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Roster review: Chad Tracy

Nov 15, 2013, 1:11 PM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

Age on Opening Day 2014: 33

How acquired: Signed as free agent Dec. 20, 2011

MLB service time: 8 years, 116 days

2013 salary+bonuses: $1 million

Contract status: Free agent

2013 Stats: 92 G, 136 PA, 6 R, 26 H, 4 2B, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 7 BB, 25 SO, .202 AVG, .243 OBP, .326 SLG, .568 OPS, -0.6 WAR

2013 analysis: Chad Tracy was a solid option for the Nats off the bench during their 98-win 2012 season, but he couldn’t recreate that spark in a disappointing 2013. Tracy was expected to be the team’s most reliable lefty bench bat and it simply didn’t work out. He had 127 appearances against right-handed pitchers and hit just .192. Time after time when the Nats turned to Tracy, he came up short.

What perhaps made matters worse was the collective performance of the Nationals’ reserves. It started with Tracy, but was a problem throughout. Because Tracy was so good in 2012 he in many ways was the face of the Nats’ bench and the unit as a whole can be attributed to some of the team’s struggles. As the injury bug hit their lack of depth became apparent. And though Tracy was able to help the team compensate for injuries in 2012, he and his bench-mates couldn’t fill the void this time around.

2014 outlook: Tracy was cut loose by the Nats on Halloween and is now a free agent. He’s still just 33 so perhaps a team gives him a shot in 2014. But if he does get a deal, it will likely be of the minor league variety with an invitation to spring training. Tracy is really just a pinch-hitter at this point and his value in that role right now is questionable.

Tracy had built a reputation as a solid bench bat, but those skills may have faded. He isn’t very good in the field and failed in the few opportunities to start in 2013. Maybe he comes back healthier having dealt with minor neck issues later in the year. Either way, Tracy has his work cut out for him to justify another chance in the majors.

  1. Theophilus T.S. - Nov 15, 2013 at 1:33 PM

    Tracy came to Nats on a minor league contract in 2012 if I recall correctly. He played decently, i.e., above the Matt Stairs level, but my idea of a good PH is Terry Crowley and Tracy was quite a bit less than that. I was disappointed when Rizzo rolled out a 2013 contract during late summer 2012. When Opening Day 2013 rolled around Tracy became a victim of the Nats’ practice of giving bench players plenty of regular ABs during ST — road trips and in the mid-late innings of home games and Tracy was idle probably 4-5 games a week — and those exceptions were PH-ing — awfully hard to prepare, get into a rhythm, etc. I’m not excusing his performance but it was easily predicted — you could see it coming. One reason may have been Johnson’s excitement for double-switches, which reduced the number of PH opportunities, and for Bernadina in the sixth-seventh over Tracy, who got the opportunity to hit only if, in the 8th or 9th, Johnson saw an opportunity to win the game. Bernadina’s success as a PH in 2012, and Lombardozzi’s in late 2013, were tied to regular opportunities to start (e.g., when Johnson thought Rendon needed a rest).

    The success of whoever swings as a PH from the LH batter’s box in 2014 will depend a lot on Williams’s theories about optimal use of a bench player. If he thinks it’s someone who gets enuf occasional starts to keep the rust off or at least see multiple ABs in a game then I believe Tracy’s “replacement” will have much better nos. than .196 (or whatever it was, we don’t need to look it up to remember how awful it was).

    Chavez might be much better if he is the replacement here — on paper. But if Williams velcro’s (TM) his butt to the bench the outcome isn’t likely to be very much different.

  2. Hiram Hover - Nov 15, 2013 at 2:07 PM

    Sorry, I’m not buying Tracy’s self-pitying “I play better when I play more” line.

    Tracy was getting as many PAs in the first half of this season as he was in 2012, and he just plain stunk–he went from a slightly above average hitter in 2012 to an atrocious one in 2013. He got about 1/2 his PAs as a PH each season. His offense actually improved in the second half of 2013, when he got fewer PAs and PH more.

    Some of this was probably random variation, some was bad luck (he had an atrocious BABIP this year), some of it was probably a change in his swing/approach (his FB rate has been rising and his LD rate dropping over the last few years).

    But that’s all beside the point. He’s a BENCH player. By definition, he needs to be able to come in whenever they need him and perform at least adequately, or he’s not even going to stick around at all.

  3. Section 222 - Nov 15, 2013 at 2:55 PM

    Tracy was so bad that opposing managers would bring in a RH pitcher hoping that Davey would use Tracy to PH. Even paying him a dollar more would be the very definition of throwing good money after bad. After the abominable season he had, I don’t care how well he hits in spring training. He should never play another game in a Nats uniform.

    Sorry, but I still can’t believe Rizzo kept him around for a whole season.

    • NatsLady - Nov 15, 2013 at 3:17 PM

      Why would he play another game in a Nats uniform? He’s a free agent. He’s not coming back.

      • Section 222 - Nov 15, 2013 at 4:30 PM

        I think I had a visceral reaction to being reminded of Tracy’s disastrous season, which led me to misread “perhaps a team gives him a shot in 2014″ to mean “perhaps the team (i.e., the Nats) gives him a shot in 2014.”

