Chris Coghlan, the Second Baseman

Earlier today we talked about Chris Coghlan as a left fielder for your 2010 Florida Marlins. However, we all know that, even if the team is still currently stating that it sees Coghlan as an outfielder, his future with the team remains at second base. Unless the team goes insane and installs Emilio Bonifacio at second, we can generally expect to see Coghlan as the Opening Day starter at second base for 2011.

But, as Maniac commenter Moti asked on the second base preview last week:

I know we have discussed the subject in depth, but is Coghlan going to be at 2nd starting 2011? Will a full year in LF hinder his ability to shift back to 2nd?

That’s a very good question. With Coghlan’s future undoubtedly at second, will two full seasons playing an easier position hurt Coghlan’s game at his future position? Hopefully, some of the numbers and scouting info can help us out.

The Numbers

Defensive data from the minor leagues has been difficult to find, but thanks to Sean “Rally” Smith’s TotalZone system available on Minor League Splits and Smith’s own article on adjusting those numbers, we can come up with some estimate for Coghlan’s defense at second as of last season. Here are Coghlan’s adjusted TotalZone numbers for the last three seasons at second base.

Year Level Chances Runs
2007 Low/High-A 375 -12
2008 Double-A 338 5
2009 Triple-A 33 0.7

Those values give a projected total approximately per 150 games (I estimated that at 460 chances based on the numbers shown on Minor League Splits) of -2.2 runs / 150 games. Previously I had recorded a projected -5 runs / 150 games. We’re splitting hairs between the two, but let’s go with the optimistic -2 runs.

The Scouting

Now I also wanted to regress that value to a scouting evaluation. Let me first mention that it was much harder than it should have been to find any scouting info on Coghlan’s minor league play at second base. I had apparently heard at least one scout claim that Coghlan can definitely take over at second, but there was not much more said.

Luckily for us, we do we have a free scouting service that provides us some way to compare players, and that is the Fans Scouting Report. I recorded Coghlan’s scores as graded by 16 Marlins fans (myself included) and compared them to the database of second basemen as scouted this season by numerous fans. I took the absolute value of the differences between Coghlan’s scores in each individual category and each second baseman’s scores, multiplied by 10 to get into a comfortable scale, and cooked up a similarity score-type system which awarded higher points for lower differences in score. Here was the scoring rating:

Difference of 5: 0 pt
Difference of 4: 1 pt
Difference of 3: 2 pt
Difference of 2: 3 pt
Difference of 1: 4 pt
Difference of 0: 5 pt

I also multiplied Tango’s FSR weights shown here to emphasize the relative importance of each skill to playing second. I looked at the five players who played a minimum of 100 career games at second base and were most similar (highest score) and pooled their projected UZR values based on Jeff Zimmerman’s Marcel-like projections (I used Jeff’s projections over Steve Sommer’s, which I’ve often quoted here, because Steve’s projections also include FSR data, while Jeff’s only regress UZR data).

Player Overall SimScore Proj. UZR/150
Felipe Lopez 2.93 24.8 +1
Anderson Hernandez 3.11 24.4 +0
Kelly Johnson 2.91 24.0 -6
Chris Getz 3.36 18.4 -4
Martin Prado 3.29 18.4 -5

Those players aren’t exactly the best of company. Doing a weighted average of these five players based on their similarity score (which comes out to a very nicely even 110 points, ironically enough), gives a projected UZR/150 of -2.6 runs / 150 games. Let’s call it -3 runs even. Now, I’m also going to bump this projection up to -2 runs to account for the fact that, even though Tango insists that these scores be handed out based on overall skill and not skill by position, fans like myself will still have been affected by watching Coghlan play an inferior left field in his less comfortable position.

What about a total? Well, I decided to weigh the minor league data at 50%, the scouting data at 25%, and the league average, giving an estimate of -1.6 runs per 150 games at second base as of this season. The data from the scouting evaluation and the minor league TZ data matched fairly well, which surprised me. At this defensive estimate, Coghlan could be a 4 WAR second baseman this season given the projected wOBA I used this morning and the appropriate positional and replacement adjustments. Let’s hope that potential value can stick around while he spends another season playing left field, because the Marlins could sure use that production.

Topics: Chris Coghlan, Miami Marlins

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  • JoeA.

    Michael,

    I am wondering when the Marlins are going to wake up and hire you as a consultant so they can benefit from this type of analysis. Are you listening Beinfest and Hill? Defense matters.

    • Michael Jong

      JoeA,

      Thanks for the good word on the analysis, being hired would certainly help the bottom line! As for defense, I think the front office knows defense matters. The problem is that I still think they use only traditional scouting measures to determine defense, when a mix of scouting and defensive data is needed to get the best estimate, in my opinion. I’m sure that they have their scouts feeding them information all the time, they just need some proprietary defensive data to also help them out.

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