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Monday, January 13, 2014

Star-Telegram: Moreland Preparing for Utility Role

Mitch Moreland didn’t know what to expect after the Texas Rangers acquired Prince Fielder from the Detroit Tigers. And he really still doesn’t.

Moreland admitted his 2014 destination could change by Opening Day, but for now he’s preparing himself for a utility-type role with the Rangers next season.

And that’s your definition of a slow weekend in baseball.  But I’m not posting it for its high news content.  My thought is this: Moreland is an interesting player.  He’s just about acceptable as a ML first baseman and a modest power hitter: 100 career OPS+, just below 1 WAR per season.  You can’t call him a AAAA player, because aside from rehab he hasn’t been in the minors in years.  You can’t call him a journeyman because he’s played for the same organization his whole career.  (I tried calling him a journeyman in a comment last year and someone informed me that he was a veteran regular who should be able to write his own place in the lineup card or something like that.)

But in one of the older senses of “journeyman,” Moreland is exactly that: he has had to earn a job every season, beating out everybody from Chris Davis to Michael Young to Lance Berkman to Jeff Baker.  And now his work is even more cut out for him, as he’s competing with Fielder, Choo, Rios, Michael Choice, and a cast of thousands.  So what do we call players like that?  Working stiffs? Incumbently challenged?  I know some Primates have strong ideas about what to call Mitch Moreland, but let’s be nice.

BDC Posted: January 13, 2014 at 10:47 AM | 45 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: rangers

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   1. The Good Face Posted: January 13, 2014 at 11:29 AM (#4637660)
So what do we call players like that?


We call them replacement players. In 1387 PA over the past 3 seasons, Moreland has .9 bWAR. Moreland represents a failure on the part of the Texas front office to find anybody better to play 1B. If he's limited to a utility role (can he still handle corner OF defensively?) and strictly platooned so he only faces RHP, he might be a decent bench player, but that's about it.

   2. Greg K Posted: January 13, 2014 at 11:35 AM (#4637664)
Adam Lind perhaps fits that description a bit better. He's pretty much Moreland, except with one year of being a good player. I suppose the other difference is that I know definitively that Lind cannot handle a corner OF spot.
   3. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 13, 2014 at 11:36 AM (#4637666)
There's a guy on my softball team that claims to have played in a summer league with Moreland back in college. I asked him if Moreland was the best player on the team and he shrugged and said "not really."
   4. SoCalDemon Posted: January 13, 2014 at 11:40 AM (#4637672)
Excluding his first 173 ABs, he has 1 WAR (98 OPS+ from a 1B is not good) over the last 1400 ABs. I would call that below a bench player (who I think of as a type of player who would average between 1-2 wins given a full season; valuable, but not a starter), but a player that averages .5 WAR/650 and never gives below replacement value, has some value. A true replacement player gives you 0 WAR on average, but due to random variation, can easily give you a negative win or two before the plug is pulled. So I don't know what these players should be called, fringe bench? But they are the sort of players that good teams seem to have around that other average or poor teams do not seem to have (although having Moreland as a starter for much of the last 3 years does seem like poor planning/luck).
   5. Greg K Posted: January 13, 2014 at 12:00 PM (#4637684)
There's a guy on my softball team that claims to have played in a summer league with Moreland back in college. I asked him if Moreland was the best player on the team and he shrugged and said "not really."

A found out recently a neighbour of mine played little league with Joey Votto. His dad said Votto wasn't one of the team's better players. Though he also didn't seem to realize that Votto was any good now, so maybe he just isn't very into baseball.
   6. Accent Shallow Posted: January 13, 2014 at 12:03 PM (#4637690)
A found out recently a neighbour of mine played little league with Joey Votto. His dad said Votto wasn't one of the team's better players. Though he also didn't seem to realize that Votto was any good now, so maybe he just isn't very into baseball.

Little League as in T-ball, or up through 10-12? Because I can buy that Votto wasn't any good when he was very young, but past age 10, I'd certainly expect him to be a talent.
   7. BDC Posted: January 13, 2014 at 12:11 PM (#4637700)
Maybe it was just the annoyance of the 10-year-old Votto fouling off 3-2 pitches and then clogging the bases after a walk.
   8. PreservedFish Posted: January 13, 2014 at 12:14 PM (#4637702)
Mitch Moreland is decidedly not a replacement player. Could you get him on a minor league contract? Would the Rangers trade him for "future considerations?" That's the idea behind a replacement level player. Now, obviously player with good trade value can produce like replacement level players, but I do think Moreland has been at least a hair above that level, hence all the starts he gets.

