Melvin Mora’s value: Better than the alternatives.

Over the past few weeks we've seen an awful lot of Melvin Mora playing at 3B. He's basically assumed the starting 3B position, which is kind of the necessity right now, and he's not doing an awful job of it.

Mora's season has gone up and down, month-to-month, but it's more or less been effective whenever he's played.

Month

OPS

wRC+

Mar/Apr

.814

113

May

.468

29

Jun

.675

89

Jul

.909

143

Aug

.766

104

Sep

.710

86

Ok except for May. May was awful.

To top that off, Mora has been passably good at 3B. His -0.9 UZR at 3B isn't great (-3.9 UZR/150), and that's mostly driven by declining range (-1.6RngR), but he makes up for it with good hands and a positive error rate (0.9ErrR). His UZR on the season is -4.7, but a lot of that is based on the poorly executed "Melvin Mora at 2B" experiment.

So enough about UZR, we get the idea, he's not a Gold Glove 3B. But considering the fact that we only really needed him to back up 3B, sort of 1B, and I guess the corner OF spots when 3 of our 5 outfielders weren't available, he's hardly a poor defender. At 3B anyhow.

This should paint a sufficient picture of the expectations we had of Melvin Mora when we began the season: a bench player. If we look at where Mora is right now, I think it'd be fair to say that he's a bit below average (currently posting a 100 wRC+ and a slightly sub-average UZR), but not by much. In other words, a bench player. He's basically done everything we've expected of him, including all of those nice clubhousey things like mentor the young Latin players by regaling them with tales of the minors and helping Carlos Gonzalez not be the only Venezuelan position player on the roster (the good news there is that Johnny Herrera picked up some of that slack as well).


More past the jump

Now that we've established that we're getting what we paid for out of Mora, let's make some arbitrary comparisons to other players that I'll weakly tie into a theme here.

Name

wRC+

UZR

WAR

Salary ($M)

$M/WAR

Melvin Mora

100

-4.7

0.5

$1.28

$2.56

Ty Wigginton

99

-8.3

0.4

$3.50

$8.75

Jorge Cantu (FLO)

95

-8

0.2

$4.60

$23.00

Jorge Cantu (TEX)

42

-1.6

-0.5

$1.40

INF

Fernando Tatis

63

2.8

0.1

$0.85

$8.50

Orlando Cabrera

78

5.6

1.4

$3.02

$2.16

Jhonny Peralta (CLE)

92

-2.5

0.8

$3.07

$3.83

Jhonny Peralta (DET)

103

-0.4

0.8

$1.53

$1.92

Miguel Tejada (BAL)

82

-6.6

-0.1

$5.00

INF

Miguel Tejada (SDP)

120

2.2

1.5

$1.00

$0.67

Jeff Baker

89

2.5

0.7

$0.98

$1.40

Felipe Lopez

88

-6.6

0.3

$1.00

$3.33

Garrett Atkins

55

-4

-1.1

$4.50

INF

Now as with anything, there are a handful of caveats we need to take into consideration. For starters, these WAR figures aren't including the 2nd half of September, so that could skew the numbers a few points here or there. Additionally, the WAR figures are based on playing time, so some guys who have played most of the season as starters are going to have accumulated more WAR than primarily bench guys (although 300PA is hardly anything to sniff at).

Secondly, each player has their own little story to go along with the numbers and the reason we don't have them on our team.

Baker, for example, is still under team control with Chicago, per the CBA. Much as it looks like we'd have liked him back (seeing how he wins the $/WAR competition, not to mention the swimsuit contest - what?), that ship sailed for the 2010 season already. He does absolutely kill lefties though, so that may be something to think about going forward.

Tejada, while he's hit much better since moving to SD (82 wRC+ w/BAL, 112 wRC+ w/SD), was out of our price range from the start. He wanted to still be a starting infielder, but we were looking for a guy who could play multiple IF positions coming off of the bench. So that ruled out Tejada.

