One of the most underrated performers on the Angels, Erick Aybar heads into the first season of his career without having Howie Kendrick to his left. Will that have any impact on Aybar’s tremendous consistency?
What happened in 2014?
It wasn’t Aybar’s worse year, but it wasn’t his best year either. Then again, his best and worst years aren’t all that different from his average years. He posted his typical just above league average wRC+, was a solid baserunner and was a strong defender (even the defensive metrics managed to agree on that this year). The only real notable aspect of his season was the he played a career-high 156 games, besting his previous high of 143.
*The MWAH projections are simply my best guess based off my own personal opinion and research (my wOBA calculation is approximate because my math skills are only “meh”)
What do the projections think he will do in 2015?
You aren’t going to believe this, but they expect the incredibly consistent Aybar to perform at about the same level as he usually does. I mean, seriously, look at those projections. The only thing even slightly different is CAIRO expecting Aybar to hit a few average points lower and strikeout a few extra times.
Does the Monkey agree or disagree?
Clearly I agree. Aybar is a very uncontroversial guy to project.
THREE OPEN QUESTIONS FOR ERICK AYBAR IN 2015
1) How much is Aybar going to miss Howie?
That is the big narrative around Aybar this spring. I’m not sure it is actually a thing though. Yes, it could make double plays a little interesting since he not only will have a new pivot partner but will have a new partner who probably isn’t going to be much good defensively. But is it really going to have that big of an impact on his overall game? I just don’t see how 75 double plays, give or take, is going to shape the rest of his game. I guess I see the concern since Kendrick has always been to the left of him, so it might feel weird, but how long can that really last?
2) Are we finally done with this Aybar batting first or second nonsense?
Last season it seemed as if Mike Scioscia finally figured out that the guy with the .318 OBP shouldn’t be batting at the top of the order as he only made a combined 96 plate appearances in the top two spots. A lot of those came when Kole Calhoun was out hurt.
Now, Scioscia is trying to figure out the lineup for this season and he hasn’t once mentioned Aybar as a possibility to slot in the top of the order even though Scioscia has been toying with the idea of moving Trout or Calhoun down in the order. This is progress, but I wonder what will happen if/when Scioscia’s preferred lineup starts to struggle.
3) Can Erick handle another season of playing 150+ games?
It isn’t that Aybar has never been durable, but it just about every year of his career he has suffered a minor injury that cost him time or even sent him to the DL. That’s not surprising given his size and position. However, last year was the year he never got hurt and was able to play 156 games. It was also a season in which he only attempted 25 steals, a disproportionate amount of which came in June and July. It was almost as if he was trying to preserve his body.
Part of the reason he had to play so much was that the Halos clearly didn’t want John McDonald playing all that much. He was there to lead from the bench, not perform in the field. It might be a similar situation for Aybar this year though since there are a lot questions around any of the infielders in camp even being capable of manning shortstop. He’s on the wrong side of 30 now, so perhaps the thing that can finally put a dent in Erick Aybar’s consistency is the grind of playing almost every single game.
The Final Word (and GIF)
I really just wanted to use this GIF; it’s a classic. But since the precedent has been set that the GIF and word is supposed to make a point, I’ll try and force something.
OK, let’s see… this represents… existential angst? No… how about Aybar’s frustration with the political climate? No… OK, I think I’ve got it. Bees buzz and Aybar has to focus on ignoring the buzz around Roberto Baldoquin that will also be swarming around Aybar. Erick Aybar has been the franchise shortstop for eight years now and spent most of that time with the blessing of being “Arte Moreno’s favorite player.” But now he’s hearing the rumbling about this Baldquin kid who the Halos have all but handed Aybar’s job to starting in 2017, if not sooner.
I’ve never gotten the sense that such things affect Aybar. He certainly has never flinched much when his name was thrown into trade talks, but this is a bit different because there is also an implication that Aybar’s reaching the end of his usefulness as a starting caliber player. There are very few players who handle that decline gracefully and this forthcoming Baldoquin ascension could jumpstart that acknowledgement of his impending decline, even though he actually isn’t declining yet.