2014 Player Previews: LF Andy Dirks

After a strong 2012 performance, the Tigers were counting on Andy Dirks to play a big role as the team's everyday left fielder in 2013. Unfortunately, Dirks suffered a hamstring injury in spring training and never got on track after that, prompting the Tigers to invest in Rajai Davis as a complement and/or competition. Which version of Dirks will the Tigers get in 2014?

Andy Dirks 2013 In Review

2013 Stats
Detroit 484 1.7 .306 .256 .298 .335 .323 .363 17% 7/1 8 5.3

It should come as a shock to no one that watched the Tigers frequently in 2013 that it wasn't a great year at the plate for Dirks. After hitting over .300 in 2012, many were hoping for a repeat of that performance – a repeat that never materialized. However, beyond his batting average, there were other concerns about his offensive productivity.

To put the batting average concern out of the way, his drop should have been largely expected. There was very little in his minor league history to indicate he was going to be a plus-.300 hitter, and a .365 BAbip likely indicated he was in line for a regression to the mean, which is exactly what happened, with his average falling to .256. That's not ideal, but it's also probably some sort of balance over his two-year stretch, too, which when the two years are combined, he checks in at a very respectable .283.

The bigger concern at the plate though was a sudden drop in his power numbers. His ISO was just .107, a level he hadn't approached since his 2009 campaign with the Erie Seawolves in Double-A ball. His ISO was .16 in 2011 and .17 in 2012 – the power outage on his part definitely throws up a red flag for his future. An outfielder can hit .250 with pop, or he can hit .300-plus without a ton of power, but he can't hit .250 without much power, and that's what Dirks did last year (and likely led to the decision to bring in Rajai Davis).

Dirks has that surprisingly sneaky speed, which allowed him to swipe a few bases (seven) for the year despite being on a team that never ran, and his baserunning score was slightly above average. On a team with fewer base cloggers and looking to be more aggressive, that skill likely will be put to better use moving forward.

Finally, given the offensive struggles, it may surprise some that Dirks was still nearly a two win player despite not even getting 500 plate appearances. Chalk that up to Dirks in the field, where he was graded to have saved eight runs for the year, and has consistently been saving runs in left field since becoming a big leaguer.

2014 Player Projections

2014 Advanced Projections
Service PA WAR BA BAbip OBP SLG wOBA D-Val
ZiPS 455 1.3 .266 .305 .320 .405 .318 4
Steamer 306 0.9 .266 .301 .326 .411 .323 -2
Oliver 600 1.8 .265 .307 .331 .389 .318 -3

The consensus among the prognosticators seems to expect some marginal improvement in Dirks' offensive performance, but not getting back to 2012 levels in either batting average or power in his rate stats. They're all consistent in expecting an average in the mid-260's, slugging around .400, to arrive at a wOBA around .320, an improvement over 2013, but not as much as you'd hope for out of your left fielder.

All three services expect him to maintain a BAbip around .300, despite historically showing better than that (career .314) and an expected BAbip from 2013 of .335. Dirks hit nearly 25% of his balls in play as line drives, which usually results in more hits, so this could be a metric to watch as the year plays on for Dirks.

One somewhat surprise is that two of the three systems expect his defensive value to turn negative in 2014. Dirks has never been considered a below average defender, especially not in left field, so that would also come as a surprise.

So, if the projections are to be believed, Dirks will see slight offensive improvement, but will likely have justified the Tigers decision to bring in Davis to help out in left field. A couple underlying assumptions should be watched closely though, as a reversal in trend there could see Dirks climbing back into being an above average producer at the plate.

2014 Projections come from three different sources; ZiPS, Steamer, and Oliver, all publicly available via FanGraphs.com and presented for information purposes only. ZiPS projections come from Dan Szymborski, Steamer from Steamer Projections, a trio of independent academic researchers, and Oliver Projections from Brian Cartwright.

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