Jason Bay the designated hitter

Red Sox-Royals
There has been talk that Jason Bay has come back to the Red Sox asking if they could resign him. Obviously there are a ton of problems with resigning him, but that isn't what I wanted to discuss here today. There are a few of things to take into account in a move like that. The first is when we discuss designated hitters we are talking about someone who has no need for defensive value so his level of "average" and "replacement" is very different. This has been articulated many times by Tom Tango, but replacement level at DH is actually average. This should make sense as you could find someone with enough of a bat to hit, but often has poor defensive skills. This effect is why the DH has such a large positional adjustment at -17.5. This is why a league average DH is a much better hitter than the league average player. You can also see how poor a defender needs to be before they would be better at DH.
Red Sox-Royals

There has been talk that Jason Bay has come back to the Red Sox asking if they could still resign him. Obviously there are a ton of problems with resigning him, but that isn’t what I wanted to discuss here today. There are a few of things to take into account though if Bay was to become the Red Sox designated hitter.

The first is when we discuss designated hitters we are talking about someone who has no need for defensive value so his level of “average” and “replacement” is very different.  This has been articulated many times by Tom Tango, but replacement level at DH is actually average.  Or essentially the player available as a replacement is more likely to be a league average hitter.

This effect is why the DH has such a large positional adjustment at -17.5.  The league average DH needs to be 20 runs better with the bat than the league average hitter to make this up.  Using this positional adjustment we can start to see how bad a defender needs to be before they would be a better player at DH.

You may have noticed that the positional adjustment does not equal the replacement level adjustment (-22.5).  That difference of 5 runs or 0.5 wins is also from Tango based on the difficulty players find in switching to DH.  The average player will lose about 5 runs in value just by this move and is accounted for this way. This loss of value is considered an effect of having to play from the bench for the whole game.

How will this all effect Bay though?  The good news is that he plays in left field, which already has the second largest negative positional adjustment.  At -7.5 in left field he will only lose another 10 runs moving to DH or one win.  That may seem like a lot, but let’s not forget how poor Bay has been defensively in his career.

His career UZR/150 in left field is a -8.0, but has been greater than -10 for 3 straight years.  That is enough to make the move to DH look interesting to any team in the AL that signs him.

Obviously the Red Sox don’t have a hole at DH in 2010, but with David Ortiz up after this season they would after that.  The problem of course is that we don’t have anywhere to hide him now for 2010.  The Red Sox are not paying Mike Cameron to only be used against left handed pitching, but I’m diving into the topics I said I didn’t want to cover here.

Let’s take a look at what Bay would look like if he was headed to DH in 2010 here or somewhere else.  His CHONE projection is for 22 batting runs and Bill James is a bit more optimistic at 27 batting runs.  Let’s run through the projections at LF and DH using the slightly more optimistic numbers.

      Batting     Defense   Replacement    Positional    RAR   WAR
LF    27          -11.8        22.5        -7.5         30.2   3.0
DH    22            0          22.5       -17.5         27     2.7
(using fan projections for defense)

I’m sure this isn’t what we were expecting when we entered this exercise, but he is essentially the same value to the team. Even if we ignore the 5 run drop at DH he is only going to 3.2 WAR. This makes Bay essentially the same and wouldn’t be worth moving to DH for the time being unless you have a better defender.

So where does this leave Bay as a potential player for the Red Sox?  Probably no better or no worse.  His defense is probably as bad as it’s going to get and as long as his bat maintains 25-30 runs in value there is no big rush to move him to DH.  That of course doesn’t make him likely to be signed for 2010 with our full outfield and DH.

Categories: Jason Bay

After taking an interest in sabermetrics and statistical analysis Troy began trying to use it to an advantage in fantasy baseball. He started the website RotoSavants.com and also spent time at HardballTimes.com and FantasyPros911.com. After a few years the interest in the Red Sox drew him to start a Red Sox-oriented site (Yawkey Way Academy) with fellow writer Lee Perrault. A short time later he joined Fire Brand. Writer from: December 14, 2009 – July 24, 2010, March 3, 2011 – May 10, 2012.

13 Responses to “Jason Bay the designated hitter” Subscribe

  1. @haroldpike December 26, 2009 at 11:35 AM #

    Interesting thought. Signing bay to a now reduced contract (most likely trimmed to 3 years if anything at all) would create some flexibility for putting together a package for A-Gon. That being said I would only be satisfied with bay coming back to Boston if he was willing to take a substantial pay cut from the previously offered 4-$60. Anyone think he would settle for 3- $40 just so he doesn't have to play in Queens?

