Now I've taken some heat from some saber fans because I believe in the intangibles but I think that's because I'm misunderstood. I don't understand many of the sabermetrics but I'm open minded and when someone into them explains something that could be a potential problem I can buy into it.
But there are simply too many players throughout the history of all sports, who have acknowledged on an individual level mental toughness and on a roster level chemistry, for me to deny it's existence.
However, especially in baseball where they play 162 games a season and usually six days a week, I believe talent out weighs all other factors and if a sabermetic fan can prove through advanced numbers who has the most talent then I'm all for that player.
So for me where do the intangibles come into play, in two scenarios; 1) When all else is equal between the players being considered I think the players personality along with the clubs overall team chemistry should be taken into account. 2) When a player of greater talent under preforms based on personality and a player of inferior talent consistently over preforms and makes the gap between the two players negligible.
But I would never infer the idea of obtaining an inferior player because the team needs the intangibles that the player is perceived to provide, once Francoeur showed himself to be a .230ish hitter and Beltran had returned, I would not advocate playing Frenchy over Pagan to keep clubhouse chemistry.
I start this post by defining my stance on the intangibles because once again I'm hearing a lot of fans talking about gritty players, specifically David Eckstein at 2B. I hope we can do better in-house then a 36 y/o, .260 hitter who has always had to windup to throw the ball, but Eckstein's face is in the dictionary next to baseball grittiness.
I think if all things talent wise are equal amongst the in-house 2B candidates, then we have a young gritty player instead of signing a 36y/o, aging, injury risk player.
Here is what I see amongst the 2B candidates;
Forget Luis Castillo's negative intangibles he is simply injury prone at this stage in his career which is limiting his range and offensive production, Castillo would not be on this team 6MM is an eatable contract.
I would ask my saber friends does Dan Murphy's projected offensive output outweigh his defensive runs allowed or would Ruben Tejada's defense outweigh his lack of offensive production.
But the one player who hasn't been mentioned who could provide the grittiness that many fans want from Eckstein but would also provide a negligible difference from Tejada's defense and Murphy's offense is Justin Turner.
While he hasn't had much publicity the team knows him very well, Obie was his manager in AAA and now in winter ball, Wayne Krivsky has had him in Cincy, Baltimore and now NY.
Now you won't find Turner on a top prospect list unless it goes past 20, but since he was drafted he's received honorable mentions with three different clubs.
Despite being an All-American and leader of College baseball powerhouse Cal Fullerton (source ESPN U) in their successful College World Series Championship, he wasn't drafted until the 7th round by the Reds in 2006. In a funny piece from last year Adam Rubin reports on Chris Carter and Justin Turner playing each other in the CWS (source ESPN NY). By 2008 one Reds blog ranked him their #23 prospect with this to say...
Justin Turner is a grinder who gets every last drop out of his athletic ability. Unfortunately, his ability and upside are limited, but he's got the drive and work ethic to be successful. source Redlegs baseball
Most know at least this much about Justin, that he was part of a trade for Ramon Hernandez which is how he ended up going from Cincy to Baltimore. Two years later his Reds GM, Krivsky would recommend the Mets claim him off waivers after Baltimore tried to slip him through, Krivsky had also been an advisor in Baltimore the same year Turner was there (2009).
At the time of his trade to Baltimore minor league guru Jonathan Mayo called Turner a "Baseball Rat" in the below linked article Mayo describes Turner's defensive/offensive abilities and then concludes with the following;
Known as "Red" because of his hair color, Turner is the type of player whose individual tools don't grade out well. But most feel he'll be a big leaguer because his intangibles are off the charts and he's the type of player who does whatever it takes to win and maximize his talent. source MLB.comMayo describes him defenisvely as a smart player that positions well to make up for range and his arm is best suited for 2B, as a hitter he's a patient contact hitter. He's only had 35 AB in the majors ( most in a season was 12 AB) over three seasons with the Mets and Orioles in which he hit .119.
However, his minor league offensive numbers are consistent and impressive, overall in five minor league seasons he has a BA of .309 with an OBP .373. In two AAA seasons he hit .309, one season in AA .289, two seasons in A+ .301, A ball one season .311 and rookie ball .338.
By the way if you want more on Turner there is a blog dedicated to him. Eckstein never played a major league game until he was 26y/o, Turner turns 26 during this season.