Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Gerardo Parra got famous for his defensive highlight reel last season, and some defensive measurement systems credited him with 40 or so runs of value added with the glove. You should always be skeptical of a number that large, especially for a corner outfielder. Defense matters, and we’ve come a long way in terms of evaluating defenders, but that’s not realistic. Baseball Prospectus’s Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA) is the best, sanest, simplest of the useful defensive metrics out there, and they marked Parra down as a 12-run defensive asset. That’s a lot more reasonable. I think it’s accurate and sustainable.

The value he provides when the Diamondbacks are at bat, I’m a bit less certain of. Parra stole 15 bases in 16 tries in 2011, 15 in 24 tries in 2012 and 10 in 20 tries last season. I wrote in my preview of Arizona last year that Parra should stop running; he didn’t listen. He has some savvy when it comes to taking the extra base on hits and outs, so he’s still a small net positive there, but he’s not actively winning games with his legs.

At bat, he’s pretty darn good, for a strong defensive outfielder, at least against righties:

Gerardo Parra, Batting Splits, 2011-13

Split AVG OBP SLG
v. RHP .291 .344 .449
v. LHP .218 .286 .269

Source: BaseballProspectus.com

As you see, though, he’s a disaster when a lefty toes the rubber, utterly lacking power or even BABIP skills. It actually matters that manager Kirk Gibson bat Parra atop the order only with righties on the mound. Once Cody Ross gets healthy, he should get some of Parra’s playing time against lefties. If Parra must play against southpaws, he needs to bat sixth, maybe lower. He’s a solid regular, but he got some star-level acclaim in 2013, and that needs to stop.

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