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Ryan Goins: Man of Extremes

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In a general sense Ryan Goins is an unremarkable replacement-level player, but there's nothing average about his game.

Brian Blanco

Ryan Goins is simultaneously an undistinguished and unforgettable player.

When it comes to overall value, Goins is pretty much a garden-variety scrub. He debuted at age 25 and has proceeded to produce 0.4 WAR in 273 plate appearances in the majors. That total screams "nothing to see here", except there is something to see with Goins. There are things like this:

The 26-year-old is a breathtaking defender who makes improbable plays with regularity. He is really a shortstop playing second base, but there are plenty of shortstops who can't do the kind of things he does.

Goins is a wizard with the leather and it shows up not only in highlight-reel plays, but also in the numbers. Among second baseman with at least 500 innings played in the field since 2013 Goins has been incredible by FanGraphs' two main defensive metrics.

DRS

UZR

UZR/150

19 (5th)

10.4 (7th)

28.6 (1st)

The number that is crazy here is the UZR/150. Since Goins hasn't played full seasons he has been unable to put up huge raw DRS and UZR totals, but based on his playing time he's been amazing. The next best UZR/150 among second baseman during this time is 16.6 UZR/150 from Darwin Barney.

These statistics come from a pretty small sample, especially as far as defensive stats are concerned. It's unfair to assume that Goins is by far and away the best defensive second baseman of his era. It is fairly safe to say that the eye test and the metrics both agree that Ryan Goins turns batted balls into outs like almost no one else in the business.

You may notice that a lot of positive adjectives have been used to describe Goins so far. That doesn't figure considering I'm on the record as a fairly anti-Goins type of guy. The thing is that unfortunately for Ryan Goins hitting baseballs is a huge part of his job.

As good as the second baseman is with the glove he is that inept with the bat in his hands. Since the beginning of the 2013 season 62 second baseman have accumulated at least 250 plate appearances, the table below show where Goins ranks among them in a variety of major offensive categories.

BB%

K%

AVG

OBP

SLG

wRC+

2.6% (61st)

22.0% (14th)

.227 (50th)

.247 (60th)

.315 (54th)

50 (59th)

This is a fairly small sample again, but if Goins isn't the worst hitting second baseman in the majors, he's mighty close. His absolutely abysmal control of the strike zone shows limited potential at the dish and while career .284 BABIP is a tad low, it doesn't seem to indicate the 26-year-old's luck on balls in play has been that bad.

On first glance it seems improbable that Ryan Goins could simultaneously be the worst hitter and best fielder at his position. However, there is a pretty simple logic to it. Only a fielder as good as Goins could make it to the big leagues as such a bad hitter. If he hadn't demonstrated his brilliance with the leather he never would have gotten any playing time with a 50 wRC+.

The fact the Goins was tabbed as the Blue Jays starting second baseman heading into the year is borderline insane considering the minimal value he offers. That being said, with his defensive skills he has earned a place in the major leagues as a bench player and/or Mike McCoy-type frequent flyer.

Most guys who live in the 0 WAR zone are pretty boring to watch or analyze. Goins isn't your everyday replacement-level type though. For better and for worse everything he does is at the extremes.

Ultimately, that's OK. At some point in any season, especially in September, any MLB roster is going to be populated with a few marginal players. Ryan Goins is one of those guys.

At the end of the day, if you are going to have a fringe MLB talent on your roster, why not have one who can do this.