Ruben Amaro Sees Value in John Mayberry

The Phillies tendered contracts to a handful of arbitration-eligible players yesterday, including outfielder John Mayberry, Jr. It wasn’t all that surprising even though some were suggesting he should have been non-tendered. Mayberry earned $517,000 in 2013 and is entering his first year of arbitration eligibility, meaning the Phillies will have a relatively affordable right-handed bat with power for up to three more years.

Per Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly, Amaro took the opportunity to praise Mayberry even though he has posted a sub-.700 OPS in each of the past two seasons while playing below-average defense and providing very little in the way of base running.

“He’s a lot more valuable than I guess people think,” Amaro said. “Part of the equation is whether he’s viewed as an everyday player or not. Well, I don’t believe he’s an everyday player. I see him as fill-in-in-a-pinch guy. He’s got versatility. He can play first base and all three outfield positions. That versatility and the fact that he’s got some power are all things in our estimation that are pluses. He can be a role player on a team that can win.

“And it’s not like he’s an expensive player in this day and age. There is value in a guy who makes $1.5 million or something in that range.”

Everything Amaro said there is accurate. Mayberry is not starter-caliber; he is an ideal platoon partner in the outfield or at first base. The only problem is that the Phillies had some ideal situations to use Mayberry in specifically that way and Amaro either did not realize it or ignored it. The Phillies could have tendered Nate Schierholtz a contract prior to the 2013 season and paired him with Mayberry in right field. They could have spelled Ryan Howard against left-handed starters by starting Mayberry at first base. But instead, the Phillies gave Delmon Young a starting job in right field and continued to let Howard fail against lefties.

The percentage of plate appearances in which Mayberry has had the platoon advantage (in other words, faced left-handed pitchers) has declined since he became a part-time player, dropping from 41 percent in 2011 to 38 percent in 2012 to 28 percent this past season. Mayberry posted a .626 OPS against right-handers in 2012 and .646 last season.

Unless the front office has had some “Eureka!” moment as it pertains to platoon philosophy, it’s hard to imagine Amaro’s defense of Mayberry being anything more than lip service. Mayberry could be a legitimate 1 WAR player getting 200 plate appearances per season mostly against left-handers, but based on recent history, the Phillies would counteract any good Mayberry does against southpaws by also giving him a comparatively significant amount of playing time against same-handed pitchers, dragging his value down to replacement level and below. Since 2011, Mayberry has been worth 1.1, 0.6, and -1.1 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball Reference. That, by definition, is not value.

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9 comments

  1. amarosucks

    December 03, 2013 12:49 PM

    Amaro would see value in signing Ted Williams.

    Fire his ass already

  2. Pencilfish

    December 03, 2013 12:50 PM

    Bill,

    If JMJ is getting fewer AB’s against LH pitchers, isn’t that the manager’s decision? I don’t think RAJ makes these in-game decisions.

    In hindsight, RAJ was wrong in letting go of Schierholtz and signing DY. But then again, there were people saying back in March the Nats were going to win over 90 games, the NL East and the WS. Who could have imagined the RedSox doing what they did?

  3. sweatingisnormal

    December 03, 2013 02:13 PM

    It was indeed frustrating to see Cholly trot out JMJ against so many rhp (and inexplicable bench him v lhp at various times), but tbf, I have to take into consideration all the injuries (and the bad DY gamble) as to why JMJ played so much – Phi did correctly peg him as a 4th OF’er when the season began.

  4. joecatz

    December 03, 2013 02:18 PM

    I think the big issue here is that people equate Mayberry getting too many starts with Ruben having the idea that hes a starter.

    Every issue people have with mayberry should come back to two things:

    1. non tendering Schierholtz
    2. signing Delmon.

    when you have a back up 4th OF/1B who plays CF and RF and your starting RF, CF, and 1B play 80,88,and 88 games respectively in 2013, thats why Mayberry plays 134.

    its math.

    he’s a bench bat. has been since the middle of 2012. the problem is between trades, injuries and bad deals, he’s been the guy to get the reps for Vic, Pence, Schierholtz (after the pence trade when he got hurt) Howard (in 2012 and 2013) Delmon, and revere.

    I don’t mind the tender at all. I’ll mind it if he and ruf are both with the organization in march and Ruf ends up in AAA, and I’ll mind it if he’s forced into more than about 200 ABs this year.

  5. Ben

    December 03, 2013 02:45 PM

    I have a problem with trotting out a player, and discussing his value to a team, when he was twice, TWICE!, picked off at second base. I know this blog doesn’t like to discuss intangibles, and I’m sure there is statistical way to measure the impact his lack of focus had on the Phillies in 2013, but it sends a poor message that they would allow such lackadaisical play to go seemingly unnoticed.

  6. JM

    December 03, 2013 03:45 PM

    @ Ben,
    Not giving him a contract because he had a couple lapeses are akin to giving him a 5 yr deal because he hit a couple Walk off HRs and calling him super-clutch. I love the JMJ tender, mostly because we share initials, and because he is servicable in the OF and hits for some power from the right side. I am no longer giving him 1B props, since that S/B Ruff all day against lefties…

  7. Ben

    December 03, 2013 04:09 PM

    @JM, I get that… that’s fine. I guess I’d have to argue that his base running lapses were symptomatic of his otherwise mediocre play. Bill makes the point right here, in fact, that not only has JMJ not been replacement level, but affirmatively less than replacement level for the Phillies. Think about that: that means that Amaro could go out and get an outfielder, an average one, who would do less damage to the Phils than JMJ. I don’t think you can really argue that JMJ produces for the Phils in the capacity that he has been used. I used to believe that each player has the capacity to produce towards the higher end of their statistical achievements, but I’ve become convinced players produce within their statistical range. Recognizing randomness, JMJ doesn’t bring much production to the Phillies and one could argue, even, that 2011 was an outlier. I’m sorry you share the same initials, and I agree that two baserunning lapses do not a career make. However, those lapses were pretty unforgiveable; they were indicative of a larger lack of focus from the Phils (remember Kendrick and Lee also getting picked off in high leverage situations), and JMJ isn’t worth keeping. The assumptions you make that JMJ is “servicable in the OF” is the equyivalent of saying any AAA player is serviceable in the OF. So why pay the man more than any other serviceable player should be paid.

  8. Schufan

    December 03, 2013 05:40 PM

    The problem is Mayberry is only useful at one thing: hitting lefties. And it’s not like he’s great at that, just that he’s a major league contributor at this one skill. He’s a subpar defender who will log far, far too much time in centerfield and can stand at 1B but can’t actually play it acceptably (not his fault – he didn’t play any 1B until the Phillies were desperate enough to move him there) and he’s a mediocre baserunner as well.

    If you’re going to be paying a righty pinch-hitter $2 M, you either want him to be a truly great righty pinch-hitter or for him to offer some other skills. Franklin Gutierrez and Rajai Davis would fit that bill. I’d even take a dirt cheap option like Sam Fuld (defense and speed, but not much of a bat).

    Plus the Phillies bench is now loaded with slow, defensively challenged righties. Is Galvis the big lefty bat?

  9. Major Malfunction

    December 04, 2013 01:28 PM

    Its not so much that they have kind words for Mayberry, its that…who elses chance would his signing be holding back?

    Right handed power(?) bat capable of playing multiple positions. Other than the converted Ruf, you probably need to look down to A ball to find anything remotely close, if at all.

    Farm system blows. And RAJ is only interested in your slow RH bat if you are over 35.

    DOOMED!

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