Archive for the ‘Jon Heyman’ Category

Seriously, What’s the Deal with Ecks?

May 28, 2009

Within a really bizarre column about the Padres (Part 1: the Padres are rebuilding and should trade their best player; Part 2: the Padres are awesome!!!!1!), Jon Heyman gives us GM Kevin Towers’ take on the team’s recent ten-game winning streak:

The two things that Towers pointed to on behalf of the Padres, whose payroll is a puny $46 million…: 1) There is no quit in them; and 2) David Eckstein is on their roster.

“A lot of it has to do with David Eckstein,” Towers said.

“There’s no quit in this team” is one of those things that baseball people just have to say. I think it’s in the standard-form contract. But the second one caught me a little off-guard.

Now, people have been saying this kind of thing about Eckstein since at least 2002. He’s a gamer, he’s gritty, he’s got heart, he plays the game the right way, and all that. It was the brilliant FJM guys’ favorite topic to be hilariously mean about.

But, as ridiculous as it was, I think it became one of those situations where Eckstein was so overrated he was underrated. The guy could get on base at a pretty good rate, and could field a little (as long as he didn’t have to throw it too far), and there’s something that’s just fun about watching such a comically undersized player try so hard. So I could almost understand, it, even while I kind of hated it.

Now, though, at 34 years old? He’s hitting (through Tuesday) .226/.305/.303. He has no power at all and plays half his games in the most pitcher-friendly park in baseball, and yet he’s hitting fly balls a near-career-high 37% of the time (a very high 21% of those don’t even leave the infield). Where a few years ago he was playing an average to above-average shortstop, he’s now limited to second base, where he’s average at best. Over the last two seasons, he’s been essentially a replacement-level player.

As I said in my big ramble a few days ago, I do believe that “intangibles” such leadership exist and have an effect or some kind (I just don’t see the point of spending much time thinking about them). But I really don’t think they have the kind of effect that can make a replacement-level player the reason that your team has won ten games in a row. Especially when, during that winning streak, that player hit .133/.212/.167. Yeah, that’s right. They won ten in a row while getting a .379 OPS from their second baseman. And he’s the biggest reason they won those games.

So what is it that the Ecks has been contributing to these wins?

he is a guy who will do whatever it takes to win, including in the last few days taking a 97 mph Brian Wilson fastball in the gut (he took another one in the arm last night in the middle of their ninth-inning threat), faking out a baserunner and hanging in on a DP while getting rolled over. Eckstein is the best $850,000 anyone spent this winter.

Ugh. So two HBPs have contributed to that big .305 OBP? Awesome. And that last sentence there? Wow. I mean, really. So he does all those things, and that’s great, but don’t you think that managing even seven hits rather than four in those ten games (which would’ve raised his BA from .133 all the way to .233) could have had at an impact too?

Now, to be fair, this is all Heyman talking, not Towers. We can hope that Towers’ answer to the initial question was, “well, we’re getting pretty lucky, and Adrian Gonzalez is hitting the crap out of the ball, and Scott Hairston is playing out of his mind, and Jake Peavy, and…” (and then Heyman presses him to say something about Eckstein) “oh, yeah, um, sure, I guess, a lot of it has to do with David Eckstein.”

It’s not looking that good for Towers, though:

“When you have a player like that, it becomes contagious,” Towers said. “He sets the standard. He’s so fricking intense. And he has the best in-game instincts I’ve ever seen.”

Wouldn’t you think that the guy with the best in-game instincts ever would be able to hit a little, or find his way on base in some way, or field particularly well, or steal bases, or something? Shouldn’t those instincts turn into something that’s, you know, tangible?

Ugh again. So, really, what is it with this guy? It must be that adorable little impish grin.

Yeah, it’s the adorable little impish grin. Right?