2012: Can Andy Dirks Be A Starter?


Despite the Tigers success this season, there are numerous decisions that the organization is going to have to make in this upcoming off-season regarding personnel. One of those is the probability that the Tigers are going to part ways with aging veteran Magglio Ordonez. Another decision is going to have to be made on LF Delmon Young, and whether the Tigers want to offer arbitration to him, or allow him to be a free agent.

With two members of the outfield solidified in Brennan Boesch and Austin Jackson, there is just one starting spot left, and Andy Dirks should be in the mix for that spot. Young has come over from the Minnesota Twins and performed well in a Tigers uniform, but as has been discussed many times, he is a polarizing player because his value is tied in mostly to his batting average. The Tigers will have to make the decision if they feel Young is worth the likely 6-7 million dollars he would receive in arbitration.

I think the Tigers could stand to save a little money here. Andy Dirks is not that much less valuable than Young, if he is at all. A quick look shows us they are pretty similar players.

Andy Dirks is hitting .249 for the Tigers on the season, but he has shown some pop with 20 of his 55 hits going for extra bases. If you project his current numbers over the course of a full season, Dirks is going to be the type of guy that gets you 15 homers, 30 doubles and around 12-15 SB a season. He does multiple things well, but nothing outstanding. Defensively Dirks isn’t a plus defender, but he is solid on the corners, and he brings his lunch pail to work with him every day.

A closer look at Dirks’ stats, especially compared to Delmon Young’s, shows a remarkably similar player. According to Fangraphs, Dirks has compiled 0.3 WAR this season as a part time player. Delmon Young has 0.5 WAR on the season, and that is in large part due to a statistically good season as a defender. His defense this season is an anomaly, meaning that in any normal year, Young and his WAR would more than likely be less than the rookie Dirks.

Both players struggle with discipline at the dish, with neither of them seeing walk rates even near 10%. In fact, Dirks and Young both sit at a walk rate of just 4.7%. This obviously hurts their value because of a low OBP. Dirks is below .300 in that category, while Young is right at .300. Dirks actually slugs more than Delmon Young, however, giving him an OPS of .706, while Young sits at just .684.

There is a little more room for improvement from Dirks as well. While their strikeout rates are similar, Dirks doesn’t whiff as much as Young, and his BABIP is .025 points. less. Dirks BABIP is just .274, and if that number can get up a little bit towards .300, there should be a jump in most of his numbers. In contrast, the fact that Young is displaying abnormal defensive numbers, tells us his overall value is probably a little higher than usual. His offensive numbers reflect what he has always been, a guy that relies on a high batting average to be productive.

Clearly, given that these two players have very similar numbers, and similar ages (Dirks is 25, Young 26), the main factor in choosing between these two particular players should be salary. The Tigers have to avoid extending Young based upon a good two month showing. The Tigers orgnanization may believe that he is going to take off at this point, but I think there is enough of a track record here to suggest that Young is what he is, a slightly below average major league left-fielder. Dirks is a better defender, hits left-handed, and is more versatile. He is also 6 million dollars cheaper. The Tigers could take the money they save from losing Ordonez, Guillen and Young, and move it into free agency.

Saving money is all well and good, but that doesn’t technically make the kind of production that Dirks is going to give the Tigers starter material. While I have been making the argument for Dirks instead of Young, the main point is that the numbers are similar. That means if Young’s numbers aren’t really good enough, than neither are Dirks’. An OPS of .706 isn’t good for a corner outfielder no matter how you slice it. But if you think of things within context of the Tigers roster, it is somewhat acceptable.

Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Jhonny Peralta, and Alex Avila are going to carry this offense. Brennan Boesch if he can put together a full season should help as well. Frankly, the Tigers don’t need Dirks to be a dominant offensive force, and he could fit in nicely at the bottom of the order. He also could get help from Ryan Raburn when left-handers are pitching, and they might form a nice platoon out there in the outfield. Given the rest of the lineup, Dirks multiple skills, and the likelihood we see a little improvement, I believe he could be a starter on this team.

The outfield won’t be the only decision the Tigers have to make, or the only hole they will have to fill. They are going to need a 2nd baseman, a 3rd baseman, and could stand to find a starting pitcher.

It could be that Andy Dirks reaps the benefits of the Tigers organization having to allocate their resources to fit in other players. Finding money isn’t always an easy thing, and going into 2012 with Dirks as the starter would allow them to do so.

I’m sure Andy Dirks would be okay with that.

Tags: Alex Avila Andy Dirks Austin Jackson Brennan Boesch Carlos Guillen Detroit Tigers Jhonny Peralta Magglio Ordonez Miguel Cabrera Ryan Raburn Victor Martinez

  • JohnJParent

    I don’t see any way Young is allowed to walk. I’m not saying it’s the right thing to do, but Jim Leyland loves him some “RBI guys” and Young has done well in that category with Detroit and also drove in 100 last year for the Twins. We can argue all day long about how that stat doesn’t accurately reflect a player’s ability, but the bottom line is that it doesn’t matter a whole lot what we think, only what the Tigers’ brass thinks. And I think they think that Young is pretty good.

