Alberto Callaspo is in his fifth day as a member of the Oakland Athletics organization. He's only made one start and picked up seven plate appearances, so we still don't really know that much about him. Here's the basic stuff:
- 30 years old
- played 3rd base for the last several seasons, but will play 2nd in Oakland
- signed for the 2014 season for $4.9M
- loves hot dogs
- .663 OPS this season
That's all useful info, but it feels like getting commissioned to paint a giant mural and doing the whole thing in crayon. We can do better. So, here are some key numbers to illustrate just who Callaspo is as a player:
7.0% and 3.0%
These numbers represent his 2013 strikeout percentage and swinging strike percentage, respectively. Among qualified players, only Nori Aoki and Marco Scutaro have lower strikeout rates, and only Scutaro has a lower swinging strike percentage. In other words, Callaspo strikes out less and makes more contact than basically anyone else in the Majors. (His contact rate is also 4th, behind only Scutaro, Aoki, and Jeff Keppinger.) Neither of these numbers are flukes, either; his career rates are 8.6% for strikeouts, and 3.6% for swinging strikes. This is the player Callaspo is. He almost always puts the ball in play. Furthermore, his career BB:K rate is 264:258 - he's walked more than he's struck out in his career.
.250 and .285
These are his 2013 BABIP, and his career BABIP. For a guy who never strikes out and rarely homers, his BABIP will basically be his batting average. This year's .250 mark is a career-low for Callaspo as an everyday player, and I'm unaware of any reason to expect this trend to continue. His batted ball profile actually looks pretty good - he's hitting line drives at as high of a rate as he ever has, and keeping the infield popups at his usual low rate. As long as he keeps making contact, I expect that his luck will even out a bit and his batting average will creep up from his current .247 toward his career mark of .272.
-11.3 and -16
These are his UZR and Defensive Runs Saved from the 1240 innings he spent at 2nd base as a member of the Kansas City Royals in 2009. It's the only full season he's ever played at the position, so, while a somewhat small sample, it's all that we have to go off. He will probably not be a strength defensively at 2nd, but hopefully he won't be as horrible as those numbers suggest.
22 and 13
These are his career totals for stolen bases and caught stealings. The man isn't a base stealer, and he's a slightly below-average baserunner overall for his career. He's not a huge liability, but he's not going to add value on the bases.
6.8 and 6.4
These are his bWAR and fWAR totals for the 2011 and 2012 seasons combined, respectively. Baseball-Reference has him at 3.3 (2011) and 3.5 (2012), and Fangraphs has him at 3.5 and 2.9. Granted, a large part of all of those WAR totals comes from his superlative defense at 3rd base, and Oakland won't get any of that value. However, the point is that he's been a good player for each of the last two seasons, and he has contributed on both sides of the ball.
This is his career slash line against left-handed pitchers. On the downside, that slash line is only at .253/.327/.391 this season, but I put more stock in the career line (858 PA's) than the 2013 rates (101 PA's). Callaspo will be platooning, and he is well-suited to be the right-handed hitter in that platoon.
94 and 70
The first number is Callaspo's career wRC+, and the second is Adam Rosales' career mark. While you're sitting there wondering why Oakland went out of its way to acquire a slightly below-average hitter who might not field or run very well, remember what a huge upgrade he is at the plate over the significantly below-average hitter he is replacing.
Callaspo is not going to set the world on fire. He's a solid little player, but he has his flaws. He doesn't hit for a high average, and he doesn't hit for a lot of power, but he makes tons of contact and provides just enough value at the plate to be worthwhile. He may not be a good defender at 2nd, but we won't know until we see him (and he can't be any worse than Jed Lowrie is in the field).
Callaspo figures to start again today against the lefty Derek Holland. Now you know a little bit more about the player you'll be watching this afternoon. If you have any more compelling numbers to share, then post them in the comments!