.273/.342/.387 267pa 4hr 1.5 fWAR B
2012 in brief: Well-traveled veteran filled in capably at second, third, and left field despite missing time with a hamstring injury and requiring season-ending surgery on his hip in August.
2013 status: Signed for $3.75m in final year of two-year contract.
Taken on its own merits, I don’t have a big issue with this signing. Hairston’s a useful enough piece, one who adds flexibility to a bench with his ability to play six positions with varying degrees of success, and on a team with so many questions in the infield, that flexibility will likely come in handy. His offensive performance has been all over the place – OBP of .384 in 2008 and .344 in 2011, but also .315 in 2009 and .299 in 2010 – but that’s generally to be expected from a bench piece, since you’re not acquiring him to be a starter. He’s being paid to generate about 1.5 WAR over the life of the contract, and since he put up 1.2 fWAR last year and 1.5 in 2010, it seems like he could at least earn the value. I don’t like the second year of the deal, though I admit that it was likely he’d have received that from someone else. (And, not that I care about this type of thing as much as some, he seems really excited to join the Dodgers, at least according to these quotes that SBNation‘s Amy K. Nelson collected.)
Oh, I’m not just talking about the fact that looks pretty accurate now, after the fact. I’m happy because that quickly devolved into another discussion of just what the hell the point of Adam Kennedy was. (A conversation which we revisited again months later.)
Seriously though, Hairston proved to be a valuable piece as he got off to a great start, just like the rest of the team. (Though not like umpire Tim Welke, who called Hairston out on May 2 in Colorado on what may be the worst call in the history of sports.) After a three-hit game in Chicago on May 4, Hairston was hitting .327/.421/.490 (albeit in just 58 plate appearances), having made starts at second, third, and left. Two days later, the headline picture on this site was of Hairston being helped into the dugout at Wrigley Field after injuring his hamstring trying to beat out an infield hit. Which, of course he was.
Hairston missed nearly three weeks and then returned as the team’s primary third baseman, collecting nine hits in his first four games (three starts) back. As May turned into June, Hairston shifted to second with Mark Ellis down, making each of his 22 starts in May at the keystone, and continued hitting well, topped by a massive game on June 9 in Seattle:
So, anything stand out here?
Jerry Hairston had himself something of a day, driving in five of the first six Dodger runs and scoring the other. The five runs batted in were not only a career high, they were the most by any Dodger since Matt Kemp also drove in five last July against Arizona.
Unfortunately for Hairston, it was all downhill from there. In 116 plate appearances up to and including that Seattle game, he had a line of .366/.435/.525 (along with a .389 BABIP). Immediately following, he went hitless in his next 26 plate appearances, hitting only .204/.272/.285 over the remaining 151 PA of his season. If he’d flipped those two halves exactly and ended up with the same season totals as he did, I’m guessing that people wouldn’t be quite as positive about his season. As we’ve been over so many times, nice first impressions count for so much more than they should, simply because you see that nice batting average on the screen every single night.
By July, Ellis was back and Hairston was seeing most of his time in left field and at third base, where his defense had become an increasing issue. Pushed exclusively back to third base by the acquisition of Shane Victorino, Hairston played only seven games in August before calling it a season thanks to a serious hip injury which later required surgery, opening the door for Luis Cruz to play every day.
Despite Hairston’s contributions, he played in only 78 games thanks to the multiple injuries, and while he’s expected to be ready for 2013, it’s hard to say that all of this doesn’t sound a little terrifying:
The procedure is arthroscopic, but not minor. His left leg was placed in traction to separate the leg from the hip far enough for arthroscopic tools to enter the joint. The torn labrum was repaired and an irregularity in the head or neck of the femur that caused the impingement was shaved to allow for smooth rotation in the joint. When the ball and socket don’t fit properly, friction tears the labrum.
Hairston also admitted that he’d been feeling pain in the area since May, and while the argument can be made that this is what caused his decreased productivity – I don’t doubt it had an impact – I’d say that when you read quotes like this…
“I tried to fight through it and not tell anybody, but my play started to be erratic. It was affecting my throws. I couldn’t plant my legs. My swing, I had no bat speed. At that point I felt I was hurting the team and I couldn’t live with myself hurting the team, not the way I was playing.”
…it’s just infuriating. Every year, you get players trying to be tough and playing through pain, and all you end up with are worse performances and more serious injuries that may have been avoided. Have we learned nothing?
Looking ahead towards 2013, the Dodgers appear to be thinking of Hairston more as an outfielder, according to Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times, though I imagine that might depend more on how the winter shopping shapes the roster than anything. Let’s not forget, this is a thing that happened when Hairston played outfield this season (via Chad Moriyama):
All in all though, a decent enough season from a useful enough player with a contract that didn’t look that bad when it was signed and isn’t a burden now. Assuming the Dodgers can stay healthy enough that Hairston isn’t needed as an everyday player, he’ll be a nice multi-positional piece for 2013.
Next up! At least we know who Elian Herrera is now!