    • MCBjohnverburg

      @JohnParent_MCB I think Peralta’s success is going to come into play here as well. The Young situation is similar in that regard. So you are probably right, until DD starts taking my calls, Young is more than likely going to be a Tiger next year.

      That being said. Doesn’t make it a smart use of resources. Dirks could be the starter, given that his performance is no worse than Young’s and in some respects could be considered better.

      Just saying Dirks is a legit option on this team given its roster make-up.

      • JohnJParent

        @MCBjohnverburg I don’t necessarily disagree with you there. Dirks is serviceable and will be useful if/when an injury occurs. He doesn’t have any flash in his game, but that’s not a bad thing.

    • ChrisHannum

      @JohnParent_MCB Jim Leyland needs to figure out that RBI guys are supposed to bat after OBP guys, not in front of them.

      • Sam Genson

        My one and only pure beef with Leyland is that his lineups look like they were created by a 6 year old. You are 100% correct in this statement

  • Shelton

    I think the overriding factor in a Young/Dirks debate is each player’s upside. I have a subjective belief that Young still possesses significant upside, given his age and what he showed he can do last year. I like Dirks as a solid OF, and I wish they would have used him more this season in place of ajax. But I don’t see Dirks upside being nearly as high as Young’s. I think re-signing Young is a low risk gamble on him realizing that upside. If it doesn’t work, it’s only a one year deal.

    Another factor is Raburn. We don’t really know what the front office has planned for 2b. They pretty much gave away Sizemore and handed the job to Raburn at the time, so I get the feeling that they might decide to go with Raburn as the de facto starting 2b. If that is the case, An outfield of Boesch, Jackson, and Dirks simply isn’t deep enough. I think this also points to them re-signing Young to start in LF. Dirks would then become a very good 4th OF.

    If they let young walk, which is possible and certainly defensible given his 2011 numbers, I think they only do so if they have are committed to finding another 2b or OF in free agency or via trade. I think they would have to be pretty sure about what they were getting, though. They could left holding the bag with Dirks as the starting OF and no reasonable 4th OF option.

    The other danger with going the FA route is that most FAs are generally on the downslope of their careers. I don’t think it is reasonable to expect to find an OF better than Young for the same price or even a reasonable price. There is usually a reason players that can be signed for 1/6 or 2/14 are in free agency, and it’s because their former teams, and other teams around the league, don’t think they are all that good. If these guys are such a great bargain for the Tigers, they represent a great bargain for other teams, too. And if that is true, they would go for more money and years. It isn’t an easy as looking at the free agents with good OBPs and defense and signing them to cheap one year deals. The 29 other teams want these types just as much.

    We’ll just have to wait and see, I guess.

    • ChrisHannum

      @Shelton Be fair: the reason that players can be obtained prior to the waiver trade deadline for the low, low price of Lester Oliveros is also because their former teams, and other teams around the league, don’t think they are all that good.

      • Shelton

        @ChrisHannum That’s a fair point. I will say this, though. The twins could have a number of reasons to make the trade that were not strictly performance related. Everyone goes on waivers. That the teams with worse records than the Tigers didn’t place a claim on Young could have something to do with his salary this year and not wanting to get stuck with it, or they were all bad enough that there was no point to make a waiver claim on Young. From Minny’s perspective, maybe they decided they couldn’t afford Young next year given their other OF options and their offseason plans. The deal was completed at the last minute, so I don’t think it’s as simple as saying they hated the guy, but maybe they did. Oliveros is a decent return for a guy that you might not be able to keep. If they wait until the offseason, they probably don’t get much more than an Oliveros type, because there _are_ other options in free agency that teams would be equally as willing to take a risk on without having to give up a ML ready reliever (ML ready relievers don’t grow on trees, Purcey, Pauley, Thomas, etc. have shown). That being said, it’s clearly a gamble the Tigers decided to take. Any of these guys you could get for a comparable one year contract are going to be risks as well. Young is certainly no sure thing, but I do think he’s worth a 6M deal. But that depends a lot on what these other guys end up signing for.

        • ChrisHannum

          @Shelton Both Purcey and Pauley had pitched well at the major league level previously, I’m not sure it’s a fair comparison as far as expected value prior to a trade goes. But I agree, Oliveros was a much higher price than a cheeseburger and Diet Coke.

        • Shelton

          @ChrisHannum That’s fine. I wouldn’t say I’m a Young supporter or anything. More of a Young defender, I guess. I just don’t think he as worthless as many think, that’s all.

          As for the trade value of Oliveros and why that seems like a low price to pay for a hitter, I just don’t put too much into it. The Tigers claimed him off waivers. The Twins weren’t really trading him on the open market so their return isn’t representative of his trade value, IMO. The Tigers felt that giving up Oliveros and paying Young a fraction of his yearly salary, with an option to bring him back, was worth it. The Twins felt that getting Oliveros and getting Young’s salary off the books, while forfeiting their control over his final year, was worth it. Nothing more, nothing less. Regardless, that’s in the past.

