Jeff Baker

At popular request, here’s a writeup of Jeff Baker, whom the Braves acquired on August 31, just before the playoff deadline.

It will come as no surprise to you that Jeff Baker isn’t a great baseball player. A 31-year-old former Clemson Tiger turned Detroit Tiger, he doesn’t walk, is a below-average fielder, and can’t hit righties, and for his troubles, Detroit DFA’ed him and then traded him to the Braves for a PTBNL or cash. But none of that matters, because he has been hired exclusively for the purpose of hitting lefties. And that, ladies and gentleman, is a thing that Jeffrey Glen Baker can do.

Baker has never had a full year as a starting player — usually he’s more of an injury fill-in. It’s only been in the last couple of years that he’s been used more strictly as a platoon player, but considering his platoon split, that may be his true calling. He’s got 767 PAs versus righties in his career, with a .661 OPS, versus 692 PA against lefties with an .849 OPS. Basically, he’s worse than 2006-2010 Matt Diaz, but better than 2011-2012 Matt Diaz.

A fourth-round Rockie draftee from 2002, Baker was in Colorado till 2009, then was a Chicago Cub until about a month ago, when the Cubs traded him to the Tigers. That’s where we got him from. Of course, we’ve had a lot of luck obtaining utility infielders from the Tigers (not to mention starting pitchers). At this point in his career, Baker’s a true supersub, having appeared at 1B, 2B, 3B, LF, and RF: he won’t sparkle anywhere but he at least knows how to wear five gloves. This year he’s just been used at 3B, LF, and RF.

So he’ll basically have two roles, as I see it: pinch hitting, and playing left field or third base in a game when Chipper’s out and a lefty’s on the mound. There’s an outside chance you might see him filling in for Uggla against a lefty. That will mostly depend on where Fredi decides he wants to put Prado, but essentially, Baker is platooning with Francisco. He also gives Fredi an additional excuse not to let Hinske take a bat ever again.

There’s just one problem, and it’s unclear how much of it is due to sample size. He hits much worse as a sub than as a starter, and he’s bad at pinch hitting. In his career, roughly 5/6 of his 1459 plate appearances have come as a starter, and he’s got a career .770 OPS when he starts, versus .649 when he comes off the bench. He also has a career .594 OPS in 174 PA as a pinch hitter, and that’s bad; the average major league pinch hitter this year has a .671 OPS. Also, you have to deflate some of those numbers because he played so much of his career in Coors.

So, the upside is, this guy might be able to fill in and bat against a lefty in a key spot, which most of our bench simply can’t do: Lyle Overbay, Juan Francisco, Jose Constanza, and of course Hinske are all left-handed, and I’d rather pinch hit with Medlen than J.C. Boscan. Of course, having Boscan on the roster means that David Ross and Brian McCann may get an extra pinch at bat or two, but Ross will be the starter as long as Brian’s eyes keep bothering him, so that point may be moot.

The downside is, Baker may not be a particularly good fit to a pinch hitting role where he rarely plays the field except for spot starts, and his bat doesn’t add much to our already moribund offense. That wouldn’t leave us any worse than we are now — unless the PTBNL is J.R. Graham or something — but it puts a little more pressure on the regulars not to cough up any more ground in the wild card race.

Anyway, Baker doesn’t add much to the team. But his role is clear.

85 thoughts on “Jeff Baker”

  1. Great writeup, Alex, and what a catch by Heyward!

    I’ve been trying to think of something to say about Mac, but nothing is good enough. Rest in peace and thanks for everything.

  2. Rocky horror clown show! Great tribute to Mac, Alex. Anyway to keep it at the top of the page for the next week or so?

  3. If the Braves lose a one-game playoff with someone other than Medlen starting, Fredi should be fired immediately.

  4. By the way, Jeff Locke, one of the guys we traded for McLouth, is starting in Pittsburgh today. He should be part of a nice nucleus for them in the future. I like him.

  5. Good for Locke for finally figuring it out. He spent three whole years in Single-A and High-A, and that ain’t good. But it looks like the light finally clicked on.

    It never clicked on for Cole Rohrbough, who he pitched with in Single-A Rome in 2008. Cole’s 25 now, and still in Rome.

    Meanwhile, Tommy Hanson, who was Rohrbough’s teammate in Rome in 2007, appears to be headed downhill in his career already.

  6. AAR: Skip used to use that one a lot in the old days, right along with “We’ve come to the bottom of another fifth.”

  7. @34 The Rockies CF must have thought he was drunk the way the Ross hit was moving around. I just pulled up the game and caught the replays and wow, that was just sick.

  8. Nice touch. Mac Thomason is on the In Memoriam section. Cancer sucks, by the way. Dee is doing great, feeling good. The possibility of a cancer return is never far from her thoughts. We are only 11 months into it. To think Mac fought for three and half years is a tribute to his courage.

    Sorry. Nice catch Freddie.

  9. That was really a wonderful tribute to Mac, AAR. So glad that you, Stu, Smitty, Alex R. and everyone else are here to keep the site alive – it remains something to be damned proud of.

  10. Nice touch. Mac Thomason is on the In Memoriam section.

    The baseball blogosphere is much, much smaller than you might imagine. A lot of people you know knew Mac and the Journal. More people than you might think lurk around these parts, feeling the temp of you yutes.

