Those of you who have been reading for a while know that one of the things I like to talk about is the history of the Astros, as seen in my Random Random Astro, Random Trade Tree, and historic scouting report posts. One thing I've been thinking about lately, prompted by many comments on other posts on this site, is whether or not the Everett/Ausmus black hole reputation is deserved, and if so, were they able to make up for it with defense, which is the counterpoint to the widely held view of their worthlessness.
Ausmus and Everett were teammates from 2001 to 2007, though Everett was only a regular from 2003-2006. Over that period, we'll look at offensive value and defensive value. I have no idea how this exercise will turn out; I'm not out to prove things with a preconceived notion one way or the other. Since I'm researching this as I type it, we'll discover the truth together.
It's no secret that Adam Everett was a pretty light-hitting player. His best offensive season was probably 2004, when he hit .273/.317/.385 which still put him 19% below the league average hitter that season. Over the four year period we're looking at he hit .252/.302/.369, "good" for 28% below league average during those seasons. In summary, he was worth 56.6 runs less than the average batter.
Between 2003 and 2006, Ausmus was even worse. His best year was 2005 when he hit .258/.351/.331, which was 18% below league average that year. The other three season in this sample he was a consistent 43% below average each season. That's really bad. In total for these four years he hit just .241/.317/.307, putting him an awesomely bad 37% worse than the league average hitter over that period. In total, he cost the Astros 104.3 runs.
So, from 2003 to 2006, the Astros SS/C combo took about 161 runs off the board, or about 40 runs per season.
But offense is only half the game.
Defensive metrics are a bit trickier, and certainly not perfect, but they'll give us a rough idea of how many of those lost runs this pair of players were able to reclaim in the field.
Everett was unsurprisingly above average as a shortstop, and actually improved every year from 2003 to 2006. In 2006 alone he saved 31.7 runs compared to the average shortstop and totaled 81.3 runs saved over the four year period, nearly 30 runs better than the 2nd best shortstop over that period.
Though Ausmus' best defensive years came earlier in his career, he was still above average for the Astros over these four years. In total, he saved 32.5 runs according to Fangraphs. That may not paint the whole picture, though. One of the cutting edges in advanced statistical analysis right now is in pitch framing, which you may have heard about when the Astros traded for Hank Conger this past offseason. According to some reports, Ausmus may have been one of the best pitch framers in recent history. I can't find numbers for the entire four year run we're looking at, but in 2005 and 2006 alone, Ausmus' framing may have saved another 42 runs. Even if we assume those numbers are inflated, a safe estimate could be that he saved 10 runs per season by framing. Add that to his Fangraphs numbers, which don't include framing, Ausmus saved 72.5 from 2003 to 2006.
That puts our combo at about 154 runs saved from 2003-2006, let's say 38 per season.
Basic math says that 38 minus 40 is negative 2 runs per season, but just to be sure, I'll plug these numbers into a pythagorean wins calculator to see if a run saved is worth more, less, or the same as a run lost. By comparing our new pythag wins to the Astros actual pythag wins for those season we find that having a perfectly league average batter and fielder at each position would have actually cost the Astros about .5 wins per season. Not much, but not nothing, either.
Probably the best way to sum this up would be to say that the Astros neither gained nor lost anything in the standings by running out two horrible hitting but outstanding defensive players during the years of Ausmus and Everett.