          From an offseason perspective, the only question is whether Young at 1/7.5 makes sense for the Tigers. My only contention is that such a deal can make sense, depending on the other factors in play.

          There are a lot of factors in play here. The free agent market for outfielders. The free agent market for second baseman. The free agent market for third baseman. Their projection of Young’s 2012 production. Their projection of Dirks’s 2012 production. Their projection of Raburn’s 2012 production and position. We have no way of knowing what any of those are at this point.

          All I am saying is that under certain circumstances, signing Young for one year could be the right move.

    • sportz

      @Shelton

      Lots of better options than Young..he is what he is…and..he is going to hit #7 hole next year, because Boesch will hit 3rd..then they will never throw him a strike and he will regress even more..he is and always will be a negative WAR player.

      • Shelton

        @sportz Ah, sportz, I was wondering when I would see you post over here.

        There may or may not be lots of better options than Young. It’s all relative to cost and the market. If they can get better production for less money, they should obviously make that deal instead. Until the free agents become available and teams start bidding, we just don’t know. On a one year deal, I will almost always prefer the better player, even if it requires paying a premium, but once we start getting into multi-year deals for good but not great guys on the wrong side of 30, just give me the guy on the one year deal.

        Furthermore, he is not and will not always be a negative WAR player. He was positive last year. He is positive this year. And he is also just entering his peak years. Could he regress and put up a 700 OPS with bad defense? Sure. He could also put up a 300/330/500 line similar to last year. No one knows.

        • sportz

          @Shelton
          LOL..yeah a 1.8 WAR in a creer year..when a 2.0 is league average for a regular starter..a league average starter.

          This year he is barely above water and has a skewed defensive mtric.

          Just a few small facts that were ommitted.

          Facts are facts..opinions are still just opinions..Delmon Young will aways be a player judged on potential..after 5 seasons..he is what he is..a poor defenisve player, who has zero plate discipine and overated hit skills..

        • ChrisHannum

          @Shelton@sportz I’m not sure that Delmon Young’s peak years are going to be very much different from Karim Garcia’s peak years.

        • Shelton

          @sportz Facts are indeed facts. And the last two years he has not been negative.

          As for whether 1.8 or 2.0 or 2.2 are league average, since when does average performance not have value?

          Here are some more facts. His career babip is 330ish. His babip this year is only 300ish.

          Like you said, opinions are still just opinions. You opinion is that he has overrated hit skills and zero plate discipline. The fact is that his career BA is about 290 and his career OBP is about 320. The fact is that his ISO the last three years is around 150 on average. The fact is that he just turned 26 years old.

          My opinion is that going into his age 26 season, there is a good chance he can repeat his 200 ISO from 2010, and coupling that with his 290/320 hitting and plate discpline, we could end up with an 800 OPS hitter, worth about 2 wins, for less than it would cost to buy a 2 win player in free agency.

          But that’s just my opinion.

        • Shelton

          @ChrisHannum@sportz I’m not sure either. I’m just not ready to write off a 26 year old that is one year removed from an 800 ops season.

  • MCBjohnverburg

    I am going somewhere soon with this saving money business by the way.

    • ChrisHannum

      @MCBjohnverburg I hope it’s “spending the savings on Kelly Johnson”

      • sportz

        @ChrisHannum

        Yeah, lets sign a guy who hits sub .225 every other year..I like him, but not for more than 6MM.

        • ChrisHannum

          @sportz If he walks, hits homers and plays second base, even .225 ain’t the end of the world

        • jgorosh

          @sportz Hit 20 bombs, OPSed .720 while only hitting .225, and was worth 2 wins. Walks, hits for power, good fielder. BABIP was 40 points below average. If he hits .260, he’s one of the best 2B in the league.

        • jgorosh

          @ChrisHannum Hit 20 bombs, OPSed .715 while only hitting .225, and was worth 2 wins. Walks, hits for power, good fielder. BABIP was 40 points below average. If he hits .260, he’s one of the best 2B in the league.

        • sportz

          @jgorosh @ChrisHannum

          IF..

        • jgorosh

          @sportz@ChrisHannum Even if he hits .220, I’d still take him.

        • Shelton

          @jgorosh@sportz@ChrisHannum I would give Kelly Johnson a two year deal in a heartbeat, and gladly say goodbye to Young if they could pull that off. Unfortunately, I think Johnson is going to require at least a 3 year deal. In that case, I’d rather use Raburn for a year, and then make a run at Phillips or Cano or something. Who knows, maybe someone will emerge from the minors.

  • Sam Genson

    I guess I am a bit late to the party here. Good article by the way. You have some very compelling arguments and I can see Dirks being a starter next year….if someone gets hurt. I, like JP below, do not see how the Tigers let Young walk. I think his upside is greater than Dirks. I really like Dirks and think he can become a better player than what we saw this year. I think it is pretty much a lock that we see him on the 25 man next year though