We've got the "Real" Beej, unlike these guys. They have the Game Blowing" Beej. I can't wait for this Orlando series, unfortunately for the Jays the "Game Blowing" Beej will probably still be the "Blown Elbow" Beej. Keep your eyes on DRB, because the "Real" Beej will be making a appearance sometime in the next week or two.
Check out a column reviewing the positional +/-'s from last season to this year after the jump. There are definitely a couple positions that you might find surprising.
I decided to use OPS as a statistic to judge offensive improvement/decreases at positions. This statistic obviously doesn't cover everything a person can do for a team, but I wanted to use a uniform statistic to measure all of the positions, and I found this to be the most helpful. Enjoy!
First Base: Slight Minus Carlos left MLB with their jaws dropped, especially the Tigers, A's, and Yankees. With Carlos now locked up for the next three seasons, the first base position should have much more clarity and consistency than ever before. However, we do not have a backup first baseman as of now, and last season it was nice to have the flexibility that Ty Wigginton and Greg Norton could give us. Also, many people expect a possible slight step back from Carlos after such a spectacular season. Last season, the 2B position averaged a OPS of 1.004 which is a step back from Pena's 1.038 OPS from last season. As a whole i think a OPS of 1.000 would be a reasonable expectation from the first base position this season. For these reason, we give a slight minus, but in all it should be much like last season.
Second Base:Minus This statistic may be really surprising to many of you, as it was very surprising to me. Last season, our second base position averaged a OPS of .835, which outperformed Rookie of the Year Dustin Pedroia, who had a OPS of .822. Many people just assume that Aki would be a vast improvement over our second base core of last season, but in all actuality he should be a considerable decrease. If Aki were to repeat his performance of last season with a OPS of .770, he would be a 50 point decrease in production for last season at that position. Aki's .770 line though would be above the average line for 2B that was noted by R.J. at Beyond the Boxscore. Aki's defense is not factored into OPS, and this should be a considerable increase over our defense at second base last season, assuming he can adjust well to the new position. His defensive traits though, should fit the position perfectly. In all though, a .50 decrease in OPS should make the case for a minus at the position in 2008.
Shortstop:Plus This is another position which might baffle you some. Brendan Harris had a good offensive season last year, but in all the shortstop position for the Rays posted a OPS of .697. New Ray Jason Bartlett posted a OPS of .700 last year, and Jason will be a very big increase defensively. Bartlett is considered one of the better defensive shortstops in the league, and Harris...not so much. Bartlett will also add much more speed, than we previously had at that position. Bartlett also battled through some injuries last season, and is expected to improve his offensive numbers. In all, Jason should be improvement at shortstop over our core there last season.
Third Base: Equal This is one position where a decision where the +/- will be based purely on opinion. Since, we really don't have any idea who our opening day starter will be, it is hard to make a guess. I think the most popular conclusion is there will be a Guzman/Aybar platoon to start the season, with Longoria coming in to replace them later on. Last year we averaged a OPS of .757 at third base. I expect the Guzman/Aybar platoon to underachieve that mark, but then for Longoria to surpass it. In all, I think it will average out to something very similar to last season, with a little more power stats.
Catcher: Plus Last season, Dioner Navarro was our starting catcher, even though there were many points in the first half we regretted it. By the end of the second half, those regrets were put in the backseat. Last year, we received a putrid OPS of .630 from the catching position. Much of this due to Dioner's first half, where he was out of shape and facing many off-field issues. He turned it around in the second half to post a OPS of .815, which was a improvement from his first half of over .300 points. I have been a Navi athletic supporter from the beginning, and I expect to see him continue with the trend of his second half. If he can come into the season in better shape, there is no reason to expect anything but in a increase in production from the catching position.
Left Field: Slight Plus Over the last 5 seasons, as Baseball Prospectus notes, Carl has become only the 4th player to increase his batting average and OBP for 5 consecutive seasons. With his steady improvement, it would be foolish to expect anything but improvement. This is even more true when you consider that he is continuing to add power to his arsenal. If he can make that jump up in homers, it could be a even bigger improvement than expected. He will continue to be a solid defender and a great baserunner. Overall, if he can continue his upward trend, he should slightly improve, with the chance to have a vast improvement if he can develop power numbers.
Center Field: Plus Once B.J. got situated out in center last season, there was really no looking back for the Rays organization. However, he didn't play the entire season there last year, and that position average a OPS of .762 last year, compared to B.J.'s OPS of .894. He will also continue to get better defensively out in center as he gets more and more accustomed to the position. He was rated as having the strongest arm in all of baseball at that position last season, so he might leave Rays fans wondering "Delmon Who?". All in all this might be the position where we get the most improvement, except for maybe catcher.
Right Field: Plus For the purposes of clarifying positions for this piece, I am just gonna put floyd/gomes platoon as the right fielder position, and baldelli as the DH position, just so we can make some comparisons. Let me also clarify that this is a measurement over whether or not we will improve at this position from last year, not whether these players will be better than Delmon this year. Last season, from the right field position we had a OPS of .735. As Cork over at Rays Index mentioned in a piece a while back, we are looking at improvement in right field. If Gomes/Floyd hit in as strict of a platoon as possible, they would post a OPS of .871, which would be a vast improvement over right field in 2007. However, they will not be able to hit strictly as a platoon, but their numbers should still stay as a improvement over our 2007 right field. Defensively, we will take a slight step back. But, outside of his arm, Delmon wasn't exactly Andruw Jones out there. Overall it will still be a improvement at that position.
Designated Hitter: Plus Lets preface this by saying, this is based on a healthy Rocco Baldelli, which...well...you know. Last year we have a OPS of .706 at DH, which would make Rocco a improvement. Last season, during Rocco's playing time he was forced to lead off, and he looked really uncomfortable. With Aki settling into that role, they can move Rocco further back in the lineup, and allow him to be his normal offensive self.I would expect more of the 2006 Rocco, where he posted a OPS of .872. A reasonable expectation out of a healthy Rocco would be a .800+ OPS, which is definitely ascertainable by him. That would be a upgrade at the DH position for the Rays.
As you can see, overall we will have upgraded at most positions, which should convert to more wins this season.