By the way ... do you think that MLB organizations ever really use the term or concept? I am doubtful. Most teams probably have deep contingency plans for every position, starting with their own backups and AAA guys, and they would use those numbers as their baseline, as opposed to a theoretical replacement level.
   9. Enrico Pallazzo Posted: January 13, 2014 at 12:16 PM (#4637705)
Maybe it was just the annoyance of the 10-year-old Votto fouling off 3-2 pitches and then clogging the bases after a walk.

For a Canadian to get drafted in the 2nd round at 18, he would have had to make some pretty big waves in his pubescent years.
   10. PreservedFish Posted: January 13, 2014 at 12:18 PM (#4637708)
A found out recently a neighbour of mine played little league with Joey Votto. His dad said Votto wasn't one of the team's better players. Though he also didn't seem to realize that Votto was any good now, so maybe he just isn't very into baseball.


I tend to think that almost every mlb player was legendary in his hometown. I played with the younger brother of a pitcher that got drafted by the Braves. He made it to AA or AAA as a lefty throwing less than 90mph. His younger brother was, by far, the best player at every single sport.
   11. zonk Posted: January 13, 2014 at 12:21 PM (#4637711)
The only reason I can think of to keep Moreland around is so that you're never, ever forced to write out a lineup card that says "Yuniesky Betancourt.... 1B".
   12. The Good Face Posted: January 13, 2014 at 12:51 PM (#4637753)
Mitch Moreland is decidedly not a replacement player. Could you get him on a minor league contract? Would the Rangers trade him for "future considerations?" That's the idea behind a replacement level player. Now, obviously player with good trade value can produce like replacement level players, but I do think Moreland has been at least a hair above that level, hence all the starts he gets.


In Moreland's very first season, he was productive in a smallish sample. That combined with his relative youth made Texas think of him as a guy with potential. So they gave him the starting job assuming that he would develop or improve, or at least carry over that small sample of success to a full season. Unfortunately, it appears that he was just playing over his head in a small sample, and his actual level (as a starter) is "just a hair above replacement player, probably". He got all those starts over the past 3 years because Texas thought he was (or could be) a better player, not because they said, "Wow, a guy who might be just a TEENY bit better than replacement level! Better plug him into the lineup every day!".

By the way ... do you think that MLB organizations ever really use the term or concept? I am doubtful. Most teams probably have deep contingency plans for every position, starting with their own backups and AAA guys, and they would use those numbers as their baseline, as opposed to a theoretical replacement level.


As Zonk alludes in #11, sometimes even a guy like Moreland has value if your organizational cupboard is so bare that you quite literally don't have a real replacement player to, well, replace him with. So no, I doubt MLB organizations really use the concept much, because a replacement player is an abstraction. Even guys who mostly fit the concept will be a tiny bit better or a tiny bit worse, and depending on organizational needs could have value in some contexts.
   13. Greg K Posted: January 13, 2014 at 01:06 PM (#4637764)
Little League as in T-ball, or up through 10-12? Because I can buy that Votto wasn't any good when he was very young, but past age 10, I'd certainly expect him to be a talent.

My dad got after me recently for using little league in this way too...I've always just thought of little league as the baseball you play when you're not an adult, but I guess it means something else? Votto would have been about 13-15 on this team.
   14. Tim Wallach was my Hero Posted: January 13, 2014 at 01:11 PM (#4637771)
I tend to think that almost every mlb player was legendary in his hometown. I played with the younger brother of a pitcher that got drafted by the Braves. He made it to AA or AAA as a lefty throwing less than 90mph. His younger brother was, by far, the best player at every single sport.

I played against four mega stars in my younger days: Patrick Deschênes, Danny Prata, Ntema Ndungidi and Reggie Laplante. All four were drafted (Pat Deschênes might only have been signed, however, because his B-R page does not say he was drafted and I can't remember). Laplante was drafted in the 6th round, Ndungidi in the 1st. These guys were so dominating I was sure they would make it to the top (especially Ndungidi - although in retrospect, he did not seem to care all that much).

