Monday, February 27, 2012

The Great Outfield Experiment Of 2012

It happens every spring with just about every baseball team. Spring training is the time of year where non-stories become big news because there just isn't shit else to write about at the time.

These types of stories generally occur before the games begin and surprises emerge, or players get hurt. The first one of 2012 is the GREAT OUTFIELD SHAKEUP.

Yes, it seems that the idea that Alex Rios may play in right field this year rather than left field is some kind of major news. I'll just ignore the fact that in my first Rosterbation of the season, I have Rios playing right field and pretend that this is some kind of INSANE THEORY THAT JUST MIGHT WORK.

Or, no, wait, let's just treat it for what it actually is. An idea that makes more sense than moving Rios to left field -- where he's admitted he isn't comfortable already -- and putting Dayan Viciedo in right field.

Why the hell are we pretending that Dayan Viciedo is some kind of natural right fielder?

He came to the White Sox as a third baseman, and was then projected as a first baseman/designated hitter of the future before Paul Konerko signed an extension and Adam Dunn signed a deal of his own.

Since then he's been a corner outfielder because he simply can't play third base and there's no room for him at first/DH. I'd much prefer Viciedo in left field than in right. The truth is that at this point in his young career, Viciedo has still played more games at third base with the White Sox than in right field.

And what we saw from him in right, while not terrible, wasn't exactly awe-inspiring. He seemed to have some Quentin-like tendencies out there. The kind that involved bad jumps and bad "dives" that could lead to injuries.

I'd be just fine with Dayan becoming the new Carlos Lee and flipping his glove up in the air and catching it while the ball is in play.

That's not a joke, either. I saw Carlos Lee do that more than once while sitting in the left field bleachers.

We can't make the mistake of anointing Viciedo as an every day right fielder just because we're terrified of Alex Rios right now, and we want Viciedo to be good. That's just not how life works. He's still a guy that hasn't proven anything over an extended time on the Major League level.

As for Rios, just because you haven't seen him spend a lot of time in right field doesn't mean the man can't play the position. In his career he's played 412 games in centerfield. He's played 701 in right, it's just that of those 701 starts in right field, only 7 have come in a White Sox uniform. Four of those starts came in his first half season with the team in 2009.

Of the 809 games he played as a Blue Jay, he was the starting right fielder in 694 of them. He also wasn't bad at the position, either. His arm is probably better suited for right field as the tail on his throws can be a bit problematic from center.

Another factor we should pay attention to with Rios? Let's check his career OPS+ by position played from highest to lowest.

RF 2,932 111
DH 21 104
CF 1,714 80
LF 5 -38

As you can see, he's been a much better hitter as a right fielder than a center fielder. There are likely a few reasons for this. One being that Rios may just be a lot more comfortable in right field, and doesn't bring his glove with him to the plate as much.

Or it could just be that the majority of those centerfield starts have come with the White Sox after Rios turned 28, and he's done the opposite of just about every player from the ages of 28 to 30 and declined over that time.

Then there's the OPS+ splits of Dayan Viciedo by position, though admittedly it's a much smaller sample size.

1B 20 193
3B 71 121
DH 42 90
RF 78 67

I can't be the only one noticing that Rios' career OPS+ has been at its highest while he was in right field, and Viciedo's has been at its lowest in right, can I?

Now, down the line, Dayan Viciedo may end up playing 1,000 games as a right fielder with the White Sox and go down as the most prolific one we've had since Magglio Ordonez. But that's not what he is right now.

Right now he's a kid who has played 20 games there.

So please, stop acting like this is some kind of major shakeup.

Moving Miguel Cabrera from first base to third base at this point in his career is a big deal.

Moving Paul Konerko to left field would be a big deal.

Considering putting Alex Rios in right and Dayan Viciedo in left is just common sense.

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