An Ode to Mister Stairs

Last off-season, the Padres signed Cliff Floyd. This was weird because the Padres were still located within the National League and Floyd’s knees were discovered alongside Ardi years ago. Floyd was fresh off a season with the World Series runners-up and immediately became the Padres’ designated pinch hitter. He appeared in 10 games, walked once, and hit two singles. The coincidences aren’t damning, but Matt Stairs may want to glance over his apparently slim shoulders come springtime.

The deal is of the minor league variety, meaning Stairs is hardly guaranteed a roster spot. Evidently his role could be similar to that of Floyd’s; which is to say, the left-handed pinch hitter and clubhouse presence extraordinaire. The rest of the Padres’ bench seems settled though; Jerry Hairston Jr. will play everywhere, Dusty Ryan will be the back-up catcher, Salazar will be the right-handed pinch hitter, and one of the other outfielders (presumably Scott Hairston or Tony Gwynn Jr.) will take the other bench spot.

Trying to project a 40-something pinch hitter’s offensive performance is an unenviable task. I hesitate to compare Stairs to Lenny Harris, since he walks more than Harris ever did and Stairs is yet to go through a season where he’s exactly -1 WAR off the bench (which Harris did in 2003 despite impressively only appearing in 88 games). CHONE calls him a below average hitter and fielder who will come oh-so-close to that -1 WAR mark, but I’m hopeful CHONE is wrong.

The odd thing about Harris – which I guess isn’t so odd when you consider the sample size – is how he was able to produce one final string of plate appearances as an above average hitter before bowing away in 2005. I don’t know if this is Stairs’ final year or what his plans are, and there is little doubt that Stairs is a player with an immense amount of cult appeal which he’ll continue to hold long after his playing days are done.

A large part of that appeal stems from his mustache (amongst the universal rules in life: you must respect a man with a nice lip sweater) and I guess what I’m saying is: I hope Stairs and his mustache go out on top. Whether that comes with the Padres or whatever contender he latches onto in August. He’s not the most useful player anymore; he’s just fun to watch.

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16 Responses to “An Ode to Mister Stairs”

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  1. Chris says:

    Coming from a Phillies fan, I couldn’t agree more.

    That moon shot in LA is as memorable as the final pitch of the ’08 WS.

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  2. NEPP says:

    Stairs can still hit and get on base…as shown by his quite respectable OBP last year. He slumped pretty brutally in the 2nd half but its such a small sample size as to be useless. Losing that much weight speaks volumes to his commitment to play in 2010.

    He can still spot start in the OF (well, LF at least) but it won’t be pretty. He could always spell Gonzalez as 1B too…he’s got experience there as well.

    Also, thanks for Game 4 of the 2008 NLCS Matt. You’ll always be a folk hero in Philly. Good luck in SD.

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    • Nik Aitken says:

      Stairs hasn’t come close to putting up a walk rate like the one he had last year since, well ever, unless you count 38 PA’s in 1992. I wouldn’t count on him being able to reproduce his OBP this year, but of course, he likely won’t hit sub .200 again so who knows.

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    • Joe R says:

      Seasons like Matt Stairs in 2009 are further proof why BA/HR/RBI slash lines need to be launched into the sun.

      Okay yeah he was mostly a PH, but imagine if a team had a center fielder with that line. “HE’S HITTING .194 HE’S SO BAD /trades for 25 year old in AA”.

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  3. Mike Rogers says:

    I will forever hold a spot for Matt Stairs. As far as I’m concerned, the 2006 regular season finale for the Tigers against the KC Royals ended after he hit a go-ahead, pinch-hit homer. Loved him ever since.

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  4. Rut says:

    Casual observation: I thought Stairs’ lost some bat speed last year. Now I could very well be wrong, or, even if he did, it could have been the result of his minimal ABs. But whatever the case is, I really wish we had data on bat speeds…

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  5. AndyS says:

    Where is the ode? Where is my ode!!???

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    • Suckit says:

      There once was a man named Stairs
      Could easily out-wrestle bears
      Some say hes lazy, but the girls go crazy
      For his sexy upper lip hairs

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  6. pounded clown says:

    Next to Bobby Clark, he’s one of Philadelphia’s favorite Canadians.

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  7. Joe R says:

    An ode to fat men who walk a lot, we thank you for teaching us that you’re better than the Juan Pierres of the world.

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  8. Joe R says:

    BTW, I’ve always wondered, how does WAR work for a pinch hitter?

    They should have a positive adjustment, IMO, because coming into a game near the end for 1 PA is wicked hard. The average line for an MLB PH in 2009 (5,381 PA) was .225/.315/.353, vs. an MLB average of .262/.333/.418. Gap was about the same in 2008 (.232/.318/.350 v. .264/.333/.416).

    Or is that a product of inferior overall players normally serving as a PH? I’m not sure, most of the guys who serve as primarily PH’s are of the average bat – poor glove ilk a la Greg Dobbs.

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