Good lord, is this really the 4th time I’ve done end-of-season reviews already? It’s terrifying to think how much time I’ve spent writing this thing over the last three-plus years, and here we are again, needing to wrap a bow on the season by reviewing each player. Following in the footsteps of 2007, 2008, and 2009, each player gets a mention, meaning I’ll be deeply regretting that around the time I have to try to come up with something to say about Nick Green or Jack Taschner.
As usual, the letter grades here are completely arbitrary, and based only on what was a reasonable expectation of the player before the season began, not as a comparison to anyone else. That means that even though Carlos Monasterios is probably going to get an A as a Rule 5 pick who made it through the season without embarrassing himself, it certainly doesn’t mean I think he’s the best pitcher on the staff. Less than 10 IP or 50 plate appearances gets you an “incomplete”.
Special thanks should be noted here for M.Brown of the wonderful Left Field Pavilion, who lent me a hand with the baseball card templates. I’m also using the baseball-reference flavor of WAR, rather than FanGraphs, for no particular reason other than that I had to pick one.
Russell Martin (D-)
.248/.337/.332 .679 5hr 1.9 WAR
Since I happened to have the previous three years of reviews open for the links above, I figured I’d see just how far Martin has fallen. In 2007, it was “Amotherf***ingplus”. In 2008, it was C-, and last year it was an F. Ugh.
The fact that I’m bumping Martin back up from an F to a D- this year isn’t really an indication that he improved in 2010, unfortunately. It’s just that after two years of watching him decline, expectations for him had dropped far enough that basically repeating his mediocre 2009 wasn’t as disappointing as it was a year ago.
I’m not kidding when I say that his 2010 was more or less a repeat of his 2009, as his OPS (.680/.679), wOBA (.307/.306), and oWAR (1.4/1.5) were nearly identical over the two years. There a small positive in that both the numbers and the smell test indicated that his defense improved from 2009 to 2010, which is nice, but it was overshadowed by the continued lousy offense, the groin injury which cost him most of the spring, and the broken hip which cost him the last two months.
Despite all that, you’ll notice that his 1.9 WAR isn’t awful, and that’s directly due to the sorry state of catching in the big leagues right now; it actually put him 15th in MLB among C, which is squarely middle-of-the-road. However disappointed you were in Martin this year, half the league had to put up with even less production from behind the plate, particularly those who foolishly employed Bengie Molina, Jason Kendall, and Ronny Paulino.
If Martin weren’t coming off such a serious injury, you might be able to get past the dreadful lack of power (208th of 225 in SLG, ahead of Pierres, Figginses, Theriots, and Izturises) and accept average-ish catcher production. If he wasn’t going to make over $6m in arbitration this winter, you might be able to rationalize the risk of his rehab.
But the injury, plus the cost, plus the uncertain production, on a team with a tight payroll and subpar offense? Sorry, Russell. Smells like a non-tender to me.
A.J. Ellis (B)
.278/.363/.324 .687 0hr 0.6 WAR
I’ll be honest and say that I still have absolutely no idea what to make of A.J. Ellis. He started off the spring looking to be ABQ’s starter once again, until Martin hurt his groin and was expected to miss the first few weeks of the season. Ellis was then preparing to start the year as the Dodgers’ main backstop. In March, I put down some thoughts on how that would go:
Now, I like a guy who can take a walk, and for his career Ellis has shown that ability, walking 273 times against just 248 strikeouts. Here’s the problem he’s going to run into in the bigs, though: he has no power. Zero. Juan Pierre levels. Ellis has just 17 homers to his name over 7 years, which would be bad enough, except that he played the last two seasons in the hitter’s havens of Las Vegas and Albuquerque. ABQ turned Hector Luna into a .610 slugger last year, when he’d never been over .417 before, and it allowed Dee Brown to hit 19 HR, a number he hadn’t approached in nearly ten years. Ellis somehow didn’t hit a single homer down there last year, which seems absolutely impossible from a man who got 360 total plate appearances.
You might be saying, “well, he’s an emergency fill-in, we’re not looking for him to hit cleanup.” I’d agree with that. It’s just that it’s all well and good that Ellis can lay off the pitches of AAA retreads who are terrified of serving up a fat pitch at high altitude to rack up those OBP numbers. But what’s going to happen in the bigs? If he can’t hit a ball out of Albuquerque, pitchers at the big-league level are going to have nothing to fear from him. That means he’s going to be seeing a lot of strikes, and he’s shown no reason to think that he can do a lot of damage to those pitches in the zone.
Martin ended up making it back in time for Opening Day, and while Ellis ended up starting the year in the minors, that only lasted for about a week until he came up to replace the injured Brad Ausmus as Martin’s backup. By the time Ausmus returned in July, Ellis had done basically exactly what you’d expect: .208/.286/.224, with just one extra-base hit, a double. Of course, as I noted several times throughout the year, it’s hard to fault him too much because Joe Torre refused to ever play him, despite Martin hardly earning the right to play 110% of the time. Ellis got just four starts in April, and two in May. How are you supposed to get anything going with such inconsistent time like that?
