for the fifth spot on this list, but I eventually settled on Michael Bourn. Giambi had the biggest hit of the season, so he gets reprieve. That leaves Aviles, and while his .282 OBP and .368 slugging percentage in 400 at-bats were underwhelming, he’s a bench player who was forced to play too much. Michael Bourn’s numbers were down across the board this year. That’s not what the Indians were hoping for when they signed him.

If you want to follow Jim on Twitter, he’s @JimPiascik. If you want to e-mail him, you can do so at If you want to read his Master's thesis on college athletes and Twitter, you can do so here.

User Comments

October 17, 2013 - 9:13 AM EDT
I understand that Cabrera's season stats were similar to last year, but I can't get around that .197 average with RISP. Cabrera was counted on to be a run-producer, and he turned out to be a consistent rally-killer. He was the opposite of Brantley, who hit something like .370 with RISP and two out. It got to where I hated to see Cabrera stepping into the batter's box with men on base.

But at least Cabrera didn't get released, so that's the strongest argument that Reynolds was the least valuable.

Chisenhall was so bad he got sent to the minors, so he definitely belongs on the list. But I think the top of the list should be reserved for established players who were expected to produce in critical spots in the lineup, not young players who just didn't step up.

Bourn was just bad all year. I hated the way he swung at every pitch in the strike zone. As a leadoff hitter he's supposed to work the count and try to get on, but like Aviles, he swung at anything close. But I'm cutting him some slack because he tried so hard. He got hurt diving into first base. I can't imagine Cabrera doing that.

So my list would be...

Cabrera (very close second)
October 16, 2013 - 7:25 PM EDT
Then why was he 6th and two spots ahead of gomes down the stretch? Especially in the wildcard game?

No one has yet to give me an answer!
October 16, 2013 - 6:18 PM EDT
Jake had Jason Kubel third on the list but how can a player be third with only 18 at bats all season!?!?!? Where is the sense in that
October 16, 2013 - 3:07 PM EDT
My vote for Bourn is mostly on his poor offensive contributions across the board. That said, I think his defense is vastly over-rated and the advanced metrics do no favors in this regard. I saw minimal impact defensively this year. Mind you, he was good....but not Gold Glove caliber good with range and instincts or with a rocket arm good.
October 16, 2013 - 3:06 PM EDT
Also something I found interesting...

Swisher showing up on both the most valuable list (6th) and the least valuable list (9th, though only on 2 ballots).
October 16, 2013 - 2:53 PM EDT
Think you have me confused with someone else as the only other time I used fWAR with you the last week was when you asked about what pitcher was most valuable by month. And only used that as it was a simple way to look at pitchers each month, wasn't saying that's who I thought was the most valuable each month. Never once did fWAR come up in regards to Kipnis at 2B vs the OF or Ramirez.. Nor did I about Santana.

And there was no dig at you in regards to only looking at defense. Good grief man, why do you think that every little statement is a dig at you? I point out one thing and you seem to get all bent out of shape.

As far as Sabr numbers....depends which you go by. Fangraphs had Dunn at a -0.8 offensive guy....Bourn at -2.0. BR had Bourn at a 2.0 oWAR guy though and Dunn at a 1.1 oWAR guy. So sure, you could call it a draw. And again, not saying I'd take this deal, thought it would be an interesting debate. And IMO, has been.

As far as Bourn on a 3-year deal vs Dunn on a 1....fair enough. I would take a bad 1 year deal over a bad 3 year deal. I also think our big difference is I don't see Bourn as a dynamic leadoff man. Even his best year he only put up a .354 OBP. Hell, Kipnis put up a .360 OBP this year. Bourn shouldn't be hitting leadoff on this team. Even if he has his best year ever...still not the best leadoff option on this team. And while I do think he will rebound....don't see him putting up a .350 OBP. .340 may be pushing it.
October 16, 2013 - 2:27 PM EDT
All comes down to what a person thinks "hitter" means...

Personally did the same as with the most valuable hitter and went strictly by offense. Think a few others did this too.
October 16, 2013 - 2:22 PM EDT
It wasn't Seth...Least Valuable Hitter.

I only mentioned defense because of a mentioned deal in the thread for Adam Dunn...
October 16, 2013 - 2:21 PM EDT
Hermie...We can debate the use of fWAR, as you've used it as your defense in every conversation that we've had over the past week. I don't want to do that here...but don't worry...I will take that task on when I have the time. I'm not even a sabr-guy, but know the flaw-ed thinking there.

I'll just leave it at this...

I would sign Bourn over Dunn in almost every instance this year, last year or next year. I would prefer it not to be for three years, but if I had to sign Dunn to a one-year $15 million dollar deal, I wouldn't under any circumstances. If it meant signing Bourn, coming off one of his best seasons in 2012, not even a conversation.

