The loss of Drew Stubbs in right field is one the Cleveland Indians resolved without fail. In fact, David Murphy was signed almost a full month prior to trading Stubbs for bullpen southpaw Josh Outman. I use the word “loss” loosely when referring to Stubbs departure, not only because he is expendable, but because he didn’t accrue much value on either side of the diamond.
Stubbs was given a pass at the plate because of his ability to both run on the base path and track down fly balls in right. I never understood this justification, as the 29-year-old couldn’t help the lineup create runs over a large period of time. His wRAA (runs above average based on wOBA) fell below zero dipping down to -6.7, while also commanding a weighted runs created plus (runs per PA scaled, 100 is average) of 88 in 2013.
Stubbs’ fielding was vastly overrated, posting a defense rating, per Fan Graphs, of -6.3 last year, a big drop from posting a 9.1 in 2012 with the Cincinnati Reds. The defense metric tracks how many runs above or below average a player contributes defensively. A huge fallacy many fans buy into is mistaking speed for good defense, and that is plainly the case with Stubbs.
Murphy, 32, comes at a fair price in his two-year, $12 million deal that brings his playoff experienced bat side by side with Ryan Raburn. The former Texas Ranger is extremely durable, only missing seven games since the 2009 season. Murphy’s first step in the field enables him make a good beat on the ball defensively, proven in his defense total of 4.8 in 2013.
A change of scenery is exactly what the corner outfielder needed after a poor 2013 season, unlike his productive past, hitting .220 tampered by a horrific batting average on balls in play of .227. All signs point at his luck changing in 2014 referencing back to his career .298 BABIP, right on par with league average.
Among all of the surprises that assisted the Tribe in 2013, Raburn rewrote the book on how to revive a career. The former Detroit Tiger jumped from a 2012 on-base percentage of .226 into .357 with his first season in Cleveland. Although Raburn is likely to retreat offensively in 2014, he is far more suited to platoon with someone than getting the brunt of the load. Murphy logging over half the time in the lineup will allow Raburn to play in the role that best suits him.
Drifting around league average defensively, Raburn contributes a power hitting bat (2013 slugging percentage of .543) on the opposite side of Murphy. With three switch hitters in the first half of the lineup, Murphy and Raburn can be swapped interchangeably on Terry Francona’s lineup card based on who is pitching.