March 17, 2009

Project-a-tron part 4 - Why Aaron Miles Sucks

Miles3303.328.370.305+1 (2B)
-9 (SS)
-5 (3B)

Hendry did many things right this offseason - most notably, signing Milton Bradley and not re-signing Henry Blanco. However, I think that signing Aaron Miles was a big mistake. We already had a player who could do what Miles could do, for a lot less money. His name is Ronny Cedeno. Here is my projection for him in Miles's role:

Cedeno3305.311.379.304+15 (2B)
-2 (SS)
0 (3B)

This deal only makes sense in two scenarios: either Cedeno was part of a Peavy trade that was a lot closer than anyone thought, or Lou flat-out told Hendry that he wanted Cedeno traded. The problem here is that although Miles and Cedeno have very similar offensive numbers, Cedeno's defense makes a pretty big difference in his value. Miles can play 2B just fine, but he is lousy at SS and 3b. In my opinion you need to do one (or both) of the following to be a decent utility player:

  1. Provide competent defense at multiple positions, especially at one primary defensive position (usually SS or CF, since they are the hardest to play

  2. Be able to fake multiple positions on defense, but hit well enough to make up for the runs you aren't preventing

Cedeno satisfies #1. Miles satisfies neither of them, which is why the Cubs are still looking for someone who can backup 3b, though SS is my main concern. My defensive projection for Miles is pretty much a WAG, but I'm basing it off the fact that he has been a very poor SS. 3B is a little easier, in theory, but I think the rap on Miles is that much like Theriot and other short guys he has a second baseman's arm. If Hendry had waited he could have brought in, say, a better SS (Orlando Cabrera anyone), or even some other ACTUAL shortstop, who can be expected to handle the other IF positions than Miles, who is only really suited to 2b


MB21 said...

Jack, I know the numbers show Miles to be terrible at 3rd, or at least well below average, but don't you think some of that is a sampling error? We know that 3rd base and 2nd base are essentially the same on defense thanks to the great work Tango has done as well as Dave Cameron. There's no doubt Miles is bad at SS, but I'd consider him to be slightly above average at 3rd simply because he's slightly above average at 2nd. I don't see any reason to believe he could possibly be 6 runs worse at a position that is basically the same.

Am I making sense?

Jeff said...

I admit that it's a bit of a WAG, but I view Miles as being very similar to Theriot or Eckstien, in that they are limited to 2b as much by their arm than their range. I admit that I don't know all the details, but the fact that he's largely been a 2b his entire career (including what little we have from the minors) seems to suggest this.

Ty said...

I don't know Tango's methods cuz I'm just not that smart, but maybe it's something where the values come out the same but arrive there differently.

As in: I think we'd agree that you'd need a much stronger arm to play third base, but you'd have to much better range (for ground balls)to your right to play 2B than 3B. Maybe statistically, those "cancel" each other out.

I think, in general, we can say the value of a defensively league-average 2B is the same as a defensively league-average 3B. But I think, specifically, maybe we shouldn't believe that they require the same physical skill-set.

I don't know. Maybe?

Jeff said...

I haven't gotten around to reading Tango's book yet, but I had always figured that 3b was more difficult than 2b due to the arm strength issue and the perception that balls are often harder hit to 3b. I'm not sure if that is true, but it certainly rings of truthiness.

It's certainly the harder position to play in pick-up softball games, so CLEARLY it must be true in the majors as well!

MB21 said...

Ty, there are definitely going to be examples of players who perform much worse or much better at other positions beyond what we would expect. Reed Johnson is another example. The guy is an unbelievably good left fielder. About +15 or +20 runs on defense. You'd think this would make him an above average CF, but he's one of the worse defensive CF in baseball (about -20 runs).

We should expect that both of those numbers would regress toward the mean given an adequate sample, but maybe, for some reason, Reed Johnson is a rock star on defense in LF and as bad as the aging ken Griffey in CF. i don't know.

But for most players--the average player--the defensive spectrum comes in handy in knowing how one will perform at another position. Based on what we know, Aaron Miles should be as good at 3rd as he is at 2nd. I'm not sure how much he's played at 3rd, but I'm guessing it pales in comparison to the sample he's had at 2nd base. You'd definitely have to regress his numbers to the mean unless you have a couple thousand innings at 3rd over the last couple of years.

Now that I've taken a look, Miles has played only 61 innings at 3rd base in his career. In order for us to find a true defensive skill value we'd need to regress that with about 2400 league average innings. He'd come out at 0, or league average 3rd and slightly above average at 2nd.

Of course, Miles could be one of those guys like Reed Johnson. I don't know.

MB21 said...

Here's what Dave Cameron put together earlier this offseason on 2b/3b.

Jeff said...

I'm going to concede that you (and Dave Cameron) are probably correct here. I am still not a big fan of the Miles signing, but maybe it's not as terrible as I thought.