The Cincinnati Reds are continuing to make moves this offseason, and their most recent one is perhaps their most quiet move so far. They signed left fielder and former St. Louis Cardinals 5 WAR starter Ryan Ludwick to a one-year deal worth $2.5 million. Last season, Ludwick was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates from the San Diego Padres and was worth 0.3 WAR in 139 games for both teams. He had a string of four straight seasons with at least 2 WAR from 2007 to 2010 before a terrible, replacement-level campaign in 2011.
After grading out well on defense for the past few seasons, Ryan Ludwick’s DRS score pummeled down to a -9 after saving a combined 22 runs in the previous four seasons. Ludwick converted to left field after spending much of his career in right, and the drop could be associated with a one year change in position. Left field is about as easy to field as right, so there shouldn’t be a huge problem here. Ludwick’s -9 DRS is most likely a statistical anomaly, but one should keep an eye on his defensive performance next season.
The Reds did not acquire Ryan Ludwick for his defensive prowess; they are looking to add a solid bat. For the first time in his career, Lud’s wRC+ was under 100 (91) in the 2011 season. He has a career wRC+ of 110, and this drop is due to a drop in line drives (accounted for in a slightly depressed .287 BABIP) or his 7.5 HR/FB%. The latter is worrisome if this isn’t due to a year to year fluctuation, because it is the first time in his career in which his HR/FB% went below 10%. At the age of 33, Ludwick is declining, so it is entirely plausible for this drop in power to be real. It is best to go somewhere in between, and the Reds should expect an ISO of .150 instead of his .194 career average. To add some speculation, Bill James and RotoChamp project his ISO to be .177 and .145 respectively.
It is easy to see that Ryan Ludwick will never be an average player again and is better off as a backup or in a platoon situation. This is what he will be doing in Cincy, and the statistics are correct in showing that he is a declining player. He isn’t quite as bad as he was in 2011, but he is a little closer to a 0.3 WAR player than he is to a 2 WAR player. Again, there is a middle ground when examining Ludwick; this will later be seen when taking a look at two different projection systems.
These two projection systems can also be used to find a player’s projected WAR when using the Simple WAR Calculator developed by Lewie Pollis on Wahoos’ On First. James projects Ludwick as a 1 WAR player, and RotoChamp agrees with Baseball Info Solutions’ expectations for Ludwick next season.
Players who are worth 1 WAR are worth about $4.5 million, and the Cincinnati Reds signed Ryan Ludwick for about half that price. He will share time with Chris Heisey in left field, and his projected WAR indicates that Lud is best served in this sort of a role. He is no longer a league average player of the Seth Smith mold, but he is still a serviceable, veteran backup.
The Reds are gearing up for a title run, and they decided to add a quality bench player to supplant what they already have in left field. These are the kinds of small parts that help out contenders with the little things. Signing Ryan Ludwick makes little noise, but it was still a decent move. They gave him less than his market value to provide a few at-bats. The Reds just made themselves a little bit better in their quest to win the NL Central.
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