Historically bad season for Marson, Valbuena

Just came across this stat from last season that blew my mind…

Entering 2010 the Indians hadn’t had a player bat under .200 with at least 275 plate appearances since 1917 (Joe Evans and Steve O’Neill).

That streak came to a screeching halt last year when both Lou Marson and Luis Valbuena hit under .200 – the first time a team had two players to accomplish the feat since the 1988 Dodgers (who, amazingly, still managed to win the World Series).

Marson’s poor numbers weren’t all that unusual for a catcher, but Valbuena’s stats were rare. Over the past 20 seasons only two other non-catchers with at least 300 PA posted an average under .200 and a slugging percentage under .300 – David Bell (’99 Phillies) and Lance Blankenship (’93 A’s).

Luis Valbuena historically bad in 2010

It takes a perfect storm for a player to have a season as bad as Luis Valbuena in 2010.

In an ideal world, Valbuena never would have accumulated over 300 PA on the major league level this past season. But the Indians just didn’t have many other options.

As a result, he became the first Indian to hit under .200 with at least 300 PA since 1917, when both Steve O’Neill and Joe Evans accomplished the feat.

Now the question Valbuena needs to answer: is he the next O’Neill, who would later hit over .300 and finish 6th in the 1922 MVP voting? Or is he the next Evans, who was relegated to the bench and never again was given 300 PA with the Tribe?

Squeeze play is back in Cleveland

On Monday night Jayson Nix executed a perfect squeeze play with Travis Hafner on 3rd to give the Indians a 2-1 lead, which they would hold to for the win. It was the second successful squeeze for the Indians this season.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to determine exactly when a squeeze has been executed by going through box scores, but on baseball-reference’s play index we can come pretty close. Using their “event finder” we can find sacrifice bunts with a runner on 3rd base. Technically, a squeeze play can result in a hit, if the bunt is placed in such a way that the official scorer rules that the runner would have been safe regardless of what the fielder did with the ball. However, that is certainly a rare occurrence.

Using what we can on baseball reference, the Indians two “RBI sacrifice bunts with a runner on 3rd” are their most in a single season since 1993. In fact, Luis Valbuena‘s earlier this season was the first since Omar Vizquel in 2003.

When compiling the list on the right, two things immediately jumped out at me:

1) Albert Belle bunted?! Sure enough, on July 9, 1994 in the Metrodome, Jim Deshaies walked Kenny Lofton who stole 2nd and then 3rd. After another walk was issued to Carlos Baerga, Belle laid down a sacrifice bunt, scoring Lofton from 3rd. It was the 4th and final sac bunt of Belle’s career.

2) Thomas Howard not only had three in one season, but two in ONE GAME! On June 16, 1992 at Cleveland Stadium, Howard officially went 0-3 with 2 RBI. In the 5th inning, following a Lofton triple, Howard laid down a squeeze to give the Indians a 3-2 lead over the Orioles. Then in the 7th inning, with the Tribe up 4-2, Howard laid down ANOTHER squeeze, this time scoring Mark Lewis.

Chasing Chris Bando

If Luis Valbuena‘s season in the majors is over (unlikely, since he’ll probably be back in September at the latest) he’ll end this season with the second lowest batting average in team history (min. 175 PA).

The team record, which figures to stand for quite some time, belongs to Chris Bando. In 199 plate appearances in 1985, Bando hit .139.

Bando, the brother of former A’s All-Star Chris, split time with Jerry Willard in 1985. And he’s lucky he was even given the opportunity to raise his average to .139. At the end of April, Bando was batting .040. By the All-Star Break he was batting .071. If it weren’t for a .189 average in August and September, it could have been a lot worse for the local Cleveland product.

Welcome aboard Jayson Nix

The Indians claimed Jayson Nix off waivers from the White Sox yesterday and added him to the big league roster, optioning Jensen Lewis an Luis Valbuena to Columbus.

Nix was a 2001 1st-round pick of the Rockies, immediately making him the most successful 2001 1st-round pick to play for the Indians (our 1st rounders Alan Horne and Mike Conroy never made it to the majors).

The only good thing I can say about Nix is that he’s versatile. A poor man’s Jamey Carroll, if you will. Primarily a second baseman, he’s also played third, short and a little outfield over the past two seasons in Chicago.

He was batting .163 for the White Sox before being designated for assignment – one of the few players with a worse average than Valbuena this season. The thinking behind the move is likely that Valbuena is doing himself more harm than good in the majors. Down in the minors he can rebuild his confidence. Nix may be nothing more than a stop-gap solution until Valbuena straightens things out and gets recalled.

In an effort to find a good note on Nix, I did come across this oddity: he has just 13 career home runs, but three have come off Joe Saunders. He has no more than one homer against any other pitcher.