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Diamondbacks Report Card: Juan Miranda

ReportcardMiranda_medium Name: Juan Miranda
Age on Opening Day: 27
Salary: $414,000
2011 Stats: 65 games, 202 PAs, .213/.315/.402, 7 HR, 23 RBI
2010 Stats (NYY): 33 games, .219/.296/.422, 3 HR, 10 RBI

It must be difficult to be the guy before the legend. No one remembers who started in center field before Joe DiMaggio got the job, or in right before Ted Williams, or who the Yankee’s closer was before Mariano Rivera. The Man Before becomes a trivia question most of the time, because the great player probably wouldn’t have even come up with the club if he was being blocked by another great player. It’s rare that you see the actually passing of the baton, like when DiMaggio gave way to Mickey Mantle.

Paul Goldschmidt isn’t a legend, though people talk of him almost that way. He did a bang up job for a young rookie in an exciting division race. He’s the focus, while Juan Miranda plays the role of the Man Before.

If Miranda never gets his act together it’s unlikely he be much remembered in major league play. His big league numbers are unremarkable, and time is working against him. It’s one thing to be a 24 year old and struggle, but quite another to be 29 and wondering if 2012 will be the breakout season. His age is due to his late start, as he defected from Cuba at the age of 23, and started getting big league reps in 2008. After limited time he landed here in Arizona with a position that was his to lose.

And lose it he did, even without any real competition. Russell Branyan was let go fairly early, Xavier Nady wasn’t much better, and there was effectively no one else to push Miranda out of the way. He wasn’t the casualty of anything but poor play.

He was the de facto starting first baseman for the Diamondbacks until July 10th, when Nady took over temporarily. We effectively went to the All-Star Break with Miranda, who was quickly forgotten in the excitement of the second half.

Miranda didn’t put up much offensive numbers to be excited about: .213/.315/.402 with only 7 home runs in 65 games. He also managed to strikeout 48 times, which would have been about 120 for the full season. If he had more power that might be acceptable, but 17 projected home runs isn’t enough. He did a little bit better facing left-handed pitchers, so he might develop into a sufficient platoon guy off the bench, and the power is a bit better (.515 slugging, though with only 33 AB in 2011).

Defensively he wasn’t much better. He only had 4 errors at first, but then you stop and realize that those four errors came in only 65 games. What’s that you say, want to get a little bit fancier? Well, try this on for size: of all the 2011 first basemen with 400 or more innings of work at the position, Juan Miranda ranks 8th worst in the Dewan +/- system (DSR). DSR essentially tries to rate guys on each play as either a positive or negative (up to the absolute value of 1), and then add all the plus and minuses. An average major leaguer should be at 0, anything less is, well, less. Miranda was a -3 for 2011.

He was also bottom 14 for UZR/150 with -0.9. UZR/150 basically tries to figure out if a player gave up or saved runs due to their defense, and it’s expressed in runs (the 150 is an attempt to normalize it over 150 games in a season). 19 of the 33 first basemen with at least 400 innings did give up more runs than they allowed, and although Miranda might have been the best of the worst, it’s still not good.

It’s not like the guy was converted from another position, as if Brad Pitt gave him the Hollywood montage makeover. He’s only ever played first base and he still is piss poor when compared to other major leaguers, or at least not even average.

All this adds up to a failure of a season, and a demotion down to Reno. Even in the cozy hitting environment of the Pacific Coast League wasn’t enough to get him going, as he posted a pitiful .229 average and hit only 5 home runs. Maybe 2012 will be better, but it’s hard to bet on a guy turning 29, and not particularly extraordinary at hitting, power, or defense.

Oh, and those players replaced by DiMaggio, Williams, and Rivera? DiMaggio replaced Ben Chapman, who was still early in a 16 year career that ended with him as a pitcher. Chapman would go on to share the outfield with Joe Vosmik, who was replaced by Williams. He was a decent player before The Splendid Splinter arrived, but his last two years in ‘41/42 were dreadful and was then out of the league. Rivera replaced John Wettelman, who was actually a really good closer for the Yankees and had a few decent years in Texas to end his career with 330 saves.

Snakepit Grades:

Kishi: D

Oh, Juan Miranda. One of the big questions of the season to begin with, because we often seem to have concerns about first base, and relegated to a foot-note. How much of a foot-note? Well, to be honest, I kind of thought we traded him. I had to think back for a minute to remember that he ended the season in Reno. Yeah... But his play on the field obviously wasn’t up to the standards we were looking for, and he was so swiftly overshadowed by the way Goldschmidt smashed his way into our hearts and minds, that really there’s not much to say about him. He didn’t hit well, he didn’t hit very far, and he defense wasn’t much. All in all, better to just move on.

Jim: D-
What is it with the Diamondbacks and first-base? Did Tony Clark curse us after 2005? For we’ve hardly had a 1B worthy of the name since - and that includes Clark, v2006-2009. Miranda’s failure, while disappointing, was thus hardly a surprise: my reaction to it was more a petunia-like, "Oh, no: not again..." While there were 160 million reasons why he didn’t play first for the Yankees, when you have barely 100 major-league at-bats by your 28th birthday - and a Cuban 28 years, at that - odds are you’re not going to suddenly blossom. Juan didn’t, though I regret not talking ‘charmer into using "Miranda Rights The Ship," after his two-homer game spurred a comeback from six down against Houston on May 27. That’s the only sense of loss I feel here.