Interesting analysis in Sunday’s New York Times by Dan Rosenheck, who takes a look at just how much Manny Ramirez’s defensive liabilities really hurt the Red Sox using a play-by-play (PBP) system and the zone rating statistic created by Mitchel Lichtman.
At one extreme, the most conservative estimates suggest that Ramírez’s outfield play last season, when compared with an average left fielder’s, cost the Red Sox 13 runs. That’s not good, but not bad enough to make him meaningfully worse than elite corner outfielders like the Angels’ Vladimir Guerrero, the Yankees’ Bobby Abreu and the Pirates’ Jason Bay.
By contrast, Lichtman’s system says Ramírez was 32 runs below average last year, which would make him one of the game’s most overrated and overpaid players. If he was actually that awful, he was no more valuable than the Mariners’ Raúl Ibáñez, the Blue Jays’ Reed Johnson or the Angels’ Juan Rivera.
The truth most likely lies in the middle: the average of the P.B.P. systems’ results for Ramírez is 15 to 20 runs below average. That’s enough to take a significant bite out of his value. If his hitting begins to deteriorate this season (he turns 35 in May), and his base running remains poor (subtracting another two runs or so), he is likely to be worth about as much in 2007 as Oakland’s up-and-coming Nick Swisher. In other words, an All-Star, but not a franchise player, and certainly not worth anywhere near his $20 million salary.
Maybe there’s some truth to that. But statements like “…he was no more valuable than the Mariners’ Raúl Ibáñez…” aren’t really going to convince too many folks to take stock in the findings.