Juan Uribe Re-signed for the Right Price

Fringe benefit: Seeing more of the Uribe/Puig Show. Via Salina Canizales

Fringe benefit: Seeing more of the Uribe/Puig Show. Via Salina Canizales

It’s been a bumpy road, but we have arrived at the correct destination. After a few months of anxiety about the third base situation, the Dodgers have reportedly resigned Juan Uribe. While 15 million in two years would have seemed completely unfathomable at this time last year, I think this was the right decision.

If you disagree, just look at this. This is what we woke up to this morning:

 

In hindsight, this seems like a pretty obvious instance of the team negotiating through the media, attempting to force Uribe’s hand and get him to make a decision. While it gave fans heartburn, it seemed to work.

Despite the fact that Uribe couldn’t hit at all in 2011 and 2012, the reason why I like this is because of how terrible the third base market is right now. Here are the other options that I could immediately think of:

  • Omar Infante – required a four year contract and has only played 27 innings at third since 2010.
  • Stephen Drew – would cost a draft pick and would require moving Hanley Ramirez to third.
  • Will Middlebrooks – only available if Red Sox re-sign Drew. Drew’s a Boras client, and thus it might take longer for him to sign. Would probably require Andre Ethier and eating money. Also had a poor season last year, but this could be attributed to being sent up and down multiple times.
  • Aramis Ramirez – May not be available. He’s 35, owed $16 million (plus a $4 million mutual option buyout) in 2014, and he missed half of last season with an injury.
  • Chase Headley – Padres seem disinclined to trade him and would require a pretty big prospect package, despite the fact that he’s coming off of a down year and only has one year before free agency.
  • Yuniesky Betancourt – managed -2.8 fWAR in the last two years.
  • Michael Young – No.

(EDIT: Mike Petriello points out that Eric Chavez and Kevin Youkilis were also alternatives, but they’re not exactly appealing either. I wouldn’t be opposed to bringing Chavez in as a bench option.)

So, while Uribe certainly has his flaws, so does everybody else on the market. And even if Uribe’s offense regresses towards his pre-2013 levels, his stellar defense should remain similar over the next couple of years. Uribe has had excellent UZR/150s of 18.3, 29.8, and 35.3 at third over the past three years, and has been worth a total of 36.4 fielding runs above average (without positional adjustment) during that span.

Of course, the big question is if his offense will be enough to support that great defense. In 2013, Uribe hit .278/.331/.438, good for a wRC+ of 112. This was well above the 56 and 53 wRC+ from 2011 and 2012. His excellent defense was enough to make those woeful offensive seasons into slightly-above-replacement-level years, but his 2013 hitting was enough to make him into a five win player, just as valuable as Hanley Ramirez.

So, what caused the increase in production? While his increased walk rate was a topic of discussion early this year, that didn’t last and he ended the season below his 2012 level. He didn’t quite strike out as much as 2012-2013 (19.0%, compared to 20.3% and 20.7% in the previous two years), but the decrease isn’t particularly significant.

His swing rates didn’t change very much, either:

Outside of zone swing percentage Overall swing percentage Swinging strike percentage Percentage of pitches in strike zone
2011 35.6 78.2 10.8 46.0
2012 36.3 71.8 11.4 47.7
2013 33.5 78.2 11.6 49.2

While he swung at slightly fewer pitches outside of the strike zone this year than 2011 and 2012, the difference was minor. He saw slightly more pitches in the strike zone this year, which could be explained by the slight dip in swings outside of the strike zone.

The biggest difference that I can find is that he simply hit the ball harder. The following his Uribe’s line drives per ball in play over the last three seasons (via BrooksBaseball):

plot_hc_bytime

While Uribe’s line drive rate remained pretty similar on fastballs over the three years, he did a significantly better job of hitting offspeed pitches this year than any other year as a Dodger, and his line drive rate on breaking pitches (34% of the pitches thrown to him this year) went up significantly as well. This resulted in a line drive percentage of 20.1% in 2013, compared to 17.5% in 2011 and 16.8% in 2012. As a result of hitting the ball harder, Uribe’s home runs per fly ball ratio spiked to 10.5% this year (up from 4.5% over the first two years of his contract), returning his power numbers closer to his career peak.

While these numbers don’t fully explain Uribe’s BABIP of .322 (the second best of his career), they do support numbers well above his 2011 and 2012 seasons. I think it’s fairly reasonable to expect that Uribe’s offense will be somewhere between last season and the seasons before, which would make him a pretty good value for money.

