The non-wavier trade deadline has come and gone and on this first day of August, many players find themselves in new cities, with new teammates, wearing new uniforms. As you know from Dustin’s wrap-up of Trade Deadline Day, players moved from team to team for different reasons. Contending teams tried to strengthen weaknesses and bolster strengths for the stretch run. Non-contenders tried to offload payroll and strengthen weaknesses for next season and beyond.
Quite a few Impact Index-y kind of players moved at or before the Trade Deadline, which isn’t terribly surprising since “bats off the bench” and “middle relievers who don’t grab the headlines” are just the types of players who strengthen weaknesses (or, at least perceived ones), if not the types whose salaries need to be offloaded.
Before we highlight the most Impact Index-y players who now find themselves on new teams, we do need to acknowledge those players we brought to your attention earlier this season and whose impacts were, well, fleeting. Xavier Nady, our Week 2 Impact Index Player of the Week, is no longer with the Washington Nationals. His early-season heroics didn’t last. The Nationals designated him for assignment and when no other team claim him, the Nationals granted Nady his unconditional release. Dana Eveland, our Week 6 Impact Index Player of the Week, has had an up-and-down year with the Orioles and the arrow is pointing down now. Baltimore designated him for assignment.
And then there’s Brooks Conrad, who someday will adorn the Impact Index trophy, whenever we raise enough money to reproduce his face in fake bronze. Conrad started his season on a minor-league deal with the Brewers, played his way to the big leagues in Milwaukee, played his way out of the big leagues, got picked up by the Rays, and played his way out of the big leagues, again.
But enough about those guys.
We now present the Top Pinch-Hit Appearances By Players Traded In July.
Using Baseball-Reference’s indispensable Play Index, we identified the 100 most productive pinch-hit appearances by players through July 31, as measured by Win Probability Added. (For the newcomers, explanation of Win Probability Added here). Three players in the Top 100 moved to new teams in the last week. Two of the three also show up on the Worst 100 pinch-hit appearances through July 31, which may explain, in some way, why there ended up with new teams.
The Cubs traded Reed Johnson to the Braves this week. Atlanta will presumably use Johnson as a fourth outfielder and as a right-handed bat off the bench, just like the Cubs did. And he’s good at that. His pinch-hit appearances for the Cubs on May 15, May 25 and July 28 all rank in the Top 100 as measured by WPA. Here’s Johnson on the 28th, just two days before he was traded to Atlanta.
Unfortunately for Johnson, he also makes our Worst 100 list, with a failed pinch-hit effort on May 18. But three in the Top 100 v. one in the Worst 100 is pretty good for a bench guy. He will be very useful to the Braves down they stretch as they battle the Nationals in the National League East.
George Kottaras was the Brewers back up catcher until he was designated for assignment this week and then traded to the A’s. Kottaras hit pinch-hit walk-off single for the Brewers in the bottom of the 9th in a game against the Dodgers on April 17. The Brewers are having a miserable season, but Dodgers are battling for the National League West crown, a race which could come down to the wire. Kottaras’ hit on April 17 to send the Dodgers to defeat could end up being one of the more critical pinch-hit appearances of the season. Kottaras, unfortunately, also makes the Worst 100 pinch-hit appearances list, for failed efforts on April 14 and June 12. Two of the worst v. one of the best? Perhaps it’s no wonder the Brewers let him go.
In addition to Johnson and Kottaras, there’s another player wearing a new uniform who makes our Worst 100 Pinch-Hit Appearances By Players Traded in July. Nate Schierholtz, a San Francisco Giant his entire career, was traded yesterday to the Phillies as a part of three-player package for Hunter Pence. Like Johnson, Schierholtz is a classic fourth-outfielder type. Unlike Johnson, he was less successful off the bench this season. Much, much less successful. Schierholtz’s pinch-hit appearances for the Giants on May 3, May 15 and June 17 all came in crucial situations with the game on the line. “Nate the Great” as he was called in San Francisco was anything but in each of those games. Here’s Schierholtz pinch hitting with two on and two out in the bottom of the 9th against the Rockies on May 15, the Giants down by a run. (The video is a highlight package of the game. The Schierholtz at bat is at the end, of course, but the video is interesting for all the players no longer with their respective teams: Jeremy Guthrie, now with the Royals. Marco Scutaro, who hit the game-winning home run, now with the Giants. Emmanuel Burriss, designated for assignment).
The Giants lost all three games, any one of which may come back to haunt the Giants as they battle the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks in the National League West.
Our goal at the Impact Index is to introduce you to and highlight the play of un-stars. Sometimes the un-stars shine brightly for a day, a week or a month. Sometimes they are eclipsed by other un-stars. At the 2012 Trade Deadline, Reed Johnson, George Kottaras and Nate Schierholtz look for new opportunities to shine with new teams, in new cities, wearing new uniforms.