The last couple of years, I spent the time immediately after the season examining each player that had made an appearance in St. Louis during the season. This series was well received and so I’m bringing this idea back for the 2014 offseason. More summaries than anything, I imagine the player coming into Mike Matheny‘s office and having a short conference before heading home for the winter. Stats are just the ones accumulated for the Cardinals during the regular season.
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Player: Daniel Descalso
Season stats: 104 games, 184 PA, 20 R, 11 2B, 10 RBI, 20 BB, 33 K, .242/.333/.311 82 OPS+
Hero/Goat: Hero 1
Overall grade: C
Positives: Hit .315 with a .835 OPS during the second half in roughly as many plate appearances as he did in the first half….hit .364 against left-handed pitchers, albeit in a fairly small sample size (40 PA)….had a strong August, putting up a .915 OPS….started at each infield position over a four game stretch, setting a Cardinal team record.
Negatives: Faced righties much more (144 PA) and only put up a .211 average against them….while he could stand at any position, that didn’t mean he was any great shakes defensively, putting up some ugly fielding numbers at shortstop….turned into one of Matheny’s top choices, even when he didn’t fit the situation.
Overview: Descalso got a lot of grief this season, though at least some of that was misdirected angst at Matheny continuing to run him out there, especially at shortstop. Of course, when you hit .182 in the first half of the season, you dig yourself quite a hole that it takes a long time to get out of. People tend to carry those first impressions with them for longer than they should, and it’s not like Descalso was going to be roping line drives and extra base hits to help them forget about such a slow start.
While it feels like that Descalso comes up big in pinch-hitting situations, on the year he just hit .196 in such situations. I’m not going into the game log to check, but it does feel like he got a few more key hits down the stretch than that number indicates. Of course, he went 0-2 with a sacrifice in the postseason, so he didn’t do much on the biggest stage.
It’s a little surprising that Descalso will be offered arbitration, though the club would seem to have the upper hand here and likely will settle at a favorable number without much difficulty. As the end of a bench, he does provide value. The key is getting Matheny to leave him at the end of the bench instead of making him a regular option.
Outlook: It’s fairly unfathomable that Dirty Dan won’t be wearing a Cardinal uniform next year, though given that he’s reaching those arbitration years I’d expect Greg Garcia to get much more of a chance to replace him as the scrappy backup middle infielder and 2015 be the last we see of Descalso in Cardinal red.