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Ryan Goins, The Defensive Decision

The Toronto Blue Jays officially announced Ryan Goins has won the starting job at 2B. If you do not follow the Blue Jays you very well might have no idea who Ryan Goins is, as he is not a hot prospect or a big name player. The decision to play Goins as a regular is wholly dependent on his defensive play and not his bat. Goins was a 4th round pick of the Blue Jays in 2009 and has spent most of the past 5 years in the minors.

Here is a look at his 5 seasons in the minors at all levels:

G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB
519 2165 1931 237 528 116 13 19 229 30 28 169 372 .273 .330 .376 .706 727 30 2 46 17 3

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
The numbers overall are pretty unspectacular and do not indicate a special offensive player in the making. In 2013 at age 25, Goins made his major league debut putting up the following numbers:

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB Pos Awards
2013 25 TOR AL 34 121 119 11 30 5 0 2 8 0 0 2 28 .252 .264 .345 .609 66 41 1 0 0 0 0 4/6
1 Yr 34 121 119 11 30 5 0 2 8 0 0 2 28 .252 .264 .345 .609 66 41 1 0 0 0 0
The sample size is pretty small but offensively Goins did not bring much to the table in his debut. The amazing thing about Goins however is that he was extremely valuable despite his terrible batting line. His defensive value more than made up for his offensive shortcomings.
Year Age Tm Lg G PA Rbat Rbaser Rdp Rfield Rpos RAA WAA Rrep RAR WAR waaWL% 162WL% oWAR dWAR oRAR Salary Pos Awards
2013 25 TOR AL 34 121 -4 -1 1 12 1 8 1.0 4 13 1.4 .527 .506 0.0 1.5 1 4/6
1 Season 34 121 -4 -1 1 12 1 8 1.0 4 13 1.4 .527 .506 0.0 1.5 1

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Goins managed a 1.4 WAR in only 34 games, which is pretty spectacular. This is from his defensive value of 1.5 dWar and his Rfield of 12. In a very short timeframe he gave his team a strong value based entirely on his defensive play.

Goins is in a unique category as a defensive only player and its a position not every team would take. Defensive metrics are still emerging and they are harder to quantify. Most fans can understand standard metrics like a .300 AVG, .350 OBP, 30 HR, 30 SB but defensive ratings like dWar or UZR are less understood. Most players bring one or two big skills like power & OBP, Speed to leg out infield hits and steal bags but players that just play defense are not very common. Defense can be subjective and harder to quantify. Managers for example seem to have an issue with defensive subjectiveness as Derek Jeter has 5 gold gloves and has a career -9.2 dWAR. Goins you could say is the anti-Jeter as he is an all defensive infielder.

If Goins was to play a full year and keep up his pace from 2013 he would have an off the charts defensive season and put up a dWar of around 5.5 – 6 giving him the highest recorded dWar ever. That is highly unlikely, in 2013 there were 2 stand out dWar totals; Andrelton Simmons at 5.4 & Carlos Gomez at 4.6. Both of these totals are top 10 all time seasons so seeing Goins put up a 5+ dWar total is not to be expected.

Perhaps something in the range of 2.5-3 dWar would be very strong. The best active player comparison to Goins I can find is Brendan Ryan. Ryan broke into the MLB at 25, on his career he has a .237 AVG, .299 OBP and has little power with a 72 OPS+. When you look at his defensive metrics from 2009-2012 he played 120+ games a season which earned him annual dWar’s from 2.6 -3.6.

If Goins can achieve similar numbers to Ryan the Jays will be making a solid choice. It often can be easy to write off a player who might only hit .240 but Goins does have the ability to be a top defensive second baseman and contribute positive overall value to the Jays at a position that has been a weakness. It is a forward thinking approach which seems more in line with the Tampa Bay Rays. It will be interesting to see if they can stick with him if he is only hitting .220 at the end of April.

Here is a little Goins special, I think he made this type of play about 10 times last year: