Defensive metrics are far from perfect. Some of the time, the numbers are not entirely representative of a player’s true defensive ability
But comments like this from scouts are strong reminders that, often times, defensive metrics need to be used along with observations to determine a player’s ability in the field.
“I do think he’ll make their overall defense better at third.”
That quote was made in reference to Mark Teahen. He was not better defensively than Gordon Beckham. He wasn’t better than Jayson Nix, which is saying something. And he wasn’t better than Josh Fields, which is really saying something.
On top of Teahen’s deplorable defense, he turned numbers reminiscent of his non-glory days in Kansas City.
Bad defense. Bad offense. Not surprisingly, Teahen had the second-worst year of his not-so-stellar career in 2010.
Stats and stuff
- fWAR: -0.6
- FanGraphs page
- bWAR: 0.3
- Baseball-Reference page
Teahen’s season actually started off pretty well, believe it or not. While he wasn’t hitting for power, Teahen was walking like a machine, with a BB% of 14.3 percent in April.
But Teahen stopped hitting the ball hard at all in May, as his batting average dropped near the Mendoza line while his walk rate remained at a solid percentage (9.2 percent). His OBP eventually normalized to a respectable .340 at the end of the month, but the end of May coincided with Teahen fracturing a bone in his middle finger.
That injury caused Teahen to miss over two months, with his first day back in the majors being Aug. 13. In that time, Teahen lost his starting job at third base to Omar Vizquel. And that put Teahen back into the nomadic role he played with Kansas City—the exact thing Kenny Williams hoped to avoid when he traded for Teahen and signed him to that infamous three-year, $14 million contract in the offseason.
Teahen actually kept a decent OBP while playing a combination of third base, right field, and designated hitter through early September. But he crashed in his final 48 plate appearances—which coincided with Brent Morel seeing increased playing time at third base—posting a .209/.255/.279 line from Sept. 7 to Oct. 3.
That final stretch lowered Teahen’s season slash line to .258/.327/.382. His .309 wOBA was his worst since a .302 clip his rookie year and was two points worse than his .311 wOBA in 2008, a year in which he had a -0.4 fWAR.
All the luck that’s fit to rake
In case you needed an epiphany to realize what Teahen’s true offensive talent is, read this carefully: Mark Teahen had a .329 BABIP in 2010. Given that his career BABIP is .328, in no way, shape, or form were Teahen’s final numbers influenced by bad luck.
The luck-neutral Teahen posted a .258/.327/.382 line. That’s a scary thought given he’s under contract for two more years at $10.25 million.
He even forgot to bring the guacamole
It’s one thing for Teahen to have a poor offensive year. The hope with Teahen was that playing half his games in a hitter-friendly park with a new coaching staff could possibly recapture some of the offensive success he saw in 2006-2007. But even if Teahen did see an offensive rebirth, it wasn’t going to be significant.
Teahen actually regressed with the White Sox, but he went from a mediocre to a bad hitter. The real question regarded Teahen’s defense when the White Sox dealt for him.
I figured there was a possibility Teahen’s defense would improve without Alex Gordon bumping him to a multitude of different positions. Having the comfort of knowing the organization trusted in him to be the third baseman for the near future maybe, just maybe would settle Teahen down and allow him to play a worry-free third base.
It turns out that, comfortable or not, Teahen isn’t a good third baseman. He lacks range and frequently turns routine plays into adventures. Jim made a handy flow chart of possible results of a ball hit in the vicinity of Teahen that’s not only hilarious but also is sadly representative of Teahen’s defense.
UZR rated him at -9.8 while DRS -13, and those numbers came in a grand total of 52 games played at third base. Usually, this is where I’d stand up and scream “SMALL SAMPLE SIZE” but, with Teahen, a larger sample size would’ve led to worse scores in UZR and DRS.
By UZR, Teahen was the third-worst third baseman with 400+ innings at the hot corner. Only David Wright and Wilson Betemit were worse. By DRS, Teahen tied Wilson Betemit and Chris Johnson for the title of worst defensive third baseman.