If it meant this year, I'd still take the flyer on Bourn. You could likely point to some outliers, including age, for a continued regression in Bourn's statistics, but I talked with a guy a day or so ago that doesn't statistical research for fangraphs that believes Bourn's 2013 season isn't a trend. I'm actually going to do a piece on the numbers that he used soon... I'm sure you'll have a lot to say about it.

I'm not a Bourn fan either, but love the idea of having an impact leadoff hitter.

As to comparing Stubbs to Bourn, I'm fine with that swap if you improve the team with the money you save. If you are just doing it to cut salary, then I want nothing to do with it.

Dunn isn't an improvement. It's adding a slightly better Mark Reynolds to the team at twice the price. Then there's the discussion about his regression.

As to the rest of the domino effects...don't care to get into that here either....we'll have plenty of time to do that as the offseason permits.

Oh, and as to the dig on me only mentioning I said in my post prior...I'm sure if you weight their OFFENSE, you could make a case that their value via sabr or normal metrics is negligible. I don't have them in front of me right now...but c'mon...

give me a break.
October 16, 2013 - 2:18 PM EDT
If this award was supposed to take into account defense, then I don't see how Bourn is on anyone's list. He was a 2-WAR player. Reynolds and Asdrubal should be the clear leaders, based on their very bad defense and below average offense. Then probably Stubbs and Chisenhall.

I don't see Bourn being tradeable. Makes no sense to do if it's just a salary dump (replacing 2-3 WAR is not a simple thing with no internal options), and it makes no sense for anyone else to give up a prospect for the privilege of paying Bourn a little more than he might be worth.
October 16, 2013 - 2:00 PM EDT
Bavasi is gone from Seattle....but still wouldn't put it past them.
October 16, 2013 - 1:54 PM EDT
...or seattle...
October 16, 2013 - 1:53 PM EDT
You can count Bourn's above average defense when talking about him as a player...but what defense do you lose by moving Bourn?

Stubbs was a top 5 defensive CFer in all of baseball from 2009-2012. Sure Bourn was better but not like you're going from a Corvette to a Prius there. Swisher in RF over Stubbs isn't much of a loss...if any. Again, only big loss on defense is Santana to Swisher at 1B.

I don't see Bourn's defense in CF trumping Dunn's power. But admittingly just never been a Bourn fan, so probably harder on him than I should be.

Way I look at it though....if both Bourn and Dunn were free agents and I said you either had to give Bourn 3yrs/$41M plus a vesting option....or give Dunn a 1yr/$15M deal, which would you take? I'd take the Dunn deal personally (though taking neither would obviously be the better call).

Also....I threw out an idea of a trade involving a guy that had a negative fWAR this year.....and the only argument against it is that Bourn has some value defensively.....nothing about his offense at about being an "unvaluable"
October 16, 2013 - 1:37 PM EDT
You'd have to find a desperate and stupid team for Bourn...

White Sox may fit that bill ;)
October 16, 2013 - 1:26 PM EDT
That's the problem with Bourn...$13.5 million...

You'd have to find a desperate team
October 16, 2013 - 1:25 PM EDT
You're right Hermie, defense doesn't count then because Dunn doesn't play it...therefore nullifying Bourn's above average defense. Let's just not count it...;)

My point here is that Bourn can actually play D, which gives him value...then the debate becomes who is more valuable in the lineup, and you can easily argue that towards Bourn. While he wasn't up to his 2012 and prior standards, there were at least three games I can think of that he provided the Indians go ahead runs just with his feet.

Now, you can likely argue Dunn can do that with the bat as well (and he did, I'm sure), I just don't think the two stack up.

I'm fine with a DH, but was his oWAR that much better than Bourn's? I'll bet you it's damn near the same...

Not a deal I'd want to ever touch...
October 16, 2013 - 1:23 PM EDT
I tend to agree, but could live with Dunn there for 1 year as a DH only.

Again, not my ideal deal....just really don't see many scenarios where you'd be able to move Bourn and his contract. White Sox though have taken on some bad deals in the past (Rios)...
October 16, 2013 - 1:17 PM EDT
Not a fan of everyday lineup guys who are DHs only. Those are days of the past in baseball.
October 16, 2013 - 1:14 PM EDT
I don't see why Dunn's defense really matters though. He'd be the DH...and Stubbs can play CF about as well as Bourn. Only spot you'd really lose defense is at 1B with Santana replacing Swisher.

I'd definitely look for a better deal, but IMO a lineup of Kipnis, Swisher, Brantley, Santana, Dunn, Cabrera, Gomes, Chisenhall, Subbs is much better than Bourn, Swisher, Kipnis, Santana, Brantley, Cabrera, Gomes, Chisenhall, Stubbs...

