By now you’ve probably heard the good news: Cody Ross is coming back! With Ross getting recalled yesterday, the stars are aligning for Ross to come off the DL tonight and make his first start of 2011. It’s old news, but Ross was a major force for the Giants during their dash to a world title, hitting .294/.390/.686 across three series, including several memorable home runs. The Giants are expected to send Brandon Belt down to AAA in order to make space for Ross.
For Giants’ pitchers, getting Ross back in the outfield will be welcomed with open arms. Removing Andres Torres because of injury has made the Giants’ OF look old, slow, and sluggish. It is one thing to flank Torres with Burrell and Huff, but replace Torres with Rowand, and it’s a recipe for base hits falling left and right. Ross will return to right field where he’s been a solid defender (+2 runs UZR/150) that’s occasionally flashed defensive brilliance. DRS, or defensive runs saved (the plus/minus metric based on runs), has Ross at +17 for his career in RF. Replacing Huff with Ross on defense could net the Giants a swing of +5 to +10 runs on the season. That’s a big upgrade, and I’d make the argument that, for a flyball staff like the Giants, it’s a bigger deal than for your ‘usual’ team.
The offensive side of things is another question entirely. People tend to place the most weight on recent performances, and for most of us, we can still see Ross launching postseason dingers off of Roy Halladay. However, over his body of work, Ross has been more of a league average hitter. Let’s check out a few quick numbers.
Year BB% K% ISO wRC+ 2008 6.5 25.2 .228 106 2009 5.6 21.8 .199 105 2010 6.5 23.0 .145 101
As you can see, wRC+ tells us that since 2008, Ross has been right around league average as a hitter. He walks at a below league average rate, but he makes up for that with power. The league average ISO (AVG-SLG) tends to be around .150 and excluding 2010, Ross has shown good power.
Preseason, what did several projection systems say about Ross?
Ross ends up in the neighborhood of a .750-775 OPS hitter by these projections. After looking at what the average RF hit in the NL last season (.778 OPS) Ross is much closer to average offensively for his position than I thought. Still, it seems that while Ross’ power is nice – if it returns to previous levels – the biggest benefit of his return will be based on his defensive contributions. It’s totally unrealistic to expect Ross to hit like he did in the playoffs. But, I don’t think many Giants fans have that expectation anyways.
To sum things up: Getting Ross back improves the outfield defense which has been an issue for the Giants in the early going. It’ll also move Huff back to 1B with Brandon Belt, sadly, returning to the minors. Don’t expect Ross to post another 1.000 OPS, but he’s a nice player to get back into the fold.
UPDATE: Cody Ross is hitting 4th in today’s lineup. Giants to announce corresponding roster move shortly.