December 9, 2009 at 8:28 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves
On Pinch-Hitting Specialists
Not a great deal of difference, but Player A is Greg Norton’s line as a PH in 2008 and Player B is Ross Gload’s line as a PH in 2009.
I only say this because the Braves were rumored to be in on Ross Gload at one time to be the team’s pinch-hitter extraordinaire, but he decided to sign with the Phillies instead. Being even slightly upset by this is a waste of emotion. Pinch-hitters are a dime a dozen and a team could do a lot worse than to let one of their kids do the job.
Greg Norton’s combined line the past 2 seasons:
I only bring this up to demonstrate the volatility of pinch-hitters. They don’t get enough PA’s for any of their rate stats to stabilize in a year and one is just as liable to have the best year ever for a PH as he is to do what Greg Norton did last year. These 163 PA’s that Norton amassed as a PH in the past two seasons probably more or less represents a magnified version of Norton’s fundamental skills. ~.750 OPS, low average, lots of walks and K’s, not much power. I’m not sure his fundamental on-base ability is over .400, but something like .245/.375/.375 seems about right.
You know what, if Norton had hit .245/.375/.375 in each of the past two seasons, instead of .316/.473/.526 in 2008 and .162/.360/.191 in 2009, we may be sitting here right now and viewing the proposition of bringing Greg Norton back as a pinch-hitting specialist on a 1-year deal as a no-brainer. Hell, there could even be market competition for his services. He could get 7-figures guaranteed.
Just as it would be now, just as it was last year, and just as it always will be, that would be stupid. It should be a no-brainer not to bring these kind of players back, regardless of whether they hit .316/.473/.526 or .162/.360/.191 as a PH the previous year, because players like this shouldn’t be on major-league rosters. Old dudes with zero bat speed who were never fantastic hitters to begin with, the only reason they’re even considered useful is their reputation as a “clutch hitter” or “pinch hitter” or their “pinch-hitting experience”, bring nothing to the table that a 26-year-old fringy C- hitting prospect doesn’t. While the fringy prospect burns options in AAA, the big club pays a veteran who just can’t seem to hang up the spikes decent money to struggle not to whiff at average fastballs.
Instead, they could be saving money (to spend on useful players’ salaries or the draft or the international market or a monthly steak dinner to boost morale or a new cheesy commercial or whatever) and letting a young player with some upside learn something and get better while performing the exact same job (and often more) and being just as productive (and often more).
The Braves should have no business acquiring players like Ross Gload and Greg Norton. Ross Gload is not a good hitter. He’s barely good enough to be on a 40-man roster at this point. Greg Norton is not a good hitter. He’s barely good enough to be on a 40-man roster at this point. They’re basically the exact same player. In fact, here is a complete list of baseball-related things that Ross Gload is better at Greg Norton at:
1) Being 3 years younger.
2) I suppose Gload brings a bit more to the table defensively than Norton, but his career fielding numbers aren’t exactly glowing either.
Considering how awful Greg Norton was, you’d want his replacement to be better than him at a slightly higher number of things, they could also stand to be more relevant.
Look, I’m with ya. Greg Norton sucks. I don’t want him back, either. But that doesn’t mean the Braves need to go dumpster diving for his replacement. There are plenty of young, viable options with upside in the system or elsewhere, including those non-tendered before December 13.
Signing a veteran pinch-hitter is a waste of cash. They may turn in year like Greg Norton did in 2008 or they may turn in a year like Greg Norton did in 2009. The numbers of a pinch-hitting specialist are going to be inherently volatile, that’s the way the system is set up. Given that and the fact that it’s relatively easy to replicate the production from within or for next to nothing, sinking any additional resources into this area of a team is a bad decision more times than not.