2012 in brief: Injury-prone veteran – wait for it – got injured and missed about six weeks, but generally provided quality defense and adequate offense.
2013 status: Will earn $5.25m in final year of two-year deal and is likely to return as starting second baseman.
You know, it’s interesting. I can’t really say Ellis was good, you know? His .313 wOBA was merely tied for 16th with Omar Infante among all second basemen with 450 or more plate appearances, and that’s hardly something to be proud of. He was particularly troublesome after returning on July 4 from Tyler Greene‘s attempt to destroy his leg, hitting only .251/.314/.364 in 310 plate appearances, which is actually pretty lousy.
Yet… B. That’s for a few reasons, I think. First, his defense was as good as advertised, topping second basemen in UZR/150, and while I’m well aware of the difficulties in existing defensive metrics, I think we can all agree that it passes the sniff test. Second, it’s hard to ignore how much of a mess the position was when he was out, as the team attempted to patch with various combinations of Adam Kennedy, Jerry Hairston, Elian Herrera, and sometimes even Ivan De Jesus. And finally… well, remember how poor he was in 2011 (.288 OBP between Oakland & Colorado) and how little we thought of him when he was signed:
Mark Ellis is coming off a .288 OBP and is the proud owner of a better wOBA than Jamey Carroll exactly one time going back to 2006, yet he’s going to pull down about a million dollars more per season than the Carroll contract we didn’t even particularly like. Ellis was once a solid player with some pop, hitting double-digit homers each year between 2005-09, but that’s declined precipitously as he’s aged and been injured, averaging 33.5 days on the disabled list over the last four seasons. (h/t to pal Jay Jaffe on that stat.) Ellis is pretty one-dimensional now, since he doesn’t get on base well, doesn’t have a lot of power, and only has real value in his defense. Age and injuries – particularly leg injuries, which is what Ellis has had – can do a lot to diminish an infielder, so if Ellis suffers even a little with the glove, that’s going to make him a trouble spot, quickly.
Ellis wasn’t able to avoid the leg injury, of course, but he did manage to prove his toughness by coming back in only about six weeks after the injury that was reported at the time to have nearly cost him the leg entirely. Despite that, he didn’t lose any effectiveness in the field and showed at least a mild improvement in his on-base skills over 2011, and so it’s hard to argue with a three-win player at second base, particularly when Carroll fell apart in Minnesota.
I’ll admit that I carry some of the same concerns into 2013, as Ellis heads into his age-36 season, and again, wasn’t that great. But honestly, I think I’d be a lot more okay with it if the roster can be constructed in such a way so that Ellis doesn’t have to hit first or second in the lineup – because that’s what second basemen do, you know – since as a solid-glove #7 type, he’s fine. It’d also be nice if they could find a platoon partner who could help ameliorate his inability to hit righty pitching (.612 OPS vs .877 against lefties), though somehow I doubt Don Mattingly will see him as a platoon player.
Still, all in all a successful season given expectations. Except, I feel like I’m forgetting something. What was it…?
Oh, right. That.