When we look back on Juan Rivera‘s 2012, how are we going to define success? Will it be WAR? wOBA? The team’s win/loss record? For me, it might be as simple as “is he going to get through the season without being DFA’d”, since I’ve been notably down on the idea of expecting him to be some sort of offensive force based on the one good month he had in 2011.
“The guy we had at the end is the guy we are going to need,” Mattingly said. “But then we needAndre [Ethier] to be healthy, we need Juan to be a run producer, more of a 80-90 RBI guy. We’re going to need all that for us to be in it.”
At first I thought: “He’s actually expecting Juan Uribe to hit up to 90 runs batted in?” It’s never happened in his 11-year career.
But recognizing that Mattingly might be manager-like optimistic but is also rational, I then realized he was talking about Juan Rivera.
Now, Rivera has never had 90 RBIs in a single season, either. His best two marks were 85 in 2006 and 88 in 2009, both for the Angels.
Of course, we know better than that, right? If Rivera ends up with 80-90 RBI, that’s not going to tell us anything about how productive he was this season. What that would do is tell us a whole lot about how productive the guys hitting directly ahead of him – likely to be Dee Gordon, Mark Ellis, Matt Kemp, and (sometimes) Andre Ethier – are, because that’s all RBI really is. It’s a measure of how often your teammates hook you up with runners to drive in, and little more.
Need some examples? In 1990, Joe Carter was 30 years old and playing his only season in San Diego. He hit an abysmal .232/.290/.391, good for an 85 OPS+. He was worth -1.4 rWAR. On both offense and defense, he was actively hurting the Padres for most of the season. Yet since he was hitting cleanup behind Bip Roberts (.375 OBP) and two Hall of Famers in Roberto Alomar (.340 OBP) & Tony Gwynn (.357 OBP) he collected 115 RBI, which even garnered him some downballot MVP support, despite doing little to put wins on the board.
Hell, Rivera has seen this up close. As a member of the 2004 Montreal Expos, he watched the execrable Tony Batista hit .241/.272/.455, good for a mere 80 OPS+ and 0.0 rWAR. Though Batista did hit 32 homers, he also had the pleasure of spending most of the year hitting behind Brad Wilkerson (.374 OBP) and Jose Vidro (.367 OBP). Despite the power numbers, Batista didn’t play in the bigs in 2005 and was out of baseball at 33 after being released by the Twins and Nationals. Rivera, on the other hand, had a very nice .304/.364/.465 line in the last season of baseball in Quebec, but had only 49 RBI because he spent his season batting behind… wait for it… Tony Batista.
So yeah, I hope Rivera gets his 90 RBI too. But that’s not because it’ll mean a damn thing about how Rivera is doing, it’s because if he does, that means Gordon & Ellis are doing their job and getting on base. If they do, and Kemp, Ethier, & Rivera have men on to drive in, this offense could actually show some life. If they don’t, we’re going to be seeing a lot of 2-1 losses, and Juan Rivera’s RBI total is going to be the least of our problems.
Speaking of Rivera, he’s gone one less competitor for playing time, since Jerry Sands was officially sent to the minor-league camp today. This was a move we’d been expecting for some time, so it doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Sands had been struggling so badly in camp that I can’t even really argue with this, especially since Sands himself has said that he’s had trouble keeping his rebuilt swing consistent. He’ll go to Triple-A, hopefully mash for a while, and then return at some point in May when Rivera gets hurt (or doesn’t have enough RBI, I suppose).
That means we’re down to Josh Fields, Justin Sellers, Trent Oeltjen, Cory Sullivan, and Luis Cruz for that final spot. (Fields started in place of Juan Uribe at third base today because of, well, this.) I refuse to believe that Cruz has a prayer, and Oeltjen & Sullivan seem unlikely as well. It really comes down to Fields or Sellers, and that probably depends on whether the club thinks that Jerry Hairston‘s throwing problems are behind him. I think the team would probably prefer to hang onto Fields, though Sellers has the advantage of already being on the 40-man roster.
In other roster news, Blake Hawksworth was moved to the 60-day DL to make room on the 40-man roster for Jamey Wright. Hawksworth has been having difficulty in his recovery from elbow surgery and hasn’t even begun throwing yet, so it’ll be quite some time before we see him back in Los Angeles.
Don’t forget that this is a big, big week for the ownership process, with Frank McCourt due to name his selection by Sunday. MLB is currently conducting a call to approve the three remaining groups, with each expected to pass as little more than a formality. Once they do, McCourt will begin his selection process tomorrow, and we could really learn the winner at any point after that. This ESPN report notes that each of the bids (between $1.4b and $1.6b) do include the parking lots, which is fantastic, though note that just because they’re asking for them does not mean McCourt is obligated to include them.
Last, but certainly not least, congratulations to Eric Stephen of TrueBlueLA for getting approved to have a full media credential this year. Not only is it richly deserved on his part, but it’s also good to see the Dodgers being so forward-thinking as to even consider giving a blogger that sort of access.