In Ryan Spilborghs' career, he has played in six seasons with the Colorado Rockies. How many of them did he finish as an above replacement level player, according to Baseball Reference?
What is Spilborghs' WAR in the past two seasons combined, according to Fangraphs?
Ready for the answers? One. And zero. Surprised? I was too. That's bee-ay-dee bad. For someone who has been statistically a deadweight in his career, the 31-year old Spilborghs has spent his entire career as possibly the least criticized player in franchise history. In fact, Spilborghs is an ultimate fan favorite. From his introduction music, to constant shifts in facial hair, to SpillySlam, to SpillySeed, "Spilly" has used his personality to wedge himself into the hearts of quite possibly every Rockie fan.
You can't hate Spilly. You just can't. Which makes it all the stranger that 2010 went largely unnoticed as quite probably the worst season of Spilborghs' career. According to Fangraphs, Spilborghs was worth -0.2 WAR, worst in his career. Baseball-Reference calculates -0.4 WAR, second worst in his career (and worst among hitters on the team). That is essentially saying Colorado would have been better off giving those 388 PA and 738 innings to Cole Garner.
The strangest part is that Spilborghs still managed a .349 wOBA, 111 wRC+ and .797 OPS, all third best on the team. Jim Tracy will take those numbers (but not the rank) from his fifth outfielder every season. The versatile veteran earned at least four starts in all eight spots in the batting order and played in all three outfield positions. His "glueyness" persisted late in the season, as he was one of the team's most consistent hitters after the All-Star Break. But the issue with Spilborghs, especially in 2010, was his defense.
Spilborghs has never been a great defensive player statistically, though he has had his positive moments. This past season was a low note that would make Roger Bobo jealous. Total Zone claims he cost the Rockies one full win in 2010 with his defense alone. Fangraphs' UZR was even more critical, as his 1.67 added losses due to defense ranked worse than every MLB outfielder other than Matt Kemp, Carlos Lee, and Carlos Quentin. Those are horrific numbers, especially for a bench outfielder. That is a relatively small sample size for defensive metrics, but the events still happened.
While Spilborghs passes the eye test much better than that in general, it certainly seemed as if his routes were much worse in 2010 than we were used to seeing. A quick image search from our photo database provides many pictures to choose from in which Spilborghs is having difficulty in the field.
Spilborghs will earn $1.95mil in base salary in 2011 in the final year of a two year contract he signed January 19. Given that contract, it is possible that Spilborghs could be a trade chip midseason should Colorado fall apart before the All-Start Break.
As the roster currently stands, Spilborghs is in line for a comfortable path to a role as the team's fourth outfielder, starting in place of Seth Smith against left-handed pitchers. Even though he hit better vs. RHP in 2010, he has been better vs LHP in his career to the tune of 60 OPS points.
It is possible that Ty Wigginton will act as the "fifth outfielder" on the roster, which would likely boost Spilborghs' innings and plate appearances in 2011. If not, the current in house options are unlikely to usurp Spilborghs' from his fourth outfielder role out of Spring Training. Don't be surprised if Spilborghs gets even more playing time than that though, as he played more innings in the outfield in 2010 than any Rockie except Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez.
While his defense and WAR values indicate Spilborghs should not be given a starter role on a contending team (and perhaps even a platoon role), I have no problem with having Spilly in his role. I doubt any Rockies fans do either, given the prevalance of Spilborghs jerseys at Coors Field. When Spilborghs brings his winning smile and strong bat (111 wRC+ in three of the past four seasons), it's fairly easy to forgive his defensive difficulties. Even HE puts butts in the seats at the home park. Statistics just can't capture what Spilborghs brings to the clubhouse....right?