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Constructing the perfect outfielder from recent Cleveland Indians acquisitions

Or at least trying to...

It's moving.. it's hitting opposite field home runs... IT'S ALIVE
It's moving.. it's hitting opposite field home runs... IT'S ALIVE

To this point, the Cleveland Indians offseason has been remarkably uneventful. Rumors were everywhere during the Winter Meetings, but nothing came of them outside of a few minor league signings and a waiver claim. Most of the moves were for outfielders, none of which are much of an outfield fix on their own. At best they are complimentary pieces or potentially part of a platoon.

But what if, and here me out now, deep in the corridors of Progressive Field there is a machine capable of combining several players into one Frankenstein’s Monster-esque creature that could single-handedly fix the team’s outfield issues? I am not saying they do have such a machine (they totally do), but it would help explain why they have opted to sign several middling players instead of going all-in on a bigger signing or trade.

Who needs Jayson Heward, Marcell Ozuna, Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, or anyone else when we can create....


On their own, Joey Butler, Michael Choice, Shane Robinson, Collin Cowgill, and Robbie Grossman are boring, mostly-ineffective options to the Cleveland Indians outfield. But combined, the Indians will create a monster capable of taking down the legendary Trout beast of Anaheim. Or could they? Let's do a little experiment to both test the limits of our diabolical Frankenstein skills, and look at the individual talents of the five outfielders the Indians acquired (or re-acquired in the case of Choice) this offseason.

To begin creating our insult to nature next great center fielder, we will start from the ground up. We need speeds, we need legs, we need Collin Cowgill. His stolen base numbers have fallen off a cliff since 2011, but he is capable of at least swiping 30 bags at Triple-A so that has to count for something, right? The Indians have not exactly signed a group of Willie Mayes Hayes types, so no one is a speedster.

We want our creation to be a powerful beast. None of the players the Indians signed are great power hitters (are you seeing a pattern here?), but combined they could be something special. And by combined, of course, I mean giving our creation four arms. Currently, there is no rule against having a four-armed player, but I do not think the MLB wants to bring about the kind of controversy that comes with banning a newly-discovered type of human from their great game. So, we are giving a player four arms, damnit.

Sample sizes at the Major League level are small for all these players, but we will take what we know and use it to find the best power hitters, using their isolated power rating--which simply takes their batting average and subtracts it from their slugging percentage. We do not care how many times our arm donors can walk or get a single--we want them dingers. Here are each player’s ISO against left-handed pitchers and right-handed pitchers:

Player ISO vs LHP ISO vs RHP
Shane Robinson .054 .096
Joey Butler .149 .131
Michael Choice .184 .108
Collin Cowgill .135 .058
Robbie Grossman .071 .112

So, to get the most power out of our four-armed creation, we are going to glue Michael Choice and Joey Butler’s appendages together. Butler will bat against right-handed pitchers, while Choice will make southpaws tremble in fear with his .184 ISO in his career against them. Which would have ranked… 42nd overall in the Majors in 2015. Well, no one said we had to be a power hitting specialist. What if we go for being a well-rounded hitter instead?

Looking at the career wOBA (similar to OPS, but correctly weights on-base percentage over slugging percentage) splits for each player, we get a little something like this:

Player wOBA vs LHP wOBA vs RHP
Shane Robinson .269 .280
Joey Butler .304 .339
Michael Choice .312 .231
Collin Cowgill .323 .244
Robbie Grossman .281 .310

That's... not inspiring either. Looks like we'll be taking the arms and upper thighs of Collin Cowgill and Joey Butler, thus having a batter who hits for a .331 wOBA over a full season, which would have ranked 74th in the Majors in 2015. Tied with Carlos Santana and Matt Duffy. Welp.

Now, we do not want Pedro Alvarez. I mean, sure it’d be great if the Indians sign him, but we don’t want our special creation to strike out every other at-bat like he does, especially since we probably won’t have the same power. There have been exactly zero scientific studies to prove this, but did you know the left eye is responsible for a player taking walks, and the right eye can help prevent strikeouts? You may be tempted to say that is completely made up, but you are already several hundred words into this post, so anything I say is essentially law at this point. With that in mind, let’s see who has the best walk rates and the best strikeout rates so we can remove their eyes and shove them into the skull of our own monster (safely, of course):

Player BB% K%
Shane Robinson 8.6% 14.2%
Joey Butler 6.7% 30.6%
Michael Choice 7.3% 25.3%
Collin Cowgill 7.5% 25.5%
Robbie Grossman 10.9% 25.1%

Congrats, Grossman and Robinson! You will each now be relieved of one of your eyes, now you have an excuse to get out of seeing movies in awful 3D. You’re welcome.

What would any crime against humanity turned baseball player be without some good luck on its side? Just because you were created in the basement lab of a psychotic Major League Club President does not mean you cannot get lucky once in a while. And, since luck is stored in the human heart, we are going to remove the beating heart from whichever player has the highest BABIP in their career and place it into Cowman. Here is the BABIP of each player, regardless of the handedness of the pitcher they faced:

Player BABIP
Shane Robinson .270
Joey Butler .383
Michael Choice .221
Collin Cowgill .311
Robbie Grossman .320

Welcome to the Indians, Joey Butler, now hand over that luck-and-blood-filled heart.

* * *

So, after all that, what are we left with? A player who hits for roughly the same batting line as Carlos Santana, but walks less and hits for less power. And he might be doing it with a lot of luck on his side. I bet Mike Trout is trembling at the thought.

Hopefully that machine stored in the bowels of Progressive Field has some other powers besides haphazardly combining body parts. Otherwise, the Indians will have to rely on a plug-and-play style of fixing the outfield, in which someone like Cowgill platoons with Lonnie Chisenhall and Joey Butler temporarily fills in for Michael Brantley in left field while he remains on the disabled list. Or maybe the Indians still have four months left to sign or trade for an impact outfielder. But that's crazy talk.