by John Dewan

Maybe they have some other plans, but it sure seems to me the Arizona Diamondbacks just threw $15 million out the window.  Why sign a 30-year-old outfielder coming off a season cut short by injury to come in and take the place of a 25-year-old outfielder who just won a Gold Glove?

The D’Backs’ signing of Jason Kubel a couple of days ago to a reported two-year $15 million contract is a puzzler.  Yes, he hit 20+ homers three years in a row before last year, but that’s about all you can say that he has over the man he is rumored to be replacing, Gerardo Parra, as the everyday left fielder for Arizona.

Last year Kubel, a lefty, hit .273 with 12 homers and a .766 OPS in about 400 plate appearances.  Parra, also a lefty, hit .292 with 8 homers and a .784 OPS in just under 500 plate appearances.  Parra created 71 runs to 59 for Kubel.  Given the fewer plate appearances for Kubel, you can say offensively the two players were pretty even.  But it’s defense that made Parra a much better player than Kubel in 2011.  Parra saved an estimated 12 runs for Arizona last year. He won a Gold Glove in recognition for his superlative play in the field.  Kubel cost his team about 3 runs defensively.  That 15-run difference is huge.

Not to mention that Parra is five years younger (Kubel turns 30 and Parra turns 25 in May).

Let’s give Kubel the benefit of the doubt and think of 2011 as simply a down year.  The best way to assess these players going forward is to look at their projections for 2012.  The projections from The Bill James Handbook 2012 take into account the entire career of each player to this point to estimate what they’ll do in 2012.  Here’s what the projections show:

  AB HR RBI AVG OBP SLG OPS Runs Created
Kubel

485

20

84

.274

.343

.466

.809

77

Parra

518

9

58

.293

.352

.427

.779

78

The most interesting number is the projected Runs Created, the Bill James statistic that measures total offensive contribution.  Kubel has 77 projected runs created while Parra has 78.  Parra has a few more at-bats, but I think you can easily say that these two players are pretty close offensively.

But not defensively.  In the last three seasons Parra has saved 33 runs defensively while Kubel has cost his team a total of 3.  That’s 36 runs better for Parra, and it makes him a better overall player than Kubel.  Factoring offense and defense, you can estimate that with similar regular playing time, Parra will produce about 85-90 runs when you add in his defense compared to 75-80 runs for Kubel.

Not to mention that Parra is five years younger.  (Did I mention that yet?)

It’s possible that the Diamondbacks know something that we don’t know.  Maybe they have another deal in the works.  Maybe there’s something wrong with Parra.  Maybe they can project players better than we can.  But whatever it is, I don’t get it.

Happy Holidays!

“Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com.”

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