Is Segura An Improvement Over Ahmed?

February 5, 2016

This past Saturday, the Diamondbacks and Brewers struck a five-player deal that saw Jean Segura and Tyler Wagner head to Arizona in exchange for Chase Anderson, Aaron Hill, and infield prospect Isan Diaz. There are some things we don't know, like how much the Diamondbacks value the monetary relief they gained from shedding a portion of Hill's contract or what Milwaukee sees for Diaz's future. One thing we do know, though, is that the DBacks place significant value on Segura as he currently sits atop incumbent starter Nick Ahmed on the team's depth chart. But is Segura actually an improvement over Ahmed? Let's take a look.

Being tabbed as a glove-first middle infielder is often a euphemism for an inability to hit. But elite defense at a premium position is a valuable commodity, and in 2015 Ahmed was amongst the best. In fact, in 129 games at shortstop, Ahmed produced the third-highest Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) at the position, putting his performance within striking distance of established defensive wizards Andrelton Simmons and Brandon Crawford.

Most Defensive Runs Saved at Shortstop, 2015
Player Runs Saved
Andrelton Simmons 25
Brandon Crawford 20
Nick Ahmed 19
Francisco Lindor 10
Addison Russell 10


For comparison, Segura's defense cost the Brewers three runs in 2015. In 472 games at shortstop over his career, he has netted a total of 2 DRS, while Ahmed has amassed 21 DRS in 147 total contests.

On the other hand, Segura has outperformed Ahmed at the plate to date. But is it enough to overcome such a drastic deficit on defense? Let's use Total Runs—a measure of player value based on his offensive (Runs Created), defensive (Defensive Runs Saved), pitching (Pitching Runs Created), and baserunning (Baserunning Runs) contributions adjusted for position and number of innings played (Pos Adj)—as our method of comparison. Since peaking with 112 Total Runs in 2013, Segura's production has taken a significant hit; he has recorded 80 and 81 Total Runs, respectively, in the two seasons since. Despite a sluggish start to his career on offense, Ahmed's defensive production has proved more than enough to make him the better all-around performer in 2015 according to Total Runs.

Total Runs by Season, Minimum 100 Games Played
Player Season Runs
Nick Ahmed 2015 40 4 19 26 89
Jean Segura 2015 49 4 -3 31 81
Jean Segura 2014 44 3 2 31 80
Jean Segura 2013 78 0 3 31 112


Perhaps the Diamondbacks have reason to believe that Segura can bounce back to his 2013 level of production, or maybe they aren't convinced Ahmed will continue to perform at an elite level defensively. But, if recent history is any indication, Arizona's newest acquisition may actually represent no improvement at all.


COMMENTS (11 Comments, most recent shown first)

This is interesting, because, forgetting how or why they got Segura, just in picking the players for a roster spot and the lineup. They were born two days apart in 1990. You would think they are putting forth their best faces as professionals now....they aren' skinny 20-year-olds with 40 lbs of power still to gain.

Neither has had much playing time anywhere but SS other than a few games at second, of course, they have the spectrum advantage. But, both SSs.

I have followed Segura because he was on my fantasy team in 2013. He jumped into prominence with 11 home runs in the first half, and there were no fingerprints in his past and no evidence in the ensuing future that he had power as part of his game. He looked like a SS who might become a 25 HR guy.

He hit .294, was an All Star, AND he also had 44 SBs. And he had always stolen bases. 74 runs scored, .325 ba. 23 years old.

Wha happened...2014, personal life...loses a baby. Leg injuries. Next year....a average guy, full year, only .257, six home run...still had wheels, 25 steals, only caught six times.

The problem is, Amhed has never shown AS quality offense, batting .222 as a 25 year old major leaguer, and his minor league record was sub. 250 until he put one good year together one year at AAA. But he only had 26 home runs in 1800 minor league at bats, most at rookie and A ball, and he had 4 stolen bases in 9 major league attempts.

It is not a question of whether Ahmed will be a great major league offensive player, it is a question of whether he can show enough offense to stay on the field.

Here is a list of qualifying major leaguers batting under Segura's .224 in 2015:

Joc Pederson

If you want to suspect Arizona sees something to work on with Segura, look at his walks....13 in 2015. Here are the qualifying major leaguers with less than 18 walks:

Jean Segura

If Segura can simply take some more pitches, get some more base on balls, his wheels will make him a plus offensive player.

If Segura or Ahmed's offense stay at 2015....they may have trouble staying as a major league ballplayers. If you are going to have that problem at a key position, might as well have two bets on the table.

I'd have Ahmed playing some 2b in spring training, and Segura even looking at 2nd and third.

11:50 PM Feb 7th
It would be sadly ironic if sabermetrics, which in many ways preached the same cautions, were to not have those same cautions about itself. I think 95% of sabermetrically inclined people do understand that, if not more. I suspect a bigger problem is with people quoting a measurement without really thinking about what it was meant to measure, a la the popularity of WAR with the media. The apparent simplicity of the concept has made this measure popular, as has the acronym, but I fear that most people don't really think about the details and construction of it, right?
1:59 PM Feb 6th
Dave: I can't imagine what's the other 6% of what I've ever said that you might agree with. :-)

Fletch: There have been a lot of specific things and general things on which Bill has evolved. The whole field has evolved in many ways.

