What Diamondbacks fan doesn't love Tatman? Who? Raise your hand and out yourself. If you dared to raise your hand, don't come crying to me when Rockstarr and her cronies have beaten you like a homemade custard.
We all love Roberts, but just how good has he been this season? And, as has been questioned in recent posts, is it for real? Can we count on him going forward? After the jump we'll explore those questions.
Roberts came into 2011 as a 30 year old with one paltry season under his belt of more than 70 ABs (2009 when he logged 351). Before 2009 (at the late age of 28) Roberts had basically not even seen the light of day in the bigs (27 total ABs). And Sean Burroughs and Tony Abreu snickered at his 2010 production where he managed a meager 577 OPS and 50 OPS+ in 66 ABs. Kevin Towers was so confident in Roberts that he snatched up every aging IF he could off the waiver wire in a desperate attempt to find someone who might possibly resemble a real MLB third basemen.
Then 2011 happened. No matter what metric you look at, Roberts has been outstanding. For those who like the good ol' fashioned counting stats, in 3/4+ of a season, Roberts has contributed 17 HR, 52 RBI, 16 SB, .258 AVG, and a 440 SLG. That's darn good -- certainly above average production for a MLB third bagger.
But this actually doesn't highlight three areas Roberts has particularly excelled in: pitches per plate appearance, OBP, and defense. Roberts is #30 in the NL in p/pa at 3.89 (4th among MLB 3rd basemen). Having a player who works counts is an asset to any lineup, but perhaps it's particularly impressive given the level of pitching in the NL West. And those extra pitches per AB haven't gone to waste as Roberts has coaxed 58 walks in his 471 ABs, a surprising 12.3% rate, especially for a player who doesn't have prolific power. This has pushed Roberts to a 352 OBP, good for 5th among MLB third baggers (and 29th among NL position players).
Finally, his defense. Roberts, a veritable swiss army knife was thrown into the role at 3B essentially because no one else stuck there, but he has thrived on defense. According to Baseball Reference he's added .6 dWAR value to the club. UZR likes his defensive value even more, having him pegged at 2.5 UZR this year (and 1.9 at 2B).
So, what about Roberts going forward? Can we count on a 30 year old breakout player to repeat this performance? It's hard to tell, but I'm inclined to think that Roberts won't fall off a cliff. His 348 wOBA backs up the legitimacy of his OBP and his 282 BABIP this year is actually a touch unlucky. His BB rate is a surprising 11.3% for his career, so that skill seems unlikely to diminish. And his 182 ISO shows that the power Roberts has displayed this year is more a result of opportunity than luck.
In sum, in Roberts I think we have a player who we should be able to expect at least three more years of above average production out of, whether that's at 2B or 3B. He's a good defensive player, with above average power, and well above average plate discipline. He hasn't only been a huge part of the DBacks success in 2011, but should be going forward, and his success may well mean we're able to nab an upper tier 2B or 3B in 2012 that we wouldn't have been able to otherwise. I look forward to many more happy years with Tatman.