In conclusion, this GIF:

 

37 comments
KMT59
KMT59

I didn't struggle understanding this post...either I'm learning or your dumbing it down a bit...maybe because we were discussing an offensive category instead of a pitching category


Nicely done Brim

Deuce (is loose)
Deuce (is loose)

Nice article, just bookmarked your blog.  .240/.310/.420 is my projection.  Uribe seemed to do more damage on fat pitches last year than in the past, when he would foul them back.  Hopefully, his defense stays strong and he doesn't become a black hole in the lineup. 

Batted Bob
Batted Bob

Nice work there Brim. I saw someone mention (Kevin Kennedy?) that Uribe worked on his swing with John Valentin a lot in 2013 and this led to the improvement. Hopefully Juan can keep it up. He looked so lost at the plate in 2011-2012.

Disgruntled Goat
Disgruntled Goat

in conclusion, it was a good post. (even if if didn't have the side by side missed/caught charts)  :-) 

ABSmileBunch
ABSmileBunch

wow! A ramirez is owed 20 million for 2014/15...makes this Uribe deal look like a steal.

LA_Woman
LA_Woman

Hmm... UZR = ultimate zone rating. Seems like a defensive stat that is based on subjective "stats."

capnsparrow
capnsparrow

I am happy that Juancho is coming back the alternatives as listed above are just not acceptable for us to win the division again. We are almost set to go for another big year and only need some ancillary pieces from here

DBrim
DBrim moderator

@Batted Bob I didn't notice any aesthetic difference in his swing, but I'm not a mechanics guy either.

DBrim
DBrim moderator

@Disgruntled Goat Yeah, that was more for if I was going to do a post evaluating Young as a starting first baseman, but the Uribe signing came up after that.

DBrim
DBrim moderator

@ABSmileBunch Pretty much 2014 only, unless they pick up the option for 2015.

DBrim
DBrim moderator

@LA_Woman  The values are manually input and decided on by people, yes, but it is run by Bill James' company and is overseen by one of the smarter sabermetricians out there (Mitchel Lichtman)

DBrim
DBrim moderator

@capnsparrow I think we need to bring MEllis back. Guerrero's leg troubles in the Dominican are not inspiring much confidence.

ABSmileBunch
ABSmileBunch

@DBrim @ABSmileBunch yes, I was thinking along those lines, but wasn't sure what year to apply the 4 million buy out...not that it really matters, but any idea what the salary would be in 2015 if the contract isn't bought out?

ABSmileBunch
ABSmileBunch

@DINGERS! You think that we can take their ability to hit at the MLB level for granted at this point? 

DINGERS!
DINGERS!

Most of us thought Puig would impact the 2014 team at the earliest. With Seager and to a lesser extent Guerrero, their gloves will determine how soon they are ready for the show.

ABSmileBunch
ABSmileBunch

@DKDodgers maybe, I'm no scout, so I'm simply estimating based on his age, progress through the system so far, and the positive things I've heard from scouting types. 

DINGERS!
DINGERS!

I fully expect Hanley to extend. Then again, I expect Seager to finish the year in AA at minimum.

DINGERS!
DINGERS!

Seager and Hanley will have to figure something out. But the big time scouts love That Seager can bulk up and still be a solid fielder at 3rd

DBrim
DBrim moderator

@ABSmileBunch @DBrim Yeah... not sure having Seager really impacts anything THIS year. It could be interesting next year if the Dodgers extend Hanley and Chase Headley's on the market.

DINGERS!
DINGERS!

ARam hit ball hard. Brewers won't trade.

ABSmileBunch
ABSmileBunch

@DBrim @ABSmileBunch my 'wow!' stands...and maybe by the time this Uribe contract ends, Seager will be ready to take over or will have already taken over at 3B. 

DBrim
DBrim moderator

@ABSmileBunch @DBrim Basically his contract either resolves to 1/20 OR 2/30 if both sides pick up his option next season.

LA_Woman
LA_Woman

@DBrim@LA_Woman This stuff gets too overwhelming for me, so the only thing I'd be inclined to read is something short & sweet. But thanks.

DINGERS!
DINGERS!

I'll miss having the Shredder around to back up Hanley. And I do hope MEllis comes back just in case Guerrero isn't ready.

DBrim
DBrim moderator

@capnsparrow @DBrim His good defense and flexibility makes him easily worth what the A's paid him.

capnsparrow
capnsparrow

@DBrim @capnsparrow Punto just wouldnt wait and see what they were gonna do with him. He was solid on defense. but his bat not so much. He got offered a deal by a contender and jumped all over it. Can't blame him really. Its a job to him.Even though he makes so much more than non entertainers.

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