Something About Lyle Overbay

Former Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay, now playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates, makes his return to Rogers Centre for the first time in an opposing uniform tonight. During his time in Toronto, Overbay was an unfortunate lightning rod for frustrated fans due to his reputation as a ground ball double play, rally killing machine.

However, it should be noted that while only six batters in all of baseball grounded into more double plays than Overbay in 2008, the left handed hitter turned things around for his last two seasons in Toronto, as only twenty batters out of more than 100 with at least 1100 plate appearances between 2009 and 2010 grounded into less double plays than Overbay.

While the GIDP hatred may be a little overblown, how does Overbay rank among other first basemen during his time in Toronto?

From 2006 to 2010, eighteen first basemen had more than 2500 plate appearances. Among those, Overbay ranks second last in wOBA and OPS. Only Ty Wigginton was worse. On the defensive side of the game, Overbay’s UZR/150 over his five years in Toronto was 0.3. Of the 32 players with at least 2000 innings at first, Overbay ranked 16th.

As a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, Overbay was awful offensively and average defensively, and likely not worth the four year $24 million contract that J.P. Ricciardi handed him in 2007. Right now, for the Pirates, Overbay is almost an entire win below replacement, the worst among regular first basemen, and fifth worst among all players who would qualify for the batting title.

I know it’s going to be tempting for Blue Jays fans to boo him, but come on, it would just be cruel at this point, no? His numbers are already booing him on a daily basis.

Comments (17)

  1. Overbay earned 7.3 WAR over his 5 years in Toronto, he wasn’t terrible. He just wasn’t what you want out of a starting 1B on a contender. The problem with him (or at least it was the problem with him when he was a Jay) was that he couldn’t hit lefties at all. He should have been platooned (career .710 OPS vs. LHP, .826 OPS vs. RHP). For whatever reason, nobody seems to have figured this out. Certainly the Pirates haven’t…giving him a full-time job again.

  2. It’d be interesting to see his stats in a Jays uniform before and after he broke his hand/wrist. He never seemed to be the same player (offensively) after that injury.

  3. 7.3 WAR over five years is not very good. That’s 105th out of 135 regulars over that same period.

    Even his split vs. RHP isn’t very good for a first baseman.

  4. Get ready for the Lyle OVERPAID chant.

  5. “7.3 WAR over five years is not very good. That’s 105th out of 135 regulars over that same period.”

    It also means he contributed positive value to the Jays over his time here and wasn’t anywhere near terrible (like, say, Chone Figgins).

    It’s also not exactly his fault he was never platooned as he should have been.

  6. Didn’t say anywhere that Lyle Overbay was above average. In fact, I believe I said the opposite. I said that he contributed positive value to the Jays. And if you want to get down to the facts, he did actually turn out to be worth his contract (FanGraphs suggests he was worth over $30M to the Jays in value over his time in Toronto and about $24M over the last four).

    And FWIW, if used correctly by the Jays, Overbay’s WAR would have been significantly higher.

  7. Of course, being worth his contract doesn’t necessarily mean Ricciardi should have given it to him. You would have liked to have seen him go for a far better bat at 1B than he did for a supposed contending team.

  8. I’ll never say a bad word about Overbay. The man earned my undying respect during his time having to take throws from Edwin at 3rd on a nightly basis. Lord knows how many terrible things he prevented.

  9. I am shocked that Overbay was ranked mediocre by UZR?

    I thought he was called one of the best defensive first baseman by Wilner & Ashby?

    Didn’t he save E5 from making 30 errors last year?

    He had a relatively high OBP fopr a Jay, but seemed to strike out in rally situations.

    The fans booed him out of Rogers Centre last April & Cito refused to move him down in the batting order.

    I think Lyle was a nice guy but wasn;t the same player after he broke his wrist in 2007.

    I would cheer for Lyle. he is a michael rappaport lookalike

  10. UZR is a joke of a metric.

    Overbay’s offense was unfortunate, but we expected the guy we got in 2006 and 2009 every year, not just those years.

  11. I’ll be at the game tonight and plan on applauding for Overbay when he comes up for his first at-bat. After that, he’s just another player on another team. He always seemed solid at first and I can remember several plays that most first basemen would have likely messed up.

  12. Why only look at UZR/150? I recall Drew wrote a post a long time ago about needing to look at another defensive metric as well. Although they were obviously positively correlated, there were some outliers (players rated high or low by one metric and the opposite by the other).

    Also, on your analysis of Overbay’s offensive ranking you conclude that he was “awful offensively”, but this is only based on 18 1B’ers when at any given time in that period there would’ve been at least 30 1B’ers. Yes he was awful offensively (way below the median) out of 18 1B’ers, but where does he compare if the PA threshold is decreased to include 30 1B’ers? I am not saying that this will reverse your result, but it could be entirely possible that considering the 1B’ers with less staying power could put Overbay as just below the median.

    Anyways, great post, these are just my thoughts.


  13. We never actually got rid of Lyle. He just moved to second base and is now called Aaron Hill.

  14. By the Fielding Bible’s Runs Saved Above Average stat he was very good here.

    2006: +5
    2007: +9
    2008: +8
    2009: +7
    2010: +9

    Total: +38
    AVG: +7.6

    He didn’t fair as well in the Fielding Bible’s Defensive Runs Saved Above Average thanks to a bunch of points he got docked courtesy of his bunt defense:

    2006: +0
    2007: +9
    2008: +6
    2009: +2
    2010: +9

    Total: +26
    AVG: +5.2

    I think it’s reasonable to say he was an above average 1B during his time here, given that he never had a below average season in these two metrics.

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