FanPost

Does Matt den Dekker's Defensive Value Justify A Spot On The Team?

USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to another post on Outfield Avenue! Steve had this post up on the front page the other day, arguing for the Mets to start Matt den Dekker in center field this year, and live with his sub-par offense while enjoying his spectacular defense. That post, and the subsequent comments there, got me wondering if we could reasonably project how much value den Dekker needs to bring on defense to justify carrying his bat in the lineup.

Note: The calculations below are based on my pretty basic understanding of some of these stats. If I am mistaken on something, feel free to point it out.

We will have to make some assumptions for this to work, but nothing too large to swallow. First, what can we reasonably expect on offense from Matt den Dekker? Well, somewhat suspiciously, three projection systems have him at exactly the same wOBA. Bill James, Steamer, and Cairo all have him projected at .284 wOBA, while Oliver projects him at .287. (I say only somewhat suspicious because it is very possible that these projection systems all use the same weights when projecting players with no ML experience.) What is even more peculiar is that these projections vary widely on the number of games and innings they project him to play for the Mets.

Assuming we bite the bullet and peg him at .284 wOBA, we need to make a few more small assumptions before we can project den Dekker's WAR. I am using last year's league average wOBA of .319, and a wOBA scale of 1.26 (from 2011). I am also assuming that in the scenario proposed that den Dekker makes the club, he will play the majority of games in center field as the left-handed platoon to Collin Cowgill. I will put him at roughly 110 games and 450 PAs. (You can quibble with these numbers, but a slight change won't affect the overall WAR too much.) I've also put him at +2.5 runs for baserunning, which seems a reasonable number. Looking at his minor league stolen base numbers, while he does have a decent SB% of about 70%, he doesn't really steal a lot of bases overall, which is a necessary ingredient for a large BsR run value. (Again, this number is debatable, but as before, a small change won't affect his overall WAR too much.) The results look like this:

wOBA

wRAA

UZR

BsR

Rep

Positional

WAR

0.284

-12.5

0

2.5

15

1.7

0.67

0.284

-12.5

5

2.5

15

1.7

1.17

0.284

-12.5

10

2.5

15

1.7

1.67

0.284

-12.5

15

2.5

15

1.7

2.17

0.284

-12.5

20

2.5

15

1.7

2.67

For Matt den Dekker, playing at 0 UZR would be equivalent to him being roughly a half-win player. He is about a one-win player with a +5 UZR; a 1.5 WAR player with a +10; and right around league average (2 wins) and where he justifies an everyday spot in a major league lineup, if he gets to +15. What are the chances he gets to +15? Well in the last five years, 110 players have had more than 800 innings played in center field in a season. Of those, only 10 players have accrued more than +10 UZR. (You can see the list here). Mike Trout last year had +10.6 UZR. Projecting den Dekker at more than +10 puts him in the top 10 center fielders of the last five years. That's a pretty lofty expectation for a rookie.

What do the scouts say about den Dekker? A few months ago, John Sickels said, den Dekker was "...a fine glove in the outfield..." He sounds high on his value on defense, but fine doesn't strike me as enough to expect superstar-level production. For a slightly more specific scouting report, here's Keith Law recently in response to whether Mike Cameron (!) was a good comp for den Dekker:

"It's a terrible comp. Cameron walked a ton and was a better defender."

So looking at Mike Cameron's Fangraphs page, at his peak he seems to have been a +15 defender. That would put den Dekker's ceiling at about +10. So what type of offensive production would Matt den Dekker need to get to 2 WAR with +10 defense? Glad you asked!

wOBA

wRAA

UZR

BsR

Rep

Positional

WAR

0.270

-17.5

10

2.5

15

1.7

1.17

0.280

-13.9286

10

2.5

15

1.7

1.527143

0.290

-10.3571

10

2.5

15

1.7

1.884286

0.300

-6.78571

10

2.5

15

1.7

2.241429

0.310

-3.21429

10

2.5

15

1.7

2.598571

0.320

0.357143

10

2.5

15

1.7

2.955714

The magic number for den Dekker seems to be a wOBA above .290. Anything less than that and he will have a hard time cracking the starting lineup.

For kicks, let's run the numbers with den Dekker playing a +5 center field:

wOBA

wRAA

UZR

BsR

Rep

Positional

WAR

0.270

-17.5

5

2.5

15

1.7

0.67

0.280

-13.9286

5

2.5

15

1.7

1.027143

0.290

-10.3571

5

2.5

15

1.7

1.384286

0.300

-6.78571

5

2.5

15

1.7

1.741429

0.310

-3.21429

5

2.5

15

1.7

2.098571

0.320

0.357143

5

2.5

15

1.7

2.455714

Conclusion
While Matt den Dekker may provide value with his defense alone, it doesn't seem likely that he reaches the +15 defensive runs necessary to carry his weak bat. If he manages to play a +10 defense (which still puts den Dekker in pretty rarefied air among center fielders) and improves slightly on his projected wOBA, bringing it up above .290, he will be near a 2 WAR player. If, however, his glove is only close to a +5, he doesn't seem likely to put up the necessary offensive production (a wOBA above .300) to justify giving him a starting spot on the roster.

This FanPost was contributed by a member of the community and was not subject to any vetting or approval process. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions, reasoning skills, or attention to grammar and usage rules held by the editors of this site.

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