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Change of Scenery Struggles to Hit Its Weight

Posted By Michael Barr On May 1, 2012 @ 3:00 pm In Idle Thoughts | 23 Comments

Each winter we’re treated to the swapping or signing of former high draft picks, once productive players who have worn out their welcome, or players previously thought to have a great future devoid of on-field results. When the local media narrative begins, these players are often referred to as those who might benefit from a “change of scenery.”

“It might be just what the doctor ordered to get back on track.”

“Never felt comfortable in (insert city).”

“Needs a fresh start,” they’ll say.

Objectively, it feels rather silly to think in this game of inches that a new cut of grass, color of stirrups, or fan base might provide an entirely different result for players. But count me among the many fans who frequently think it just might work. And yet, examples of it working out are few.

Our list today isn’t entirely exhaustive, but all of these bats moved teams for 2012, and all of them were at least once referenced as needing a “change of scenery” — the happy magic red button that would fix whatever had gone awry. A geographical elixir for a flailing career.

Ian Stewart

Stewart, 27, was a first round draft pick in 2003 and his name littered prospect rankings throughout the aughts. His career minor league line of .292/.373/.529 refused to transfer over to the big stage in Colorado although he did demonstrate good power that wasn’t entirely a product of Coors field. Stewart suffered through injuries in 2011, and the Rockies seemingly tired of his contact issues, sending him to the Cubs where he would have a fresh start. Or at least a chance.

Through 22 games and 85 plate appearances, Stewart is batting .169/.247/.260, which is looking awfully similar to the .156/.243/.221 line that sent him packing his bags in Denver. Things have gone so poorly for Stewart that he started platooning against right handed pitchers, and now there appears to be a very real possibility that he could be looking for a new change of scenery, not by his choice. Stewart brought a career .233/.319/.421 line with him, and he’s failed to come anywhere near it so far.

Tyler Colvin

Part of the deal that send Stewart to Chicago was Tyler Colvin, 26, who had a nifty little 2010 for the Cubs, going .254/.316/.500, only to be followed up with a disastrous .150/.204/.306 in between stops at AAA. Perfectly described by Bradley Woodrum in FG+ as possessing “legit power with putrid patience,” Colvin may very well define the scenery change prototype. He’s a former first rounder who showed enough promise in the major leagues that another team would be willing to see if they could catch lightning in a bottle.

So far, Colvin has been used as a fourth outfielder, making just nine starts, but he’s had a fair amount of success in his limited appearances. His sample is even smaller than the rest with only 42 plate appearances, but he’s currently hitting .300/.310/.500. He’s striking out more and walking less, which, if you’re Tyler Colvin, is pretty frightening, and he’s maintaining a BABIP of .440 which just ain’t gonna last. While he’s probably just happy that nobody has stuck him in the chest with the sharp end of a broken bat, the jury is still very much out on whether this fresh start at Coors will pay off.

Chris Iannetta

Iannetta’s offense was mostly isolated to Coors field as his home/road wRC+ splits sat around 120 and 80, respectively. While he may have gotten a new lease on life in Anaheim, his offensive home field advantage all but evaporated. Iannetta, 29, has received steady playing time as an Angel and his .241/.328/.481  line has thus far outpaced his road slash line of .208/.338/.369, so perhaps the grass is a little greener in California than it is in Colorado, but not much. But then again, if you look at his production in context of the black hole offense Jeff Mathis was able to provide, then perhaps the Halos are downright giddy about Iannetta.

Andres Torres

Torres, 34, has probably had enough of scenery changes as he’s been with six different organizations in his career. He rather “broke out” in 2010, hitting 16 home runs, stealing 26 bags, and playing fantastic defense, leading to his 6.8 wins above replacement. After largely disappointing in 2011, the Giants found a taker for Torres in the Mets in a bit of a classic change-of-scenery deal, sending Angel Pagan, who was in need of new environs himself, out West. Torres hurt his calf on opening day and has played in just two games as a Met, getting activated off the DL on Monday. So it’s probably not fair to grade this transition just yet. Anything north of .240/.315/.400 with his standard plus defense would probably be considered a successful swap.

Angel Pagan

The healthier side of the Torres deal was intended to solidify the lead off slot in the Giants order with a decent ability to get on base, solid contact skills, and speed. Pagan’s best year was 2010 where he hit .290/.340/.425 with 11 home runs and 37 stolen bases. While his 2012 triple slash hasn’t replicated those results to date, he has hit four home runs, three doubles, and three triples already not to mention stolen a pair of bags and scored 13 runs. Early on, he’s been the victim of some rotten luck with a .250 BABIP where his expected BABIP is .295 based on his hit trajectory to date. The scenery change may not have produced a better Pagan, but he’s acting like a different Pagan inasmuch as he’s walking hardly at all and his ISO is sky high. Obviously, things will likely normalize, but on the whole, with a wRC+ of 105, he’s been at least an approximation of the 2010 and 2011 version of himself, which makes his move to the West coast probably a healthy one.

Ryan Doumit

The career Bucco, Doumit, 31, made his mark in 2008 with a .318/.357/.501 mark, hitting 15 home runs, used almost exclusively as a catcher that year. But Doumit was constantly dogged by injury issues and criticisms behind the dish. Given the makeup of the Pirates future and outfield, Doumit was destined for the American League to fulfill a role that would include a good chunk of time at DH. But in Minnesota, he’s still not an everyday player. Justin Morneau occupies the DH role as he attempts to keep concussion symptoms at bay and the club has committed to frequent Chris Parmalee sightings at first. Doumit has managed 68 at bats in April, although they haven’t been particularly eventful at bats. His career slash line is .271/.332/.439 and so far in the Twin Cities, he’s at .250/.265/.344. Over those 68 at bats, he’s walked exactly twice. If Doumit is looking for greener grass, perhaps he needs to check where the dog is shedding.

Kila Ka’aihue

Ka’aihue, 28, is a little tough to size up in terms of whether or not he’s benefiting from a move to a different organization. Despite a .390 OBP over 10 years in the minor leagues, The Kila could never come close to demonstrating his skills on the big stage. Not surprisingly, Billy Beane took a chance on him as he stockpiled first basemen of questionable quality during the off season. Ka’aihue still isn’t getting every day treatment in Oakland, however — and with just 48 at bats, it’s hard to draw any kind of conclusions about whether he’ll be able to right the ship as an Athletic. To date, he’s not walking at all, but he’s striking out very little as well. He’s hitting for better average at .289, but it’s rather empty with no home runs and just a pair of doubles. We’ll have to check back in July before making any pronouncements on Ka’aihue in Oakalnd. If he’s still there.


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