Monday, December 13, 2010

The Crystal Ball '11: Cesar Izturis

Cesar Izturis will be returning to Baltimore in 2011. Thankfully, he will not be the everyday option at shortstop as the Orioles inked him to a $1.5 million, one year deal. With incentives, the deal could net Izzy more than $2 mil for next season. He will serve as a utility infielder.

But just because he probably doesn't deserve a full time starting job doesn't mean he can't be a valuable asset. The asset he brings, obviously, is his glove.

For all MLB shortstops, UZR, UZR component stats and UZR/150 for the last three seasons:

Name             DPR    RngR    ErrR    UZR    UZR/150
Jimmy Rollins    1.3    10.3    12.7    24.4    10.5
J.J. Hardy      -3.5    21.3     3.5    21.4     9.1
Cesar Izturis   -1.6    14.1     8.8    21.3     8.7
Alex Gonzalez    3.4     3.1     6.4    12.8     7.0
Alexei Ramirez   1.6    11.6    -0.9    12.4     6.0
Elvis Andrus    -1.1    15.4    -2.0    12.2     6.7
Troy Tulowitzki  3.3    -4.8    11.0     9.5     3.7
Yunel Escobar   -2.6    10.8     0.9     9.1     3.4
Erick Aybar      2.1    11.3    -5.4     8.0     3.3

And the Total Zone with Location (TLZ) for all MLB shortstops for the last three season:

Name             TZL
Yunel Escobar   41.8
Cesar Izturis   30.1
J.J. Hardy      24.9
Marco Scutaro   19.9
Troy Tulowitzki 16.3
Hanley Ramirez  13.9
Jimmy Rollins   12.9
Michael Young   10.0
Edgar Renteria   7.8
Elvis Andrus     6.1

From these metrics you can see two things; first, that Izturis has been one of the top three fielding shortstops in baseball over the past three seasons. Arguably, you could rank him higher. Second, how about J. J. Hardy? He is Izzy's equal with the glove and is projected to be a league average hitter.

I'm sure Oriole fans find little comfort in Cesar's defensive wizardry since his bat is so bad. But even with the weak bat, Izturis still adds value. Not last year, when FanGraphs had him valued at -0.3 WAR but during an ordinary season, he's a valuable player.

His .545 OPS in 2010 was the lowest of his career and he still almost broke even in term of WAR when you factor in his glove. He was unlucky with his BABIP, even factoring in a slight decline in his Line Drive rate. He will never be a great hitter but even if he posts his career OPS of .618 in 2011, he could be worth 1.0 WAR as a full time player.

But fortunately, he will not be a full time player. He can fill in for an injured Hardy or Brian Roberts or be deployed against lefties versus whom he has a .639 career OPS.

He's not a difference maker by any means but Izturis and his glove should still be quite valuable in a backup role for Baltimore.

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