The 2011 Diamondbacks were not exactly the team that, back in March, most of us expected to see out on the field. There are a lot of players that really exceeded the expectations that many of us had for them- Ryan Roberts, Micah Owings, Josh Collmenter. But Gerardo Parra definitely deserves a mention on that list, too. After last year, most of us weren't looking for too much from Parra. Sure, he'd shown some decent defense, but his bat... Well, we didn't have much hope. We had some pretty harsh words to say about him, to be quite honest.
But did that stop Gerardo Parra? Oh, no. Ears wasn't listening.
Our expectations for Parra? Well, consider the results of this poll taken at the Snakepit last year:
Yeah. That's how the Snakepit felt about Parra one year ago- feel free to browse the round table discussion. It's not pretty. Parra's numbers in 2010 weren't awful, really, but he was generally seen as a liability at the plate, his defense wasn't that notable, and the term "fourth outfielder" was thrown around quite a bit. Very few of us had much hope for Parra- save for a few occasional outliers, like txzona predicting Parra would lead the team in batting average in 2011. Aw, but that's just craziness, right? We'd muddle through with Parra playing backup to Nady, hopefully not making too much of a mess out there, and we'd look for another solution out there in the next off-season.
So.... About those expectations. Blown out of the water by the Parrazooka. Let's take a moment first to talk about his defense, because that's almost certainly what most of us think of when we think of his play this season. Take a gander at this highlight reel that the team put together after the season was over.
Now, if you're anything like me, you had one thought after watching that reel? "That's all?" Parra had some really fantastic plays on defense last year, and it's hard not to just make the rest of this article clips of that, so I'll limit myself to just one more. It's a great play against the Rockies that doesn't get as much attention as his rifle shots to home plate. But it's a smart play and he uses his arm to catch Seth Smith napping.
Parra's output on offense was a fair sight better than we expected, too- sure, our standards may have been low, but leading the team in batting average and triples isn't too shabby, no matter what. A definite step up from 2010, and he used his wheels on the bases quite a bit better this season, too- after going 6 for 13 in stolen base attempts in his first two seasons, he went 15 for 16 last year. Sure, some of his numbers may be helped out by the fact that he was batting right before the pitcher a lot of the time, but he still performed far better than what we expected to see from him, gave us a good bit of value from a position we didn't expect much from, and earned his first Gold Glove with some flashy play in the field. In a season, Parra went from a guy most of us didn't really care for to become a pretty popular player. Not bad. Grade: A
Well... That's hard to say. The Jason Kubel signing makes Parra's spot in the outfield suddenly seem uncertain. Are we sending Parra back to being a fourth outfielder after a strong season? I certainly hope not, but there only seem to be so many spots on the field that we're legally allowed to field players. And I think it's been proven that we can be pretty bad at making predictions. So who knows what 2012 will bring? More precision strikes from the Parrazooka, I hope. I don't expect Parra to hit close to .300 again, but I think he can be a good contributor at the plate. I'll try to stay optimistic here- I think Parra's going to contribute, and the team will find ways to let him help.
Other Snakepit Grades:
Now, that’s what I call an A. Expectations for Parra coming in were limited. Yeah, he was young, but it still seemed likely he’d be a fourth outfielder, behind - and I can’t believe I’m writing this - Xavier Nady. A year later, and the man blew away expectations with his bat: how many people had him with the highest batting-average on the team, among players there all season? Then, there was his defense, which as a fan, went from a pleasant surprise ("Hey, look! He threw someone out!") to near-entitlement ("Go on! Try for two! I dare you!"), and a thoroughly-deserved Gold Glove. Somehow, he’s still looking likely to be a fourth outfielder this season. Hopefully, he’ll hit .330 with 20 home-runs and render that equally implausible by January 2013.
Remember a year ago, when Parra had by far the lowest OPS+ (79) in the starting lineup of a team that lost 97 games? If you had told me then that he would become one of my favorite players, and one of the most important players on the team a year later, there’s no way I would have believed you. We already knew about his stellar defense in left field, so it was a testament to just how bad his bat was that he was still almost unplayable as a starting outfielder going into 2011.
But whether it was a new hitting coach or just progression (it was easy to forget that Parra was only 23 during the ‘10 season), he improved almost every facet of his game. He got on base better, he hit for slightly more power, and the result was a 2.8 fWAR season, making him a solidly above-average starter. He did most of this in the eighth spot in the lineup, so there are legitimate concerns about his OBP rise being artificial, but overall there was little not to love about Parra’s 2011 season.