By Michael Jong
Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald says the Marlins have offered Ross Gload a deal.
"The Marlins have extended an offer to Ross Gload, their top left-handed hitter off the bench last season when he led the majors in pinch hits. The offer is thought to be similar to the one received last year by Wes Helms, who agreed to a two-year deal for $1.9 million.Gload said toward he end of the season that he would prefer to remain with the Marlins, especially if he could work out a deal early in the free agency process, thus relieving him of any uncertainty.The Marlins’ exclusive negotiating window with Gload closes at midnight Friday, at which point any team can start discussing financial terms with the free agent."
I think you know what I feel about this. It’s no good, my friends, no good at all.
Ross Gload is coming back mostly to be a pinch-hitter. Gload only started 38 games this season, most of them coming after Nick Johnson was hurt in the second half of the season. As a defender, he seems to be OK at first, but the team has better options in the outfield, so essentially Gload would be a backup first baseman. You don’t need me to tell you that there’s no reason to have a backup first baseman, because almost all decent defenders passing a certain height can play first base at a pretty good level.
So Gload’s job is likely to be a pinch-hitting expert. In 79 PA as a pinch hitter last year, Gload was nothing short of amazing. He hit .318/.418/.455 in those situations, and he faced an average leverage index of 1.4 when pinch hitting. That of course heightens the importance of his contributions; Gload recorded 1.94 WPA, meaning that he added almost two wins to the Marlins when you account for leverage.
Of course, that’s not usually how we do our analysis, all context-dependent like. Here’s how we do it.
I calculated Gload’s wOBA when pinch-hitting this season. It was an astute .360, not including his eight (!) reach on errors. Even after park adjusting to .362, the difference between that and the league average .329 in 79 PA was around two runs above average. However, for pinch hitters, a bonus is also applied for “hitting off the bench.” Studies done on DH’s show that hitters hit better while playing the field as opposed to coming cold off the bench. This bonus is on the order of 5 runs per season, which I’ll assign as 700 PA. That adds about half a run into the mix. In addition, we can add replacement runs for those plate appearances as well, to give a value of runs over replacement level pinch hitters. That adds another 2.5 runs. Your total comes out to something like 5.3 runs above replacement, or 0.5 WAR from pinch hitting last season.
Of course, there is also some context involved that we should consider, I believe. For that, I’ll do the same thing that is done with relievers, which is to grant half of the leverage credit to the hitter for performing in the higher-leverage PA’s, and half to the manager for going with him. Gload’s average pinch-hitting LI was at around 1.4, so we multiply those wins by 1.2, which gives you 0.6 WAR on the season. If you wanted to be harsher on the leverage thing, you could give him only credit/debit when compared to the average pinch-hitting LI, which would cause no change to the value.
So even in a great season for his pinch hitting, with all the added stuff on there, Gload was only 0.6 wins better than a replacement level player. Then consider that, for the 100 or so (actually 97) PA before that, Gload hit .287/.309/.404. Then consider that this sample is 176 PA. This would require some serious regressing to make a decent projection, and something tells me the Marlins aren’t doing that and rather considering paying Gload $900K based on those 79 PA.
I’m not going to do the projection just because I’m not good enough to come up with this stuff, but I would bet that, at best, Gload is something like a slightly above average pinch hitter. Maybe in 100 PA, if leveraged correctly he could be worth 0.3 WAR, which may still be a stretch. Is that worth $900K plus a spot on the bench, when the Marlins could be sinking some of that money into more important resources. Almost assuredly, 99% sure, no it’s not. And yet this is the same team that is paying Wes Helms to do the same thing and play about 150 innings of defense tops. For some reason, the Marlins think having two pinch-hitters on a limited bench is important. I really don’t know how anyone with baseball knowledge can come to that conclusion.