Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Crystal Ball 2011: Brian Roberts

Don't you know that he is a shooting star?
We should enjoy Brian Roberts while we have him.

He is the greatest Oriole second baseman ever. He leads all Baltimore second basemen in games played, homers, triples, doubles, hits, stolen bases, runs scored, RBI, batting average and slugging. Sure, you could make the argument for Davey Johnson or Bobby Grich but those guys got traded. Roberts is the best second sacker to wear the orange and black.

That's the good news.

The bad news is he is coming off an inury filled season where he only played 59 games and posted a .745 OPS, his lowest output since 2004. (Remember how much you missed seeing him leadoff games last season? We take him for granted, don't we?)  Is he healthy? From all accounts, he is fully recovered from his injuries he struggled with in 2010.

And if he is fully healthy, things could be looking up. Projections are kind to him (Marcel: .764 OPS, .341 wOBA; ZiPS: .767 OPS) and while middle infielders typically don't age well, Roberts will be 33 in 2011, not 34 or 35 when age tends to really take its toll.

Where he could be a liability is in the field. Although he seemed to have a rebound season with the glove in 2010, it is likely that his defensive skills will continue to erode. The best we can hope for is that Roberts is an average defender. His 2008-2009 UZR and Total Zone numbers were subpar.

I think Roberts understands the limitations of his body as he continues to age. He's not going to be stretching doubles into triples as often (I remember the "doggin' it" accusations from fans in 2009 as he rapped 56 doubles but just a lone triple. As if he was lazy...) and he's not going to run as much (although I would still expect him to steal close to 30 bases) as he tries to preserve himself and realizes his blazing speed is not quite as game changing as it once was.

But he still draws his walks and gets on base. His walk rate over the last two seasons in still over 10% and in this revamped lineup full of power bats, that will be his (and Nick Markakis') most improtant job. Just get on base, set the table and let Lee, Scott and Guerrero drive you in. And he's still effective enough to be really, really good at that.

So just continue to enjoy Brian Roberts. He's a living piece of Baltimore history, the best second baseman the team has ever seen.  And he'll be gone before you know it.


Jeff said...

You know, I'm glad you wrote this because I really agree with all of it. Brian helped me get many-a-girlfriend interested in baseball. Seriously though, he has been a great person and great player for Baltimore his entire career. I hope they don't ever trade him.

DempseysArmy said...

I don't think he would be tradeable at this point (coming off an injury and making $10 mil) but I don't think they have any intentions of trading him now. They tried, failed and extended him. He's here for the next 3 years.