FanPost

Replacing Prince Fielder

We've had to hear a lot about the Brewers' miserable offseason, from losing a franchise player to free agency and another to a possible suspension. Now that Ryan Braun is exonerated, I've gotten that extra surge of baseball fever, and my enthusiasm for 2012 just took a significant uptick. So, I decided to try my hand at some novice-level analysis to figure out how well the Brewers replaced what they lost this offseason.

According to just about every national comment I've seen or heard concerning the Brewers lately has had a striking eulogy-type tone; losing Prince Fielder to free agency is considered a tragedy for us, the poor fans of Milwaukee - damned to suffer through watching the likes of Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, Zack Greinke, Rickie Weeks, Yovani Gallardo, John Axford, Nyjer Morgan, Aramis Ramirez, Shaun Marcum, Francisco Rodriguez . . .

The list goes on and on . . .

Here's the idea that's been bouncing around in my head all winter: Would I rather have 2011 Casey McGehee, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Prince Fielder, or 2012 Aramis Ramirez, Alex Gonzalez, and Mat Gamel (or any other possible 1B)?

In order to form a crude representation of the production of the 2011 group, I simply average the non-rate statistics of the three into one hybrid player (pardon the lack of WAR, I'm a man of peace. HA. Puns.):

G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB HBP SH SF IBB
Prince Fielder 162 692 569 95 170 36 1 38 120 107 106 .299 .415 .566 .981 322 10 0 6 32
Yuniesky Betancourt 152 584 556 51 140 27 3 13 68 16 63 .252 .271 .381 .652 212 1 4 4 1
Casey McGehee 155 600 546 46 122 24 2 13 67 45 104 .223 .280 .346 .646 189 1 0 8 4
1B/3B/SS Avg. 156 625 557 64 144 29 2 21 85 56 91 .259 .327 .433 .760 241 4 1 6 12

.259/.327/.433.

Some observations:

  • Wow, Casey. Man, alive. Holy, sweet lord.
  • Yuniesky Betancourt and Casey McGehee each exceeded 150 G, starting 146 and 140, respectively. The obvious result is undeserved PAs further devaluing Fielder's efforts. Yuni trailed Fielder by only 108 in PA, while McGehee's 600 only set him back by 92. It didn't help that they often batted consecutively after Prince in Roenicke's typical batting order. Yikes.
  • Besides Fielder, only Ryan Braun started more games (147) and had more PA (629) for the Brewers than these two.

So, we now take the 2011 results for Ramirez and Gonzalez, and line it up with our 1B/3B/SS hybrid:

G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB HBP SH SF IBB
Aramis Ramirez 149 626 565 80 173 35 1 26 93 43 69 .306 .361 .510 .871 288 10 0 8 5
Alex Gonzalez 149 593 564 59 136 27 1 15 56 22 126 .241 .270 .372 .642 210 1 4 2 1
1B/3B/SS Avg. 156 625 557 64 144 29 2 21 85 56 91 .259 .327 .433 .760 241 4 1 6 12

We can now use this to see what our vacuum first baseman would have had to produce to make our hypothetical 2011 squad identical to the real 2011 squad production-wise:

G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB HBP SH SF IBB
"Mystery 1B" 170 656 542 53 123 25 4 22 106 103 78 .227 .347 .410 .757 222 1 -1 8 30

First off, this is obviously imperfect data. Because of the amount of games amassed by our 2011 starters, the extra average games are simply added past the maximum 162, meaning that the games (and PA) our mystery 1B does not start (and make) would be passed on to presumably inferior players. The non-rate stats are boosted slightly due to this; but done so at an equal rate, so the slash lines are legitimate as a singular entity. Also, as attractive as the idea of negative sacrifice bunts may be, it can't exist. Oh well.

Now, I use Ramirez's and Gonzalez's 2011 seasons to project output in 2012, which just simply won't happen. However, both players are moving to a right-handed hitter friendly Miller Park, which helps Gonzalez in particular, who spent half of 2011 in the cavernous Turner Field. Ramirez is less likely to see an increase in this department, as Wrigley Field is as hitter-friendly as any park in the warmer months. Another factor is age, which is harder to predict, especially considering the risk of injury; though I'm not particularly learned on the subject, I'd estimate age and park factors are basically a wash in this scenario (plus, no league change).

In addition, I don't account for any defense here, and I'm not alone in thinking it can't get much worse than McGehee/Betancourt in this department.

I figured that these calculations would show that we would probably need Mat Gamel to produce above a level that we can fairly expect from him, though not so much that it would be completely unfeasible. I expected to be reasonably surprised by the results - but not to this extent.

The major factor here is the incredible amount of playing time given to two very unproductive players. The assumed consensus is that Prince Fielder's value cannot be replaced - if the definition of replaced is who is manning 1B, then the mantra is probably true. However, I think many of us look at it differently; it's about the overall movement of the team as opposed to one position, and here the data shows that the monumental potential increase of production from the 3B position could make the replacement of Prince Fielder's production very possible.

The "Mystery 1B" is essentially a poor man's Carlos Pena. It tells us that what we'll miss most from Prince is his terrific on-base skills, and of course, his power - but not huge power. Does that skill-set scream Mat Gamel to anybody else? The BB/SO ratio is really the only thing I see here that is probably unattainable for Mat in his first full MLB season, but that isn't a projection of any kind, it's just excess information that I probably didn't need to include in the calculation. I can't imagine him working 100+ walks (remember, it's slightly inflated, and 30 of those are intentional), but considering the assumed increase he'll show in BA compared to .227, the OBP should work itself out.

Who else thinks Mat Gamel can manage a line around .227/.347/.410 to only match the production from these positions a year ago?

Is Prince Fielder replaceable?

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