Mr. Zoombiya. That's what speed do. Vroom vroom. And so forth. The Royals' resident late-inning defensive replacement/base stealer/personal Billy Butler (now Kendrys Morales!) pinch runner had himself a jolly good season in 2014. In only 290 plate appearances across 120 games, Jarrod Dyson accumulated 3.1 fWAR. Despite Dyson's less-than-awesome 85 wRC+, he more than made up for it with his baserunning and defense. Jeff Sullivan's deep dive into how Dyson stole third in the Wild Card feeding frenzy is probably one of my favorite articles of the year.
Let's look at some of Dyson's highlights. In this video, the roar of the crowd starts right off the bat because they assume base hit. Dyson says otherwise. He didn't prevent a run from scoring, but he prevented multiple runs from scoring.
Also consider the non leg-related parts of his defense, about which this young Angels fan obviously forgot.
Of course, the aforementioned steal of third. Not defense-related, but in here because it must be. This could have been the most important stolen base of the entire season across all of baseball.
Not a playoff moment, but it was very important nonetheless.
Like Lorenzo Cain, we know his defense and baserunning are worthy of praise and prostration. Time to learn more about his offensive capabilities. Given Dyson's part-timey-ness, he's got a fairly small sample of plate appearances for someone who's been in the majors off and on since 2010. I'll show you the same stuff--walk and strikeout rates, batted ball rates, and batted ball production all relative to league average. Because of his smaller sample size each year, put some large error bars around his batted ball production. 100 is average, more than 100 means he did more of the thing than league average, and less than 100 means he did less of the thing.
|Season||Rel K||Rel BB|
Dyson strikes out a bit less than league average, which is nice. We've generally said that Dyson is one of the few with some measure of plate discipline on the team. A guy who can take a walk. Is that ability declining? His relative BB numbers are trending in the wrong direction. He does not appear to be seeing more pitches in the zone, so that's not it. It does appear that he's swinging more, so that might be it. A Dyson that swings more is a Dyson that makes more contact, which makes me sad.
|Season||Rel LD||Rel GB||Rel FB||Rel IFFB||Rel HR/FB|
The majority of Dyson's contact is of the ground ball variety, which is fine, but he doesn't hit line drives very often. His line drive rate was especially poor in 2014; yet, his BABIP was the highest of his career at .330. Let's look into production by batted ball type to understand more.
|Season||FB Rel PRD||LD Rel PRD||GB Rel PRD|
Lots of variation here. His 2014 BABIP was the product of his above average GB production and increased emphasis on ground ball rate combined with the better-than-2012 FB production. Dyson's true talent level production on ground balls is probably above league average, but I'm comfortable saying that his true talent level production on fly balls and maybe line drives is below average. Overall, Dyson is not especially proficient at contact, but he at least maximizes ground balls. Like Cain, Dyson does his damage once he gets on base, so he should be doing whatever he can to get on base, which means tons of ground balls. I hope it means more walks in the future.
Overall, Dyson had a very good season. His defense and baserunning were so far above average that his below average offense at the plate didn't hurt the team. In 2014, Dyson was everything the Royals needed and more. He gave the team 3 wins in very limited playing time. Dyson's declining walk rate and subpar production on contact make me worry for his relatively immediate future, but that's not affecting his 2014 grade. Vroom vroom.