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Entries in Ben Zobrist (4)

Friday
May172013

Peter Gammons: Tampa Bay Rays Draft Analysis

This analysis is a provided by Peter Gammons. For more analysis from Peter Gammons you can follow him on Twitter (@pgammo).

It was sometime after Thanksgiving, 2005 that Rays owner Stu Sternberg made official what everyone expected, that Andrew Friedman was taking over the baseball operations of a franchise that had never won as many as 71 games. Friedman was a former Tulane outfielder and had the esteemed Gerry Hunsicker as an advisor, but throughout the game there was the perception that the team once known as the Devil Rays was being turned into a satellite division of MidMark Capital, Friedman’s former employer.

Within three seasons, Friedman sideswiped tradition and hired Joe Maddon as manager and in 2008 the Rays made it to the World Series. In a division with the Yankees and Red Sox and their payrolls, that 2008 pennant began a five year run in which Tampa Bay won 90 games four times, made the post-season thrice and did it with by far the smallest annual payroll in the American League East. No team in the game won more games spending fewer dollars over those five years than the Rays.

What they’ve accomplished has been built around pitching, and Maddon’s astute usage of starting pitching, an organizational throwing and conditioning program that averaged nearly 150 starts a year out of their top five starters, and Maddon’s creativity in patching together bullpens.

In lieu of going out and trading for or signing power hitters, and faced with the reality that they could not afford to keep players like Carl Crawford and B,J. Upton from entering the free agent market, Friedman and Maddon put a premium on flexibility. For example, in 2009, Ben Zobrist, a switch-hitter, hit 27 homers, had a .405 on base percentage and was fourth in the league with a .948 OPS while playing 91 games at second, 59 in right field, 13 at short, 9 in left, 7 in center, three at first base and one at third. “Who could possibly be more valuable than Zobrist?” asked Maddon.

From Sam Fuld to Matt Joyce to Jeff Keppinger, they have patched together lineups from day to day, city to  city, building around the pitching. Maddon maintains that James Shields was a big part of the run from 70 wins to the world series because of the leadership he offered David Price, Wade Davis and, eventually in ensuing years, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb.

In 2013 opposing batters are hitting .341 when facing David Price from the right side of the plate at Tropicana Field (30 for 88 at the Trop). There is no questioning Tampa’s ability to find pitching. Granted, Price was a no-brainer in 2007; he was everyone’s number one, a reward for the Rays having the worst record in baseball in 2006. But Hellickson was a fourth rounder in 2005, when Friedman was overseeing baseball operations. Cobb was a fourth rounder in 2006. Moore was an eighth rounder in 2007.

Their professional scouts work to exhaustion, and got them Chris Archer in the Matt Garza deal, Alex Torres in the Scott Kazmir trade, Brandon Gomes in a deal with San Diego for Jason Bartlett and Jake Odirizzi with outfielder Wil Myers in the Kansas City deal for Shields and Davis. Their international scouts found Alex Colome in Latin America.

And in mid-May this season, one scout says the Rays’ AAA rotation in Durham of Archer, Odirizzi, Colome and Torres “may be the best triple-A rotation I’ve seen in five years.”

But there is a flaw in the Tampa system—finding and drafting position players. Sure, they drafted Evan Longoria in 2006, but he was the third pick in the nation, and fell in their laps because the Royals and Rockies picked Luke Hochevar and Greg Reynolds in front of them. They also got Desmond Jennings in the 10th round in 2006. But when one looks at Tampa’s current 40 man roster, and the only positional player they drafted other than Longoria and Jennings is shortstop Tim Beckham, who represents one of the worst draft blunders of the last decade.

The Rays had the first selection in 2008 and took Beckham, a high school shortstop for Georgia. In so doing, they passed on Buster Posey, who not only filled their longtime catching need, but was playing right up the road at Florida State. Some in the organization are said to have been concerned about Posey’s asking price, although they paid Beckham $6.15M. Others wondered whether or not Posey, who was drafted a pitcher out of high school and played shortstop one season at Florida State, would hold up catching and hitting with a build very similar to Brad Ausmus.

Posey went on to win two World Series rings and an MVP trophy four years after that draft, and the Rays continue to look for a catcher. To make it worse, in their final year picking at the top of the draft, not one player picked from the second round on down has spent a day in the big leagues. No position player from the 2009 or 2010 drafts has spent a day in the big leagues, and the side-affect of their major league success is that even if they are one of the lowest-revenue teams, they could go several years after the Beckham choice without a pick in the top ten of the first round.

