How Jose Reyes Shuffles the Marlins Lineup

Earlier today, we discussed how good Jose Reyes is and how we can expect him to age. But his acquisition actually does do a few things to the Marlins' lineup; his arrival shifts a few players to different positions and asks them to do things with which they are perhaps not yet comfortable. Reyes's arrival will almost certainly move incumbent star shortstop Hanley Ramirez of the position and likely to third base and moves Emilio Bonifacio to another previous position of need in center field alongside Bryan Petersen. These moves will serve to impact the lineup, so it is important to analyze their effects for the 2012 season and beyond.

The Inevitable Hanley-Reyes Shortstop Bump

From the second Reyes was being considered as a candidate for the Marlins to sign, we knew that an inevitable bump from the position would be on the way for Ramirez. With the consensus opinion that he is among the worst shortstops in baseball, it was almost certain that Ramirez would the one to sacrifice his position despite his status as the team's preeminent star (though that star has diminished a good deal since 2009).

Two questions needed to be answered:

- Would Ramirez be willing to make a move?

- Where would Ramirez move to on the diamond in order to improve his value and the team's production?

The former was never considered much, but it probably was the most important aspect of the move. If Ramirez was unwilling to make a move away from the position, the Marlins would likely not have been able to sign Reyes with the idea to convince him to move to another position in Ramirez's stead. But even with the signing already confirmed, Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports mentions that the silence from the Ramirez camp is concerning.

No public word from Hanley Ramirez on if he's ok with position switch. Until that changes, trade remains possibility.
Dec 05 via txtFavoriteRetweetReply

Then again, if Jayson Stark of ESPN.com is correct, then this is not even a concern.

#Marlins people are saying it's still possible Hanley could move to CF. But source close to Hanley says he's already agreed to play 3B.
Dec 05 via webFavoriteRetweetReply

So whom are we to believe? Morosi is right that until there's no official word, we definitely do not know anything yet. But it would be pretty shortsighted of the Marlins to make this signing without consulting one of the team's most important players regarding a position change, and as bad as the team's front office can sometimes be, they are not so inept that they would ignore such a detail.

I imagine the Marlins have already mentioned for a while to Ramirez that if the signing occurs, they would officially ask him to move positions. I imagine Ramirez was not happy about that initially. But I imagine the team would not have secured the deal without a sense, perhaps even an assurance, that Ramirez would go along with the team's plans without heavy resistance. Ramirez may be a moody player, but winning cures all ills, and I suspect that the club convinced him that this was going towards the ultimate goal of winning.

As for the second question, luckily I already addressed this point earlier in the offseason, when the rumors of a Jose Reyes signing were still in their infancy.

In order to find out how Ramirez fit into two different new positions, I first took a look at what fans might think Ramirez would perform next season. I incorporated his FSR data from 2009 to 2011 and did a simple projection, weighing last season's data the heaviest and 2009 the lightest. I then figured out the weighted averages (weighted by games played for each player, so the more games a player played, the more heavily he weighed in on the average) for each category from third base and center field in 2011. This gives us a better idea of how Ramirez would stack up with others in that position.

Here is how those numbers came out:

Player React/Inst Accel/FrstStp Vel/Spd Hands/Catch Rel/Foot Thr Str Thr Acc
Ramirez 56 63 73 45 48 69 36
Avg 3B 64 57 54 60 62 69 61
Avg CF 59 71 77 60 53 46 50

How does Ramirez stack up? Just looking at the data, one would say that Ramirez may be better suited for center field rather than third base; his speed and reactions better fit an outfielder, and the requirement of less throwing may be more beneficial. At third base, Ramirez's supposed lack of throwing accuracy (Ramirez does make more throwing errors as a proportion of his total errors than the average shortstop did in 2011) might hinder his ability, even as his throwing strength compliments it.

It appeared that, when using the numbers, garnered from the Fans Scouting Report, a move to either third base or center field would even in terms of change in defensive value. The Fish Stripes readership also noted that the Marlins would probably be better off moving Ramirez to third base because of his concerns regarding his physique and how it will stand up to the outfield. Given that the position move in terms of skills is a wash, there is no reason to think too much further into it: Ramirez will move to third base.

How good will he be there? Since 2009, Ramirez has cost the Marlins between 15 and 27 runs compared to the average shortstop on defense over the last three seasons. I'm not sure what the exact number is, but it is likely he will look better compared to the averaged third baseman than he does versus the average shortstop. The calculation in the linked piece from earlier last month would have Ramirez at four runs worse than average compared to the average third baseman. The Marlins according to UZR cost themselves around 10 runs last season by playing hapless defenders like Greg Dobbs at third base, so this would be a decent improvement in that respect.

The Center Field Dance

The Marlins' other hole in the lineup was in center field, and the signing of Reyes should shuffle the surprising Emilio Bonifacio over to that position. Fans were excited to see Bonifacio last year since he actually played well, but as I warned earlier in his season review, Fish followers should be careful about how much they trust his 2011 season. Bonifacio's almost certain regression made it likely that he would be mistaken for a full-time player in 2012, but with the Reyes signing, the team can shift him to a position where he would a partner with whom to work.

You see, individually neither Bonifacio nor Bryan Petersen are of much interest. But as a potential platoon combination, they actually prove halfway decent. Petersen is a left-handed hitter, and while Bonifacio feigns being a switch hitter, his numbers do not support that.

Bonfiacio, Career PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA
vs. LHP 424 .307 .354 .396 .331
vs. RHP 1127 .254 .318 .328 .291

Now neither of those numbers are his "true talent" values per se, as we are dealing with pretty small samples for this split. But just eyeballing this and comparing it to the splits shown here from 2009, it does appear as if Bonifacio exhibits more of a true righty split than a switch-hitter even split. Having said that, a platoon with both players involved would not only hide Bonifacio's deficiencies against right-handers, but it would also help to ease him back into the transition into the outfield after spending most of the previous year working in the infield.

The defensive bonus cannot be overlooked. Not only will Bonifacio get away from the infield, where has not rated well defensively, but he will get a chance to go to center field, where his primary skill of speed fits a lot better. And while the reviews are mixed on Petersen when it comes to defense, he has a chance to be about average defensively in center field and put up the type of hitting performance we saw last season in terms of walks with minimal power. A two-headed monster of Bonifacio and Petersen may be average on defense and much closer to average at the plate when considering that both players will be focused more on their better platoon halves.

So while we do not have anything on the hard numbers regarding the move to center field, we have a good idea that a pickup of Reyes and the subsequent shifting should have a positive defensive impact on the team, which would be a marked improvement over the club's previous seasons of difficulty. Of course, the filling of the third base void and the move to a possible platoon in center field should also aid in adding offense, so the upgrade of Reyes over the team's third base contingency likely represents at least a four-win improvement based on our projections. That, my fellow Marlins fans, is a good thing.

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