  11. Medlen, thank you for not giving Fredi the chance to bury you in the pin!

    Rockies, thank you for sucking!

  12. Nice Braves win. On a roll?

    Also, we had the same starting nine at the end of the game that we had at the beginning. Anybody know when’s the last time that happened?

  13. Medlen is becoming more Maddux-like with every start (call me master of the obvious) But after Janish blew the streak (with a hat tip to Constanza who with a decent jump would have gotten Cargo’s pop fly pretty easily) I flipped over to watch the Yankees and Rays. I’ll say it again, if the Rays really do need to dump some payroll we should give up the farm for James Shields. Man, can you imagine what a workhorse like that would do for our rotation next year?

  14. My gut says dump him, but I suppose the smart thing to do is the wait it out.

    Lost in this is that McCann’s numbers this year are nearly as bad.

  15. Unless the Dodgers decide they want him, I just don’t see anyone taking on enough of that contract to even make it worth dumping him.

  16. True, but McCann is only a potential long term liability if signed to another multi-year deal. And even with this year’s performance, if it drives down the price enough, I would still lean towards doing it.

  17. At this point, you’ve gotta let him come back next year and see if he regains it. There’s just too much left on the contract to make it worth dumping him. Maybe next offseason, but not this one. You can’t have him regain consciousness while paying him $25-30 million and have him be playing for someone else. They waited to dump Lowe until there was a year left on his contract, and they’ll do much the same with Uggla. Hopefully he has a good year next year, or (dare we dream) he’s even got something left to give us this year.

  18. Oh, I remember. You were one of my few allies, as I recall.

    [waves hand furiously]

    re: the current situation, I ordinarily would be all for it, but I’m skeptical that replacing Uggla with Constanza will mark an improvement. The defense might actually get worse that way, as Prado is not a great 2B (while Georgie takes some crappy routes), and, well, let’s just say the hitting shouldn’t get any better either. I’m fine with benching Uggla against lefties, so as to get Prado, Chipper, and Reed Johnson into the same lineup. I’m not that fine with Constanza becoming a strong side platoon partner.

    But we’ve been down this road before.

  19. I should add that in August Uggla actually was a league average 2B. It seems like an odd time to make this decision… he was showing a bit more of his power, and a bit less propensity to strike out.

    Still, awful extension. This was all so utterly predictable.

  20. I didn’t think the Uggla extension would have gone bad so soon. But how the hell can you be thinking of anything besides Kris Medlen right now (aside from Mac)? Not only is he utterly phenomenal, but the way we’ve handled him could also make the Nats look quite foolish re: Strasburg if we can use Medlen to make it past the one-game playoff.

  21. I’m on board with what seems to be the conventional wisdom re: Uggla – can’t just straight up dump him with $39m and three years left hanging. With that said, if Boston or the Yankees wanted to give me something useful and youngish for McCann+Uggla and took all of the Uggla contract in the deal, I’d run with Ross and Bethancourt (or Gattis) in 2013, with and OF of Hamilton/Bourn/Heyward and Prado at 2B.

  22. Gattis, for the 3rd straight day, has homered. He’d be nice to see in September. And Andrelton is 1-2.

  23. I have been visiting the site for a while now, but for the most part it has just been a pop in and read sort of thing. Mac and Alex, and whoever else is involved have done a really great job with the site and built up a tremendous community here, I will definitely be around more.

  24. 71,

    As great and agreeable as that outcome would be, the only problem is that the Yankees wouldn’t trade for a second baseman, and the Red Sox would probably trade for every position except second base. I doubt Uggla could play any other position on the diamond, and neither Cherington nor Cashmoney are bringing Uggla in as bench player.

    However, if the Jays are sick of Arencibia, Uggla and McCann to Toronto may merit some conversation.

  25. #71: I’d do that, too. I’m steeling myself to be pretty mercenary towards McCann come resigning time. I hope we don’t get wobbly when that time comes.

  26. The Dodgers 1) have proven beyond a doubt that they’ll add contract for name recognition and 2) have Mark Ellis or Juan Uribe starting at 2B. Call up Magic Johnson and show him pictures of Uggla’s arms.

  27. Given their recent performances, it’s completely reasonable to prefer starting Mark Ellis over Dan Uggla on a team competing for a playoff spot.

    Once you throw in their respective contract situations, I think it becomes a no-brainer.

  28. 69 — My thoughts exactly. Why bench him now when he is actually hitting some? I don’t think the difference between his bat and Constanza/Johnson/whoever is playing LF will be that big, though.

  29. Just filthy today. Shame to lose the scorless streak on that horrid throw by Janish. He made a great play to get to the grounder, but it looked like when he transfered it, the ball slipped, which would explain the throw. >_<

    Still, a really nice win for the Braves, and a really goofy looking box score. :-)

  30. I was reading the article about Medlen’s pitching performance today on the AJC website and came across this nugget in the comments:

    “hansons another of the braves great overrated see also heyworthless”

    I only post it here as a clear example of how much we owe Mac for running a tight ship around here. There but for the grace of Mac goes Braves Journal…

  31. @82, Excellent point – almost every public comments section of a site with any popularity at all is diabolical. Not here.

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