Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The beginning of the end of Mike Rizzo?

News continues to swirl out of the nation’s capitol that the Nationals are just smitten with Tampa Bay Rays 1B Carlos Pena. With the impending free agency of current 1B Adam Dunn, the Nationals are apparently looking to upgrade their defense at the least defensive intensive position on the field. (yeah, I don’t get it either).

Over the past three seasons, Dunn has performed as a slugger should, he mashes the ball, gets on base and drives in runs. Since 2008, Dunn is third in baseball in HR’s (116), second in walks (315) and ninth in RBI’s (308).

The problem Rizzo has with Dunn, according to those in the know, is his belief (incorrect as it may be) that Dunn is nothing but a statue at 1B who somehow, through magical powers cost the Nationals more runs a game with his defense than the runs he produces with his bat. Clearly, this is a silly notion, but it’s one that is held by Rizzo. While the Nationals won’t change GM’s (yet) they are apparently interested at the idea in bringing in Carlos Pena, a guy that is two years older than Dunn, already on the decline physically, can’t hit, and is of questionable repute in the field… basically, the perfect Mike Rizzo player; cheap and trending downward. (See Kennedy, Adam and Rodriguez, Ivan)

Since Pena’s career year in 2007 when he hit .282 with 46 HR’s and 121 RBI’s, Pena has been on a sharp decline. In 2008, Pena hit .247 while Slugging .133 points lower than he did in 2007. In 2009, Pena’s average slipped to .227, a full .055 points lower than his career high in 2007. In 2010, the wheels fell off for the 32 year old. For the year, Pena hit a whopping .196 with 28 HR’s and a SLG% of .407. To put in perspective how massive the drop has been for Pena, his 2007 OPS, which was 1.037 was .305 points higher than his 2010 OPS of .732, the difference in OPS nearly equals his OBP for 2010 of .323.

Dunn, on the other hand, continues to trudge along putting up season after season of stats that most hitters can only dream of. Since 2007, Dunn has hit .257/.382/.533/.915, with 156 HR’s and 414 RBI’s. Pena? .238/.368/.516/.884. The disparity between the two only grows the further you get away from 2007.

Dunn - .236/.386/.513/.898
Pena - .247/.377/.494/.871
Advantage – Dunn

Dunn - .267/.398/.529/.928
Pena - .227/.356/.537/.893
Advantage - Dunn

Dunn - .260/.356/.536/.892
Pena - .196/.325/.407/.732
Advantage – Dunn

Clearly, it is impossible not to understand the massive difference in offensive skill sets the two possess.

The question is not whether Carlos Pena is a better hitter than Dunn, because he is not. Nor is the question whether Adam Dunn is a better fielder than Pena, because he is not. No, the multi million dollar question is this; does the upgrade Carlos Pena brings in the field over Adam Dunn make up for Dunn’s advantage at the plate?

Quite obviously the answer is a resounding NO.

For all the talk of Pena being this great fielder, where’s the proof? In his eight years at 1B, Pena rates out as a below average 1B, just like Dunn. There is not one defensive metric that you can find that says Carlos Pena is above average. Pena sports a negative DRS (-3), UZR (-16.2) and TZ (-45) score. If you break his numbers down into what is an average year for Pena in the field, you come up with following results:

Pena -.375 DRS/Year
Pena -2.7 UZR/150
Pena -5 TZ/Year

As you can see, while none of the systems totally agree with the value of Pena in the field, they all cast him as a negative net fielder in the range of -1 to -5 runs a year. Eight years of data cannot be explained away as statistical flukes. The fact of the matter is, for all the talk of wanting to bring Pena in to shore up the defense, he’s still a below average 1B just like Dunn. Factor in the massive difference in their offensive capabilities and it’s enough to cause one fits of intense anger.

For comparisons sake, Dunn’s stats after one and a half years at 1B are as follows;

Dunn -13 DRS/Year
Dunn -8.7 UZR/150
Dunn -7 TZ/Year

Those numbers drastically change if you only factor in 2010, where Dunn played 1B full time, for the first time in his career and had an offseason to practice;

Dunn -8 DRS (2010)
Dunn -3.1UZR (2010)
Dunn N/A TZ (2010 – Numbers haven’t been released yet, but judging on the drop of 5 runs for both DRS and UZR, we can guess that Dunn’s TZ would be -2 for 2010)

As you can see, at most the difference between Dunn and Pena is less than anyone with an agenda a mile long would have you believe.

Adam Dunn is vastly superior to Carlos Pena at the plate. Carlos Pena is a slight upgrade to Adam Dunn in the field. Overall, Adam Dunn is the better player.

If there’s one thing I could ever ask my reader(s) to take away from my blog, it is this simple truth;

Carlos Pena isn’t just a downgrade from Adam Dunn, it’s career suicide for Mike Rizzo.


  1. *sigh* If the Nationals sign Pena and claim it's to replace Dunn, it would be as if they were p***ing on my shoes and telling me it's raining. No, thanks.

    John C.

  2. Can't argue with you there. Though, as the days pass, it seems more and more likely the Pena for Dunn swap will take place.