February 11, 2003
I saw the following headline on ESPN.com yesterday: "Athletics to Rickey: Please lose our number"
Aside from how awful ESPN.com's headline writers are, it was an interesting story.
Basically, Rickey Henderson still wants to play baseball and he is interested in signing a minor league contract with the A's.
Here are a few quotes:
"I just want the opportunity to play baseball," Henderson, a free agent after playing in Boston last year, said in response to a fan's question. "I can give (the A's) anything they're looking for. They've got their starting lineup, but I can come off the bench. I can play the outfield if someone goes down. I can pinch hit. I can steal a base. I can score a run. There's a lot I could give. I'm educated in the game, and I could help them win."
"I don't see where he'd fit with us," general manager Billy Beane told the San Francisco Chronicle. "At this point, I don't think it's something we'd be interested in," Beane said.
I certainly can't blame Billy Beane for not being interested in Henderson. After all, Rickey is well past the point of being anything more than a role player.
That said, I really hope Henderson gets a chance to play this year.
He is one of my all-time favorite baseball players, a very "unique" human being and one of the greatest players in the history of baseball.
Plus, he can definitely still contribute positively to a team.
The article got me thinking about whether or not I would be interested in signing Rickey, if I were a GM.
I immediately decided that for it to even be a possibility, my team would have to be a contender. If I was running a rebuilding team, I wouldn't want to mess around with a 44 year old outfielder, it just isn't worth it.
Okay, so the real question is this: If I were running a good Major League team, would I have interest in signing Rickey Henderson to play for my team in 2003?
Here are his most recent numbers:
Year AB AVG OBP SLG HR 2B BB SB CS
2000 420 .233 .368 .305 4 14 88 36 11
2001 379 .227 .366 .351 8 17 81 25 7
2002 179 .224 .369 .352 5 6 38 8 2
As you can see, at this point in his career, Rickey Henderson is pretty much a walker, not a hitter.
He has hit .233, .227 and .224 during the last 3 years and has slugged only .305, .351 and .352.
Even his speed on the basepaths has gradually declined to the point that he stole less than 20 bases in a season for the first time in his entire career in 2002. Obviously some of that lack of SBs has to do with playing time, but Henderson is nowhere near the basestealer he once was.
His lone remaining outstanding skill is drawing walks and getting on base. Luckily for him, that is a very important and valuable skill to have.
I am convinced that Rickey Henderson could get on base 35% of the time until he's eligible for Social Security. He may never see a .250 batting average or a .400 slugging % again, but he can certainly avoid making outs.
So, if he were on a team I was running, what would his role be?
Certainly not an everyday player. Most likely, Henderson would be a 5th outfielder, asked to pinch-hit and pinch-run and occasionally fill in for a starter that is injured or taking a day off.
That is basically the role he had last season with the Red Sox.
They had Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon and Trot Nixon as their starting outfielders and also acquired Cliff Floyd late in the year.
Henderson struggled to find much playing time in Boston and only managed to get 222 plate appearances, the lowest total of his career - by far.
What did he do in those 222 plate appearances?
Well, like I showed earlier, he hit .224/.369/.352.
Breaking that down a little further:
versus righties = .245/.374/.383 (114 PAs)
versus lefties = .200/.364/.318 (108 PAs)
Those are very small amounts of PAs to make any sort of judgments on, but it does show that Henderson was able to get on base at about the same clip against either handed pitcher, but did struggle to hit for average and power more against lefties.
Let's break down his 3 year (2000-2002) stats:
versus righties = .240/.364/.349 (815 PAs)
versus lefties = .204/.374/.291 (381 PAs)
Well, that pretty much shows the same thing his 2002 numbers did; he gets on base against everyone, but his average and SLG drop significantly against southpaws.
Okay, so he hits righties better than lefties, but the difference isn't gigantic, mostly because he can get on base against either.
In other words, he could pinch-hit and occasionally start, no matter which pitcher was on the mound.
So, now that we know that, what kind of pinch-hitter/spot-starter would he make?
Well, his .369 OBP last year and his .367 OBP from 2000-2002 is pretty good.
In fact, (splitting that in the middle) a .368 OBP would have ranked 19th in the American League last season, tied with Robin Ventura and Corey Koskie and right ahead of Eric Hinske, Johnny Damon, Miguel Tejada, Ellis Burks and tons of other good hitters.
Now, obviously, Rickey's only real strength is OBP, so that comparision isn't very fair to the other players, but it does show that his main source of value is a good one.
Overall, his performance at the plate has resulted in a .277 EqA last season and a .276 EqA in 2001.