Orlando Cabrera was a similar case to Tejada, in that he wanted to start still. Cincinnati was willing to acquiesce to this, and signed him to be a SS, with Paul Janish backing up the IF (mostly SS). While he wasn't horrifyingly expensive, his WAR is pretty much all glove, and when we're talking about utility players, we just need guys who can competently play the positions and then provide some sort of bat that isn't godawful. Mora fit that role more for Colorado than Orlando Cabrera would have. Not to mention the fact that UZR's fielding valuations are still pretty suspect: a UZR-heavy WAR is somewhat less reliable than a wOBA-heavy WAR, in that batting valuation is pretty spot-on. UZR shouldn't really be the make-or-break aspect of a good player's WAR, but seeing how we're dealing with bench players and/or players declining with age, it somewhat makes sense that their valuation may be a bit suspect.

Felipe Lopez had character issues and other similar reasons why we weren't really interested in him. Probably a good thing we missed out on him, despite how much we all wanted him to come be as awesome as he was in Arizona. The price was less expensive than Mora, but his lack of production ended up costing the Cardinals.

Jorge Cantu was kind of an interesting case, as he has been hailed as a clutch kind of guy, and seems to be the sort that needs someone to just take him under their wing. Juggling him around the IF would have probably ended up poorly, and given his salary and production, he's the most expensive guy of the lot.

Fernando Tatis gets a pass due to injury, I guess, but I wanted to list him as well because he was our other "perfect fit" kind of guy next to Melvin Mora. Terrible bat, but positive fielding, yet all for naught as he only put up 72PA this season.

Jhonny Peralta is an interesting player to look at. He started off the season with Cleveland as a below-average bat and below-average glove. Since the trade to Detroit, he's improved his 92 wRC+ to a respectable 103, and his -2.5 UZR to a -0.4 UZR (albeit in ½ the playing time). What's funny about Peralta is that he has a reputation as being a poor glove man with a positive bat. His past 3 seasons at SS, he's improved his play at SS from a -12.3 UZR/150 in 2007 to -1.2 in 2008, 9.3 in 2009, and now he's at a 6.5 UZR/150 with Detroit (Cleveland played him exclusively at 3B this season where he cost the Tribe -2.5 runs with his poor play - I guess Jason Donald's -9.2 and Asdrubal Cabrera's -6.7 UZRs at SS were worth the move; who knew?). The only thing keeping Peralta's UZR splits with Detroit from being a net positive are 60 ill-fated innings where he didn't commit an error, but showed a Garrett-Atkinslike lack of range at the position.

Wow, that got off-topic. The fact is, it's looking like Peralta might have been one of the better deals at the deadline, as far as pure money-per-WAR (and I'm not taking prospect loss into consideration), and much as I was against him, he might have been a good addition to the team. Might. When we were looking to acquire Peralta, he would've been either starting at SS in Tulowitzki's absence (probably not, given Barmes' glove and whatever organizational favor he still had working for him at that point) or coming off of the bench. It seems that the consistency in Detroit has helped his play, as he's gotten the majority of playing time from August through now. I don't think he would've gotten that playing time in Colorado, given the organization's test-drive of Eric Young Jr.

Did I really just write that much about Jhonny Peralta?

So to try and summarize this, it looks like Melvin Mora may have been a good buy, given the role he's playing. The other part-time players available haven't performed nearly up to the snuff that Mora has, and the players that have outperformed Mora haven't been available as part-time players. Mora has offensively outperformed most of the alternatives and all of the alternatives that fit that part-time role. Defensively, he's been a sound player, and while he hasn't really turned too many heads, he's been generally acceptable at the position.

What will be very interesting is to see how the Rockies proceed with Mora's position in 2011. Will they stay in-house? Will they move for another veteran bench RHB? Or will the simply resign Melvin Mora? Discuss.

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