In Part 1 and Part 2 of this three-part series, I cherry-picked some stats in order to convince myself that Dexter Fowler may not have stayed on the field enough to be a valuable player had he come to the Blue Jays, or may not have been a significant enough defensive upgrade in right field (assuming he was to replace Jose Bautista). This doesn’t mean I’m advocating for re-signing Bautista, but simply that Fowler should have presented upgrades over him in various aspects of the game. Caveat: to reiterate, this analysis is obviously biased so that I could rationalize the fact that the Jays did not sign Fowler.
Part 3: Offense
Let’s start with a hot take: Dexter Fowler peaked offensively in 2016 (his age-30 season).
Per Fangraphs, in 2016, he put up career-best, or close to career-best offensive numbers:
- career-best 129 wRC+ (weighted runs created plus, “where 100 is average, both league- and park-adjusted, based on wOBA”); career average of 110
- career second-best .367 wOBA (weighted on-base average); career average of .348
- career second-best .447 SLG (slugging percentage) and .840 OPS (on-base plus slugging); career averages of .422 and .788, respectively
- career-best .393 OBP (on-base percentage); career average of .366
- career second-best .276 batting average (not that batting average is that important these days); career average of .268
- career-best 6.2 BSR (base running runs above average, including stolen bases and caught stealing); career average of 3.4 BSR
- career-best walk rate of 14.3%; career average of 12.6%
- career-high 11 hit-by-pitch (lol)
- career-best 25.8 Off (combined batting and baserunning above average, per Fangraphs); career average of 10.4 (to put this into perspective, Fowler produced 8.6 Off in 2015 and Bautista produced 8.1 Off in 2016, his worst offensive year)
- career-best 4.7 fWAR (wins above replacement – not a uniquely offensive stat, but still a career-best); career average of 2.2
These are just numbers on their own, so how do they compare to Bautista’s 2016 season (his objectively worst year since 2009), again assuming that Fowler would have replaced Bautista?
Fowler vs. Bautista by Offensive Metrics
|Avg Exit Velocity (mph)||87.4||91.5|
In terms of pure hitting, Bautista’s numbers in his worst year were not far off from Fowler’s in his best year (and in some cases even exceeded Fowler’s). Fowler’s offensive advantages clearly came from baserunning; the difference in WAR can be partially attributed to this, but also largely to Jose’s atrocious defense in 2016. So from an offensive perspective, peak Fowler doesn’t appear to be much of an upgrade over bad Bautista in anything other than baserunning. This is notwithstanding the fact that Fowler was 30 in 2016 and Bautista was 35.
Does this mean that I think Fowler will be bad going forward? No. Does this mean that I would rather have Bautista right now than Fowler? No. My point? I expect Fowler to regress towards his career averages, and that since his next five seasons will be his age-31 through age-35 seasons, I suspect we’ve seen peak Fowler and I’m comfortable with the decision not to match the Cardinals’ offer for 5 years and $82.5 million for the offensive production the Jays would likely receive.
Based on very cursory and biased analysis over this three-part post:
- I don’t think playing on turf would have allowed an historically injury-prone Fowler to play more games in right field than his 36-year old would-be predecessor.
- I don’t believe that moving to right field would have boosted Fowler’s defensive production for his age-31-through-35 seasons to a greater level than that of his would-be predecessor’s age-31-through-35 seasons.
- Aside from baserunning, I don’t believe that Fowler’s peak offensive season was that much better than his would-be predecessor’s worst offensive season.
I wish him the best in St. Louis, but I’m over Dexter Fowler.