The U Files Case #23: The Return of Shinjo

The title is melodramatic, as if Shinjo were a great Japanese warrior. (Personally I like Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan). Actually, this move signifies the Mets expanding their options in the outfield. The former options were Roger Cedeno, who may be favored by management because he's getting paid a lot; and Timo Perez, maligned for the fact he can't hit lefties. Tsuyoshi Shinjo brings to the table better defense than Cedeno, and the ability to hit lefties.

Shinjo is lacking where it comes to hitting righties.

Roger Cedeno came in one of the stupider signings of 2002. His offensive skill set leaves something to be desired, particularly power. His on base skills have shown up erratically, though on average they're decent. He has become notoriously deficient as a defensive player. On the whole he's overvalued based on the overrated stolen base statistic. Moreover, his signing leached a valuable high round draft pick from the Mets.

Timo Perez and Roger Cedeno are about equal as hitters if you assume Timo's disastrous 2001 campaign was an abberation. He posted an OPS of .803 in 2000 and .768 in 2002, both above average. His .643 OPS in 2001 was 30 percent below average. His Equated Average (EQA) over that span reads .269, .222, .272, where .260 is average and .230 "replacement level". Cedeno's EQA for those three years are .267, .276, and .251.

However, Timo has a big advantage over Cedeno defensively. Timo has been worth 3, 5,and 1 runs over the average defensive player over the three years of his career. In contrast, Cedeno has been worth -6, -33, and -9 runs. The negative values indicate he has cost his teams runs defensively. Given equal playing time, Timo is therefore the superior overall player. Given more or less a full time position the last two years, evaluates Cedeno as having been worth 1.4 and 1.8 wins above replacement level (his contributions total that many wins more than would be contributed by what BP calls a "replacement level player".) Perez, given 239 and 444 AB the last two years, comes to 1.1 and 4.2 WARP those years.

Shinjo is inferior to both Perez and Cedeno in overall offense. His EQA were .254 and .244 his two years in MLB, his OPS .725 and .664, all below average. He was 6 and 8 runs above average defensively (21 and 23 runs above replacement level) as rated by Overall, BP's statistics consider Shinjo to have been 3.3 and 3.0 Wins Above Replacement level Player (WARP).

All three are considerations for the center field job. Cedeno is the worst overall option, though he is the highest paid. MLB higherups have shown a preference for playing salary, thinking somehow their investment would be wasted otherwise. It has never occurred to them that they're paying the same thing for the team as a whole regardless of who's playing. The only thing that is important on the field is who gives the most production. If the Mets wisen up to this logic, much time in CF will go to Shinjo and/or Perez.

One idea that has been considered by fans is a platoon of Shinjo and Perez. Over his three-year career, Perez has hit for a .398 OPS against lefties and a .781 OPS against the right-handers in 634 AB. Shinjo has hit for a .671 OPS against righties but a .770 OPS against lefties in 192 AB in his career. For their careers, a Shinjo/Perez platoon has an OPS of .778, assuming Perez hits exclusively against RHP and Shinjo against LHP. Shinjo's LHP sample is a small one, but even if Shinjo hits as well against LHP as he does against RHP, it's a lot better than Perez has against LHP for his career. Of course, Timo's sample against LHP is even smaller than Shinjo's: 98 AB in his career.

Based on the rap on Timo, he may not get many AB against LHP regardless. A Perez/Shinjo platoon would certainly be a better overall player than Cedeno, unless Cedeno has a revelation defensively. If Cedeno is given the full time CF job, then Shinjo has value as a defensive replacement. As his contract is worth $600 thousand guaranteed, it won't break the Mets either way.

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