Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Can Alejandro De Aza be this Postseason's Cody Ross?

By Jacob Kelly

Going into 2010, few would have pegged Cody Ross as being a candidate for a postseason hero.  Of course, few would have pegged the Giants to be serious World Series contenders going into the 2010 season.  So the amount of people on Earth that could have told you that Cody Ross would do this (apparently Doc Halladay spends all his free time removing GIFs of Ross going yard off of him, as it was the only one left in the world) against the Phillies that year for the Giants and lead them to their first pennant in 8 years… well, whatever pocket of baseball gurus they are, they aren’t to be trifled with.  That’s some powerful stuff.
Cody Ross, 2011

Every year, teams hope to get lucky with a late August pickup for the stretch drive.  The Giants had right fielder Cody Ross, who hit .288/.354/.466 with 3 HR and 7 RBI over the last 33 games of the year.  He then went nuts (particularly in the NLCS against Roy Halladay) when he hit a combined .294/.390/.686 over all three October series.  And while corner outfielder Alejandro De Aza doesn’t profile quite like Cody Ross (he brings much more of a power/speed combo, whereas Ross was more straight power, but more on that in a bit), he may be the Orioles X-factor to playing deep in the postseason.

Since coming over from the White Sox, De Aza has hit .327/.377/.612 with 3 Triples, 2HR, 9 RBI, and 2 SB.  The counting stats are great, but the rate states are from a very small sample size, as that production has come over the span of just 12 games.  You can definitely expect the playing time for De Aza to keep coming in with numbers like that, however, not to mention the loss of Chris Davis due to suspension.

Alejandro De Aza, 2014
Both players were coming off of their worst OPS+ in 4 years with their former clubs; Ross was sporting a 91 with Florida after having averaged 115 the three previous years, whereas De Aza was carrying an 88 with Chicago after having averaged 106 from ’11 to ’13.  They also share a similar age at the time of the trade; Ross was 29 and some change when he came over to the Giants, while De Aza is just barely north of 30.  They both had a similar amount of Major League experience, with Ross having played in 603 games, De Aza in 546.  The point being made here is: both outfielders had and have similar career trajectories.  

Given the similarities between who the outfielders are and were, De Aza has a number of factors playing in his favor that could help him actually eclipse Ross’s production in 2010; Alejandro is joining a much deeper lineup than Ross did, and that should give him a lot more RBI, SB, and Run scoring opportunities; he’ll get to play quite a few games in power hitter friendly Camden Yards, depending on how far his teams pushes into the postseason, as opposed to the cavernous A&T Park; Alejandro De Aza has a far superior Power-Speed Number to what Cody Ross had coming into postseason play over the course of their respective careers.

The last point is what I believe to be the key to De Aza’s chances at taking home some serious hardware in the postseason.  For those that aren’t familiar, a player’s Power-Speed Number is the harmonic mean of their homerun and stolen base totals, as developed by Bill James.  The Baltimore outfielder has sported a far better PSN than Ross over both players three years leading up to being dealt; De Aza compiled a 39.5 over the span of ’11 to ’13, while Ross checked in at 21.2 from ’07 to ’09.  And while a player’s PSN doesn’t take into account how frequently they make outs (for that, you would want to see Total Average), so much of postseason success is about catching lighting in a bottle.  Alejandro De Aza has all the tools and makeup of a guy that could be lightning.  Over that span of 12 games with the Orioles?  De Aza has already racked up a PSN of 2.0.  Ross totaled 0.0 for the Giants down the stretch.  Maybe Baltimore took stock in lightning rods last month before pulling the trigger on Alejandro.

Images credit:  SD Dirk (Cody Ross) and Dennis Heller (Alejandro De Aza)

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