Pirates Welcome Back Jordy Mercer As John McDonald Heads To DL
By Tom Smith
The Pittsburgh Pirates have placed infielder John McDonald on the 15-day disabled list from a lower back strain he suffered last night against the Milwaukee Brewers. McDonald ripped a drive to left-field that was gloved on an above average play by Pirates killer Ryan Braun.
We put together a scenario the other day, but guess what, I don’t think we specified what would happen if John McDonald would be hurt. Karma I guess.
The Pittsburgh Pirates decided to send Jordy Mercer back to Triple-A Indianapolis. It was a hot topic among Pittsburgh Pirates fans. We have always had admiration for Mercer, but after a few emails and some discussion we thought it would be beneficial to try and determine some other reasons behind the decision.
Who would play you play at shortstop if Clint Barmes was hurt?
B. Jordy Mercer
D. Wow, this sucks as a question.
We have to guess that the answer would be Jordy Mercer. So, the five million dollar question becomes: how sharp would Mercer be filling in for Barmes? Well, if it happened today, he would think he would rather be okay.
It’s hard to put much credence into the ‘staying sharp’ argument. But let’s consider Mercer stayed with the club and settled into a utility role. How sharp would be playing sporadically–we thought he could come off the bench against specific left-handers.
When you look at how poorly certain players hit against lefties, it seemed like a no-brainer to keep Mercer on the club. McDonald is 0-for-8 against lefties.
The Pirates felt it more beneficial for Mercer to keep playing regularly at Indy than it would for him to knock off the rust offensive and defensively at the Major League level. If and when the Pirates need him to step in and be productive, the Bucs decided it would be best for Mercer to keep playing the shortstop position on a daily basis. They didn’t want him riding the pine in the bigs and gathering ‘rust.’
Some of you feel that Mercer should be given the starting shortstop gig, because some of you feel that Barmes should not be starting every day. Well, right now that’s a tough argument. Barmes is hitting the ball well.
Coming into last night Barmes had a .321 average, an .802 OPS in 5his last 59 plate appearamnces.
Mercer had put up a .258 average.894 OPS, in his 32 plate appearances. Before the Friday and Saturday games Mercer didn’t have such great numbers a .211 average, .684 OPS in 19 plate appearances.
But for us it was the fact that Mercer did provide that spark in those Friday and Saturday games. The guy played like he wanted to be on the roster. He plays with passion and even said he sometimes goes for it when he gets ahead in the count. When he went for it, he murdered a baseball off the upper deck wall at Citi Field. It was eye opening.
The devil’s advocate could also consider this factoid. What if Barmes and Mercer both were to get hurt? John McDonald would be needed.
The bottom line is McDonald is on the roster as the SAFE AUTO version of insurance policies. The guy isn’t such a great player this season, but there is nobody else they trust with the position.
If you think the possibility of Mercer and Barmes getting hurt is crazy, well remember when the Pirates went through eight catchers in a recent season. It’s a serious risk that seems even more heightened by giving Mercer daily opportunitites to stay sharp–but also get injured.
Having McDonald on the roster isn’t pretty, but when you consider the lack of depth at shortstop, sending Mercer down was about the only thing the team really could do—if they wanted to manage the roster risk factor of the shortstop position. Damn, it hurts to even write that…
We feel Jordy Mercer will be better than the 2013 version of John McDonald.
But, the reality is the Pirates don’t have the luxury of depth at the position. So what’s left is a roster without the best possible 25 players because McDonald is out of options.
And so are the Pirates.