But one way that it hasn't evolved enough -- at least not the whole field, and even the people who have perhaps evolved sometimes forget -- is to realize how incomplete most of its findings and conclusions are. In a way, the whole history of the field has been a learning process, in various ways. That example of Oddibe and Dion was, I think, part of the learning process on what I'm talking about here. At the time there wasn't enough experience, not enough examples, to have known quite so well about the limitations of the field's findings. The instance was part of that learning process.
11:19 AM Feb 6th
Do you remember Bill's evolution of thinking on Phil Bradley? In one abstract he noted Dick Williams calling Bradley a cancer on the team, suggesting that he was probably a cancer on the wallet, more than likely. In a later abstract he noted that - paraphrasing now - "The bad attitude rap has followed Bradley from team to team to can't always be everybody else's fault."

10:53 AM Feb 6th
I disagree with....ballparking here....about 93.8% of what you post, Maris. But I am in absolutely agreement with the point you're making here.
4:28 AM Feb 6th
.....but when 'they' do something that seems just nuts to sabermetrics -- I'd even say almost whenever -- I think the first thought and indeed the default should be to figure that 'they' are taking things into account that sabermetrics isn't, and maybe can't (at least as of now).

As a tangential thing -- which I'm mentioning because to me it's a great example, recognizing that one example doesn't prove anything, but an example's an example :-)
.....Remember what Bill wrote, circa 1989 (probably in the 1990 annual ("Baseball Book"), about Dion James and Oddibe McDowell?

Usually Bill has been right. Even when he hasn't been right, usually there's been enough that's partly right in order for it to be meaningful, and even when it hasn't been even partly right, it always still seems to have a sound and interesting principle behind it.

Dion James and Oddibe McDowell had been traded, even-up, in the middle of the season. They both had decent rest-of-the-years for their new teams. They were both outfielders and were just about exactly the same age, but very different kinds of players and athletes. Bill felt apparently that analysis showed it was no contest as to which player was better, or at least which had a better future. He expressed his feeling about the trade emphatically, saying he realized that being a general manager required various kinds of abilities, and saying he didn't necesarily have them all, but leading up to an italics-emphasized final sentence, something like "I would sure as hell know not to trade Oddibe McDowell for Dion James." He apparently thought this completely clear. The reason I remembered it so well wasn't that I wanted to hold it in mind to check it out; I assumed he was right and there wasn't anything to check out. I remembered it because of how confident and powerful the writing was. It felt good reading it, and it seemed to be making some good points.

Well, it was wrong. There were good principles behind what he said, and maybe even in being wrong there was a rightness in it -- like, while James had a better rest-of-career than McDowell, it wasn't that great, and maybe McDowell in 1989 had the potential to be a great player (while James perhaps didn't) and so it was a great percentage play to get McDowell for James, but it just didn't happen.

But maybe, just maybe, when the Indians traded McDowell they did know something, or suspect it strongly, that told them his potential was questionable and that maybe even he wasn't likely to be a useful player for very long, as it turned out he wasn't. I don't know what went wrong with his career; maybe it was injuries, and actually, with the benefit of hindsight, I suspect he may have been an early user of PED's and that he suffered the "breakdown" that sometimes happens with them. Maybe the Indians knew there was something funny going on with him, maybe without necessarily knowing exactly what it was, or maybe they were clairvoyant. The thing is, we out here don't know all there is to know, we probably never will be able to, and we should beware of ever being too sure that our conclusions are better than an organization's. Maybe we're even SMARTER than they are -- but we can't know as much as they do.
2:08 AM Feb 6th
Things we don't know? For one thing, we really don't know the full extent of the financial influences, we probably have only sketchy ideas of what's in the farm systems, we don't know much about the personalities involved.

I get all that, but still...we can't overrate our ignorance, nor should we discount sabermetric knowledge other than to be aware that no knowledge is 100% perfect. We make mistakes all the time; but so do the so called experts inside MLB.
1:22 AM Feb 6th
What they know that we don't: Probably about ten thousand things, or more.

Has sabermetrics (ahem) "advanced" :-) to the point that it thinks it's taking everything into account, or even almost everything?

(Looks to me like for the most part, yes.)
6:39 PM Feb 5th
For the second time a Diamondback trade is called into question on sabermetric grounds, the first of course being Miller for Inciarte and others.

It's fair to assume that La Russa and Stewart aren't living in a tree, that they are aware of metrics like WAR (in all its incarnations), Total Runs and whatnot, yet they blithely go ahead and make deals that by the numbers are to their disadvantage.

I would like to know what they know that we don't.
4:14 PM Feb 5th
You think this doesn't make sense, what sense did it make for the Tigers to give SIXTEEN MILLION dollars to pretty much replacement level pitcher Mike Pelfrey?

The abilities of GMs in general, I think, have been getting better and better over my years of baseball fandom, but wonder if somehow they jumped the shark recently. I say that as a Tigers fan living in Toronto - so, I've recently been shocked with both teams' star GM departures.
3:27 PM Feb 5th
Frankly I never heard of either of those guys, so I'm speaking just 'theoretically' here at best....

There seems to be an obvious thing you left out of the equation: Assuming you're right that Segura will be replacing Ahmed, that means Ahmed is now available to be traded for something else -- something additional -- because, from what you're saying about Ahmed, it seems he's probably too good to just be a bench player; some other team will want him as a starter, and will give up something pretty good for him.
11:37 AM Feb 5th
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