Is Derrek Lee an Upgrade?

Last night I saw an update flash by on Twitter that Derrek Lee had hit his 12th homer of the year.  My first thought was “that can’t be right, last time I looked he had four homers on the year”.  Then I took another look at Lee, my first since mid-June.

On June 17th, Lee went 5-for-5 at the plate.  From June 17th to now, Lee has a .294/.331/.538 line with eight homers in 143 at-bats.  If Lee is starting to heat up for a big second half run, it wouldn’t be anything we haven’t seen before.  Last year Lee started off slow, with a .233/.329/.366 line in 322 at-bats in the first half.  In the second half he posted a strong .298/.373/.516 line. We’re seeing the same thing so far this year.  Lee started off with a .235/.294/.372 line in 277 at-bats in the first half of the 2011 season.  So far in the second half he’s hitting for a .321/.368/.604 line in 53 at-bats.

The problem Pirates fans might have is this:

Player A: .248/.306/.409 in 330 AB

Player B: .228/.301/.343 in 347 AB

The Orioles are looking to trade Lee for salary relief.

Player A looks like he has better numbers, but the difference isn’t significant.  It’s a bit more power, and 20 points higher in average, with an overall bad average.  Player A is Lee.  Player B is Lyle Overbay.  That’s what you see when you look at their overall numbers: two very similar first basemen, with Lee only serving as a slight upgrade.  But as shown above, when you break it down, Lee is trending upward.  He’s hitting well lately, he’s got a recent history of strong second half success, and if you’re in to that sort of thing, and feel it makes a difference, he’s got a World Series ring from the 2002 Marlins.  He also has better defense than Overbay, which would be a help, since Overbay has been disappointing in that area this year.

The Baltimore Orioles just traded relief pitcher Koji Uehara to the Texas Rangers for first baseman Chris Davis and right handed pitcher Tommy Hunter.  According to Jenifer Langosch, the Orioles are now looking to move Lee as soon as they can, and are mostly looking for salary relief.  We heard earlier today that the Pirates are unsure that Lee is an upgrade.  Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that Lee came out of the opener of today’s double header in the 8th inning and isn’t in game two.

I’ve been on the Carlos Pena bandwagon for over a month now for two big reasons.  The first reason is that he would provide the Pirates with an upgrade at a weak position.  The second reason is that he would come cheap, in theory, due to his large salary (it’s now looking like the Cubs will just hold on to him).  Baltimore is now looking to deal Lee, looking for salary relief.  That’s a move the Pirates need to go for.  We’ve heard that they’re not sure he’s an upgrade.  Looking at the overall numbers, he doesn’t look like an upgrade.  However, digging deeper, we see that he could provide the Pirates with a strong second half effort, which would clearly be an upgrade from Overbay.

For years we saw Adam LaRoche in Pittsburgh putting up poor first halves, then taking off in the second half when the Pirates were out of contention.  Now the Pirates are contenders and could use a guy who is capable of a monster second half.  That could be Lee, based on his 2010 history, and based on his performance over the last month and a half.  The Orioles seem set to trade him.  The Pirates need to take advantage, because he is an upgrade.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • Nate

    I see your point on Player A/B but there is absolutely nothing to suggest Overbay is about to turn it on in the second half.

  • Jimmy Cali

    Yeah not saying your logic might not be right but the fans deserve someone else than Overbay at first.  Besides we didn’t give up anything to go get him.  

    The scary thing is that he puts up a great 2nd half and the Bucs decide to give him a multi year deal.   Then it would be disaster.

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