  2. evanbrunell December 26, 2009 at 11:54 AM #

    Of course, we're assuming that we have positional adjustments valued accurately. Or for that matter, that we have public domain statistics telling us the same things that the Red Sox's internal evaluations do. It's always a tough call. I wouldn't complain if, in 2011, we had Bay as the DH 50 percent of the time and then put him in left for the other half and rotated other outfielders in through the DH.

    I am of the belief that the best product should be put out on the field and if that requires a defensive liability at DH that can't play the field (Ortiz) so be it. But your valuation of Bay shows that he certainly can play defense — well, at least without harming the team compared to him at DH — so why not rest other people that way? The benefit could end up being greater.

    • Joe Veno December 26, 2009 at 12:24 PM #

      But in that scenario, wouldn't the outfield defense suffer 50 percent of the time? Because each defender would be better than Bay…

      • @CapitolAvenue December 26, 2009 at 5:44 PM #

        Yes. Joe is right. Replacement level isn't always replacement level. When your OF consists of JD Drew, Mike Cameron, and Ellsbury, replacement level defense (average is what we assume in our calculations) isn't replacement level.

        Say you're going to use Cameron, Ellsbury, and Bay to play CF, LF, and DH.

        Cameron rates as a +6 defensive CF and therefore a +16 LF'er

        Ellsbury is probably somewhere around 5-10 runs above average at a corner and -5-to-average in center. Difficult to tell given the SSS and the issues measuring defense in that shit hole of a ballpark yall play in (just kidding).

        We'll say they use Cameron in CF and Ellsbury in LF. That's what most statheads generally believe the Red Sox should do. So you've got a +5 to +10 defender in LF and a +6 defender in CF.

        Bay's -11.8 isn't just -11.8, it's -16.8 to -21.8 or so, because the replacement is an above-average defneder. Therefore, he's a 2.0-2.5 win player in LF over what the Red Sox have as a replacement.

        You nailed the sabermetrics of the DH, which comes out to 2.7 wins, which makes him a more valuable DH to the Red Sox than LF'er.

        Replacement level is a neat concept, tells us how someone can contribute to their team despite being a below-average player. But theoretical replacement level isn't always replacement level, when the team has an above-replacement level player as a replacement.

        • TroyPatterson December 27, 2009 at 10:09 AM #

          CapitolAvenue is correct. While a 3.0 WAR in LF looks nice it would be a negative downgrade to put him out their over any of our current outfielders. Cameron and Ellsbury are potential 3 WAR players and Cameron has been a 4 WAR for 2 straight years. This effectively would damage your team to put Bay out their at all. So he would not lose any value moving to DH and his best value would be there.

          The choice to put him in LF would only be a smart one if your dealing with Adam Dunn currently in LF or you have no LF currently and sign Bay.

  3. Jon December 26, 2009 at 1:12 PM #

    I jump at the chance, put Cameron in RF and lets package the most over rated player in history (JD Drew) to get rid of a $15M .240 hitter, who gets injured if the wind gusts to 13mph. Certainly he could be worth a decent bull pen arm (can't ever have enough bull pen arms)

    • Shane December 26, 2009 at 1:21 PM #

      That is crazy. Drew has been the most valuable outfielder we've had DESPITE the fact he only plays in 130 or less games. Not signing Bay is a better option than getting rid of Drew.

    • Cliff December 26, 2009 at 1:23 PM #

      So, you want to trade the 4th most valuable RF in the Majors and 3rd most valuable on the team last year for a bullpen arm. Stunning

    • bob December 26, 2009 at 2:14 PM #

      I'm sure you mean most underrated player. I thought we had covered this.

    • @haroldpike December 26, 2009 at 5:01 PM #

      Hey jon- maybe you should be blogging on MLB.com because you obviously know nothing about baseball or the red sox if you are gonna rag on jd Drew. He is one of the most underrated players in the major leagues.

  4. _Marcos_ December 26, 2009 at 2:08 PM #

    If "fans" knew how much credibility they lose when making arguments against Drew, they wouldn't say anything.

  5. Sam December 26, 2009 at 3:15 PM #

    If we didn't already have a full complement of OF's plus a DH, Bay might indeed be an interesting option to cover DH part of the time and spell his fellow OF's as needed. But since we're fully stocked in those departments, I say we just move on.

    • Kurt December 27, 2009 at 12:59 PM #

      Agreed. Also, resigning Bay means few or no opportunities for at bats for Hermida, who I would really like to see get the chance to get consistent at-bats. I don't think a lot of Sox fans realize how much upside is potentially there. Cafardo wrote an interesting piece for the Globe about this very phenomon http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/arti