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2011 Diamondbacks Report Card: Sean Burroughs

Burroughs report card

Age on Opening Day: 30
Salary: $414,000
2011 stats: 78 games, 110 PAs, .273/.289/.336, 1 HR, 8 RBI
2010 stats: N/A

The first concern when dumpster diving isn't whether the food is spoiled.  Most grocery stores throw out food that has passed the recommended shelf life, but they're just trying to limit their liability.  Much of what can be found is still edible, though, if you're careful.  You want to avoid most fruit or vegetables.  Bread is also no good, as is any meat product.  Canned food is the holy grail because it probably is something that will have most of the major food groups and still be good.  Most grocery stores strip the labels off in an attempt to dissuade dumpster diving, but the risk for the hungry is minimal.  You know the food in the can is probably still good.

No, the concern when examining two unmarked cans is, "which one of these is dog food?"

I guess if you're hungry enough dog food wouldn't be so bad.  But you're really hoping for a can of soup or stew.

It's easy to dump on Sean Burroughs because he's not very good.  He doesn't hit for power, and he's not exactly known for his speed or defense.  After playing well enough in the hitter's league of the Pacific Coast League he earned a promotion in May when the team seemed to be without direction.  His original signing was greeted with all the warm welcome we've come to expect around here, but I won't embarrass anyone specifically.  

So little did we care about Burroughs arriving that he didn't even warrant his own story.  He was just another misfit toy brought in by Kevin Towers, and we hadn't yet begun to believe the team was going anywhere but down.

It's easy to go to Baseball Reference and dismiss Burroughs after looking at his 2011 stats.  WAR?  Ha!  OPS+?  What little to speak of!  Slugging, home runs, batting average, did Sean Burroughs do anything at all that warranted his continued existence on the team?  The short answer is: yes.

Whether you agree with the concept of the pinch hitter, it is impossible to deny that the basic value of the role is whether the batter gets hits.  Walks are acceptable, but the batter is brought in specifically to extend the inning.  Batting average alone is a difficult measure in this situation simply because of the limited number of AB's.  So if we're going to compare pinch hitters, batting average will tell only part of the story.

Burroughs had a decent, if not spectacular batting average as a pinch hitter at .286.  Where he did excel was in generating hits.  He ranked second in the NL with 16 hits, and had 20 less AB's than the leader, Ross Gload.  Where Burroughs did not excel was any amount of power or actual run production.  His 16 hits generated only 3 extra base hits, and 3 RBI's.  Yes, the latter number is largely dependent on who bats in front of him, but it doesn't change that he is well below other pinch hitters (which topped out at 15).

He only started 14 games, so it is difficult to assess his contribution in this area.  As a pinch hitter, and especially one that hadn't been in baseball a year ago, he did just fine.  His remarkable comeback from the depths of who knows what to getting a pinch hit in the 9th inning of the deciding game of a playoff series is the stuff of legends.  Regardless of how you feel about Burroughs as a player, it's tough not to feel a little for him as a person.

Baseball, like all sports, is a meritocracy.  In most cases we want it to be this way, because we want to believe that the best will succeed.  Sometimes a little extra story is layered on top, but for the most part your sob story won't get any play if you can't play.  There are many who will feel calloused toward Burrough's journey.  But remember that he made it back, and he contributed.  It might not have been enough to get anymore responsibility than pinch hits, but he's still living it. 

What he needs to work on for next season is more power, even if it's just extra base hits.  Singles are fine and all, but he needs just a little bit more.  Overall, though, I have to give him a Meets Standards.

Snakepitter Grades: 

Sprankton: C+
You’ve got to hand it to Sean Burroughs. After being essentially useless for the first half of the season, he suddenly emerged as a decent enough pinch-hitter who was mildly entertaining to watch run. He launched himself into Yuniesky Betancourt territory during the second half of the season with a very respectable .688 OPS and he did just enough good deeds to label himself as a valuable pinch-hitter. Batting 16-61 off the bench is nothing flashy but it could have been a lot worse (see Russell Branyan... yikes). Yeah, the four GDPs and the terrible walk rate are bad, but seriously, did ANYONE expect Burroughs to do better? There’s also this...

Jim: A
Lance Berkman won the NL Comeback Player of the Year, to predictable whining that it should have been Ryan Vogelsong or Pablo Sandoval. Wrong. Coming from much, much further back was Sean Burroughs - you didn’t see them eating cheeseburgers out of garbage cans in 2010 (well, not Berkman or Vogelsong, anyway...). And that’s where this grade comes from. Sean shouldn’t have been playing in the majors. Hell, he shouldn’t have been playing beer-league soft-ball. That he ended the year stranded in scoring position, in the ninth inning of the deciding NLDS game, after a key pinch-hit, was miraculous.

Let’s not over-egg the pudding. Burroughs blew chunks in his first stint with the team. After coming up on May 18; in 23 games, mostly off the bench, he had no walks and one extra-base hit. In hindsight, his flailing wasn’t a surprise, since he hadn’t seen major-league pitching in over five years, and when we needed a DH, Burroughs went back to Reno. Afterr he returned in July, much to all our amazement, he didn’t suck, and hit .279 thereafter. Sure, no-one will mistake him for Matt Kemp - but, I repeat, people: cheeseburgers. Out of garbage cans. Going from there to the post-season = Grade A.

Burroughs basically went through Nicolas Cage’s filmography, and not just by re-enacting Leaving Las Vegas. He certainly wasn’t a Lord of WAR or particularly Kick-Ass, but he did play his part in Raising Arizona.

As annoyed as I was for much of the season at Burroughs’ continued presence on the roster, I have to agree with Jim: the fact that Burroughs was even in a position to suck for a major league ballclub is pretty remarkable.  The last time Burroughs had a major league at-bat before this season was 2006.  Think about how long ago that is in baseball terms: in 2006, the Diamondbacks’ starting catcher was Johnny Estrada and Claudio Vargas was their third-best starting pitcher.  It’s been a while

And while Sean Burroughs was not particularly good for most of the season, he was downright serviceable by the end.  His batting line after the All Star Break was .281/.313/.375.  On its own, that isn’t going to turn any heads, but when you consider that in 2010, Diamondback pinch-hitters hit a combined .218/.282/.279, you start to see Burroughs’ value.  Ultimately, these grades are done compared to expectations at the beginning of the season, and at the beginning of the season the name "Sean Burroughs" could not have possibly been any further from my mind.  Thus, he gets a B.  He wasn’t great, but at the end of the day he wasn’t too terrible for a guy who hadn’t swung a bat in the majors for five years.

Kishi: C+
It’s a little difficult to properly grade Burroughs, I think. I almost want to give him two grades- a B and a D-. When he was bad, he was awful, and those times really seem to stick out in the mind. But he had some good stretches- hitting .350/.381/.475 in August, at a point when the team really needed him to step up as a pinch hitter, probably helps his case a bit. And while he only had one hit in the playoffs, it was a timely one. Add in that a pinch hitter is a pretty rough position to judge- because one extra single in ten at-bats (which may be fifteen games) turns you from a failure to a success. But, after a rough start, I think he was a useful addition to the team, and at relatively little cost.