Before we get into left field, I think I need to reiterate our grading scheme here, both because I’ve seen some misunderstandings in the comments and because it’s going to be more important for our left fielders than anyone. The letter grades are A) subjective, meaning they’re based on no statistical work and are only my own feeling, and B) based on reasonable expectations for a player before the year. So just because I gave Russell Martin an F doesn’t mean that I think he should be unemployed, just that he had a terrible year based on what we expected from him. If A.J. Ellis had to play every day and put up the exact same line, he’d probably get a A for it. Got it? Good. Let’s move on to what are sure to be our hardest grading decisions…
Manny Ramirez (D)
(.290/.418/.531 19hr 63rbi)
How do you even grade a year like this? Well, I’ll tell you how I’m not going to grade it – I never expected him to match his 2008 Dodger numbers, which were completely unsustainable and would only have constituted the greatest season in baseball history if held up over a full season, and I’m not going to worry about some of the standard themes we keep hearing of “betrayal”. There’s no question that Manny’s an idiot, but if you were somehow surprised that one of the best home run hitters of the 1990s and 2000s was using a little something extra, then it’s time to pull your head out of the sand. Besides, where’s the outrage over Guillermo Mota? Exactly.
No, we’re going to judge Manny based on his on-the-field performance for the Dodgers in 2009, not based on what gets Kurt Streeter’s panties in a twist. It’s in that sense that Manny gets a huge demerit for being unavailable for 50 games, and then a bit more for the fact that while he was still good, he wasn’t exactly “vintage Manny”. He’s earned every part of that D. That said, despite his stupidity and the embarrassment he caused the team in 2009, I just can’t give an F to a guy who (if he’d had enough plate appearances to qualify) would have finished 9th in MLB in OPS – ahead of Mark Teixeira, Ryan Braun, Miguel Cabrera, and Alex Rodriguez. So for everything that he did do wrong this season, let’s not go overboard with the “Manny’s unemployable without steroids”, okay?
Let’s look a little deeper into Manny’s season to see if that assertion holds up, splitting it into five sections.
1) Opening Day (4/6) -> Suspension (5/6): .348/.492/.641 1.133
Vintage Manny. Better than his career average, actually, so pretty damned good. I can already hear the squawking that “he was still on the juice!”, but don’t forget: he failed his test in Spring Training – and that for a masking agent, not the actual thing - so while he may have still been on the ride at this point, he was hardly shooting up before games.
2) Suspension (5/7 -> 7/2)
Dick. No question about it. Dick. Not only for “letting us down”, if you feel personally offended, but by robbing the team of its best bat for six weeks – and by adding insult to injury by subjecting us to Juan Pierre during that time. Dick.
3) Return (7/3) -> HBP from Homer Bailey (7/21): .333/.429/.688 1.116
His slightly lower OBP was offset by a bump in SLG, equaling nearly the same OPS as he had before the suspension. I don’t remember anyone complaining that he was no good clean during these two weeks, right?
4) Playing with injured hand (7/22 -> 8/28): .264/.366/.400 .766
Despite constant refusals to admit that taking Bailey’s mid-90s heater off his hand was an issue, Manny was clearly not the same player here. Still, no player ever admits that they’re injured, and if this was related to the juice, he’d have been playing like this as soon as he returned, right? Besides, once he’d had a few weeks since the HBP, presumably healing his hand…
5) End of season stretch (8/29 -> 10/3): .241/.400/.517 .917
…his OBP and SLG perked right up. Granted, the batting average isn’t great. Fortunately, we all know better than to rely on batting average as any sort of indicator, and a .917 OPS is still top 20 if he’d put that up over the entire season.
So yeah, Manny’s a jerk. An asshole, even, if you must, and wildly overpaid both this year and next as compared to his production. No doubt. I might not even mind it all that much if he declines his 2010 option (like that’s ever going to happen), but let’s not act as though he’s David Eckstein now, okay? I think what you’re going to see next year is a Manny who’s not only in a contract push, but one who’s had his pride and reputation severely wounded, with all the motivation in the world to overcome that.
Or, he’ll do something else stupid (and no, Plaschke, the “going into the shower” non-story doesn’t count), not hit, and we’ll boo the hell out of him. Whichever.
Juan Pierre (A)
(.308/.365/.392 0hr 31rbi 30sb)
Nope, that’s not a typo. Perpetual MSTI whipping boy Juan Pierre gets an A. But don’t read too much into it, because it’s not due to the fact that he “carried the team” while Manny was out, which we heard far too many times from clueless announcers on other teams and national broadcasts. See, what they always convieniently forget to mention is that while Pierre was actually very good for the first few weeks of starting (even earning his own post here dedicated to his nice play and improved plate discipline), he was worse than ever after that. Of course, most of the media was so involved in the “feel good story” to notice, but the stats make it pretty clear:
This is a pretty common misconception, because if you remember what actually happened:
So if by “such a great job” you mean “had a killer hot streak for less than half of Manny’s absence and was worse than ever for the majority of it,” then yes – great job.
It’s worth nothing that while the Dodgers were 13-7 while he was going good, they were just 16-14 when he was killing the offense. So no, Pierre did not “carry the team” or “save the offense” by stepping in for Manny; he combined a very good stretch with an even longer very bad stretch.
Still, those few weeks were great, and that’s about a few more good weeks than I ever expected from him. So there’s your A. Now let’s get back towards trying to trade him this offseason.
Next! Matt Kemp’s breakout year! Jason Repko’s last hurrah! Xavier Paul’s creepy infection! It’s center field!