Meet Jack Hannahan, Starting Third Baseman

On March 5th Jason Donald was hit by a pitch.  It’s important to remember that for all the detours, that’s how this story really began.

Anyway, about three weeks after the HBP, the Indians’ groundbreaking coalition of doctors and medical staff were able to diagnose a fractured bone in Donald’s hand.  Why the initial X-rays, MRIs, and ultrasounds missed the break I don’t know.  But the Indians’ best-laid plans were thrown out the window, because even though they weren’t saying it publicly at the time, the plan was to open the season with Jason Donald manning the hot corner.

During that time—from when Donald was hit by that pitch until today—there have been some interesting developments regarding the third base job.  First, all of Cleveland fell in love with a boy named Lonnie: he did hit the snot out of the ball for a few weeks, after all.  And we’re a fickle bunch when it comes to falling in love with prospects.  But Lonnie was sent back down to minor league camp for seasoning and development purposes.  He’s no longer in the running.

Simultaneously, a boy named Luis hit four homeruns, reminding us of the pop he’s shown in the past—just daring the team to believe that he might have finally put it all together.  After all, he’s only 25, right?  And the front office can be a stubborn bunch when it comes to admitting that a player they brought into the organization just can’t cut it (see: Crowe, Trevor).  So maybe Luis would get a shot?

Also during that time a retread named Jack Hannahan who has never hit enough to stick in the Big Leagues basically won the starting third base job for the Cleveland Indians.  Let’s discuss.

First, with a mandatory nod to the small-sample size gods, here are his spring training numbers:

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
40 0.400 0.500 0.514 1.014

 

YAY!  Those are, after all, better than Lonnie Chisenhall’s spring training numbers, so we must have found the best third baseman of ALL TIME!

OK.  With that out of the way, let’s look toward Hannahan’s past numbers, which should be somewhat more instructive.  Here are his career MLB numbers:

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
981 0.224 0.311 0.347 0.658

 

Ah.  That’s more like it.  He’s demonstrated the mediocrity you’d expect from a player who’s played with five different organizations in the past four years.

So what, if anything, can we glean from these numbers?  A few things interest me.  First, while he’s really below average across the board, you’ll see that his OBP is nearly 90 points higher than his batting average, suggesting some ability to work the count and take walks.  His career walk-rate of 10.9% is, in fact, well above the average of around 8.5%.  On the other hand, his slugging percentage and batting average are both pretty measly, meaning that he’ll likely be a bottom-of-the-order type.  His .658 career OPS is actually worse than Jayson Nix’s 2010 campaign (.676).  And when I looked at his comparables on Baseball-Reference, guess who #2 on the list was.  Some guy named Dandy Marte.  Ick.

So what’s the deal?  Why is the team handing the hot corner to the worst candidate?

I’m sure you’ve probably already guessed this, but it would appear that a fairly big part of any decision to give Hannahan the job comes down the value he can provide with the glove.  While I don’t believe he’s played enough to cite any of the advanced metrics, he’s generally been regarded as above average defensively.

And that’s actually more important than you might think—especially for a team that relies on groundball pitchers the way that we do.  Last season, the Indians’ corps of third baseman played just terrible defense.  Judging by UZR, they cost the club almost ten runs compared to what an average defensive third baseman would have—and they did this while offering almost no offensive value.

Perhaps letting Hannahan fill-in at third is the organization’s way of remedying the terrible defense from last season.  Perhaps it’s because they don’t want to start Chisenhall’s arbitration clock.  Perhaps they still don’t believe that Valbuena can be anything more than a utility guy.  Perhaps it’s because they want to believe they’ve struck gold on a guy on whom everyone else missed.  Probably, it’s a combination of all these and more.

But how strange that all this started with Jason Donald, who has now played in 484 professional baseball games in his life.  In three of those games, he played third base.

  • Harv 21

    Trying to keep away from these relentless statistical musings, but even in this stat weeny era of “Baseball Is Just Math and Math Is Fun!,” how reliable is a spring training batting average when the subject is a minor-league veteran in his late 20s who in his previous appearances in the Bigs couldn’t hit a balloon with a snow shovel? Other than that just an older guy has figured out how to hit pitchers loosening up their arms and working on stuff. About as meaningful as an undrafted d-lineman hitting the QB with the caution jersey after the whistle in summer camp.

    And that wraps up this episode of Tribe Bile. Carry on.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Denny

    Tribe Bile = tribbles?

    THE TROUBLE WITH TRIBBLES!!1!

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Scott

    I’m fine with Jack being the starting third basemen on opening day because the Indians have a groundball pitcher on the hill. Not sure how I’ll feel about games 2-162.

  • Mark

    So if I read you right you’re saying the biggest upside to Hannahan at the plate is his walk rate is not quite as sucky as the rest of his numbers? Yay us! Go Tribe!

  • mgbode

    just think of all the different spellings we’ll get for Mr. Hannahan as people complain that a defensive 3B at the bottom of the order isn’t hitting great :)

    (eh, I’m fine with the move. it’s not like Valbuena is going to be great and whoever we put there is just a hold until ‘the Chis’ so we might as well make our pitchers happy)

  • Shamrock

    Buddy Bell is rolling over in his grave!

  • Harrison

    Is he the one that brings the animals on David Letterman?

  • JasoninDC

    I’m from Toledo. Hannahan couldn’t even stick with the Mud Hens. We’re gonna be in for a long season.

  • Tribe Fan

    I just read that the Indians placed Jensen Lewis on waivers to make room for Hannahan.

  • REEPJP

    What ever happened with Goedert? I know he wasn’t a big time prospect, and didn’t play well in Sept. last year, but was he ever really in the competition to begin with?

  • Karsten

    Hannahan throws his bat too much.

    Seriously, just from the games I saw, listened to, or watched on mlb tv, he threw his bat into the stands or at the on deck batter 3 times. I’d prefer someone else purely for the safety of others.

    But hey, if he carries anything over from this spring, it won’t be as bad as the pathetic fielding and sporadic hard hits from sweet Luis.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Jon

    @ Harv: Can’t tell if you’re kidding or if you just didn’t read the piece. I explicitly make fun of people who are trying to give his spring numbers importance.

    @REEP: I think the organization has decided that Goedert’s strong first half was a mirage: he’s been pretty terrible for the last eight months or so, and they seem loathe to give him a big league opportunity. What will be interesting is whether they can find any MINOR league at bats for Goedert this year, considering how many kids we’ll have at AAA who need to play everyday.

    @TribeFan: I heard the same thing. I’m guessing they’re trying to clear room on the 40-man roster for Hannahan. We should be clear that if Jenny-Lew passes through waivers, he’ll just be reassigned to the minors.

  • Anthony

    Hey let’s look on the bright side. If he turns out to be good, we get to trade him for prospects. If he’s bad, we get to release him and call up Chiz (I will NOT call him the Chiz Kid)

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