Fred Lewis – Everyday Player?

17 08 2010

Posted by WAMCO:

Earlier this year, the Blue Jays picked up Fred Lewis from the Giants for a small amount of cash. Lewis had been squeezed out of a roster spot in San Francisco, and the Jays stepped in and took him off their hands. At the time, this seemed like a minor move, to pick up a guy who would likely be a fourth outfielder at best. Much like many moves made by Toronto since Alex Anthopoulos took over as the general manager, it did not seem to make a lot of sense at the time.

Fred Lewis is having a solid season with the bat, but can the Jays live with his defense in the outfield?

Almost immediately, Lewis began to hit, and aside from a few slumps that every player has, he has had a great season up to this point. He has not matched his career norms in on-base percentage, but his other numbers have been decent, as he has .ops’d .777 thus far, hitting for a bit more power. He has somewhat solidified the leadoff spot for the Jays. Sounds like the kind of guy you definitely want to keep in the lineup every day thus far.

However, there is a downside to keeping Fred Lewis in the lineup, and that is his defense. Upon his trade to Toronto, I read some comments from many Giants fans, and most were to the tune of “good luck with Lewis in the outfield.” Watching him play, he looks lost out there on some fly balls, and does not appear to get good jumps. His arm seems weak as well. Knowing, of course, that looks can be deceiving both on offense and defense in baseball, I felt it was important to check out some defensive metrics to ensure that I was, indeed, correct that Lewis is not a good outfielder.

According to fangraphs, Lewis’s UZR thus far in LF in 2010 is -5.6, and his UZR/150 is -12.6. In 2008, his UZR/150 was 2.1, and in 2008 it was 7.0. So he has clearly regressed in LF this season. His career UZR/150 in LF is 0.1. His career numbers in RF and CF are much worse, albeit the sample sizes are not nearly as large. It is fair to say that Lewis is an average outfielder at best, and probably below average. It would seem that my eyes have not been deceiving me.

Can Toronto do better? My feeling is yes, they probably can. Even if they were to put a similar defender in LF, they could likely get someone who hits for more power than Lewis. They have others (Yunel Escobar?) who could potentially take over the leadoff spot. Going forward, if Toronto acquires a third baseman, they will likely have a crowded outfield which would include Lewis, Travis Snider, Vernon Wells and Jose Bautista. To me, Lewis should be the odd man out in that scenario. Even if Bautista plays third base, they can probably improve on Lewis. I would like to see him in the fourth outfielder role we all originally thought he would fill.