Will Venable’s injury allowed Matt Stairs to make a few starts for the Padres in left field this week. Those starts resulted in enough playing time to push Stairs over 100 plate appearances for the season. Thus marking the fifteenth consecutive season where Stairs has reached the plateau, a streak that captures the majority of his major league playing time.
Stairs’ role has varied quite a bit over that span, as is the case with any non-elite player over a decade and a half of playing. In recent seasons, he’s been nothing but a glamorized pinch hitter – inspiring the great t-shirts with the everlasting “In Case of Emergency, Use Stairs” slogan – but he went through a period where he was a worthwhile designated hitter and even a corner outfielder despite following what some may describe as Rod Beck’s dietary habits.
Despite dwindling playing time, Stairs has rarely delivered offensive mediocrity. Stairs’ wOBA has never slipped below .320 for a full season during the streak and three of his five seasons below .330 have occurred since 2008. This year’s .323 comes in an arctic environment known to leave bats frost bitten, so it can be excused to a degree, but at this point the 42-year-old is all about not slipping away suddenly instead of whether he can improve.
Will there be a roster spot for Stairs next year? I’d like to think so. In a season where Jim Thome has played pat-a-cake with the hands of time, one would hope Stairs can stick around for another season or two, though maybe not long enough so that he becomes a burden on a team because nobody wants to live in a world where Stairs can’t hit.