We’re looking at four players today, and none of them are the guy originally signed to be the second baseman, Juan Uribe, or the guy most likely to have seen time there, Jamey Carroll, who we’ll talk about with the shortstops. Yeah, it was a hell of a season. On the other hand, the four second basemen we discussed last year at this time? Ryan Theriot, Blake DeWitt, Ronnie Belliard, and Nick Green. Yikes. Come back, Jeff Kent!
On the whole, Dodger second basemen – all seven of them – combined to finish 28th in MLB in OPS at .627, ahead of only the White Sox and Twins. Bleecccch.
So right off the bat we have one of the toughest grades of the year, Aaron Miles. On one hand, we expected absolutely nothing of him. Less than nothing, really, because when he was signed as a non-roster invite, I broke my own rule of never making a big deal over zero-cost NRIs, since every team signs dozens and few ever see the light of day:
I am constantly trying to reassure people that minor league contracts are never as big of a deal as they seem, and the inherent lack of risk makes them almost a no-lose proposition.
In this case, I’m not so sure, because Miles is atrociously bad. No, really; among players who have had as many plate appearances as Miles had since he debuted in 2003, only three players in baseball have been less valuable. It’s a special kind of “not valuable”, though. If you’re simply awful, you don’t get to stick around for that long. Miles has really hit the sweet spot of being bad enough to hurt his teams for years, yet not so bad that he gets outright drummed out of the game. It must be his A+ levels of “grit” and “scrap”.
So in the sense of, “was Aaron Miles one of the worst players to ever step on a baseball field,” as we expected, no: he was not. As Casey Blake, Rafael Furcal, and Uribe fell to injury, and as Ivan DeJesus either failed to pan out or wasn’t given a chance (depending on your perspective) Miles filled in ably enough at second and third, and was actually very, very good in June, leading the National League in batting average for the month. For a guy who was an afterthought at best and a joke at worst, he ended up being a useful enough cog for just about zero cost, and that alone creates value. I know the 0.1 WAR doesn’t seem like much, but when you consider that the options behind him might not have even been able to achieve that, it’s helpful. Sometimes, just showing up is half the battle, and so it’s here where we applaud Aaron Miles for being there when he was needed.
Here’s the thing, though: there’s a big difference between “wow, this guy gave us far, far more than we thought, and that’s awesome, even if it’s not really that much,” and “this is a guy who helps us win baseball games”, and Miles is most certainly the former. That fantastic June I mentioned, when he led the NL in average? Yeah, it was the only month all season where he wasn’t unspeakably awful:
Why the hits fell in during June when they fell in no other month, I cannot say, but this all added up to a wOBA that was in the bottom 15 of the entirety MLB. I suspect that part of his positive public image (aside, of course, from being the “gritty, scrappy, short white guy who plays hard”) is that his hot June pushed his batting average over .300, which is where it stayed for about two months before eventually settling in at .275. For those who look only at batting average, it was a nice number to see on the TV graphic every night, particularly as Uribe and others were disappointing us horribly. Obviously, there was little behind it in terms of on-base percentage, power, or defense, where he was passable at second base and cover-your-eyes awful at third.
Still, Miles deserves the B+ if only for how little we thought of him, and for being there when no one else was. Thanks for your service, Aaron. Hopefully if we see you next year, it’s when you’re visiting Los Angeles wearing the uniform of another team who foolishly gave you a two-year deal this winter.
Ivan DeJesus (inc.)
.188/.235/.188 .423 0hr -0.5 WAR
I’m not sure how you can see this season as anything but a massive disappointment for Ivan DeJesus. You’ve got the infield in tatters, you’ve got Aaron Miles getting nearly 500 plate appearances, you’ve got Eugenio Velez existing and taking up a roster spot for months, and you still can’t make an impression? Not good.
To be fair, it’s not like he got much of a chance; forced onto the Opening Day roster due to injuries, he received just seven starts in six weeks. Sent down in May, he got one cameo at-bat in June, and that was it for the season. That’s a bigger problem than it sounds like, because after not getting a September call-up in 2010, he didn’t get one again this year, seemingly bypassed on the depth chart by Justin Sellers. That doesn’t exactly shout “you’ve got a future here,” does it?
To his credit, he did have a decent enough year in ABQ, hitting .311/.389/.432 in that offense-friendly environment, but if he’s going to have a big-league career, it seems likely it’s going to be somewhere else.
Eugenio Velez (0-for-37)
.000/.075/.000 .075 0hr -0.7 WAR
Oh, holy good lord. How can I even make fun of Velez, record for consecutive hitless plate appearances or not? Just look at that picture. He looks like he’s twelve years old, and he plays ball like he has no arms or legs. He so clearly doesn’t belong in the big leagues that Don Mattingly even admitted as such.
Yet I can’t even rag on him. It’s not fun. Well, okay, it was fun when he first came up and actually started a game in left field, unless you’ve suddenly forgotten about “Baron Ironglove Von Pickoff“, and I did at one point advocate shooting him into the sun.
Seriously, I’m pals with several Giants writers on Twitter, and even with all of the garbage we went through this season, nothing seemed to give them more joy than the continuing trials and tribulations of Eugenio Velez. Think about that for a second. They’ve lived through the Eugenio Velez Experience, and it brings them joy to see him wearing the uniform of their most hated rivals.
I know he’s not really this bad… but I also can’t see a reason to ever have him back in Dodger Stadium ever again, even as an NRI. Or a bat boy. Or a ticket holder.
Juan Castro (inc.)
.286/.333/.286 .619 0hr 0.0 WAR
What can you even say about Castro at this point? He came back for yet another stint with the Dodgers, because of course he did. We laughed when he rejoined the team in May, and while he played in just seven games as a Dodger – none, surprisingly, at shortstop – he did play a part in one of the most unfortunate managerial moments of the season, with Clayton Kershaw sailing against the Giants:
Here’s where the problem comes in. Mattingly’s choices to hit for Kershaw, assuming you don’t want to waste the backup catcher that early, were Jerry Sands, Russ Mitchell, Tony Gwynn… and Juan Castro. None, I will grant, are great options. The clear choice is Sands, who has at least shown some extra base pop and is third on the team in doubles. You could argue for Gwynn, to get a lefty in there against the righty Cain.
But Mattingly chose Castro, and that’s where things went sideways. Castro is historically, unbelievably, amazingly atrocious. He owns one of the worst bats in major league history, and he’s 39 years old. He’s not even a lefty, which you might possibly have been able to argue. Yet that’s who Mattingly chose to hit with the bases loaded. Castro flew out, Carroll grounded out, and that threat was over. If you’re going to hit for the pitcher, that’s fine, but it’s pointless to waste Kershaw if you’re not even going to replace him with someone appreciably better. It’s no guarantee that Sands or Gwynn would have gotten the job done, but it was all but guaranteed that Castro would not. He didn’t, and with Kershaw gone, that’s how we ended up with Cormier in the ninth.
Good times. Castro finally retired in July to become one of Ned Colletti’s 486 special assistants, though he apparently ended up serving as a minor-league instructor. I’m still not convinced we won’t see him suit up again.