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Who's on Third? I Wish I Didn't Know

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Going into the last week and a half of spring training, we don't know the exact playing time for the guys who will play third base when the season starts.

Unfortunately, we do know all too much about the three men who will split time.  David Bell is in the final year of a four year $17M contract.  He's not good, and he often plays injured without telling anyone.  Abraham Nunez was brought in by the new GM at a price tag of $3.5M for two years even though he's played awfully for 9.5 of his 10 years of professional ball.  And Alex Gonzalez, the one with some power but no patience, is here on a one year contract for $700K, so he's not likely to bump either of the other millionaires from playing time.

Knowing what we know, we can conclude very easily that the Phillies are projected to have the worst hitting at third base in all of the National League.

Today, Baseball Prospectus ran a quick and easy chart on their front page listing the projected worst five NL third basemen for 2006.  They used their stat, VORP, which calculates the value in runs contributed by a player over a replacement player.  Vinny Castilla was projected to be the worst, at 10.7.  Pedro Feliz, Corey Koskie, Garrett Atkins, and Bill Mueller were the next four, in that order.

Missing from the list though was any Phillies third baseman.  Why?  Not because they are too good for the list, but rather because none are projected to have enough plate appearances to qualify alone.

However, using some not-so-fancy math, we can take the Baseball Prospectus PECOTA projections for the three men of the Phils' hot corner and put together a composite VORP.  Any way you slice it, the contribution the Phils get is projected to be atrocious.

Here are the Baseball Prospectus projections for the three:

Name Projected VORP Plate Appearances
Alex Gonzalez 5.4 318
David Bell 0.4 503
Abraham Nunez -0.8 348

Bell's projected plate appearances have subsequently been brought down to 300 (as explained to me in an email from Jonah Keri at Baseball Prospectus).  Assuming that both Gonzalez and Nunez get half their plate appearances at third base, we have about 635 third base plate appearances among the three players, which is just about a year's worth of plate appearances.

Proportionately adjusting the VORP projections gives us:

Name Projected VORP Plate Appearances
Alex Gonzalez 2.7 159
David Bell 0.2 300
Abraham Nunez -0.4 174
Totals 2.5 633

2.5 runs over replacement level projected from our third base trio.  Who's on third?  I don't know would be better than what we know we've already got.