With the Rays facing a decision on Price’s future in Tampa at the end of the season, presuming the arm problem he felt on May 15 is not serious, the strain on the development of young players will become evern more acute. Even if Myers hits it big, they need catching, middle infield and outfield help, presuming Moore takes Price’s role as the ace of the staff.

What Friedman, Maddon and the Rays have done is to maintain one of the best management jobs of the last decade. They did it without developing a position player since Jennings, but beginning with this June’s draft, they will have to begin to draft and develop position players if their run with the game’s elite is going to continue.

Monday
Mar182013

Ben Zobrist, A Man for All Positions

Ben Zobrist is Joe Maddon's kind of player, playing anywhere and batting in any spot.

Last season, he played four positions

Split G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
as 2B 52 163 24 33 8 1 4 11 29 30 .202 .323 .337 .660
as SS 47 170 29 53 13 2 8 31 25 30 .312 .396 .553 .949
as RF 67 213 33 61 18 4 7 29 41 38 .286 .404 .507 .911
as DH 4 14 2 4 0 0 1 3 2 5 .286 .353 .500 .853
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table Generated 3/19/2013. 

And in 2012, he batted anywhere between first through sixth in the batting order

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Batting 1st 15 71 57 7 14 5 1 2 5 13 7 .246 .394 .474 .868
Batting 2nd 17 73 61 10 11 2 1 3 9 11 16 .180 .301 .393 .695
Batting 3rd 61 266 225 31 63 16 2 6 35 35 46 .280 .375 .449 .824
Batting 4th 15 58 51 8 13 5 1 0 5 6 9 .255 .328 .392 .720
Batting 5th 46 186 155 27 46 11 2 6 15 29 25 .297 .409 .510 .918
Batting 6th 3 14 11 5 4 0 0 3 5 3 0 .364 .500 1.182 1.682
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table Generated 3/19/2013.
 

In a recent interview, I heard Zobrist say that when he comes to the clubhouse on game days, he never knows where he'll play or when he will bat.

While none of us can even pretend to think like Joe Maddon, here's your chance to use some of the data that Maddon plays with in his magnificent mind.

Over the last five seasons

  • When playing the infield, Zobrist hit .260 with 58 homers.
  • When playing the outfield, Zobrist hit .277 with 27 homers.

Over the last five seasons when leading off 

  • When playing the infield, Zobrist hit .222 with two homers.
  • When playing the outfield, Zobrist hit .240 with five homers. 

Over the last five seasons when hitting second 

  • When playing the infield, Zobrist hit .229 with nine homers.
  • When playing the outfield, Zobrist hit .274 with three homers. 

Over the last five seasons when hitting third

  • When playing the infield, Zobrist hit .262 with seven homers.
  • When playing the outfield, Zobrist hit .310 with three homers.

Over the last five seasons when hitting fourth

  • When playing the infield, Zobrist hit .252 with 10 homers.
  • When playing the outfield, Zobrist hit .344 with five homers.

Over the last five seasons when hitting fifth

  • When playing the infield, Zobrist hit .303 with 16 homers.
  • When playing the outfield, Zobrist hit .248 with four homers.

Over the last five seasons when hitting sixth

  • When playing the infield, Zobrist hit .322 with eight homers.
  • When playing the outfield, Zobrist hit .232 with four homers.

Over the last five seasons when hitting seventh

  • When playing the infield, Zobrist hit .042 with one homer.
  • When playing the outfield, Zobrist hit .276 with two homers.

Over the last five seasons when hitting eighth

  • When playing the infield, Zobrist hit .300 with two homers.
  • When playing the outfield, Zobrist hit .308 with one homer.

Over the last five seasons when hitting ninth

  • When playing the infield, Zobrist hit .257 with three homers.
  • When playing the outfield, Zobrist hit .250 with no homers.

 Don't you see why Maddon loves Zobrist so much?

Saturday
Aug062011

Mike Napoli's Month

Mike Napoli (TEX) has been the most productive hitter in the last month of baseball.  His .567 wOBA since July 6th leads the majors and is 85 points better Hideki Matsui (OAK) in second place on the list.

(Click to enlarge)
Over that span, Napoli has drilled 8 home runs and 7 doubles, while walking 8 times in 80 PA.  His 11.1% HR rate also leads all players since July 6th.  His HR/FB rate of 29.6% is third behind only Marlins' Mike Stanton (39.1%) and Rays' Ben Zobrist (30.0%).