You Can Never Quarantine the Past: Stop Starting John McDonald

Now, I know this won't last long and it really won't matter in the long run, anyway.  Nonetheless, I think it needs to be said.

So, I might be the only one, but I just don't understand how Jayson Nix at 2nd, Edwin Encarnacion at 3rd and Juan Rivera at DH is not better than John McDonald at 2nd, Jayson Nix at 3rd (or Mac at 3rd and Nix at 2nd), and Edwin Encarnacion at DH.


I know that Edwin makes errors.  He grades out as a below-average third baseman and I don't disagree with that.  Johnny Mac grades out as a league average (plus or minus a little) 3rd baseman.  Now, Mac is better at 2nd, but Nix isn't necessarily much of a defensive upgrade over EE at 3rd and he also grades out well at 2nd, so swapping them doesn't really help all that much.  Either way, we're looking at a slight, but significant, improvement in the field of Mac's glove over EE's at third.

Juan Rivera has had a slow start at the plate.  But, consider this about 2011 Juan Rivera.  His walk- and strikeout-rates are excellent (15.2 BB%, 15.4 K%).  His BABIP is ridiculously low (.121) in spite of a batted-ball profile that isn't bad (18.2 LD% / 48.5 GB% / 33.3 FB%).  I understand that he's popped out 27% of the time he's hit a fly ball.  I also understand that we're dealing with 11 fly balls and 3 pop ups here.  I'm not confusing Juan Rivera with someone who is good for a major league hitter or anything like that, but I think we're reading way too much into a 50 plate appearance sample here.

John McDonald's career wRC+ is 58.  Just for reference, Jose Molina's is 63.  Juan Rivera's is 102.

I know people think John McDonald has managed to get over some sort of hump and magically become a better hitter at 36 years old.  Does this actually make any sense to anyone?  We aren't talking about Jose Bautista (which was improbable enough), who was 29 and had shown flashes of both plate discipline and power before, here.  Mac has had a decent last 200 plate appearances (dating back to the beginning of 2010), OPS+ing 97.  Over the same time frame, Jose Molina has OPS+ed 95.  Do you think Jose Molina has magically become a better hitter, too?  If so, you should try using the new Gilette Fusion Proglide, I hear it will make you über-confident.

Think John McDonald's speed makes the club much better?  Well, since we've just compared their bats, let's compare John McDonald's legs to Jose Molina's.  Mac is certainly faster than Jose Molina, but -- as a function of the number of walks and hits -- guess whose been worth more baserunning runs above average according to http://baseballreference.com/ (baseRAA) over their careers.  Now, I know that BB + H isn't a perfect proxy for number of times on base, but I couldn't find that so I figured this would suffice for the very simplistic sort of analysis that follows:

EDIT: I accidentally switched them before . . . it is correct now.

John McDonald: -5 baseRAA / 454 H + 85 BB =  -0.009

Jose Molina: -2 baseRAA / 390 H + 85 BB =  -0.004

Now, I wouldn't rather have Jose Molina at first base than Johnny Mac (though at least I'd feel comfortable in the knowledge that Molina wouldn't get thrown out attempting to steal), but the point here is that Mac is no better at offence than Jose Molina.

By the way, our garden gnome, Juan Rivera, has been worth -11 baseRAA and he's been on base 957 times: -11 / 957 = -0.011.  Johnny Mac's baserunning value over Juan Rivera is 2 hundredths of a run per time on base.  Think EE is slow?  -5 baseRAA and 824 H + BB (-0.006).  Adam Lind?   He's actually been an above-average baserunner (+3 baseRAA, 650 H+BB = +0.0046).  No matter how you slice it, the argument that Mac brings speed holds no water because he's too aggressive.

Essentially, it comes down to this:  Is the difference between Johnny Mac's and Edwin Encarnacion's gloves at third greater than the difference between Johnny Mac's and Juan Rivera's bats?  Unless John McDonald's babip really should be .300 points better than Juan Rivera's, I just don't see how that's possible.


Come back soon, Aaron.  Until then, though, why aren't we playing Juan Rivera?

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