Replacing Uggla’s home runs


(Editor’s note: I apologize for the lack of  content for the last few days. I’ve just made the trip back to Dominica after vacationing in the US for a couple weeks, and I am just adjusting and setting up my new apartment. You should expect a normal schedule at Marlin Maniac from here on out. -MJ)

A lot of talk over the course of the offseason surrounded replacing Dan Uggla‘s 30+ home run output from the past few seasons. The idea is that Uggla’s production needs to somehow be replaced on the offensive side, and the Marlins made no offseason moves that difrectly dealt with improving the offensive side of the ball.

Of course, all of this talk is nonsense. replacing Uggla’s home runs are not any more important than replacing his doubles, singles, and walks, if weighted properly for the relative value of each event. In other words, teams do not need a certain amount of home runs, walks, doubles, singles, or steals to win baseball games; rather, teams simpy need enough runs to win games. Thus, Uggla’s production in terms of runs needs to be replaced. How will the Marlins accomplish that? The team has primarily listed their reason for confidence in replacing Uggla’s offensive production as the continued growth of and full-year of playing time for Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison. But will the Marlins replace all of that production with just the full-time value of those two youngsters? How will Omar Infante figure into this equation as well? Let’s use some projections to find out.

Replacing the home runs

As I mentioned, it shouldn’t be important that the Marlins replace Uggla’s homers, but that is what fans will focus on the most. What will the team do without Uggla’s run-driving capabilities via the long-ball, they’ll ask. Well, let’s see if the Marlins’ general plan of using Stanton and Morrison for a full season combined with Infante’s production as a direct replacement for Uggla in the lineup. Here are the ZiPS projected HR/600 PA rates for each of the players involved for the 2011 season.

PlayerHR/600 PA

Giving the players even playing time (set at 600 PA here), you can see that the Marlins are projected to already replace about seven to eight of Uggla’s 30 or so homers just from the addition of Infante. Meanwhile, Stanton and Morrison are projected to put up more than 44 homers per 600 PA combined. However, the Marlins are not “replacing” anyone in those positions, other than perhaps themselves. While it is acceptable to compare Uggla’s and Infante’s raw HR/600 rates for this comparison, we need to compare Stanton’s and Morrison’s projected numbers against the players they are replacing, mainly the 2010 versions of themselves. Here is how these projections stack up against the 2010 version of the two players.

Player2010 HR/600 PAProj 2011 HR/600 PA

So it seems that, if you were to compare a full projected 2011 season from Stanton and Morrison versus a full season of Stanton and Morrison at last year’s rates, you would expect to gain around six or seven homers, almost entirely from Morrison’s expected increase in long balls. Comparing a full projected 2011 season from both players to their 2010 seasons at their respective playing times yields a gain of just about 20 home runs (with 600 PA projected for both in 2o11). If that’s the case, then yes, we just about replace all of Uggla’s homers with additional playing time from Stanton and Morrison and Infante’s contributions.

Give it to me in runs

As I mentioned, however, replacing the home runs is, in and of itself, meaningless; what is important is replacing Uggla’s total run contribution to the team. Once again, we’ll use ZiPS as the projection system of choice and project wRAA / 600 PA for each player in 2011.

PlayerProj wOBAProj wRAA/600 PA

This table paints a rosy picture for Marlins fans. While Infante does not necessarily help to replace Uggla’s production, he doesn’t hurt the cause either, being essentially a league average hitter. Meanwhile, Morrison and Stanton figure to stay strong with their respective bats, projected to hit essentially at their 2010 levels. Stanton’s projected .355 wOBA is exactly what he had last season, while Morrison’s dropoff is more significant at about five runs less than a full season of his 2010 (.369 wOBA) production. This combined with the regression ZiPS expects from Uggla seems like enough to fully replace his runs.

However, one has to keep that this answers the question of how the Marlins will replace the 2011 version of Dan Uggla that is projected here by ZiPS. This does not answer how the Marlins will replace the 2010 version of Uggla that hit 33 homers and had a .381 wOBA last season which was worth +32 runs above average according to FanGraphs. In other words, the Marlins should expect to able to replace Uggla’s production for 2011 with the parts they already have in place. However, they cannot expect to get the same production from Stanton, Morrison, and Infante in 2011 as they did with Uggla in 2010. Morrison and Stanton can only expect to add about five runs more over the course of a whole season than they did last year; I’d even be willing to give them more like eight or nine runs more than last season. Infante, who serves as a direct replacement to Uggla, can expect to give the team +1 run above average, meaning the Marlins are maybe adding +10-12 runs for the 2011 sesason, just around what ZiPS is projecting Uggla for 2011, but not anywhere close to what he produced in 2010.

The Marlins’ offense should be worse than last year just from simple regression, but what about the defense? I would expect Uggla to be a -7 run defender based on what we know scouting-wise and defensive projections that I have done earlier in the year. Infante is expected to be an average defender at second base, meaning the Marlins gain seven runs just from adding a competent defender at the position. That helps to bridge the gap signficantly between the 2010 Uggla and the 2011 Marlins who will replace him.

When considering the entire package, the answer to replacing Uggla and his production with Stanton, Morrison, and Infante lies somewhere in between “completely replacing him” and “falling way short.” The Fish did an adequate job in filling in for Uggla in 2011, but as expected the team will have to depend on its youth to get the job done.