Eric Hinske To NL Pitchers: “You’re All in Big Trouble”

Title: Eric Hinske To NL Pitchers: “You’re All in Big Trouble”
Date: February 20, 2009
Original Source: The On Deck Circle
Synopsis: Eric Hinske departed the AL East to sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates, ending his streak of playoff appearances but offering potentially more playing time, which appeared to be bad news for NL pitchers.

Eric Hinske, meet National League pitching.

National League pitching…meet your match.

Last season, I warned that Eric Hinske would murder the Blue Jays. He only hit .250 against his old team in 15 contests, but he did smack 3 home runs and 3 doubles, tallying 9 RBI and posting an impressive .881 OPS in those games.

What was more telling about that article, though, was the sheer genius of my forecasting. Eric Hinske was an absolute monster last season. If you want stats to back that claim up, you should probably go somewhere else – his line of .247-20HR-60RBI-10SB-.798OPS isn’t going to blow anyone away (but seriously, 20 home runs in under 400 at bats…come on!).

Please note that his OPS through June was a maniacal .881. In addition, this supposed bum stole 10 bases in 13 tries, played four positions (five if you include DH), and for you real stat heads, had an OPS+ of 107, meaning he was 7% better than the average replacement player.

Yeah, you read that right. Eric Hinske was 7% better than average last year. He’s exactly average for his career (OPS+=100). Add in his versatility and his clubhouse presence (Evan Longoria credited Hinske with Evan’s smooth transition to the Majors) and his World Series experience (been there twice, owns a ring) and Hinske should have been a hot commodity this offseason.

Instead, he was one of just two major league signings by the league’s longest running joke, the Pittsburgh Pirates. More after the jump! He will stack One-Point-Five-Million Ducketts this season filling in behind the LaRoches at the corner infield spots and playing the fourth outfielder role for a suddenly impressive outfield squad (McLouth and McCutcheon, watch out). He’ll also lend a veteran voice to a very young team, and hey, he can help these kids deal with losing – he played for the Jays for five years! (Boom, roasted!)

In all seriousness, Hinske is a major addition to the Pirates. I’m not kidding about his fielding versatility and his clubhouse presence. Why does everyone think I’m joking? The numbers don’t lie – Eric Hinske is a great power hitter for his entire career. Getting to play in the National League (Central!) should help his numbers, as it is notoriously the weaker league. He shouldn’t struggle for playing time like he did the last couple of years, either – Pittsburgh is ripe with young players and unproven outfielders, and the lineup could lack lefties if McCutcheon makes the club out of training camp (and if he doesn’t, you’d have to assume Hinske has a more prominent role, regardless).

Eric Hinske probably isn’t going to become a 600 at bat guy. I’ll point out that his recent averages say he’d hit about 25-30 homers if he did, but his lack of excellence at any one position, his struggles against left-handed pitchers (.658 career OPS vs. Lefties), and the general opinion that he’s not a Major League caliber starter will prevent him from seeing that amount of playing time.

I contend that he is a Major League caliber starter, but that’s beside the point – nobody would argue the Pirates are a Major league calibre baseball team.

Yes, Hinske has found a home on baseball’s Island of Misfit Toys, and he faces one of two fates: play well and the Pirates will trade you, or; play poorly and the Pirates will have no choice but to play you regardless.

Best of luck this season Eric…even though it’s NL pitching that will need it.

Bonus Material: Eric Hinske’s Offseason Regimen
11 AM: Wake up hungover. Eat one bucket of fastballs for breakfast.
12PM: Stack paper. Nap time.
1 PM: Wake up from nap. Talk to bad girls. Eat two buckets of fastballs, low and inside, for lunch.
3 PM: Weight room – bench press Jack Wilson 400 times, curl Freddy Sanchez 300 times, wrestle a live bear. Protein shake – protein powder made from ground up steroid abusers.
5 PM: Dinner time – eat three buckets of fastballs, the high-and-tight variety. Slam crazy hot wife. Message Blake on Facebook about recent bad girl adventures. Prank call J.P. Ricciardi.
6PM: Stack paper.
7 PM: Party time (no Rock Band, it’s lame).
1AM: Arrive home, slam crazy hot wife.
1:30AM: Count paper. Bedtime.

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