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Athletics 2014 season review: Alberto Callaspo

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Even Callaspo's jersey number dropped from 18 to 7, nearly matching his career-low of 6.
Even Callaspo's jersey number dropped from 18 to 7, nearly matching his career-low of 6.
Jason O. Watson

Alberto Callaspo started the 2014 season wearing jersey No. 18, but he switched to No. 7 midseason. Manager Bob Melvin wears No. 6 for the Oakland Athletics, so Callaspo is next on our list. Note that Nate Freiman wore No. 7 last year but sported No. 35 this season, so we'll get to him later in the winter.

Player profile

Name: Alberto Callaspo, aka Hot Dog
Position: 2B, 1B, 3B
Stats: .223/.290/.290, 451 PAs, 4 HR, 40 BB, 50 Ks
WAR: negative-1.0 bWAR, negative-1.1 fWAR
How he got here: Acquired from Angels during 2013 season
2014 Salary: $4.875 million
2015 Status: Free agent
2015 Salary: TBD

Season summary

I was surprised when Callaspo was still on the A's roster in March. With Jed Lowrie, Eric Sogard, and Nick Punto all on board to cover the middle infield, I didn't see where Callaspo would fit. Certainly he could net something of value in a trade with a contending team in need of another infielder, right? Or at least salary relief?

Whether because no good offer came along or because Billy Beane just wanted to keep the infield depth, Callaspo was still here on Opening Day. And then he was still here at the end of the season. As it turns out, it would have been better if the A's had just dumped him and saved $5 million, because he ended up costing the team a win by both measures of WAR. He didn't hit well or get on base or slug, he was a terrible baserunner, and he played a below-average second base. To make it worse, Bob Melvin shoehorned him into 127 games, including a team-leading 34 as the starting DH. He had a .580 OPS (67 OPS+) for the season, and he started at DH more times than anyone else on the club. Holy wasted at-bats, Batman!

And then, in the Wild Card game, he totally redeemed himself. Unfortunately, since the A's lost, his heroics won't be well-remembered by history. In the 12th inning, with the score knotted, right-hander Jason Frasor came in to face Nate Freiman with one out and Josh Reddick on second. Callaspo was called on to pinch hit. Frasor threw a wild pitch, sending Reddick to third. And then Callaspo got a hold of a pitch just below his eyes and slapped it into left field for an RBI single.

The A's had an 8-7 lead, and if it had held then Callaspo would have been the unlikely hero of one of the greatest postseason games in history. He would have been Stephen Vogt Part Deux. Instead, his hit just goes down as another footnote in the Royals' magical October run.

As you can tell, I wasn't Callaspo's biggest fan this year. He didn't hit at all -- not against lefties, not against righties, not in the first half, not in the second half, not with a bat, not with his hat, not in the rain, not on a train. The best I can say about him is that he was 3-for-12 with five walks as a pinch-hitter, and he was good for the first two weeks of April. Otherwise, he was terrible at the plate in virtually every way. He even struck out at nearly a career-high rate, and making contact is supposed to be his one superpower. He was bad.

He was no better on the bases. Despite an inability to actually get on base in the first place, once there he tied for the team lead by getting thrown out seven times. That's not counting force plays, or caught stealings, or pickoffs (though he also got picked off once). The player he tied with was Josh Donaldson, who was on base way more often, and five of Donnie's outs involved him getting cut down at the plate trying to score; only one of Callaspo's was the result of an over-aggressive Mike Gallego, and from memory I can say that at least three of them were just brutal mental errors that cost the team dearly.

Finally, Callaspo's defense was nothing special either. He only played around 350 innings at second base (a full season would be more like 1,300-1,400), and in that time he managed to cost the team three runs according to Defensive Runs Saved. Melvin put him at first base 23 times, which made no sense since he can't hit and had never played there, but the tiny-sample metrics rated him as right around average. He also made 16 starts at third base and was roughly neutral there as well; remember that one of his useful traits was supposed to be his ability to back up Donaldson in case of emergency, so at least he performed that function adequately. So, on one hand, the fact that he played three positions does literally show versatility, and the fact that he was decent at two of them is even better. But that he was bad at the most important one (second base), the one at which he played more than the other two combined, and that he provided absolutely nothing with the bat at any time, meant his pros didn't outweigh his cons. Not even close.

I didn't really want Callaspo on this 2014 team because I didn't see where he would fit, and I'm sad to say that I turned out to be right. He proved to be a liability even when he was seemingly filling the holes in the lineup capably, and even his one redeeming moment proved to be too little, too late. What's worse, he made more money than Moss and Donaldson combined, and I just have to think that there must have been a replacement-level middle infielder available for less.

2014 season grade, relative to expectations: F ... My expectations were absurdly low, and he still failed to meet them. He could have received a better grade by doing literally anything well.

2014 season grade, overall: F ... When you're worth one win below replacement, there's really no argument that you were better than a complete failure.

Video highlights

Most of Callaspo's video highlights are sac flies, RBI singles, and fairly routine defensive plays. But hey, teams need all of those things too! Obviously, that hit in the Wild Card game was his biggest highlight of the year. Since we've already seen that one, let's start with a similar play that had much lower stakes. Here he is with the game-tying single in the ninth inning of an April game against the Astros.

He helped spark another late-game rally against Houston in July. Say what you will about his overall performance, but there was always hope when he was at the plate at a key moment because he's always a good bet to make contact somewhere on the field.

Here's what a four-hit game looks like for Callaspo. An infield single, a pair of slaps to the opposite field, and a bomb that only had enough juice to reach the warning track but still landed for a double. It's only missing the flare that drops in between three defenders in shallow right.

He does have some pop, though, every now and then. Even better when it comes against the Angels.

Of course, as a member of the 2014 Athletics, he was required to suffer an injury in the second half of the season. His 15-day stint only cost him 10 games, though.

On to defense. Though he wasn't good in the field overall, he could still make some plays. Here he is digging a low throw at first base. Pickin' Machine!

Here, he makes a diving play at second. He actually showed solid range on this play.

And finally, he shows what the hot corner is all about by snaring this absolute rocket.

And finally, one light-hearted moment, because you can never really have enough Adrian Beltre in your life.

***

Alright, with all that said, and little of it complimentary, best of luck to Callaspo on his next stop and for the rest of his career. It's easy to talk a bunch of trash on a professional player from the comfort of my computer, but thanks to Alberto for putting on our uniform for a year and a half. I have no doubt that he hustles and plays as hard as he can, but it just wasn't good enough this year. We all had a lot of laughs over the hot dog story, though, so at least he brought joy to Athletics Nation.