When Ausmus returned, Ellis was sent back down once again, only to return two weeks later with Martin was injured. His August was much the same, going .217/.217/.261, before being sent back down yet again when Rod Barajas was acquired. But in his last game before being shipped out, on August 22, Ellis went 3-3 in a loss against the Reds. It was just his second multihit game of the year, but it was hardly his last.
When rosters expanded in September, Ellis came back up and immediately became the hottest Dodger hitter among a collection of ice-cold contemporaries, hitting .417/.533/.500 in 15 September games (12 starts). Most encouragingly, his trademark plate control returned, walking eight times against five walks.
This is why I have no idea what to make of him. Was this just a well-timed hot streak? A case of a guy merely needing some sustained playing time? It’s hard to think that a man with zero power (and clearly without the speed that sustains other punchless hitters, like Juan Pierre) can possibly be successful, though again the bar for catchers is set exceedingly low.
Ellis may have made a case to stick on next year’s roster with his hot September, but he does have (I believe) one more option remaining. You can never have too much catching depth, so having him as the #3 option down in AAA waiting for an opportunity wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. He has the most to gain or lose from a Martin tender or non-tender.
Brad Ausmus (D)
.222/.310/.254 .564 0hr -0.2 WAR
Well, this is easy enough. I wasn’t really enthused when Ausmus signed again for 2010, though I was resigned to it happening and didn’t think it was really worth getting all that upset over. Of course, he lasted all of one April game before heading to the DL to undergo back surgery.
To his credit, Ausmus took an injury that was supposed to keep him out for nearly the entire season and made it back to the bigs by July, though I wasn’t entirely thrilled by the idea of adding yet another lousy offensive catcher to the Dodger collection:
I have all the respect in the world for Ausmus, who’s known as a solid teammate and a future managerial candidate, but is that really going to be a good thing for the Dodgers? Ausmus (career .670 OPS) was obviously never much of an offensive force even in his prime, so you can imagine what he’s going to be like at 41 and coming off major back surgery.
That’s about what happened. Ausmus was predictably terrible (.551 OPS after returning), and actually admitted at the end of the year that he didn’t feel like he could play in the bigs anymore, a feeling he’d had in spring training before the injury.
Ausmus rides into the sunset with a solid career behind him, and a bright future ahead of him should he choose to pursue coaching or managing. I’d love to see him in a Dodger uniform again one day on the coaching staff, but I can’t act as though I’m not pretty happy that he won’t be on the active roster next year.
Rod Barajas (A)
.297/.361/.578 .939 5hr 0.9 WAR
Barajas is the first example of “letter grades are based upon what we thought the guy would do when the season started”, or in his case, upon his acquisition. As you might remember, I wasn’t exactly a big fan when he was claimed off waivers in August, though I did think he was a slight upgrade…
…and that should tell you a lot, because Rod Barajas is horrendous. He’ll be 35 in two weeks, and his laughably bad .263 OBP this year is actually not that far off his amazingly poor .284 career mark. He just missed a month with an oblique strain, and he’s hitting .163/.223/.221 since the end of May.
He’s also your new Dodger starting catcher, since they claimed him off waivers from the Mets today. That should tell you something as well; even though he’s got less than half of his paltry $500k salary coming to him, the Mets didn’t even work out a deal with the Dodgers. They just said, “fine. Take him.”
Of course, Barajas made a phenomenal impression as a Dodger, hitting three homers in his first five games. That includes one in his first home game as a Dodger, setting off a thousand human-interest stories delving into how Barajas was a lifelong Dodger fan and had always wanted to play for his hometown team.
This is all well and good – even I’m not going to be against a nice personal story, especially in the dying days of a lost season – and his hot bat was appreciated, coming as it did after two years of little from Martin and weeks of nothing from Ausmus. The problem here is that I can already see that casual fans have been fooled by Barajas’ debut into thinking that he’s an above average catcher, and he’s just not.
In his first five games as a Dodger, Barajas hit those three homers, and he had a .526 OBP. That’s a great start by a player looking to make a good impression on a new employer, but five games is hardly enough to overcome 11+ years of sustained mediocrity. True to form, in his next 20 games, he hit .250/.302/.396, which is a lot more like it.
Barajas turned 35 last month. He’s just not that good, and an incredibly well-timed week-long hot streak doesn’t change that. Now, it’s hard enough to find one decent catcher, much less two, so if you want to bring him back at the veteran minimum to back up Martin (or whomever) to add some much-needed pop off the bench, I can live with that. But if his nice week fooled people into thinking he can be the starting catcher on the 2011 club, then we’re all in big trouble.