After publishing Friday night’s post comparing Vladimir Guerrero and Manny Ramirez, I noticed a huge omission that actually summarizes the choice up pretty well. It is not a new topic, but instead a classic philosophical question for building rosters. Essentially, do you go for upside maximization – a focus on adding possible wins – or risk minimization – a focus on adding sure wins. Ideally, you want both in one package, but those players cost a lot of money for a reason. What the Rays are deciding between is essentially those two philosophies.
I will start with this: Ramirez is the better player. More accurately, he is the better hitter. Since whomever the Rays sign figures to spend most of his time hitting in a designated matter, this is what is vital. Yet, Guerrero appears to be more consistent. I hate that phrasing because it means something else in a post-Joe Morgan world. Consistency is essentially a buzzword with no real meaning. It is a pill without medicine. Except I’m not using it like that, I’m using it to mean his standard deviations are larger than Ramirez’s.
Not just any standard deviations, but the amount of playing time he’s racked up over the last three seasons as well as the runs he produces per 500 plate appearances. Now, because their playing time leaps around, I divided their batting runs (the park-adjusted offensive component of FanGraphs’ WAR) by plate appearances, and then multiplied that by 500. In both cases, Guerrero’s standard deviations were lower. That does not mean Guerrero was better. In fact, his highest runs per 500 total is 18.9 (in 2008) which is more than half of a win lower than Ramirez’s lowest (24.7 in 2010). What it does mean, is that he’s generally more reliable to go for 600 plate appearances than Ramirez, and on the Rays, that holds a degree of value.
The team will probably sign a right-handed corner outfield type (like Andruw Jones) which could step in as DH if needed, but it is not a guarantee. Guerrero might only be worth 10-to-15 runs offensively, but his replacement could be worth negative runs, so the more Guerrero plays, the better. The same for Manny, although he figures to be worth 20-to-25 runs, his replacement could too be worth negative runs. The more playing time for the backup, the lower the total value; or, Guerrero might not out produce Ramirez individually, but the Rays’ DHs with Guerrero may outhit the Rays’ DHs with Ramirez.
If we accept that as a possibility – and there is no reason not to, unless you have reason to believe Manny will definitely stay healthy – then you have to wonder which route the Rays are better off pursuing: risk minimization or upside maximization. Frankly, I do not think there is a right answer here. It all goes back to the factors discussed on Friday night. Ramirez is the better player, but he might not be the better fit.