Rick Ankiel helps define replacement level

There’s probably nothing more depressing than being released by the worst team in baseball. However, Rick Ankiel, who was released by the Astros last Sunday and signed by the Mets on Monday, luckily has another opportunity with a starting job. The Mets, however, have shown that they are truly desperate by signing the pitcher-turned-outfielder to a major-league deal. The deal is obviously not a big one and is considered to be low-risk, but what’s the point?

The Mets outfield, as anticipated, has been awful. In the first month-and-a-half of the season, Mets’ outfielders have combined to hit a line of .215/.296/.387, which is good for a wRC+ of 90. Offensively, their outfielders have been completely unproductive. They aren’t getting on base, nor are they really doing anything to create runs. Given the lack of production, it would make sense to bring in another outfielder to try to switch things up. However, Rick Ankiel has had massive contact problems. This year he has had a contact percentage of 64% (81% is considered average), and last year he had a contact percentage of 74.6%.

There’s a reason Ankiel was released by the worst team in baseball. If you don’t make contact you’re not going to be producing very well at the major-league level. Part of the reason that Ankiel is hitting a line of .203/.244/.500, is that he’s striking out a lot, and not drawing walks. This is not anything new for Ankiel this season, and is consistent with his performance throughout his career.

Ankiel is probably not going to provide much with his bat as ZiPS projects him to end the season with a line of .213/.271/.415 with 13 homers. The Mets obviously didn’t bring him in for his bat. Since his bat won’t provide the Mets much other than the occasional home run and a lot of strikeouts, the Mets must be expecting some decent fielding. The Mets outfielders have a combined for a meager UZR of -11.9. However, Ankiel has not been a good fielder in his career, with a career UZR of -7.8, although as a former pitcher, he does have a great arm in the outfield.

Add it all up and after 31 games this year, Ankiel has a 0.0 fWAR. He is contributing exactly what we would expect a replacement level player to do if given a chance.

Ankiel is the epitome of replacement level, and is not going to do anything above average. In fact, the Mets could probably find someone else in their system who could provide as much value as Ankiel is projected to, therefore he is replaceable. He will provide a homer here and there, but at the end of the day Ankiel will not make a difference. He’s just another player that the Mets are going to use in the outfield in attempts to make the outfield look not too terrible.

13 comments for “Rick Ankiel helps define replacement level

  1. Jerry Grote
    May 19, 2013 at 10:57 am

    “What’s the point”?

    I don’t understand. You correctly point out that the Mets outfield is below replacement level, and Ankiel projects to be replacement level.

    What did I miss here?

    • May 19, 2013 at 11:33 am

      I think the point is, as Spencer mentioned, that the Mets could find this level of performance simply by looking down on the farm so the signing of Ankiel was pointless.

      • Jerry Grote
        May 20, 2013 at 5:03 am

        LOL. You mean like Colin Cowgill? Or are we talking about Kirk? Massive fail. And MDD? He isn’t even playing ball right now.

        Ankiel > any Mets alternative, through at least the next two months, at CF. You have next to nothing invested in him.

        Don’t put more into signing Rick than is necessary. They didn’t sign him to a three year deal; this isn’t burying a great deal of talent in the minors and making a commitment.

        And its not like the organization didn’t give a go-round to your “upper level” CF talent … such as it laughably is … before they turned to RA. He probably won’t even be here, one way or the other, by August.

        • May 20, 2013 at 7:28 pm

          I would rather have seen Lagares or Valdespin get more time in CF, actually.

        • May 20, 2013 at 8:59 pm

          ZiPs Projections:

          Player A:.219/.274/.434 UZR -5.3 WAR -0.2
          Player B:.226/.290/.368 UZR 0.4 WAR 0.4

          Rick Ankiel is player A, Player B is Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Ankiel is projected to be below replacement level and Kirk is expected to be slightly above. Let’s face the fact that Ankiel is not any better than the options in the minors, and the signing had no point other than reinforcing the theory of replacement level.

          • Jerry Grote
            May 21, 2013 at 9:25 am

            The problem placed on such projections indicates that the player will actually get ABS against both LHP and RHP.

            If RA plays specifically against RHPs into a platoon, the numbers change mightily. Looking at things like ZiPS fails to take into consideration future context, and I think you can assume that TC will keep Ankiel on the bench against LHP.

            Without doing the actual work, I’d think Ankiel against RHP probably puts up an OPS of about 750-770. Turned into a platoon player, I’m expecting above replacement production and that’s what we’ve gotten.

            Kirk is not even a replacement level CF in Las Vegas right now, so please, let’s not get ridiculous.

            • Metsense
              May 21, 2013 at 11:18 am

              He has a career .766 OPS vs RHP which improves the 2013 Mets if he plays in a platoon situation. That is better than JV1 who has a career .727 vs RHP. If the object is to put your best players on the field and win ballgames then Ankiel gets the nod over the other Met platoon LH CF. If the object is to develope players at the major league level because they have more “potential” than Ankiel, then the signing is counter productive to development.
              The signing has sent a mixed message from the front office to the fan base.

              • Jerry Grote
                May 21, 2013 at 3:20 pm

                ^ not really much to argue with there; I generally agree with the intent of what you are saying.

                I’ll put this out there … If you felt the message was intended for the fans, maybe it is a mixed message. Maybe the message was directed at JV1 and his last 9th inning HR.

                Is it possible that the Mets just got fed up with the bullcrap and brought in a guy that would just grab his mitt and go play CF and be happy for the chance to still travel to Houston, SF, LA and Chicago on a big league airplane?

                Happens all the time. One way or the other, I don’t see his 727 OPS v RHP quite the same everyone else here does (no surprise, huh?). Take out a few pinch hits – possibly the single most unrepeatable skill in baseball, and measured by a definite small sample size – and I don’t think you have very much there.

  2. May 19, 2013 at 11:34 am

    I might even go a step further and say it’s possible the signing of Ankiel was counterproductive from a fan/PR standpoint. He’s really not going to provide much that one of the minor league players could provide, plus he comes with the added baggage of being cut by the Astros. So the narrative is terrible: “Mets sign player cut by worst team in baseball.”

    • May 19, 2013 at 1:00 pm

      I think Alderson was just trying to make it look like he was doing something to solve the problem with signing a player as opposed to calling up a minor leaguer that will do nothing.

      • Jerry Grote
        May 20, 2013 at 5:05 am

        ^ this. Not sure who Mr. Rogan would have us bring up.

      • May 20, 2013 at 7:30 pm

        Right. “Doing something” for the sake of doing something isn’t always the best thing, though. Either way, it’s a meh move.

  3. blastingzone
    May 19, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    First of all signing Ankiel was a waste of space he and Byrd are not part of there future so they need to cut Ankiel and Byrd then send down Ike to AAA and move Duda to first base and bring up Satin to platoon with him! Ither put Spin in LF or RF to play everyday and bring up
    Brown and Hoffman and platoon them in either RF or LF? When MDD is ready platoon Lagares with
    him in CF, now Murphy is a FA after this season and I don’t see the mets resigning him to a big contract so trade him at the deadline and bring up Flores and ready or not play him at
    2nd base everyday(not Turner) and lets see what all these guys can do so we know what we have
    to do in 2014?

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