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San Francisco Giants: Pursue Ben Zobrist, utility player extraordinaire

By Mark ONeill
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Bleacher Report’s featured columnist Adam Wells posted an intriguing article Wednesday, “Ben Zobrist trade rumors: Latest buzz, speculation surrounding Rays star,” in which the San Francisco Giants played a significant role.

Wells put forth the proposition that San Francisco could use a handy guy like Zobrist and he used some convincing evidence in doing so. Considering this site has been slow to both grasp and utilize the concept of higher order stats, even I could not ignore a telling example of when a stat such as WAR needed to be foremost in the thinking process.

Over his five-season career from 2010 through 2014, Allen Craig has a WAR of 6.1 compared to Zobrist’s 28.8 over the same five-year period. I had written a post suggesting that Allen Craig would be a good candidate to replace Michael Morse in left field for the Orange and Black. If Craig would provide a good fit, imagine what Ben Zobrist could do.

May 30, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; San Francisco Giants left fielder Michael Morse (38) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a run against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
May 30, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; San Francisco Giants left fielder Michael Morse (38) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a run against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

Writers use stats in a plethora of ways but you can be assured, an author will always bend and mold those stats so as to be seen in the best possible light.

Stats are the halogen bulbs of baseball: it’s too easy to blind fans with the spotlight known as statistics.

Cleverly employed, statistics can often help sway an argument to one side or the other, simply because the increased level of complexity and sophistication will leave one party too dazed and confused to raise an adequate rebuttal.

However, when the numbers pack the wallop of a framing hammer, the person arguing against said tool, had best keep track of all digits, so as not to end up with hamburger finger when the hammer drops down from on high. Feel free to consider Zobrist’s WAR as a sledge hammer.

I also posted an article recommending that Brian Sabean investigate Andre Ethier as a possible future left fielder, based on my perception that he had provided some clutch hitting for the Dodgers over the course of his career. Continuing on the theme of WAR, Ethier’s over the course of that same five-year period is 11.0, almost double Craig’s, but still less than half of Zobrist’s.

It goes without saying that this information has been available to Brian Sabean since day one, and with seven weeks still left until teams start to assemble in the desert, he has been in no hurry to pursue any but the player he sees as best suited for his team’s needs.

With the deal just completed that sent Asdrubal Cabrera to the Rays, many speculate that Zobrist, with one year still left on his contract that will pay him 7.5 million dollars in 2015, is at his greatest worth right now, and possibly worth moving if the right offer were to be presented to Tampa Bay.

Ben Zobrist of the Tampa Bay Rays
Jul 8, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) runs out a single during the sixth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Zobrist, the ultimate utility player, has played extensively at every position on the diamond except for the battery. One does not have to grasp the intricacies of WAR to see how that translates to the type of player that Bruce Bochy knows how to utilize to his maximum potential.

I have steadfastly maintained that prospects for known commodities is sound practice but that I felt two players were off-limits: Matt Duffy and Andrew Susac. For Ben Zobrist, I would rescind my opposition to untouchables. Do what is necessary to land Zobrist, Brian Sabean. This is one time to pay attention to stats.

If the Giants are not going to pursue a legitimate marquee starting pitcher before the season begins, then they had best fortify the starting lineup with a player of Ben Zobrist’s abilities. I may be late in recognizing the value of higher-level stats, but Brian Sabean is not.

So let the statistic of WAR lead the war against the rest of the National League West for the San Francisco Giants and trade for Ben Zobrist.

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