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The Season that Was: Munenori Kawasaki

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A look at Munenori Kawasaki's 2014 season.

Tom Szczerbowski

In 2013 we found out that Munenori Kawasaki was a) great fun to have around and b) not really a great player, but see a.

Muni was a breath of fresh air in a season that really really needed it. Minor Leaguer started up a write-in campaign to get him to the All-Star game and raised a huge mount of money with the Kawasaki Super PAC, which he went on to spend on wine and women (the rest he just wasted).

Kawasaki gave us the best moment of the 2013 season.

As much as he was fun to have around, I really didn't want to see him on the field much in 2014. As normal, I didn't get what I wanted:

                                                                   
Year   Lg  G  AB  R  H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG OPS+
2013   AL 96 240 27 55  6  5  1  24  7  1 32 41 .229 .326 .308   76
2014   AL 82 240 31 62  7  1  0  17  1  0 22 49 .258 .327 .296   77

Provided by "Baseball-Reference.com"

He had pretty much the exact same season as he had in 2013.

Fangraphs had him at a 0.4 WAR (down from 0.8 last year), giving him a value of $2.3 million to the Blue Jays. Baseball Reference had him at a 0.7 WAR.

Kawasaki had a .280 wOBA and a 74 wRC+.

Compared to 2013, Munenori walked less often (8.0%, down from 11.1) and struck out more often (17.9%, up from 14.2). I imagine that pitchers figured out that Muni wasn't going to hurt them with the bat, so throw him strikes. He had more line drives (29.6%, up from 21.8), few ground balls (55.4%, down from 58.0) and few fly balls (15.1%, down from 20.2).

His BABIP was .323, up from his .269 of last year. I don't know how he worked that, but I wouldn't expect it to happen again.

He really didn't have much for left/right splits, hitting lefties .283/.340/.304 and RHP .253/.324/.294.

And he hit much the same on at home(.261/.325/.278) as on the road (.256/.329/.312).

With RISP, surprise, he hit much the same as he did at any other time, .269/.324/.299.

He hit better in the first half of the season (.284/.344/.330) than in the second half (.243/.318/.276).

Munenori by month:

April: .250/.308/.333, with 1 RBI in 3 games.

May he was in Buffalo.

June: .262/.340/.310 with 1 RBI in 13 games.

July: .307/.338/.347 with 6 RBI in 22 games.

August: .254/.312/.282 with 4 RBI in 24 games.

September: .175/.327/.200 with 5 RBI in 20 games.

On defense Kawasaki played 444 innings at second base. Fangraphs has him at a -6.6 UZR/150. He made 5 errors and had a .977 fielding average. I think he's pretty average at the position. I expected him to be better. He played 132 innings at third, Fangraphs had him at a 20.3 UZR/150, but I'd think that was a sample size issue. I didn't think he had the arm for the position but he made some good throws, maybe I was wrong. He also played 15 innings at short.

Fangraphs has him 0.7 runs better than the average base runner.

His longest hitting streak was 8 games, running from July 7 to July 20. The team was 30-39 in games he started.

I like that Kawasaki reminds me that the game is entertainment. He is fun to watch.

As a baseball player.....he isn't going to help you win. He's played way too much for us. If you have to have a replacement level player out on the field, it might as well be Munenori, but I'm hoping that, next season, we don't have to have a replacement level player on the field. I'm ok with him being a back up infielder, as long as he doesn't play much, but I'm hoping we can do better.

He does take a lot of pitches, a nice ability. He saw 4.14 pitcher per plate appearance, best on the team, ahead of Edwin Encarnacion (4.13) and Jose Bautista (4.08). There is a value to that, but I'd still rather a guy that did something with one of those pitches.

Every now and then, someone on Twitter tells me that Kawasaki is a great leader. I can't wrap my mind around the leap of logic to come up with that. I'm sure his teammates like him, and he does keep them smiling. But a leader...no. I'd think a leader would have to be able to speak one of the languages spoken in the clubhouse.

And, of course, there is once in awhile when someone tells me he is the most valuable player on the team. You really would have to have a different understanding of baseball than I do to believe something like that.

He's one of a kind, I enjoy watching him, let's not pretend he is something he isn't.