Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Well, we have signed Shea Hillenbrand to be our DH.

This is Juan Rivera insurance. Rivera will be undergoing surgery for his broken leg and we still don't know how long he'll be out.

What would the difference between Hillenbrand and Rivera be, over a full season (say, 600 plate appearances)?
    Batting Runs Above Average
per 600 PA
Rivera Shea
2003 + 1 -6
2004 +14 +5
2005 - 3 +6
2006 +23 -8
Average + 9 -1
Wtd Avg +12 -1
Over a full season, it looks like the difference between RubenJuan and Hillenbrand is close to a win, maybe a bit more. Remember, however, that's just looking at the offense. There's another cost here, and that's on defense; Juan Rivera figured to get a lot of time on the corner outfield positions, giving Garret and Vlad rests, while providing a defensive advantage while filling in for either of them. That's gonna cost us some runs, as well.

Hillenbrand at DH also means that one of Legs Figgins and Dallas McPherson won't be in the starting lineup. I'd guess The Legs will take the hot corner and Big D will take the bench or another trip to Salt Lake.

And while you don't sign a guy to a $6.5M contract to be a platoon player, Hillenbrand does have a, um, 106 career OPS+ against southpaws, while McPherson has a 112 mark off of righties in his young career.

Let me take a step back here ...

... Shea Hillenbrand isn't an awful player. He's mediocre. He's an average hitter, not a very good fielder, durable. Blah blah blah. But he's a guy that's overrated due to his batting average. His .287 looks respectable, but if you adjust his league averages for his parks, the average is .271. Juan Rivera's .291 average is up against a park-adjusted league average of .265.

And Hillenbrand's average is pretty empty. He doesn't have exception power and never draws a walk. And what bothers me is that the Angels don't seem to understand than an empty batting average isn't really all that helpful to anyone.

Now, I do recognize that we're only getting Hillenbrand because of the Rivera situation, but he's a guy we've been rumored to be interested in for awhile, and we all know he's a guy who hacks and gets singles. If you hack and hit like Vlad, that's okay. But Hillenbrand has never been a difference-maker for anybody, and now he's on the bad side of 30. He's a finger in the dam, but we should all hope that Rivera can be healthy and productive sooner than later.

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Hillenbrand is clearly a band-aid, acquired to shore up a gap in the batting order after the Rivera injury. Note that he was signed to a one-year deal, with an Angel option/buyout for a second year. His versatility also provides some interesting trade options for the Angels...
I just wonder why we didn't sign Trot Nixon instead. Assuming he is healthy enough to play at all, he is good on D and can hit RHP somewhat, which we are short on.
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