I suppose Cody Ross’ name has popped up in conversations about the Braves left field job more than any other over the past three years. In 2010 the Marlins – those definitive judges of baseball ability – designated Cody Ross for assignment. He landed on the Giants and as you may recall had a little bit to do with their World Series title that year. He spent another year in San Francisco then became a free agent. The Braves offered him a multi-year deal last year but he elected instead a one year job in Boston. This post season he and the Red Sox made all the right noises about him having a future in Boston but Ross is on the market and of course the Braves are linked to him, so lets have a real look at Cody Ross.
Cody Ross By The Numbers
Drafted by The Tigers in the fourth round of the 1999 draft Ross was the Tigers Minor League Player of the Year in 2003. Then they Tigers traded him to the Dodgers for pitcher Steve Colyer. The Dodgers traded him to the Reds in 2006 for the infamous player to be named later that turned out to be lefty pitcher Ben Kozlowski. He didn’t stay in Cincinnati long, a month later he was traded to the Marlins for cash. Ross was a Marlin until being designated for assignment and claimed off waivers by the Giants in 2010, a move designed to keep him away from the Padres who were challenging the Giants for first place in the West rather than bolster the Giants lineup. It turned out to be a good move however as he became their post season hero, something both Braves and Phillies fans painfully remember. The next year the Giants rewarded him with a one year $6.3M contract and he gave them a line of .240/.325/.405 , ISO .165 with 14 homers, 25 doubles and 52 RBI. Unimpressed the Giants allowed him to seek his own fortune and he landed in Boston where a more hitter friendly ballpark improved his bat and where he seemed the perfect inexpensive outfielder for a Red Sox team that was blowing everything up to start over. He said he loved playing there yet they haven’t been able to strike a bargain. I promised numbers so here we go.
Here’s a look at Ross’ numbers over the past four years courtesy Fangraphs custom reports option. Also included is another player that’s been named in various Braves rumors for comparison.
Ross trails player A in hits by 18 but he played 42 less games and though his BB % is lower his OBP is higher.
Ross hits more line drives and fly balls but fewer ground balls than Player A . He trails in homers by just six and as noted above played 42 less games so it’s not a stretch to say the homers would equal out over an additional 42 games. He actually leads in RBI (which I know sabremetric guys hate as a stat so please no letters) and trails in runs. His lower run number is likely a factor of who batted after him as he was on base more often. Who’s player A?
Surprise! or Not. . .
Player A is B.J. Upton. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. I wrote last week that he was an average player in many ways. Before someone goes all WAR elite on me, Upton’s higher WAR reflects positional scarcity, better defense (more on that later) and stolen bases. Upton’s complete numbers are in my earlier post. Other than being a slightly better fielder, playing center field and stealing a few bases the two player look much the same over the past four years. I did my best to clear these images up but can’t seem to make them crystal clear. Clicking the image will open it full size and make it perfectly clear. Sorry about that
After yesterday’s much hyped visit by Upton to Turner Field this comparison is even more interesting, but back to Ross
Ross had a really good year in Boston and I mean specifically in Boston. On the road he wasn’t very good. His BA was down 24 points, OBP down 62 and proving that he really liked Fenway’s layout, his slugging was 175 points lower on the road.
Ross likes hitting at Turner Field nearly as well as Fenway. In 121 PA his line is .300/.347/.545 – .245 ISO – with 6 homers and 22 doubles in his 33 hits.
Here’s the defense table I included in my post on Nick Swisher. It shows the metrics from Fangraphs over the last four years for the same players shown above. Once again note that while Fangraphs adds DRS the Fielding Bible says it shouldn’t be additive so I’ve averaged it thus ADRS.
The numbers show Ross to be an average to slightly below defender wherever he plays.
Cody Ross is an average defender who plays to about a 2.4 fWAR in recent years; as high as 3.7 and as low as 1.0. Where he plays really affects how well he hits as the numbers in Boston show but Turner Field is a good fit for him too. If you hire him you should expect a line of about .250/.320/.425 with 20+ homers and 125Ks a year. He hits lefties really well -.284/.353/.575- but not quite as well against right handed hurlers- .253/.312/.415. By all accounts Ross isn’t a bad guy to have around but he’s nothing special as witnessed by the way teams just let him wander away. He says he’s looking for three years at $24M, while a bit high perhaps it’s not way out of line for an everyday player. If those numbers and average or slightly below defense are worth $8m a year, Cody Ross is your guy.
That’s A Wrap
I’ve suspected for some time that we would end up with Ross or someone similar rather than actually going for the big long term bat we really need. Yesterday’s open courting of B.J. Upton is a concern for me as I see him as over rated, over priced and a bad fit for a team that needs less strikeouts and more contact, ball in play hitters. Wren has traditionally paid less attention to a player’s historical numbers and current trends and gone for better known players – A. J. Burnett is just one example – so if not out bid by the Phillies for example who Upton met with earlier in the week, signing him is an unwelcome possibility. Ross is less expensive than Swisher and B.J. Upton and about the same guy offensively as B.J. and the older Ryan Ludwick. Ross’ bat against lefties would certainly be a plus as long as we get a really good center fielder as well. B.J. Upton is not that center fielder. Pairing him with Ross would make our outfield home to about 450 Ks a year. Upton is seeking about $7M a year more than Ross and two more contract years. In terms of bang for the buck Ross is better value while signing him would leave payroll room for a player who solves the leadoff, OBP and center field options more effectively and doesn’t K 160+ times a year such as Denard Span, Ben Revere or someone else. If we can’t figure out a way to get the more talented Upton from Arizona Cody Ross is a good fit in left for the Braves.
Just a note to remind you or in case you missed them that there are posts on B.J. Upton and Nick Swisher in this series and looks at trades for Alex Gordon and Justin Upton, more to come as rumors surface.