Anyway, playing against those guys made me realize how amazing MLB players really are, even Mitch Moreland.
   15. PreservedFish Posted: January 13, 2014 at 01:28 PM (#4637790)
A look at the 2013 Brewers shows what happens when you need actual factual replacement players at first base. Corey Hart was lost for the season in January, and then his backup Matt Gamel was lost for the season in March. Alex Gonzalez and Yuniesky Betancourt got starts there, so did a minor league veteran named Blake Lalli, and mediocre prospect Sean Halton. The big move for the position was to acquire Juan Francisco, who had been DFA'd, in exchange for a reliever nobody had ever heard of. Francisco was replacement level at thid, and worse, probably, at first.

I think that Moreland is arguably underrated by WAR because of his consistency - he's not good, but, like a dependable 5th starter, he guarantees that your team isn't starting the really atrocious guys.

I'm not trying to say that replacement level is too high, and of course there are counterexamples of teams that plug in total losers and get 1-2 WAR out of them. Just that it seems harsh to describe Moreland as replacement level.
   16. The Good Face Posted: January 13, 2014 at 02:10 PM (#4637841)
I think that Moreland is arguably underrated by WAR because of his consistency - he's not good, but, like a dependable 5th starter, he guarantees that your team isn't starting the really atrocious guys.


There's some truth here, but I think this misses the reality of Moreland's time in Texas. They weren't starting him because he was saving them from the horrors of some -2 WAR train wreck; Texas really thought Moreland had the potential to be a valuable starting player. They thought/hoped he'd be Mark Trumbo or Adam LaRoche.

I'm not trying to say that replacement level is too high, and of course there are counterexamples of teams that plug in total losers and get 1-2 WAR out of them. Just that it seems harsh to describe Moreland as replacement level.


I don't think it's really unreasonable though. 0.9 WAR over 1400 PAs spanning 3 seasons is a dismal record for a starting position player. Although that is technically above replacement value, is there really any measurable difference between a guy who's worth 0.3 WAR and a guy worth 0? Seems like we're pretty much within the margin of error here. Would "probably better than replacement level by a razor thin margin" work for you?
   17. PreservedFish Posted: January 13, 2014 at 02:19 PM (#4637850)
No, you're right, I'm splitting hairs.

Now that I think about I'm arguing about job description more than I am ability. He's "replacement level" but he is not actually a replacement player.
   18. zonk Posted: January 13, 2014 at 02:33 PM (#4637863)

There's some truth here, but I think this misses the reality of Moreland's time in Texas. They weren't starting him because he was saving them from the horrors of some -2 WAR train wreck; Texas really thought Moreland had the potential to be a valuable starting player. They thought/hoped he'd be Mark Trumbo or Adam LaRoche.


He hits a moderate amount of HRs.... that's his only skill as a baseball player. Now - I suppose if you had to have one and only one skill, that's the one to grab (at least, unless you're gonna pitch)... but he also plays in one of the most homer friendly parks in all of baseball.

He's basically a younger, but lesser, version of say... Marcus Thames -- though Thames walked a wee bit more and was a passably below average corner OF.

In the grand scheme of things, he's not even Bob Hamelin.... and Hamelin was done at age 30.
   19. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: January 13, 2014 at 02:35 PM (#4637865)
I think the word you fellows are looking for is "placeholder".
   20. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: January 13, 2014 at 02:52 PM (#4637884)
A found out recently a neighbour of mine played little league with Joey Votto. His dad said Votto wasn't one of the team's better players. Though he also didn't seem to realize that Votto was any good now, so maybe he just isn't very into baseball.

Is your neighbour's last name Brennaman?

If Votto was in his teens, I have to believe he would've been head and shoulders above everyone else. As mentioned he got drafted in the second round out of HS.
   21. BDC Posted: January 13, 2014 at 02:57 PM (#4637889)
I think the word you fellows are looking for is "placeholder"

In a sense, but Moreland has been holding his place tenaciously for years now. It may be an unusual situation, just luck. GF may be right that the Rangers truly overrate Moreland: though if he keeps being better than their other options, it doesn't matter if they overrate him; he's still their best bet. He's consistently mediocre, I'll give him that. Last year the Rangers gave several starts at 1B to minor-league veterans and utility men and the aforementioned Lance Berkman, and Moreland kept winning the job back from the DL or the fringes of the bench.