Man...if a team is in such desperate shape they need Bourn as a leadoff hitter...why not go get DeJesus, who is a better leadoff man and a free agent...
October 16, 2013 - 1:04 PM EDT
Talk about a hole in the offense. At least Bourn can play D...I know a small price to pay, but wouldn't want Dunn in the least.

That's the type of deal the Indians would likely have to look at for Bourn, unless they were working with a team like the Yankees, or another team that was in desperate need of a leadoff hitter.
October 16, 2013 - 1:02 PM EDT
Bourn for Dunn? I pass if I am the Indians. Not a big fan of Dunn. And Bourn can just help out in so many other ways.
October 16, 2013 - 12:41 PM EDT
File this in the one and a million category....but...

Bourn for Dunn

Who says no first...
October 16, 2013 - 11:43 AM EDT
Voting for this award opened my eyes a little. Initially, without thinking about it, I had Cabrera as my #1 on my list. But when I looked at Cabrera's season and compared it to 2013 which was a solid campaign, I was surprised how it was almost a carbon copy season. Mind you, in less plate appearances this year Cabrera had the same doubles this year as last (35). One more triple this year (2) than last (1). Two less home runs this year (14) than last (16). Four less RBI this year (64) than last (68). The same stolen bases this year than last (9). His power was actually better this season as he had a .159 ISO compared to .153 last season....the 2nd highest mark of his career.

Now, obviously where Cabrera struggled was with the batting average and I think a lot of that stemmed from an approach which appears to be eroding as his walk rate went down from 8.4% in 2012 to 6.2% this year and his strikeout rate went up from 16.2% in 2012 to 20.3% this year. To me, that tick downward in walks and tick upward in strikeouts was the difference in his overall numbers. His defense has also regressed, but I didn't see that much difference in it than his best season in 2011.

So when I looked at all of that.....I just didn't see a guy who was the least valuable or the biggest disappointment. Based on his expectations, he fell short of them, but only a little bit when comparing it to last season.

Michael Bourn on the other hand to me was a significant disappointment. His numbers across the board got worse. His on-base went from .348 last year to .316 this year. His stolen bases went from 42 last year to 23 this year. The strikeout rate went up 1%. The isolated power went down from .117 to .097. His wRC+ went from 105 to 90. His WAR from 6.2 to 2.0. And from a subjective standpoint his defense wasn't as good as advertised. I just see a guy who was a complete disappointment, especially considering he was hitting leadoff. A guy with Bourn's numbers should be hitting 8th or 9th in the lineup but sadly there are $13.5 million reasons he will continue to hit leadoff.

I still say that if the Indians can trade Bourn they absolutely need to do it. That's a contract they are going to want to get out from under and if they can get creative this offseason and get a decent return to save the money on him to fill other areas, I do it in a heartbeat.
Canadian Joe
October 16, 2013 - 11:27 AM EDT
Either Bourn or Cabrera, take your pick. If Bourn had career average year, his value at lead off would have been much higher, providing opportunities for more runs. Cabrera has not come close to his big year, having regressed every year since.
Run production in the middle of the order was lacking all year, and certainly Cabrera (along with Swisher) were big reasons why. This should be a major priority in the off season, aside from getting their rotation in some semblance of order.
October 16, 2013 - 10:41 AM EDT
1. Bourn
2. Reynolds
3. Cabrera
4. Aviles
5. Stubbs

What's worse...a leadoff hitter than can't get on base or a middle of the order bat that can't hit with RISP?

For me the least valuable bat was Bourn. Cabrera was god-awful with RISP but Bourn just could not get on base this year. Not like he turned it on at any point either...Bourn was consistently bad all year. First half OBP was .314...second half increased to a whopping .317.

Cabrera at least provided some life in September and had a very good May. Bourn had 10 great games in April...then really nothing. And at least Cabrera was dropped in the order so his struggles weren't as devastating to the team IMO. Actually think Reynolds was less valualbe than Cabrera. 1 great month then just pure nothingness. Sometimes wondered if a pitcher hitting for him wouldn't have been better. Yes he had 15 HRs, but any value he built in April was lost and then some the following months. Aviles...if we're strictly talking "hitting" then he definitely belongs on this list. OBP of .282 is obviously terrible. Numbers wise wasn't much different than Giambi (same OBP, nearly identical OPS), but more ABs drops him. And lastly...I went Stubbs. Obviously on the bases he was better than Giambi and Chiz but got so many at-bats and really wasn't much better than either. Giambi did have the worst oWAR by far on the team (-0.6), but just couldn't put him on this list with those big hits he had.

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