Those are some pretty solid numbers.
The Major League average EqA for left fielders and right fielders in 2002 was .283.
The average EqA for center fielders was .270.
So, Henderson has been slightly below average for a corner outfielder the past 2 seasons.
Like I said, if you are going to have only 1 remaining skill as a hitter, drawing walks is the one to have.
You can probably tell where I am going with all of this.
I would absolutely be interested in Rickey Henderson for a baseball team I was running, assuming 3 key stipulations:
1) He didn't want a lot of money.
2) The team was a contender.
3) The team did not have an abundance of good and/or young corner outfield/DH-types that needed playing time.
Point #1 is moot in regard to Henderson, because he is seeking only a minor league contract and a minimum salary.
Also, I already discussed why I would only want him on a contending team.
As for #3...
For a team like the Twins, Henderson would be a very bad addition, not because of his performance, but because he would be keeping other, younger players from playing time.
When you have a Bobby Kielty or a Matthew LeCroy looking for at bats, you don't want to give them to a 44 year old, even if he gets on base at a great clip.
But let's go back to the A's for a moment.
Do they have quality outfielders/DHs that Henderson would be taking playing time away from?
Yes and no.
The A's starting outfield is likely going to be Terrence Long, Chris Singleton and Jermaine Dye.
Even if Dye bounces back in 2003, that is a pretty horrible offensively outfield.
The potential reserve outfielders are Eric Byrnes, Adam Piatt, Rontrez Johnson and Jason Grabowski.
While the A's could stand to improve their starting outfielders, Henderson is not going to help in that area.
And, as you would expect from a Billy Beane team, that is an interesting group of players for possible backup roles.
All of them are fairly young and they all have potential to be good players.
Looking at the A's outfield possibilities, I think Beane made a wise decision by not being interested in Rickey.
As much as I'd love to see him play one more time for Oakland, they simply have better, younger options as backup outfielders.
It doesn't look like Henderson will be back with the A's in 2003, but I am holding out hope that there is a team out there that can use an outfielder that can get on base 37% of the time and steal a few bases too.
Plus, simply having Rickey in the clubhouse has got to be worth at least 10 runs a season just because of team moral and the overall laugh factor involved in his day-to-day activities.
And, you know the newspaper reporters in whichever city he ends up in will be thanking their lucky stars, because there isn't a better quote in the game (Rickey not only likes to say "interesting" things, he tends to do it while speaking in the third person).
In other news...
I've stumbled across some interesting things popping up at various blogs around the internet:
Jay Jaffe, aka "The Futility Infielder," has calculated and posted all of the 2003 DIPS ("Defense Idependent Pitching Stats") totals.
As far as I know, Jay's site is the only place that has the stats for last season and I have been busy studying them.
I've talked about DIPS a few times and needless to say it is one of the more intriguing developmens in baseball statistics that I've come across recently.
If you want to see the 2003 stats or if you want to learn more about what exactly DIPS is, head over to Jay's site and get ready to be intrigued.
By the way, one tidbit before you head over there: A certain left-handed Minnesota Twins pitcher that I have been salivating over and babbling about ranked 4th in all of baseball in DIPS ERA, behind only Randy, Curt and Pedro.
Alex Belth over at "Bronx Banter" recently conducted an interview with documentary film maker Ken Burns. Burns is the guy responsible for "Baseball" and "Civil War," among other well-known documentaries.
It is an interesting interview and anytime a fellow blogger can get to talk with a real, live celebrity...well that's definitely worth checking out.
As long as I'm giving out plugs...
I said this a few days ago, but I want to make sure everyone gets a chance to hear it; go check out "The Dump's Sportsblog."
It is a new blog and quickly becoming one of my favorites.
Another blog that I have been checking out a ton lately is the "Batter's Box."
Basically, it is a site run by a bunch of Canadians (try not to hold that against them, they can't help it!) and they talk about the Blue Jays and pretty much anything baseball related.
I think there are officially 9 different contributors, so they produce a ton of good content.
Plus, they have a discussion section where you can post comments about the articles and you'll often see me rambling on (as if I didn't do that on this site enough!) over there.
This afternoon, perhaps as you are reading this very sentence, I am scheduled to have lunch with a very well known celebrity.
Okay, he isn't really a celebrity in the sense that millions of people know who he is, but I am pretty sure most of the people that come to this website are familar with him.
Anyway, I will leave you in suspense until tomorrow, when hopefully I'll be able to tell you how much fun we had at lunch.
He said he's paying, so you know I'll have a good time!
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