Thursday Morning Coffee: Parra and Davis | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

The Brewers decided to expand the win column in Spring Training, beating the Giants 6-to-3 in a sound test of their organizational depth.

  • Will Smith and Brandon Kintzler produced two nearly perfect innings. Kintzler allowed the only hit, and he also collected the only strike out between the two pitchers.
  • Taylor Jungmann worked two scoreless innings, limiting the damage of two walks by preventing any hits.
  • Gerardo Parra provided a glimpse of what his bat can do atop a batting order, spurring two of the Brewers’ six runs. The depth outfielder could conceivably force a platoon in left field (if the organization isn’t already planning one), and an outing like yesterday’s won’t hurt his chances. Ironically, Khris Davis entered his counterargument, driving in two runs and scoring one himself (his two RBI also occurred with two outs). This production from the Brewers’ left fielders is quite welcome.
  • Matt Long and Elian Herrera also made the most of limited time, scoring two runs and going 1-for-2 with a walk and RBI to boot.

Gerardo Parra & Khris Davis
One of the most interesting developments of the offseason was the Brewers’ lack of dealing Parra, who serves as a fantastic defensive outfielder with some questions about his bat from time-to-time. Given Parra’s price tag, he seems like an expensive fourth outfielder, which leads me to believe the team will end up using him in conjunction with Khris Davis. As much as many Brewers fans want to see Davis play everyday, the honest truth is that the Brewers should use every one of their 25 players to produce the best match-ups at every point in a ballgame. So, the question remains, what would a Parra / Davis platoon (or “time share”) look like?

LF Splits Career vs. Opposite P (PA) Career vs. Same P (PA) 2014 Split (Opposite / Same)
Davis .254/.306/.533 (186) .250/.312/.470 (516) .777 OPS / .749 OPS
Parra .286 /.334/.424 (2360) .231/.296/.292 (684) .704 OPS / .554 OPS

There are a couple of key issues to consider in this platoon, aside from defense (see below). First and foremost, one must weigh Davis’s power against righties against Parra’s excellent career AVG and OBP against righties. While there is no question that Davis is more productive against lefties, there is a question about how to weigh Davis’s .470 SLG against Parra’s career .286 AVG / .334 OBP against righties. The basic idea that Parra could make fewer outs at the plate against righties deserves some consideration for a considerable number of starts against righties in LF. However, Davis must continue to develop, given that he already proved his ability to hold his own at a “power” position in his first full season. Furthermore, there is the issue of Parra’s potential decline at the plate, as his .704 OPS against righties in 2014 was a far cry from his .758 career OPS against opposite-handed pitchers. If Parra’s OPS will be just north of .700 in 2015, then taking a wager on Davis’s power will likely produce better returns.

LF Defense Parra Davis
DRS (INN) 29 (2696.7) 2 (1421.3)
Prorated For 1000 INN 10.8 1.4
Career dWAR (G) 5.3 (833) -0.6 (200)
Prorated For 81 G .515 -0.243

The defensive differences between these two players could also impact potential platoon production. Simply splitting their defensive seasons in half, one might expect Parra to eek out a “replacement win” against Davis’s fielding production. Over a full season, Parra’s glove could be as many as 10 defensive runs better than Davis. Of course, there are several difficulties that one must consider with these numbers: even if Parra is the better defender, the fact remains that fielding performances fluctuate from year-to-year. Furthermore, the Brewers can use fielding shifts to strengthen Davis’s performance, or at least minimize potential weaknesses.

Ultimately, given the different skillsets between these bats, there is good reason for Runnin’ Ron Roenicke to split time between Parra and Davis. These splits do not need to be “linear,” or simply be divided by game started; both players should absolutely be substituted for one another when the time is right. If Davis can provide potential late game power, Roenicke should use him as a pinch hitter for Parra; similarly, Parra could undoubtedly be subbed in when contact is needed against a righty in a tight game, or the club needs a better defender out in the field. Employing both of these players for 162 games will likely give the Brewers a chance to improve around the edges of their club, for even though both of these players worked for the Brewers in 2014, the club did not have both players for an entire season of optimal strategic employment.

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