clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:


Behold! Pinch-hitter extraordinaire!

Marlon Anderson is sort of a cynical fan's litmus test. When the Nats signed Anderson in mid-November (Anderson: "The Nationals made me an offer. . . . It was more than anybody else was offering."), the team heralded the signing as one that would strengthen the team's bench. Now, to anyone who watched/listened to most of the games and/or read a simple stats sheet, the Nats' bench was simply atrocious last year. We'll just go ahead and stipulate to that.

The assumption---a two year contract's worth of assumption---is that Anderson will improve the bench; not him by his lonesome, given the theme of Jim Bowden's offseason signings, but he was the original Marlon Anderson before there was a Robert Fick before there was a Michael Tucker before there was a Daryle Ward. Is the assumption safe? Will Anderson improve the bench?

Sorry for the drama, gang; that was a fake. Of course he'll improve the bench. The same guys from last year, just getting another shot at it, might well have improved the bench this year; they were subnaturally bad last year, after all. The more probing question is how much will Anderson improve the bench?

When Anderson was signed, we saw these numbers (or numbers like them) cited:

AB    AVG    OBP    SLG
56    .321    .406    .375

Those were Anderson's '05 situational numbers as a pinch-hitter.

For whatever reason, we never see these numbers cited, though:

AB    AVG    OBP    SLG
63    .159    .209    .206

What were those? They were Anderson's '05 numbers as a first baseman.

Of course, I'm short-changing Anderson somewhat by muck-raking his first base numbers. How about a little equal time?

AB    AVG    OBP    SLG
36    .361    .378    .833

Momma mia! What on earth was that? Those were the numbers Anderson posted as a right fielder in '05, so we should be set if Jose Guillen can't make the bell, right?

I sense we're getting to the point where you, dear reader, are asking what is the point of citing 30 to 60 at-bat samples. There is quite a limited point, which is to say not much of one at all---which is rather the point. Why can Anderson hit .321 in 56 pinch-hitting at-bats? Why can't he? See Voros' Law. How on earth can Anderson hit .159 in 63 at-bats as a first baseman? How indeed! See Voros' Law (stretching it a bit, since it actually states, "Any major league hitter can hit just about anything in 60 at bats.").

And I guess we've reached the crux of the discussion with respect to Anderson. Is he a reliably excellent pinch-hitter because he's hit .308/.365/.479 in 146 career pinch-hitting at-bats? Or can any performance, no matter how good in the past, be considered "reliable" when, on a per-60-at-bat basis, the difference between a ho-hum .250 and an established .308 is precisely three-point-five hits? How much does luck contribute to those three-point-five hits or non-hits? Depending on whom you'd ask, anything from Not so much to A lot to I'm bored, what was the question again?

And, in case you were wondering, Anderson is now a .154/.203/.200 hitter in 65 career at-bats as a first baseman. In the interest of consistency, should those who believe Anderson's career pinch-hitting numbers are meaningful also believe that his career numbers as a first baseman are meaningful?

As to that last question, I'm not saying either way. I've never pinch-hit before, obviously, and---statistical significance aside---some guys seem to take to it (your Lenny Harrises of the world) and some don't (your Ryan Chuches of the world). No matter what, though, Anderson will be asked to do more than just pinch-hit. How much more of course is dependent on other factors (Guillen's health, Vidro's health, Soriano's status) and should be considered in making your prediction for Anderson.

As always, my prediction is in the comments.