In Ryan Flaherty We (Should) Trust

AP Photo/Gail Burton

AP Photo/Gail Burton

A month ago you wouldn’t have found too many people arguing that Ryan Flaherty should remain our second baseman once Brian Roberts returned from injury. Then again, you wouldn’t have found hardly anyone even arguing he should be on the big league roster. Now that Roberts is healthy and is likely to take over regular duties at second base the question must be asked: What do we do with Flaherty?

(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)

The easy decision would be to demote him to the minors where he can get regular at-bats because his offensive struggles the first two months of the season were prolonged and aggravated a fan base that all but gave up on him. He batted .125/.210/.232 in April, .182/.265/.273 in May, and has been a completely different hitter during June as he – and the team – are enjoying his .306/.342/.500 batting line with four home runs and 22 hits in 21 games (through 6/29).

He is third on the team with 0.8 WAR during June, behind Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy who each have 1.1 WAR, and his defense remains strong. If he were hitting well for only a week or so then I believe it would still be fair game to wonder aloud if his number were for real or not but he’s been doing this for an entire month now and doesn’t appear to be slowing down.

What changed?

For starters he has been able to refine his approach at the plate by becoming a bit more selective at what he swings at, while also still maintaining an aggressive approach.

He’s managed to lower his swinging strike rate, he’s lowered the number of swings he takes at pitches outside the zone, and the rate at which he swings at pitches inside the zone has stabilized. It seems that he’s finally found that balanced approach at the plate which is one of the contributing factors to his recent offensive success.

Month

Sw. Strike

O-Swing

Z-Swing

Swing Rate

March/April

14.6%

33.1%

68.6%

48.7%

May

12.9%

40.0%

64.8%

49.7%

June

9.1%

31.5%

63.3%

45.8%

As a result of this new approach of his he has managed to have a large amount of success, reflected by his batting line obviously, but is this new-found success for real or is it all just a mirage?

If we look more closely at Flaherty’s month-to-month performance you can see that he’s steadily improved by making more contact at the plate, hitting more line drives, and he’s also performing better when he gets behind in the count as 16 of his 22 hits on the month (through 6/29) have come while he’s been behind in the count.

Month

O-Contact Z-Contact Contact Rate LD Rate

March/April

54.6% 79.2% 69.8% 10.0%

May

63.6% 82.6% 73.3% 18.8%

June

75.6% 81.1% 79.0% 19.3%

Among all second basemen in baseball Flaherty it tied for eighth with his 0.8 WAR in the month of June and happens to be second overall in UZR/150, among second baseman with at least 400 innings in the field, at 14.6. The player just above him on the list is none other than Chase Utley of course who comes in at 17.1. He also happens to be just one of six second baseman in baseball that doesn’t have a negative rating in the four major defensive categories such as DPR (double play runs above average), RngR (range runs above average), ErrR (error runs above average), and UZR (ultimate zone rating).

What all of that means is Flaherty has been a solid defensive second baseman for the club all season long and is finally starting to hit like a top 10 second baseman in the American League.

Whether he continues to hit like he has in June for the rest of the season remains to be seen but watching him at the plate and then looking at various offensive metrics and peripheral rate stats from one month to the next does give us some indication this could be for real.

Although Flaherty doesn’t have anywhere near the offensive peak that the organization and fans enjoyed from Brian Roberts from 2005 to 2009 before injuries took their toll on the franchise second baseman, Roberts was also never quite as good defensively as Flaherty is now.

Add onto the fact that Roberts may not be any better than Flaherty is offensively now and you certainly have the merits for a debate needing to be had about whether Flaherty should remain the starter over Roberts or not. Nostalgia aside, it’s tough not to know who the better overall player currently is at the position.

*All stats courtesy of FanGraphs.com

You can follow me on Twitter @BSLLanceRinker and check out ‘Bird Talk‘, our weekly podcast that discusses all things Baltimore Orioles.

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About the author


Lance Rinker    

Orioles Analyst

Lance is the Managing Editor for Konsume, a crowd-sourced news platform driving passionate journalism. In addition to his work on BSL, you can find Lance’s extended portfolio at his profile on Konsume and you can follow him on Twitter.


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