Now they've imported all 340 pounds of Prince Fielder to try to put an end to this nonsense once and for all. I hope Prince's obliques hold up, because otherwise come June we'll be looking at Mr Placeholder again :)
   22. Ron J2 Posted: January 13, 2014 at 03:08 PM (#4637897)
#18 Yeah but Hamelin is a bad example to use in discussing career arc. He had a couple of unusual and severe physical problems.
   23. zonk Posted: January 13, 2014 at 03:08 PM (#4637899)
Hey - in the AL?

Keeping a Mitch Moreland around isn't terrible.

I don't know his contract situation - but I know immediately after the and even at midseason 2013 - the OOTP AI will offer you MOreland for a warm bag of spit because he's due an arbitration raise
   24. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 13, 2014 at 03:09 PM (#4637901)
Now they've imported all 340 pounds of Prince Fielder

It constantly amazes me that he continues to play in such an out-of-shape condition. I mean, Fielder's not just big, he's visibly fat. As in "gut hanging over his belt" fat.

Pitchers seem to be able to get away with that, but it's got to be an awful sign for his future to be playing the field at that weight.
   25. The Good Face Posted: January 13, 2014 at 03:26 PM (#4637913)
Hey - in the AL?

Keeping a Mitch Moreland around isn't terrible.


Assuming he can still play LF/RF without making a mockery of the game, he's not a terrible bench/platoon guy depending on your roster construction. He gives you some versatility and is an adequate hitter so long as he only faces RHP. As you pointed out before, he has some power, and that's not a terrible thing to have on the bench. It only starts to go horribly wrong when you slot a player like into the starting 1B job and play him every day.

It constantly amazes me that he continue to play in such an out-of-shape condition. I mean, Fielder's not just big, he's visibly fat. As in "gut hanging over his belt" fat.

Pitchers seem to be able to get away with that, but it's got to be an awful sign for his future to be playing the field at that weight.


Fielder is always going to be carrying extra weight with his genetics and body type. What makes him a valuable hitter is the masses of muscle he carries under that fat, and it's unlikely a guy with his build could lose all the fat and keep the muscle. Still, it's always fair to wonder with a guy like that... is he really doing everything he could/should be doing to keep himself in shape?
   26. BDC Posted: January 13, 2014 at 03:30 PM (#4637918)
in the AL?

Keeping a Mitch Moreland around isn't terrible


Another Moreland factoid: in 2013, the Rangers rotated 11 players through DH in the four months after Lance Berkman hit the wall – and Moreland was not one of them. That's odd. Almost any 1B – I daresay most NL first basemen – get a start or two at DH.
   27. The Good Face Posted: January 13, 2014 at 03:35 PM (#4637921)
How the heck does Mitch Moreland get 26+ posts? Are people really that sick of talking about the confluence of A-Rod/steroids/Bud Selig/labor strife?
   28. PreservedFish Posted: January 13, 2014 at 03:50 PM (#4637929)
27 - absolutely. I love talking about Mitch Moreland. Talking about Mitch Moreland means talking about actual baseball.
   29. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 13, 2014 at 03:53 PM (#4637931)
Are people really that sick of talking about the confluence of A-Rod/steroids/Bud Selig/labor strife?

Hell yes.
   30. zonk Posted: January 13, 2014 at 04:04 PM (#4637945)
Bingo.

I'm not one of those to complain about the lack of 'baseball' threads -- I enjoy the off topic stuff -- but I'd like SOME baseball and this plus the draft/Thomas thread are the only games in town at the moment.
   31. The Good Face Posted: January 13, 2014 at 04:10 PM (#4637951)
You're all absolutely right. It IS nice having a pure baseball related discussion, even if it is about a guy like Mitch Moreland.
   32. PreservedFish Posted: January 13, 2014 at 04:11 PM (#4637953)
To Mitch Moreland!!
   33. The District Attorney Posted: January 13, 2014 at 04:17 PM (#4637958)
Chris Cotillo
@ChrisCotillo

By my count, only 6 MLB FA signings since 12/18. 25 days ago.
   34. Random Transaction Generator Posted: January 13, 2014 at 04:20 PM (#4637961)
I don't know his contract situation - but I know immediately after the and even at midseason 2013 - the OOTP AI will offer you MOreland for a warm bag of spit because he's due an arbitration raise


