Cleveland Indians 2014 vs. 2013: The Outfield (and DH)

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The second of a four-part series looking at how the 2014 Indians should compare to the Wild Card team from last year. This week - the outfield and DH.

Last week, we kicked off a series comparing the 2014 Indians to the 2013 version of the team, position-by-position. I started with the infield, and found solid potential for improved defense, while their combined offense looks likely to hold pretty steady. There's a good chance the infield will be the strongest unit on the team during the upcoming season.

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The idea behind this project is to see where we might expect improvement over last year's production, and were we might want to prepare for a drop off, based on roster changes, playing time estimates, expected regression (for better or for worse), etc.

Here's a quick refresher on my methodology and what metrics are being used for this project: I am using actual 2013 splits (what each player produced while playing that particular position) using UZR/150 for defensive value and wOBA for offense. For 2014, the wOBA figures come from ZiPS projections, while UZR/150 is my own projection based on the player's past performance. "PT" stands for the percentage of playing time at the position a player received in 2013, or that I am projecting them to receive in 2014.

Alright, on to DH and then the outfield...

Designated Hitter

Player

'13 wOBA

'13 PT

'14 wOBA

'14 PT

Carlos Santana

.360

30.8%

.356

47%

Nick Swisher

.428

11.6%

.330

20%

Yan Gomes

.225

1.1%

.327

20%

Jason Giambi

.279

31.9%

.301

13%

Mark Reynolds

.354

11.9%

Ryan Raburn

.304

6.4%

Asdrubal Cabrera

.292

3.9%

Jason Kubel

.148

1.1%

Jason Kipnis

.540

0.6%

Lonnie Chisenhall

.690

0.3%

Jose Ramirez

.000

0.2%

Total

.332

.338

AL Average

.335

The 2013 Indians actually got solidly above average production from three of of the four players who took most of the hacks at DH, but more than 30% of their plate appearances came from Jason Giambi. Say what you want about his leadership, but the guy did not produce on the field. His performance was enough to pull the team to just below average from DH. In 2014, I am not sure Giambi will be on the roster, but I imagine someone (David Cooper?) will get a solid chunk of time, filling in for the Santana-Swisher-Gomes triumvirate. With Santana getting the plurality of the DH playing time, the Indians should be better - and above average - at DH in 2014.

Left Field

Player

'13 wOBA

'13 UZR/150

'13 PT

'14 wOBA

'14 UZR/150

'14 PT

Michael Brantley

.320

-4.9

89.5%

.314

-2.0

90%

Ryan Raburn

.456

68.9

6.2%

.310

7.5

10%

Mike Aviles

.388

3.0

2.7%

Jason Kubel

.284

7.5

1.2%

Matt Carson

.888

9.9

0.4%

Total

.333

0.1

.314

-1.1

AL Average

.318

0.1

Michael Brantley played nearly 90% of the time in LF last year, and that should stay about the same this coming season. That other 10% of the time, though, a handful of fill-ins put up tremendous numbers in 2013. Ryan Raburn was the leader of the gang - and will be again next year - but Mike Aviles added solid production, as well. Regression from the reserve corps suggests a pretty sizable decrease in overall LF offense. Along the same lines, while Brantley may put up a better defensive season, the bench fielded everything in sight last year, so a drop is projected there as well. I think there is a better-than-average chance both Brantley and Raburn outperform their ZiPS projections, but if not LF could go from a serious strength to roughly average value.

Center Field

Player

'13 wOBA

'13 UZR/150

'13 PT

'14 wOBA

'14 UZR/150

'14 PT

Michael Bourn

.299

-0.9

77.7%

.299

5

90%

Michael Brantley

0

0

0.1%

.314

-10

10%

Drew Stubbs

.353

-11.6

22.2%

Total

.311

-3.3

.301

0.3

AL Average

.319

-0.5

The biggest gain in the outfield this year is likely to come from improved defense, and a big chunk of that should result from Michael Bourn returning to form (or at least, I think it will). The problem is ZiPS is not too excited about the potential for Bourn's offense to rebound. Now, wOBA may underrate Bourn more than most players, since it does not account for stolen bases, but that doesn't change the fact that centerfield was a weak spot last year and, at least on offense, looks like it will be again.

Right Field

Player

'13 wOBA

'13 UZR/150

'13 PT

'14 wOBA

'14 UZR/150

'14 PT

David Murphy

.313

5

70%

Ryan Raburn

.395

-3.6

29.2%

.310

-5

30%

Drew Stubbs

.266

-0.2

50.5%

Nick Swisher

.385

-7.9

17.1%

Jason Kubel

.254

15.4

1.1%

Matt Carson

.686

31.2

1.4%

Ezequiel Carrera

.444

0

0.6%

Total

.332

-1.9

.312

2

AL Average

.318

-0.7

Sensing a pattern in the outfield? The addition of David Murphy, especially for a low price, was a nice move, but Raburn's unexpectedly great season and a chunk of playing time from Nick Swisher made RF a strength last year, which looks unlikely this year. But this table is missing a key piece of data: I assume we'll see a true platoon - Murphy vs. RHP, Raburn vs. LHP. However, the ZiPS projections for these guys do not assume they are being used in a platoon. If they play true to their career splits, or at least close to that, the combined wOBA could easily be .325-.330, and with the defense they should provide, that works out to solid RF play.

The infield projects for steady offense and improved defense, while the outfield projects for diminished offense and improved defense. Add in the improved offense from DH and the group in this entry looks a lot like the infielders overall - not much change on offense, but a nice boost to the defense. This team has clear upside potential on offense - Gomes could easily outpace his projections, Raburn has shown the ability to put up very good offensive seasons before, Chisenhall could break out.

Next week, we'll look at the starting rotation, but so far I like what I am seeing.

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