2012 Dodgers in Review #14: 3B Juan Uribe

October 31, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Posted in 2012 in Review, Juan Uribe | Leave a comment

.191/.258/.284 179pa 2hr 0.1 fWAR (booooooooo!)

2012 in brief: Huge disaster was actually somehow worse than his 2011 debut, though long stretches of weeks at a time where Don Mattingly absolutely refused to play him no matter what provided some small level of entertainment.

2013 status: Signed for $7m in final year of three-year deal, though I’m hoping it’s about as likely he suits up for the Dodgers in 2013 as it is that I do.

******

Sigh. I don’t want to write this, and you probably don’t really want to read it. At no point this season was Juan Uribe anything remotely resembling a major league ballplayer. (I award him no points, and may god have mercy on his soul.) Hell, our expectations couldn’t have been lower, mainly circling around, “well, he can’t possibly be as bad as he was last year, right?” and “well, at the very least he’s decent with the glove and he’ll be playing third base rather than second…” all the while realizing that any sort of rebound was unlikely:

That’s the bad news. Here’s the worse news: only two players in major league history who ever had an age-31 season as poor as Uribe’s or worse ever rebounded to be even a league-average offensive ballplayer again, and you’re not going to like who one of them is. It’s a list that’s littered with catchers and shortstops who could never hit in the first place, like Larry Cox, Kurt Manwaring, Dal Maxvill, and Willy Miranda, and who certainly never turned it around as they continued to age.

It got worse. He was so bad in spring that we had to nearly throw away our “spring stats don’t matter” rule when he had managed just five singles headed into the final week of March, a spring training which he finished off by doing this against Dan Haren in Anaheim:

Juan  Uribe falls swinging

Yeah, I’ve embedded that GIF a few times here. No, I don’t care: it’s awesome, and I love it. So by the time the season started, to say that we expected little from Uribe was an understatement. If anything, we were wondering if an infield comprised of James Loney, Mark Ellis, Dee Gordon, & Uribe might be the weakest in baseball. He didn’t alleviate that worry much by collecting one hit in his first 14 plate appearances, although with five multi-hit games in the month he did manage to end April at a not-completely-terrible .267/.313/.317, even if the highlight of his month was the sore wrist that kept him out for several days. (The fact that I’m not decrying a .629 OPS should really tell you all you need to know about his perception.)

The wrist problems continued, as he missed most of the first week of May. He rejoined the lineup on May 7, but made just five starts before finally succumbing to the wrist and landing on the DL. Uribe spent most of the next month on the sidelines, and shockingly we weren’t completely dreading his return.

That was a mistake. On June 22, after he’d gone a full year after hitting just a single homer, we ran down his placement on the “historically bad Dodgers” leaderboard. On July 3, he twisted his ankle in the most Juan Uribe way possible:

I don’t ever want to act as though someone getting injured is a positive thing, but… well, I don’t quite know how to end that sentence. Honestly, it’s not that Juan Uribe spraining his ankle last night is big news – he’s been injured several times as a Dodger already, and if anything a trip to the DL might save him from his regularly-scheduled vacation to DFA City – but it’s how he hurt himself that’s just poetic.

From Ken Gurnick’s game story:

The ankle is the latest, sustained as he made a baserunning error in the second inning. Uribe wasn’t watching third-base coach Tim Wallach hold up Loney at third on Scott Van Slyke‘s bloop single. Uribe was cut down overrunning second on the play and turned his ankle trying to stop.

I mean, that’s just fantastic. I couldn’t have even dreamed of such a scenario, because Uribe hurting himself while doing something stupid would have been so on-the-nose that you’d think it could never actually happen.

We expected that would land him on the DL, but it didn’t, and as the Dodgers ended the first half a few days later with Uribe taking an 0-for-31 skid and a .194/.250/.271 line into the break, we all wondered if we’d finally see the last of him given that Matt Kemp & Andre Ethier each needed spots after returning from injury.

Uribe survived, mainly to troll me by hitting his second and final homer of the season while I was in attendance against R.A. Dickey in New York on July 21. By this point, we were well into “why is Uribe still here” mode. When Hanley Ramirez was acquired, only Adam Kennedy‘s trip to the DL seemed to quiet the cries. When Shane Victorino arrived, pushing Jerry Hairston back to the infield, it was “let’s cut Uribe NOW please”. And on and on and on…

But what got fun is that even if Ned Colletti refused to dump Uribe, Don Mattingly did the best he could from the bench. Uribe started the day after that homer in New York, going 0-4. He didn’t start the next day, or the next day.. or any day for the next three weeks. By August 11, it had gotten beyond absurd:

I bring this up today partially because it’s a light topic on a Saturday, but also because today marks two months since Uribe’s return from his latest disabled list stint, on June 11. Since then, he’s somehow been worse than ever, ‘hitting” .129/.195/.243 over 77 plate appearances. Of course, what’s most interesting there is the fact that 77 plate appearances over two months is just barely more than one a day, and obviously the bulk of those came before Hanley Ramirez arrived and Jerry Hairston was pushed back to the infield by Shane Victorino. With Adam Kennedy now healthy, it’s quite possible we never see Uribe again.

We weren’t quite so lucky, because Uribe got back in the lineup on August 14. If anything, we were shocked at where in the lineup he was:

This is a real thing that’s happening: for the first time in more than three weeks, Juan Uribe is in the starting lineup tonight. He’s playing third base. And he’s hitting second.

<snip> But mostly, I’m trying to think of what universe one must have to live in to think that your team has a better chance to win tonight with Juan Uribe making outs ahead of Matt KempAndre Ethier, & Hanley Ramirez than having A.J. Ellis and his .393 OBP percentage there.

It’d be fascinating, if it weren’t so infuriating, and it’s difficult to understand the thought process. Perhaps it really is just trying to get Uribe started in front of Kemp. Or that putting Uribe in front of the pitcher would be too embarrassing when it became obvious that Chad Billingsley was a better hitter.

Uribe didn’t get a hit in Pittsburgh that day – of course he didn’t – and that was it. Uribe’s name never appeared in the starting lineup again; between that last start in New York in May and the end of the season, a span of over two months, Uribe got exactly one start.

But it went beyond just not starting. Mattingly had him absolutely nailed to the bench, and all the credit in the world to him for doing so. After that August 14 start in Pittsburgh, Uribe received exactly eight plate appearances over the rest of the season – seven weeks worth of play. He didn’t touch his glove after August 24. In the entire month of September, Uribe got into only a single game, pinch-hitting for Clayton Kershaw on September 23 (as I recall, we joked that we’d rather have had Kershaw at the plate).

To be honest, I’ve never seen anything like it. I can’t fault Mattingly for it, and once Uribe made it to the expanded rosters of September, you couldn’t expect Colletti to cut him at that point anyway. It became an ongoing joke, inasmuch as Uribe’s Dodger career isn’t already a joke anyway.

Uribe, for the moment, is still a member of the Dodgers. As we looked at recently, his contract is all but untradeable, given that he’s the third least-productive Dodger at the plate in team history over his amount of playing time. Considering the way Mattingly treated him down the stretch, I honestly cannot see a way in which he’s still on this roster come April.

******

Next up! Jerry Hairston!

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