Is Casey McGehee on the JJ Hardy Track?
Casey McGehee is having a miserable season for the Milwaukee Brewers. Posting a .586 OPS during the first half of this season (for a nifty OPS+ of 61) is down in the dreaded Bettancourt Zone of Horrid Production. Casey’s bad half season cannot be sugar-coated, and I won’t try to here. In fact, things have gotten so bad that some observers are suggesting it’s time to send Casey down to Nashville (and not so that he can enjoy a fine array of Country Music).
The turmoil with McGehee reminds me of the Last Days of JJ Hardy (which sounds like the title of a major motion picture). You will recall JJ’s struggles in 2009 were so hard that he was sent to AAA for a stint. Following the season, Doug Melvin moved quickly — some would say irrationally — and dealt JJ to MN for Carlos Gomez, giving the SS position to Alcides Escobar. It was a stunning move, weakening two positions simultaneously, leaving a lingering stench. As a result, the Brewers are still looking to replace Hardy at short.
The move to Escobar made sense based on AE’s good minor league numbers and his play during the period in which JJ was sent down. But it didn’t pan out that way in 2010: In terms of WAR (Wins Against Replacement), all AE could muster was a rather limp 0.9; Hardy was at 2.5. JJ’s OPS was a full .100 points higher (.714 v. .614).
Defense was supposed to be where Escobar made the difference, but the stats show that the much maligned Hardy was actually the better defender. AE committed 20 errors and logged a .964 fielding percentage; JJ played in fewer games (100 v. 138) but committed just 11 errors and had a .976 fielding percentage. But those fielding stats are not accepted by a lot of fans these days. They prefer UZR (ultimate zone rating), and even on that account JJ was better in 2010: 8.1 v. 3.8.
So we can see that Hardy was the better overall player than Escobar in 2010 and, by extension, it is clear to me that they made a mistake by trading JJ so quickly after a down season. This year’s performance, in which Hardy is rocking a .903 OPS while Escobar is languishing at .598, only underscores that proposition.
What I wouldn’t do, however, is put too much stock in Green’s performance as they did with Escobar. I wouldn’t lose sight of the fact that McGehee has actually produced Big Boy numbers at the MLB level over two full seasons. I wouldn’t let my head be turned by a few weeks of good performance by a young player and act impetuously as they did with Hardy. I realize most fans have had enough of Casey and want him gone, but my hope is that Doug Melvin would not repeat the Hardy/Escobar mistake and proceed in a more measured fashion this time.