Nationals Baseball: We Weren't Wrong: Pudge

Thursday, July 22, 2010

We Weren't Wrong: Pudge

Usually deals have upsides and downsides that make you hold off on passing judgment until you see some results. Other times deals are so obviously bad or good that you feel confident enough to declare it so before the ink dries on the contract. Pudge's deal was one of the latter types.

It's not that signing Pudge itself was terrible. The Nats had to hedge their bets with Flores' return in the hands of the Nats crack medical staff, but the deal was too expensive and too long. Remember, Pudge in 2009 signed a one-year deal for 1.5 million with Houston, and then proceeded to bat .251 /. 288 /.382 for them. The Astros, a team that put up with Brad Ausmus "batting" in the lineup for years, had enough and shipped him out to the Rangers, where Pudge hit a nearly identical .245 / . 279 / .388. Pudge's career was headed in one of three directions - (in order of increasing likelihoood), spot starter for a team loaded at every other position and in desperate need of someone to fill the catcher spot, defensive back-up, or retirement.

Yet here came the Nats with not a one-year, million dollar deal but a two year 6 million dollar deal. Getting terribly old and coming off the worst year of his career and the Nats essesntially gave him a raise. That's stupid bad and we all said so. But then came April.

Pudge hit like a madman in April, spraying the ball around and finding all the holes. He was hitting .413 by month's end, arguably his best offensive month since June of 2004. He was still hitting over .400 a week into May and thoughts were split between "maybe the Nats got lucky here" and "his .435 BABIp is just unsustainable". The winner? Well since then, through 3/4 of May, all of June and most of July, Pudge has hit .214 / .236 / .270. In short, since early May Pudge has possibly been the worst regular hitter in all of baseball.

Supporters early in the slump pointed to Pudge's "winning presence" helping the pitching staff and getting the Nats to .500. Now that .500 is in the rearview (I guess Pudge stopped caring?) all they have left to go to is his defense, which by all accounts is still good. But his offense is so bad that even peak Pudge would find it hard to make up for it with defense, let alone this one nearing 40. No the best argument for Pudge is that the current alternative is Wil Nieves, a player with all the hitting prowess of a 38 yr old Pudge and half the defense. Pudge is not the worst option now, so he needs to play, but that doesn't make the contract any more defensible, especially since it only seemed like a million dollars was keeping Orlando Hudson from landing here.

What's next for the Nats and Pudge? Prayers I guess. Prayers that he isn't as completely done as he seems and that he can pull out even a "just bad" .250 / .300 / .350 in his remaining time with the club. Prayers that the Nats don't let another free agent or draft pick walk away for the want of spending while Pudge earns a cool 3 million.


Hoo said...

I wonder what the bump in win shares and projected runs an average catcher would be or Jesus Flores. Take Flores 2008 roughly 250, 300 OBP and 400 slugging.

But Pudge Sub .200 July OBP as the #6 is a team killer. I think lineup is one of extremes. Either really good or really bad with maybe 2 average hitters (Desmond and Bernadina)

DezoPenguin said...

Doesn't help, either, that Willingham's been in a slump (kind of like how Dunn basically sat out April). Pudge is exactly the kind of guy you want as a backup catcher to a young up-and-comer like Flores: he's got the experience to be a mentor and help teach the younger catcher the ins and outs of the game, and he's a plus defender who can fill in now and again. He's just not worth starter money on a team with as many other holes as the Nats.

Mind you, it could be worse; I think the cash-to-value ratio for Guzman is way worse; at least Rodriguez can field his position well and is clearly better than the other available options.

In other news, did anybody else look at yesterday's performance by Livan and think, "This is someone the Cardinals could use"? St. Louis already has two genuine aces plus a hotshot rookie in Garcia, so they don't really NEED an Oswalt; a solid innings-eater with World Series experience like Livan is the kind of player that would plug up the back end of that rotation and at a much lower price in both prospects and cash salary. Plus snuffing out their top rival in their building makes a pretty good sales pitch...