John Mayberry received more playing time this year, playing in 149 games with Domonic Brown in the minors, the mid-season trades of Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino and Ryan Howard‘s injury. His overall production was below average. He hit for power but didn’t reach base all that much and struck out 23% of the time.
His defense was solid at first base and in the corner outfield spots, but his athleticism didn’t translate into solid routes or range in center. All told, he tallied just 0.4 WAR this year, down from the very impressive 2.5 WAR he produced in 2011.
His 2012 campaign can be viewed one of two ways: it was an overall failure or it was an experiment that cemented the notion that he is only useful as a platoon player. The two are mutually exclusive, because buying into the latter means that this season was useful in determining his future role, which prevents it from being a total outright failure.
Maybe I’m a glass half-full kind of guy, but I choose to evaluate his production the second way. This was a largely disappointing season, but his lack of production against righties means the Phillies can use him strictly against the lefties he crushes moving forward. They don’t need to waste any more time giving him work against righties and can instead eke out more outfield production through the use of platoons. All along, we said that the one benefit to this waste of a Phillies season was that the team would get to try different players in various spots and really see what it had.
While that comment was primarily directed towards the bullpen, it was also true of Mayberry. Over the last two seasons, he embodied the common expression “He’s great as an extra man but if he’s a starter you’re not a very good team.” That expression comes in many shapes and forms, but it describes Mayberry and the Phillies. As a part-time platoon player that isn’t yet arbitration-eligible, he is a perfect fit for this Phillies roster. As an everyday starter, not so much, and the 2012 season helped prove that point.
Make no mistake: he still hits lefties well. This year, he hit .271/.317/.494 against southpaws, with a .345 wOBA and 116 wRC+. His slugging percentage ranked 7th among National League hitters with at least 180 PAs against lefties (the exact amount Mayberry had). For his career, Mayberry now has the following split:
vs. R: .232/.302/.379, .301 wOBA, 86 wRC+
vs. L: .284/.328/.547, .371 wOBA, 133 wRC+
Over the last three seasons, Shane Victorino has been the only Phillies player to hit lefties better than Mayberry. A lefty-crusher is easier to find on the free agent market than someone who crushes righties — like Eric Chavez, who we discussed yesterday — but Mayberry’s athleticism, defensive ability and favorable contract status make him quite the useful player if utilized properly.
It wasn’t so much that the Phillies used him incorrectly this season. Rather, they were playing him to see if he was a legitimate starting option moving forward. His poor production against righties — who account for 70% of the pitches thrown in a season — suggested that he isn’t a full-time player, but that is perfectly fine.
Not everyone is suited for an everyday role, and the 2013 Phillies would be well-served to call on a number of platoons, much like the 1993 Phillies did. Platooning Mayberry with Nate Schierholtz would make for a damn solid corner outfielder.
Since 2010, Mayberry has a .290/.337/.544 line in 306 PAs against lefties and a 136 wRC+ that indicates he was 36% better than the league in this split. In that same span, Schierholtz has a .270/.334/.440 line with a 112 wRC+. If each plays to his capacity, these two would combine to give the Phillies one of the better defensive corner outfielders with a bat 15-20% better than the league average.
Grade: C: Mayberry had a down year if the only evaluative tool used to make that decision was his overall statistical line. However, there was much more to the story, and I am choosing to grade him from the standpoint that he continued to hit lefties well and will no longer confuse the Phillies into thinking he is an everyday player anymore.