Monday, February 9, 2009

The Crystal Ball '09: Melvin Mora

Friends, Baltimoreans, O's fans, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Melmo, not to praise him;
The outs that batters make live after them,
The bunt singles are oft interred with their bones,
So let it be with Melmo...
Melmo was ambitious with his fielding:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Melmo answered it...

This is probably Melvin Mora's final season in Baltimore and it will probably be time for him to go. Since the end of 2004, Mora has been in decline. You shouldn't really expect much out of a 37-year old third baseman. I mean, he had a nice year in 2008 but that's just a lat hurrah for an old vet. Surely he'll regress back to his normal declining self in 2009. 2008 was a fluke. Right?

Since 1954, third basemen age 37 or over whose OPS+ was greater than 100:

OPS+ Age
Schmidt 142 37
T. Fernandez 124 37
Nettles 120 40
Boggs 119 37
Nettles 119 38
Rose 119 37
B. Robinson 113 37
G. Gaetti 108 37

First, I would like The Warehouse to take note that the only player on this list who was an above-average hitter after their age 37 season: the freakish Graig Nettles. I have faith that Andy MacPhail will decline that club option for Mora for the 2010 season...

Second, excepting Nettles, there were only six other third basemen who were above-average hitters during their age 37 season in the last 54 years. Four are (or should be) Hall of Famers. Gary Gaetti's age 37 season was his last hurrah, at least as a third baseman. I suppose Mora could have another good season ala Tony Fernandez...but it's a real long shot. It just doesn't happen very often.

And Mora does NOT have the glove to make up for a slumping bat. Mora had worked himself into a decent fielder in recent seasons but he has been slipping. He wasn't the worst fielding third baseman baseball last season...but there was only one AL regular worse than him in 2008.

Still...his 2008 numbers were no fluke. His BABIP was .289, below his career average and his average on on groundballs was a measly .189. The point is that Mora was legitimately good last season. He was stroking line drives like a madman, he didn't just get lucky. It gives some hope that Melvin puts it together for one more year.

I still think the odds are long on that happening though. Look for a .260/.330/.410 line, something in that neighborhood. Don't be surprised if Wigginton is getting a lot of starts at third toward the end of the year.

Photo by Keith Allison and used under the Creative Commons License 2.0

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