Moving Uggla around the diamond again


Yesterday I tried my hand at making a projection on how well Chris Coghlan would play at second base based on his minor league track record and scouting data meshed with UZR projections. Think of this method as a sort of a PECOTA of defense based on strictly non-proprietary data.

I figured I’d give this another shot today with someone who I’ve already targeted earlier this offseason, Dan Uggla. Earlier in the offseason, I used the Fans Scouting Report to move Uggla around the diamond because teams were potentially more interested in him as a third baseman or left fielder than as a second baseman. This might be something of interest to the front office if and when they again consider trading Uggla once again.

Third Base

I considered Uggla for third base some time ago because I figured his primary issue playing second was his lack of range. A move to third base could help in that regard, as third requires less lateral motion and ground to cover. I was not concerned with Uggla’s hands, as I felt he was relatively sure-handed at second base. My biggest concern was his arm, as I had witnessed some ugly throws by Uggla in the past.

As I did earlier today with Coghlan, I took the absolute value of the differences between Uggla’s Fans Scouting Report data and all third basemen and multiplied those differences by 10 (to scale them to a comfortable scale) and assigned them to a five-point scale with higher point values assigned to lower differences. Then, I multiplied those point values by the relative weights of each skill based on the importance of those skills. The sum of these point values is the similarity score for each player to Uggla’s skillset. I looked at the five most similar players who have played 100 games at the position in the last four years and used their projected UZR/150 as found by Jeff Zimmerman to find a weighted projection for Uggla at the position.

Here are the five most similar players and their relevant values at third base.

PlayerOverallSimScoreProj. UZR/150
Garrett Atkins2.7326.6-7
Jeff Keppinger2.8921.5-5
Mark DeRosa3.1617.7-2
Geoff Blum3.1915.6+3
Alex Gordon3.1615.3-1

The overall weighted projection for a UZR/150 based on these comparisons is -3 runs / 150 games. Compare that to the current projections of around -4 to -8 runs per 150 games at second base. Based on these numbers, Uggla could possibly be decent at the position. This is a pretty close estimate than what I got in the previous article, which I find very intriguing. However, it should be noted that if I decided to drop my games requirement, players like Blum and Gordon would be replaced by others who fared far worse by UZR, so take this value with a grain of salt.

Left Field

Similarly, these are the players I see as comparable in left field in this method.

PlayerOverallSimScoreProj. UZR/150
Luke Scott2.8329.2+2
Carlos Quentin2.8428.3-10
Raul Ibanez2.7925.9-6
Chase Headley2.7125.7-8
Josh Willingham2.9624.2-6

Those comparisons look awfully poor, yet the presence of Luke Scott and his surprisingly decent UZR/150 of +3 runs keeps Uggla’s projected UZR/150 in left field afloat. With these comparisons, the weighted average UZR/150 was approximately -5.5 runs / 150 games, not far off from my previous estimate of around five runs below average based on this season’s FSR results.

So, would Uggla be better off heading into the outfield or to third base? Obviously, we don’t really know the answer, but I feel like I can safely say that there is very little difference in Uggla’s value moving from second to third. Where he would experience the most problems would be moving to a corner outfield like left field. Uggla rates better there than he does at second according to many projections (Steve Sommer has him right around six runs below average per 150 games, and CHONE has him at eight runs below average). However, an incremental gain of two to three runs may not be worth the runs he loses going to a less scarce position. With Uggla’s free agent season approaching, you can see why he would be hesitant to move to an easier position and hurt his value.

For now, I think Uggla will stick at second, with a possible move to third when he moves on from Florida and joins his next team. A move to outfield may be a poor idea based on this analysis, but might still be something to consider if his skills continue to diminish.