What Do People See in Wilson Valdez?
The poll depicted on the right accompanied Bob Brookover’s post on Chase Utley‘s addition to the disabled list on the Phillies Zone blog on Philly.com. The question asks readers their preferred starting second baseman for Opening Day (and presumably for as long as Utley is out). At the time I perused the website, 137 ballots had been cast, with an overwhelming 75 percent of them in favor of Wilson Valdez.
137 is not the largest of sample sizes, but it is more than enough for us to know that Valdez’s 63 percent lead over Luis Castillo is not a fluke, unless someone felt the urgent need to mechanically inflate Valdez’s vote total for an otherwise meaningless Internet poll.
My immediate reaction to this was, “What on Earth do people see in Wilson Valdez that I don’t?” This question is spawned from more than just the results of that poll. On Twitter several weeks ago, I engaged in a discussion with a Phillies fan who swore that Valdez was way more valuable than Sabermetric illustrated. Last year, Valdez posted 0.9 WAR per FanGraphs and was worth a shade under $4 million — not bad, considering the Phillies signed him to a Minor League contract before the season.
Going deeper into his stats, we find that he was rather unimpressive with the bat. Spending most of his time at second base and shortstop, Valdez posted a .306 on-base percentage and a .360 slugging percentage, both numbers below the average .333 OBP and .387 SLG for National League second basemen, and the .325 OBP and .388 SLG for shortstops. PECOTA expects him to be worse in 2011, projecting a .309 OBP and .333 SLG.
Defensively, Valdez certainly didn’t hurt. He was about average at second base and slightly above-average at shortstop. His Aggregate Defensive Rating, which is like the sampler platter of defensive metrics (found at FanGraphs) was +1 at second base and +3 at shortstop, both with a standard error plus or minus 1.
Going forward, we should expect Valdez to be about replacement level overall. Light-hitting infielders with good defense aren’t valueless, but these qualities certainly don’t make Valdez the obvious candidate at second base that most Phillies fans seem to think he is. It seems most fans fell in love with his strong arm and supposed clutchness, which biases their comparisons with other similarly-skilled candidates. He’s really interchangeable with the rest of the crew.
|2011 PECOTA Projections|
Once again, Crashburn Alley has advanced in the Phillies blog bracket The Phield. We received the most votes of any other blog that was still alive. The road ahead will be tough: the next match-up is with Phillies Nation.
I am flattered with how strongly voters represented Crashburn Alley and can only hope that the support persists throughout the tournament. There’s no tangible prize at the end, just validation that what we do as bloggers does make a difference. Sorry for getting mushy, but I was floored by the results and am extremely grateful. You, the reader, are really what makes this blog (and others) great — you are the fuel that keeps us going.