With the season coming to a close, we can start the process of wading through the stats and destruction of 2009 and attempt to find what, if any, solace there might remain for the following season. Some players we don't need to worry about; Mark Reynolds is obviously going to have a place on this team for some time, Justin Upton will roam the outfield, Miguel Montero will be behind the dish, and Dan Haren is still an ace. At the same time, some players continue to disappoint. Eric Byrnes won't likely have a spot on the team next year, Stephen Drew shows flashes of the potential but for the most part remains merely serviceable, Chris Young needs to find out if his September can be sustained over a season.
Ryan Roberts, on the other hand, seems to be largely flying under the radar. Now, none of his numbers are particularly impressive, we won't be mistaking him for Dustin Pedroia anytime soon. I argue that, assuming he doesn't have a huge drop-off in production, this is just fine for him and the team. In fact, his profile in many ways mirrors the previous two starting second basemen the Diamondbacks have employed.
Felipe Lopez, of course, started the season for the Diamondbacks and was more than fine for us. His supposed attitude problems were nonexistent, and at the time of his trade he was one of our better hitters. His defense is also solid, and didn't make a whole lot of errors. He replaced Orlando Hudson, now of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who was one of the team leaders in offensive production in his time here, as well as being a solid or above-average defender. Ryan Roberts certainly had some big shoes to fill, especially for a career minor leaguer that had never been on an Opening Day lineup until this year. So when Lopez was traded, I personally felt some apprehension that what had been a solid position for the Diamondbacks the past few years would quickly become a black hole between Roberts and Augie Ojeda.
Yet Roberts was able to perform the job admirably. More than that, his numbers for the most part match what Lopez and Hudson did while in Arizona. For instance:
Roberts: .279/.367/.416/.783 7 HR OPS+ 101 in 305 AB
Lopez: .301/.364/.412/.775 6 HR OPS+ 99 in 345 AB
Hudson (3 years): .294/.365/.448/.814 with never more than 10 HR OPS+ 105
So Roberts had a little less average this season, but he also was the fourth highest in OPS+ this season with at least 100 AB's and one of only four (with 100 AB) to get above 100.
Roberts: Fld %: .991, 2 errors, RF/9 4.77, started 45 games at the position
Lopez: Fld %: .977, 9 errors, RF/9 4.79, played 82 games at the position
Hudson (3 years): Fld %: .984, at least 9 errors a year (no more than 13), RF/9 5.07, played at least 100 games a season
Again, Roberts' numbers seem very similar. Now I won't claim to understand more advanced defensive statistics, so perhaps there are numbers that show a different story, but even Hudson, who is certainly a better defender, was not considerably better in his three years than Roberts was this year. In fact, Roberts seemed to have the most trouble playing third base, where he committed 3 errors in 15 games, had a Fld % of .927 and RF/9 of 2.59. Even then, those numbers are not that much worse than Reynolds at third.
Now, these numbers don't give us the answer to whether he should be given a starting job. His profile is similar enough, however, that the question should be raised regardless. He made $400,000 this year, which is less than those that he replaced, which is a nice price for the bench, and even better for starting.
Of course, his production could drop off next season. It would be nice if second base was one area in the off-season where the Diamondbacks don't have to spend time or money fixing. Roberts might never be mentioned on ESPN, but if he continues playing the way he did this season, that's fine all the same.