Every week on Screaming Line Out I will be sharing my favorite thing from around the baseball world.
February 17th, 2018 might have been one of the most confusing days in Corey Dickerson’s life. The then Ray was coming off a season in which he hit the most home runs in his career en route to his first and only All Star appearance. Considering the majority of his playing time to that point was in the bandbox of Coors field which aides offense in comical ways, it was essentially a career year. So why was he released?
Well in short it was because the Tampa Bay Rays most valued stat is cost of operations. Corey Dickerson made too much money. By baseball standards he did not make a lot of money but for Scrooge McDuck’s team, too much money. 5.9 million is a lot of money for a majority of people, however when you consider the cost of a win is around 8 million, depending on your methodology, and Dickerson put up 2.6 fWAR in 2017 he actually provided surplus value. For a baseball team that is squatting in an abandoned Costco to play their home games that is not the kind of asset you should be giving away, particularly when your offense is below average.
It may not be entirely fair to call the Rays out for being cheap because I am sure they did their due diligence to try to trade Dickerson and they did have some warning signs. In the analysis since his DFA multiple writers noted his second half decline, prior to the All Star break his wRC+ was 139 and after it was 80. He also is not considered an especially elite or even good defender for a position that is not very demanding in left field so much so that he had to split in batting in the lineup as DH.
The reason for all this back story is because Corey Dickerson is currently hitting like one of the best players in baseball. The two writers behind Effectively Wild jokingly say that when Mike Trout is atop the WAR leaderboard is the time to start putting stock in a season’s stats. Well it didn’t take long for the greatest baseball player ever to reach the top this year and right alongside him is Corey “DFA’d” Dickerson. As a matter of fact he is the only National League player who is not a pitcher in the top ten.
How did Dickerson go from DFA’d all star to WAR leader? The amazing Travis Sawchik of Fangraphs went over the circumstances that allowed Pittsburg to acquire him so cheaply in a post just before Spring Training started. In short, his drastic decline in the second half was partly attributed to him being overmatched by fourseam fastballs and pitchers increasingly exploited this weakness. So far in the smallest of sample size, 92 pitches, he has whiffed on only 5.43% of Fourseam fastballs, a huge decrease from his 35.6 whiff-per-swing-rate. He also appears to have gotten better on defense as he is leading baseball-reference in defensive WAR by a sizable margin. This may only be because there has not been enough time for him to be exposed but it is still impressive and fun to see a player get his retribution.
I have my doubts Dickerson will hold this up throughout the season but he is the hottest player on the baseball most surprising team so he deserves a little recognition. Plus after surviving the 2011 collapse as a then Red Sox fan anyone who makes the Rays look dumb is alright in my book. Also TIL dude hit a double on a ball that bounced last year.