2009 O’s Retrospective: Felix Pie

In part six of my almost 50 part series “Better Know An Oriole” (otherwise known as 2009 Orioles Retrospective), I take a look at outfielder Felix Pie… THE FIGHTIN’ SHOOFLY!

When Felix Pie was acquired from the Chicago Cubs this off-season for Garrett Olson and minor-league reliever Henry Williamson, I was pretty happy with the trade but worried that Pie might just turn out to be Corey Patterson. Pie always had the tools, but hadn’t been successful deploying them at the major league level. I projected him to hit .267/.322/.409 with 10 HR, a .323 wOBA, and plus defense in left-field.

Felix started the year off in a tremendous slump, batting .157/.246/.216 in April. Here’s what I said about him at the time:

“A .194 BABIP despite a 23% line-drive rate will definitely not continue, and his increased walk rate (from 7.8% to 10.5%) and decreased strike-out rate (from 34.9% to 27.5%) are both good signs. He needs to be given plenty of at bats to work through this.”

Half way through May, Nolan Reimold was brought up and Pie was relegated to 4th outfielder duty. At the All-Star break, he had amassed just 104 at bats, and was hitting .234/.299/.355. People were calling for him to be released, and all kinds of other stuff. And yet, I still believed in him*.

* I know he did some “dumb” stuff on the field sometimes but his horrible, terrible, awful, no-good baserunning cost the team all of 0.76 runs this year according to Baseball Prospectus. Take out his 1 for 4 on stolen bases, and he was actually a (technically) plus baserunner (+0.64 runs). I’d rather he look bad and be good than the other way around.  We’re not selling jeans here.

When Adam Jones got banged up in August however, Pie started getting more consistent playing time – and he started producing, to the tune of .333/.394/.651 with an exciting cycle mixed in there. Felix himself was injured late in September and missed the end of the season.

Overall, Pie hit .266/.326/.437 with 9 HR and a .326 woBA in 281 plate appearances. He showed more pop than I had expected (though his HR per flyball rate was a somewhat high 12.3%), and upped his walk-rate to an almost league average 8.7% while drastically cutting down on his strike-outs from an awful 34.9% in 2008 to a worse than average but more reasonable 23% in 2009.

What was expected was the glove-work, as Pie played very good defense in left-field (+5.3 runs relative to average according to Ultimate Zone Rating, but with a rate of +15.4 per 150 games) as well as in center-field (+1.6 UZR, +5.5 UZR/150). The routes are sometimes awkward, but he can chase down some flyballs and has a plus arm (5 assist, +3.6 runs for the Arm component of UZR).

FanGraphs has Pie as being worth 1.3 Wins Above Replacement (worth $6 M), despite his limited playing time. I think Felix took a big step forward this year – I’m glad I stuck with him – and he should be a very useful piece of the O’s outfield puzzle in 2010*.

* I think he should be starting almost every day in LF – or even CF with Jones moving over – since his glove makes up for his shortfalls with the bat compared to Reimold. Nolan could DH or maybe start learning first-base, but obviously that depends on how well he recovers from surgery and how he would handle those transitions. Even as a back-up getting 300-400 PA, Pie should be valuable. Nice to have options, in any case.

Photo by Rob Tringali.