I can attest to this, as I dealt Macier Izturis for Mitch Moreland after about 20 games into the season.
Moreland's .700 OPS was miles ahead of Izturis' .430 OPS.
(I suffered a rash of injuries at 1B and needed SOMEONE to play there.)
   35. BourbonSamurai Is a Lazy Nogoodnik Posted: January 13, 2014 at 04:21 PM (#4637962)
Heh, offseason
   36. zonk Posted: January 13, 2014 at 05:13 PM (#4638017)
Did you know Mitch Moreland is NOT related to Keith Moreland in any way?
   37. Robinson Cano Plate Like Home Posted: January 13, 2014 at 05:16 PM (#4638022)
You can’t call him a journeyman because he’s played for the same organization his whole career. 


Actually, a journeyman is not a man who journeys, but an experienced professional who hasn't achieved the rank of master. It's a medieval, guild-age term. It's "journey" as in journee--a day laborer. Once a journeyman completes his "masterpiece," he becomes a master and can have his own shop. Until then, he works for somebody else. But he's not an apprentice--he knows his job.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/journeyman
   38. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: January 13, 2014 at 05:22 PM (#4638029)
Almost any 1B – I daresay most NL first basemen – get a start or two at DH.


28 NL players played at least one game at both first base and DH in 2013 according to the Play Index.

By the way ... do you think that MLB organizations ever really use the term or concept? I am doubtful. Most teams probably have deep contingency plans for every position, starting with their own backups and AAA guys, and they would use those numbers as their baseline, as opposed to a theoretical replacement level.


I'd bet they use the concept at the very least. It may be as basic as "he sucks but if we could tolerate him for a couple weeks" vs. "nope, we need someone else just in case the starter goes down" but that's basically replacement level (at least how I've chosen to interpret it).
   39. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: January 13, 2014 at 05:23 PM (#4638032)
Moreland Preparing for Utility Role

He should be preparing for his Designation for Assignment.
   40. Nasty Nate Posted: January 13, 2014 at 05:32 PM (#4638042)

Actually, a journeyman is not a man who journeys, but an experienced professional who hasn't achieved the rank of master.


Well, it appears even Cal Ripken Jr was a journeyman, considering there is no rank of master in baseball.
   41. Der-K, the bloodied charmer Posted: January 13, 2014 at 05:36 PM (#4638046)
Professional hitter. :)

Failing that, journeyman suffices.
   42. zonk Posted: January 13, 2014 at 05:39 PM (#4638050)
I could be wrong, but I don't think most trade unions have a "master" anymore, either...

They still have apprentices, but once you graduate from the apprenticeship programs -- you become a journeyman (and full voting member of the union). I know there are different functional roles on a job site that a journeyman can play which influence pay, but even the person running the project is a foreman, not a 'master'.

Like I said, might be wrong -- but worked out of a plumbers & pipefitters local for a few years and I never met a "master".... even the grizzled, but well-respected, old guys who ran projects were just 'journeymen'.
   43. Squash Posted: January 13, 2014 at 06:28 PM (#4638097)
I tend to think that almost every mlb player was legendary in his hometown.

I played in Oakland Babe Ruth against Jimmy Rollins. He was considered the third best guy on his team, but they were stacked. The two guys ahead of him were massive studs. One of them ended up going in the 6th or 7th round out of high school I believe, don't know what happened to the other guy. A lot of guys in that league ended up getting drafted (I, sadly, did not). I played with a 3rd round pick out of high school in a summer league and another guy who was a fairly high pick, 10th or so I believe. I wasn't too impressed with the 10th round guy, I thought I was a better pitcher than he was.
   44. BDC Posted: January 13, 2014 at 06:31 PM (#4638100)
Bless everybody who subscribes to the older meaning of "journeyman," but I've been swimming against the tide on that one for a long time. You are barely understood if you try to use it: kind of like the older meaning of "disinterested" (which I also quite like).
   45. chisoxcollector Posted: January 13, 2014 at 06:44 PM (#4638113)
I played high school baseball with Gerald Laird. He was the best player on the team, but we had an awful baseball program. He wasn't really exceptional or anything.

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