Photo & Article by Eric Notti - Angelswin Columnist
Our 3rd baseman hit 3 home runs last year and everyone seems to be happy with that. Well, almost everyone. Just in case you have all forgot, the position is actually made for a player with a high slugging percentage and not a leadoff hitter. Most of the league profits in their offensive attack putting a player with a higher rate of home runs and RBI potential at that position. The Angels have not managed that for the last 4 years.
In the last 4 years the total production of home runs coming from the Angels designated 3rd base starter has been 21. Of those Dallas McPherson hit 8. Does that shed a little more light on what an offensive black hole has been created out of that position? 13 third basemen, individually last year, hit more home runs than the Angels have mustered in 4 years.
Even with last years anomalous season, Figgins’ career OPS is .754, which would rank him about 16th in baseball as a 3rd baseman. 3 home runs and only 24 doubles with 6 triples made Figgins one of the least effective 3rd baseman in terms of contributing to driving in runs. In fact, even with his career high in batting average, he was at his career low in RBIs at a modest 58. That is less than half of the runners Mike Lowell knocked in for Boston.
Looking at the bigger picture, even though he was second in the league in batting average for 3rd basemen, with only 3 home runs he was ranked tied for the 46th worst in baseball. His slugging percentage ranks him 14th in both leagues. His RBI totals rank him 23rd in baseball. And this was his career year in all categories.
Where his speed should have been a factor he ended up tied for 19th with Scott Rolen for doubles. Did I just say Scott Rolen the washed up has been from St.Louis nobody wants? Figgins’ career average for doubles is 24, the same as what he hit last year on a tear. His career triples have steadily decreased since 2004 from 17, 10, 8 and 6 last year. Even his stolen bases are on the decline, he seems to be slowing down.
We have a conundrum in Figgins, he can't hit the long ball, he does not have the hitting skills or power to place in the middle of the lineup where is position is supposed to hit. We can't move him without displacing Kendrick; he is not skilled enough of a fielder to play short. Matthews’ home run production and defensive skills invalidates him from playing left.
But what is so bad about Chone playing 3rd, you ask?
So far the lineup next year we have no additional support for slugging percentage at 2nd and short stop just got much worse with Eric Aybar. Expecting 15 home runs out of Kendrick and close to same out of Kotchman who has not developed any true power attributes nets us little. Replacing Aybar with Woods could culminate in 20 more but does that really solve the power outage problem?
Not necessarily, even if that is factored into the lineup you notice that there is no consistent threat to force pitchers to respect Vlad enough to pitch to him. What pitcher wouldn’t risk walking Vlad if the guys book ending him have no resume of being long ball hitters? There is a trickle of home runs from many sources but no one singular source that makes a true 1-2 combo punch in the order.
So in essence with Figgins on third we really do not start the season with anyone on the corners or up the middle that can provide any additional support to Vlad. They are all table setters but none are real designated RBI guys. That is a problem, not necessarily for the 162 game season where consistent average play wins more often than not, bit more for the post season where the 3 run bomb changes the face of a series.
So where is the real value of Figgins playing in a power hitter’s position? In other industries you would not place a riveter in a welder’s position and say he has done a fine job for a riveter. You would say he is in the wrong place using the wrong tools, get a damn welder.