A Pun About Rocco’s Shell

Rocco Baldelli was barely acclimated to the professional baseball scene when the name Joe DiMaggio began popping up as a comparison. The relationship had to do more with the etymology of Rocco’s surname than the physical and positional similarities. Seven seasons in the Majors later, Baldelli is anything but a replica of the Yankee Clipper. Cursed with a cellular disorder, Baldelli’s lack of playing and production of late is blameless except for the cruel randomness that subjected an athlete to the one scenario in which he feels the most helpless. His body won’t comply with the grind and lacks the stamina necessary to partake in the role he was destined to play.

Over the last three seasons, Baldelli has recorded 150, 90, and 164 plate appearances. Plate appearances are always a tricky thing to project, so don’t take this as a shot at CHONE or Marcel when I write that their 364 and 291 PA projections can be labeled as “optimistic.” When he does play, Baldelli is an average-to-slightly-above hitter (CHONE and Marcel average out to a .330 wOBA) and fielder. A healthy Baldelli is as nearing the point of paradox. There is a slim possibility that a team can sign and milk Baldelli out of 250-300 productive trips to the plate, but the same can be said of Mark Prior.

Pittsburgh signed Ryan Church, who is somewhat comparable in the sense that he gets injured a lot and plays the corner outfield. Church’s deal was worth $1.5M guaranteed, with incentives that would push the value close to $3M. Church is considered a risk because he’s averaged 339 at-bats the past two seasons; by comparison, Baldelli has367 at-bats since the 2007 season.

Some team is going to take a shot on Baldelli for a similar deal – probably one with a decent insurance policy waiting a level away (much like the Rays and Red Sox of the last two years). The rumor de jour involves Baldelli heading to the Yankees. He is being paid to play baseball and through his profession gets access to some fantastic medical care. Still, you have to admire the guy’s perseverance, and one has to hope, for his sake, that one day he does collect a full season’s worth of plate appearances.



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Paul
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Paul
6 years 6 months ago

Would DHing still be too taxing? Seems like he might be able to handle a strict DH role

Felonius_Monk
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Felonius_Monk
6 years 6 months ago

I suppose the argument against that is that he’s not a good enough hitter to be much use as a DH, and if he STILL misses about half the games he plays, he’ll be near replacement level. I guess for the sort of cash he might make ($2m or so) or slightly above you might be able to sign a Jim Thome, who may be nearly done but is still a good bet to get on base at an above-average rate and hit 25 dingers a year.

SteveM
Member
SteveM
6 years 6 months ago

Clearly, Baldelli’s situation is unique, and nothing short of tragic in my view. It brings up the question, however, of “injury prone-ness”. Looking at Church, for instance. I don’t consider him to be “injury prone” just because he’s had two years with injuries. The fact is, the injury he suffered this year is totally unrelated to the concussion/s he suffered with (and which were exacerbated by) the Mets in ’08. I will grant that concussions become increasingly likely the more they occur, but it’s not like a hamstring or knee injury, or a shoulder/elbow for a pitcher.

I’d love to see a discussion / statistical analysis here of bad luck vs. injury prone-ness.

longgandhi
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longgandhi
6 years 6 months ago

The comparisons of Baldelli to DiMaggio came about due to his effortless and smooth play in centerfield, not because both were of Italian descent. Perhaps that is the reason David Dellucci doesn’t also draw comparisons to DiMaggio.

Kevin S.
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Kevin S.
6 years 6 months ago

I’ve definitely wanted the Yanks to go after Baldelli for some time now. With their plan to use Ramiro Pena as a super utility guy and the presence of Jamie Hoffman, they don’t need Baldelli to fill late-game defensive-replacement/mop-up time duties. If he spells Gardner or Granderson against tough lefties once or twice a week and comes up to pinch hit late in games every now and then, he should be able to remain relatively healthy. It just needs to be impressed upon Girardi that he can’t whip this horse too hard.

joser
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joser
6 years 6 months ago

Is that really the best use of the Yankees’ last roster spot, though?

Kevin S.
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Kevin S.
6 years 6 months ago

If they carry a twelve-man bullpen, their bench is Cervelli, Hoffman, Pena… that last spot should be righty pop, and Baldelli’s the best of that left, IMO.

Dirty Water
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Dirty Water
6 years 6 months ago

Why would Baldelli want to “spell Gardner or Granderson against tough lefties once or twice a week and come up to pinch hit late in games every now and then”? I’d imagine he would be quite insulted having to back up either one of those guys.

I’d like to say that he’d be better off on the roster of a team with superior medical but that didn’t work out so well last year. So at this point, I agree with 1st poster Paul: He should improve his stick and find a team wanting a DH/very occasional OF. Either that or retire with grace.

CircleChange11
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CircleChange11
6 years 6 months ago

Are you really asking why a guy would want to …

[1] Be on the NYY roster (the defending WS champs)
[2] Play sparingly and in matchups that play to your strength (vRHP)
[3] Be able to continue your MLB career without increasingly risking your health/status
[4] Be a part of something (perhaps) special.

Seems like an easy decision to me.

What are his other options? Play 80 games with a “less good” team?

I’m guessing quite a few guys, with non-ideal future outlooks, would jump at the chance to play for the NYY, have a chance for big success, and a decent shot at a ring.

That seems to me to be a “gravy job” in terms of MLB.

Dirty Water
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Dirty Water
6 years 6 months ago

Rocco is only 27, and I’m sure his competitive fire still burns bright..If I had his ability I sure as hell wouldn’t concede so young. So.. 50 AB’s with the champs or limitless ones with PIT? That is an easy decision for me. I’ll play in Pittsburgh for half the green (and hope it becomes a springboard for bigger and better things).

Kevin S.
Member
Kevin S.
6 years 6 months ago

I’m pretty sure that even the lesser half of a platoon gets 200-250 PA. The downward adjustment was if Baldelli couldn’t physically handle it. I’m pretty sure that will curtail his opportunities more than what a team with two outfielders who have difficulties against lefties could use out of him.

Drew
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6 years 6 months ago

Miss you, Rocco.

Joe R
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Joe R
6 years 6 months ago

Does he just need 4 more seasons on a 40 man roster to get to pension?

I know it’s hard to actively root for a millionaire athlete to hit a point of receiving one, but Rocco’s an exception.

Vinny
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Vinny
6 years 6 months ago

Why are the Yanks gambling on a guy who may not be able to play. THey have Gardner adn a rookie for OF which doesn’t sound too good. No depth at all. Nady, Thames, Dye are prefessionals and still available.

mockcarr
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mockcarr
6 years 6 months ago

Yeah, Thames makes more sense. Baldelli has pretty much demonstrated he won’t be available every time you need him. There could be 350-400 AB for a Yanks’ righty fourth outfielder easily, especially when you consider Nick Johnson and Johnson will be DH.

mockcarr
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mockcarr
6 years 6 months ago

Nevermind, I forgot how bad an OF Thames is.

LED TV
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

It sounds like you’re creating problems yourself by trying to solve this issue instead of looking at why their is a problem in the first place

Schedule
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

You you could make changes to the page name title A Pun About Rocco’s Shell | FanGraphs Baseball to more specific for your webpage you write. I enjoyed the the writing all the same.

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