The value of Darren Ford

Posted By on May 11, 2011 10:59 am

Expanding on a little on a point I tried to make in 140-characterchunks while most of you were sleeping…

It was a pretty easy storyline to draw last night. The Giants opted to keep Darren Ford on the roster instead of Manny Burriss or Ryan Rohlinger. Then, a few hours later, there was Ford coming out to pinch-run, easily stealing second and scoring the winning run from second on a “single.”

Brilliant!

To which I say, no so fast (pun intended).

Ford absolutely provides something to the Giants with his speed. He is the fastest guy on the roster, and he can definitely do things that no one else on the roster can do. However, I think it’s easy to get carried away with the value he provides in relation to the roster spot he occupies.

First, if a guy’s sole purpose on the team is to be able to use his speed, you’d sure like to see him be able to use it more effectively. He has been caught stealing three times in seven attempts so far. That’s a not very good percentage. Yes, it’s a small sample. Yes, two of the times he got caught were by perfect throws by Pudge Rodriguez and Wilson Ramos. But, you know, this is the major leagues. Catchers will do that. I’ll submit that Ford’s early numbers are not out of whack with his base-stealing ability, and as Exhibit A I’ll provide his career minor league stolen base totals. He’s been caught 74 times in 369 attempts (an 80-percent success rate) in a career that includes only seven games above Double-A. The catchers in A and AA are not all Pudge Rodriguez, so a guy with his pure speed shouldn’t be caught even that much.

Speed is more than just stealing bases, of course. There was that Pittsburgh thing. No doubt that was impressive. However, advance reports being what they are, I don’t think that will happen again.

Factoring in all that Ford provides with his speed, there is still the issue of how much speed is worth on a roster, if doesn’t come packaged with something else. (Now that Andres Torres is back, the Giants don’t even need Ford’s defense.)

Unless you can get by with only six relievers, which the Giants seem unwilling to do even though they probably could swing it, you only have room for five bench players, and one of them is the backup catcher. You’d like the other four to be able to do as many things as possible. The Giants roster is not all that flexible. Pat Burrell, for example, takes up two spots when he starts, because you need someone else to go in for defense for him. When he comes off the bench, it’s only to hit, not to run or play defense.

So, as exciting as it was to watch Ford do his thing last night, there are going to be games when the Giants get caught by not having enough different tools at their disposal on the bench.

Of course, this isn’t Ford’s fault. It’s not even necessarily the Giants’ fault, because they don’t have many alternatives right now. The real problem is this team was designed to have Pablo Sandoval and Miguel Tejada starting, with the useful Mark DeRosa and Mike Fontenot on the bench, and right now that’s not the case. Eventually — in theory — they’ll be back to a Sandoval-Tejada left side of the infield and there will no longer be room for Ford on the roster. I believe the Giants will be better off then, even though we may miss watching Ford run.

Comments

5 Responses to “The value of Darren Ford”

  1. Sean says:

    I was thinking this exact same thing. He’s probably the 3rd best CF on the team, so the “defensive purposes” argument doesn’t really hold water either. He’s pretty fun to watch, though

  2. Ford’s sample size is not large enough to get a goog feel for his base-stealing game but I agree with you that he needs to be more versitile..and can I see a hit please, then steal a base? Question for you: will Ford or Gary Brown – who seems to be tearing up A-ball, be the Giants ceter fielder in the next few years? Thanks for all your work regarding the Giants!

  3. Jeff fletcher says:

    I don’t think it’ll be Ford. I don’t know enough about Brown, but I believe if you are a first-round pick out of a major college program that you should tear up A ball. We’ll be able to judge him better when he moves up to AA and AAA.

  4. Jeff Fletcher says:

    Been debating this whole Ford issue with a few of my tweeps today. I even went so far as to argue that the Giants would actually be better off with Burriss. The question is not whether Ford is faster than Burriss. The question is how much faster he is, and how often that additional speed would make a difference in the outcome. (I’ve conceded that the Pittsburgh thing is one of those cases, but I also believe that’s a one-shot deal.) Is that fraction of a second Ford gives you worth sacrificing what Burriss can give you? Burriss is a switch hitter who can back up at both middle infield spots. Ford, on the other hand, gives the Giants nothing they don’t have elsewhere, besides that fraction of a second. I would also argue that Burriss, who is a little older and more seasoned than Ford, has less to gain at this point from everyday playing time at Triple-A. If Ford goes down and improves his hitting, defense or base-stealing ability, he might become a real weapon.

    All of that said, I’m willing to concede that this entire debate is really much ado about nothing. We’re talking about the 25th man on the roster here, and neither of these guys would be here if Pablo Sandoval weren’t hurt. We can argue till the cows come home, and it really won’t make that much difference. Do the Giants need Ford or Burriss more? Ask me after the game. We’re talking about razor-thin differences in total roster utility here.

    It does tell you how great baseball is, though. In what other sport would you even have a spirited debate about the last man on the roster?

  5. slamdunk says:

    Ford is fun to watch on the basepaths, but I agree that his spot on the roster is being used for a specialist that the roster really cannot afford in the long run. Plus as a sixth outfielder, he will get few at bats since there isn’t enough playing time for 5 outfielders right now. Burriss is more valuable mainly because there is no way DeRosa’s wrist holds up all year, and Tejada is very painful to watch field any balls in the field, let alone at the plate.

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