Here’s what I had to say about my expectations for Teahen immediately following the trade in November:
Teahen’s been essentially a replacement-level player the last two years in large part due to poor defense, and it’s unlikely his offense will improve to the point where it can really make up for his deficiencies with the glove. Getting 1.0 WAR out of Teahen in 2010 might be a relative success.
The White Sox didn’t even get zero wins out Teahen in 2010, if you go by FanGraphs. When the expectation is for someone to be a 1.0 WAR player and that player falls well short of that—1.4 fWAR, to be exact—that’s pretty disheartening.
The audacity of hope
Just about everything in this review has been negative. That’ll happen when it’s a review about someone with a -0.6 fWAR. But is there anything positive on which Teahen could build in 2011?
I keep coming back to Teahen’s 9.5 percent walk rate, which was in line with his solid-OBP seasons of 2006 and 2007. That’s encouraging. Or at least it should be.
But Teahen achieved walking nearly one in every 10 plate appearances wasn’t necessarily due to good plate discipline. He only swung at 60.8 percent of the strikes he saw, and while comparing that percentage to previous swing percentages is dangerous given what I mentioned yesterday in my review of Gordon Beckham, it does tell us something.
Teahen’s patience wasn’t necessarily due to good pitch selection—he was just taking a whole lot more pitches, whether they were in the strike zone or not. That’s represented in his 41.9 percent swing rate, a significant departure from his 48.0 career swing rate average.
Patience is a virtue, but only if it’s calculated. Teahen’s patience in 2010 didn’t seem to be all that calculated.
Hold the line, love isn’t always on time
The thing with Teahen’s three-year, $14 million contract is that it’s not an inherently bad contract. One win was worth about $4 million in 2010, so Teahen and his $3.75 million salary this year didn’t even have to be a full-win player to live up to his contract.
He’s owed $4.75 million in 2011 and $5.5 million in 2012. Depending on the market, those could each be worth somewhere in the 1.0-1.5 WAR range. That’s really not a very high expectation.
But Teahen’s -0.6 WAR was worth -$2.5 million in 2010. So if you’re looking on aggregate, Teahen will need to out-perform those win values in 2011 and 2012 to make his contract worthwhile.
Teahen’s contract won’t cost the White Sox Paul Konerko—I firmly believe Jerry Reinsdorf will do whatever it takes to bring Konerko back—it’s not that bad. Like Scott Linebrink’s contract, Teahen’s contract is bad, but it’s not going to hamstring the team’s financial decisions.
The White Sox seem to be at a level of spending at which they can overcome a few fairly inexpensive bad contracts. They’re not the Yankees or Red Sox, who can overcome a few expensive bad contracts* to be competitive.
Speaking of bad contracts, did you see the Dodgers gave Ted Lilly three years and $33 million?
Teahen is going to be playing a utility role in 2011. The team showed down the stretch they aren’t comfortable with him playing third, plus, they seem to really like Brent Morel. Teahen will likely fill a backup corner infield/right field/DH role in the next two years, so unless someone gets hurt and Teahen gets hot at the plate, it’ll be nearly impossible for him to live up to his contract.
While Teahen won’t be like Linebrink in that he’ll be more sheltered than Rod and Tod Flanders, he will be like Linebrink in that he’ll be paid too much for his role on the team.
Links today presented by the recently-released Melky Cabrera, who better not end up on the White Sox:
- James revisits the years of Chris Sale and Lucas Harrell.
- Jake Peavy’s intensity may be downgraded from seven to four Rowands in light of his detached lat.
- Brett Ballantini uses Cliff Lee’s masterpiece two nights ago as a jumping off point to recount how great Jose Contreras and Mark Buehrle were in 2005.
- Carlos Quentin shouldn’t play right field, says the Hardball Times.
- Congrats to Alexei Ramirez, who was named to the Sporting News AL All-Star team by his peers.