Back in Spring Training, there appeared to be a questionable immediate future for Greg Allen in the 2018 Cleveland Indians outfield. Bradley Zimmer, Michael Brantley, and the platoon of Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Guyer had the starting positions locked down with precious few plate appearances remaining for a young player with the need of continued development. Jim Ford made the case for Greg Allen back in March over Rajai Davis for the Opening Day roster. It is only fitting to do the same for the postseason roster.1
WFNY’s Gage has already highlighted a good usage model for the Indians when deciding how to deploy their duo of center fielders when he wrote about displacing Jason Kipnis with Donaldson.
You can bank on Greg Allen’s defense and baserunning, even if the plate appearances aren’t there. Additionally, you can utilize Kipnis for the first half to two-thirds of games, then opt to Greg Allen for defense should your team have the lead.
Chris Davies of Let’s Go Tribe went a step further by discussing how Allen could find himself to be a difference-maker in close October games.
Teams of all stripes, sabermetrically inclined or Luddite, love the speed sub. Recent postseason teams have featured speed subs such as Cameron Maybin for the 2017 Astros, Michael A. Taylor for the 2016 Nationals, and Terrance Gore for the 2015 Royals. Of course, the Cubs went out on August 15 and paid the Royals some cash to acquire Gore for their postseason roster — if only because they couldn’t get Allen.
The question becomes figuring out how much Allen’s2 speed helps on the base-paths compared to Kipnis’3 plodding. Kipnis only has scored 28% of the time when he reaches base compared to a robust 38% for Allen. Before the difference gets allocated to their lineup placement, a deeper look is required. Both players steal bases well over 80% of the time they attempt, the obvious difference is Kipnis only attempts on 3.5% of his opportunities, while Allen steals 19% of the time. Furthermore, Allen takes extra bases through stolen bases and advancing on fly ball outs or first-to-third and second-to-home far more often, 54% for Allen and just 33% for Kipnis. It might not seem like much, but it is pertinent when a team desperately needs that run late in games.
But, what about his defense? Allen’s defensive numbers have been used as an attempt to discredit his defensive abilities without looking further into their makeup. His center field advanced stats do not look great as his UZR/150 (-13) and DRS (-4) are both in the negative.
A look to Inside Edge Fielding on Fangraphs shows that Allen has been near or above the top of the expected range in routine, likely, even, and unlikely plays. He has not made a catch that was considered remote or impossible. The issue holding back his overall range numbers is that he has only caught one ball (out of three) in the unlikely category, but had far more balls hit in remote (6) and impossible (37) categories. More balls hit in the unlikely range will help boost his overall numbers; assuming he makes catches there at the same rate. Baseball Savant agrees with the analysis as he is rated at one out above average. So, Allen has been more the average-to-solid center fielder the eyes have seen than those small sample size statistics demonstrate.
Kipnis has had a far better bat… but, don’t let anyone tell you that Greg Allen doesn’t have value. That baserunning and run-scoring probability increases are real & important in close games as is his speed in center field. Hopefully, the Indians leverage both players to the fullest of their abilities.