      • Section 222 - Nov 15, 2013 at 4:30 PM

        I think I had a visceral reaction to being reminded of Tracy’s disastrous season, which led me to misread “perhaps a team gives him a shot in 2014″ to mean “perhaps the team (i.e., the Nats) gives him a shot in 2014.”

  4. TimDz - Nov 15, 2013 at 3:20 PM

    Some team will sign him to a minor league deal with a Spring training invite….

  5. Theophilus T.S. - Nov 15, 2013 at 3:34 PM

    i would never suggest resigning him — except maybe as 1B coach; I don’t know whether he would make a good coach or not. But HH’s invocation of both “random variation” and “bad luck” BAPIP (don’t know what the difference is betweeh “random variation” and bad luck but whatever it is it isn’t important here) in fact suggests that part of the problem was the absence of adequate opportunities. I happen to think his performance spoke for itself — undistinguished on his best days. So he doesn’t come back — we all know that.

    On the other hand, if you’re going to give the average-to-below average bench player 40 ABs+ in ST, you can’t really expect him to thrive on 12-15 ABs a month when the regular season starts. That’s the difference between DeJesus and Tracy. DeJesus is at least a platoon player and bringing him off the bench is a real threat. Trading him for an A-ball pitcher and not eating the rest of his contract was really dumb.

    • Theophilus T.S. - Nov 15, 2013 at 3:43 PM

      FWIW, Tracy got 47 ABs over 26 games in Spring Training in 2013, 73 in ST 2012.

    • Hiram Hover - Nov 15, 2013 at 4:05 PM

      Theo

      Sorry, still not buying it. If the problem was simply not getting enough chances, why did he do so much better in 2012 when he got roughly the same number of PAs in the regular season (factoring out time he spent on the DL)? I’m not prepared to assign Dr Jekyll vs. Mr Sucks power to 2 dozen extra ABs in practice games in Feb and March.

      PS – “random variation” can lead to good as well as bad luck, and affect things other than BABIP. Maybe Tracy’s problem in 2013 wasn’t bad luck–maybe he really is that awful, and just had amazingly good luck in 2012.

      PPS – I totally agree, tho, on DeJesus–acquiring him only to flip him for a minor league pitcher never made any sense to me.

      • Theophilus T.S. - Nov 15, 2013 at 4:31 PM

        One distinction is that my recollection of the 2012 is somewhat more reserved than yours. He got off to a hot start and then started failing more regularly — and ended up at .269, which shouldn’t mean a big shoutout for a LH batter facing nearly exclusively RH pitchers, not to mention not very many runs produced (18 in 2012, 13 in 2013). My view of Tracy is that (A) he has passed the point of being a useful day-to-day player; (B) has not made a good transition to being an occasional player; (C) the way Johnson used him — and this applies to whoever was the RH reserve bat du jour and to Bernadina, though most to Tracy, was not conducive to keeping his (limited) talents sharp. There are many adroit LH platoon players available, e.g., Chavez (who made my hair stand up on end every he pinch hit against the Nats in a Braves uniform), and it would be nice to have someone like that on the bench — but only if you are going to give them enuf minutes to keep them sharp (and willing to pay accordingly).

  6. NatsLady - Nov 15, 2013 at 3:46 PM

    Off-topic (again). Was listening to a podcast about the Astros, and the analyst said he had researched: It takes on average seven years for a team that loses 100 games to get to the playoffs. This reinforces my feeling that the Nats got prematurely “lucky” in 2012, and that 2013 should not have been as much of a “disappointment” as a lot of people feel it was.

    So, from 2009, it would take approximately seven years to build the farm system and major league team into a successful contender. That would mean our “window” is 2014-2016. I’m okay with that.

    • tcostant - Nov 15, 2013 at 3:51 PM

      Wow! Of course most of that data was when the playoff stsyem had one less team. I know the Nats won the division in 2012, but the extra playoff spot should excelerate that. In addition, if this is an average, teams that refuse to spend any money also shew the data.

    • Hiram Hover - Nov 15, 2013 at 4:08 PM

      Interesting. Of course, it’s an average, not an iron law, which means some teams take more time and some teams less.

      I’d rather the Nats take less.

  7. Section 222 - Nov 15, 2013 at 6:02 PM

    The Nats did take less, since they got to the playoffs in 2012. And since they got there, lucky or not, and were seen by almost every baseball commentator and team executive as having the talent to repeat that achievement in 2013, the average seems irrelevant. But if it makes you feel better, by all means keep believing that 2013 wasn’t really that disappointing.

  8. David Proctor - Nov 15, 2013 at 6:05 PM

    JP Howell came out today and said that Yasiel Puig was bullied in the Dodgers clubhouse. Makes you wonder goes on in there sometimes. We’ll never know, but I feel confident saying that those types of things don’t happen in our clubhouse anymore. I hope I don’t get proven wrong.

    • Theophilus T.S. - Nov 15, 2013 at 9:17 PM

      With Hanley Ramirez in the clubhouse you’re surprised Puig was bullied? I haven’t heard anything nice about Ramirez as long as he’s been in the major leagues. Probably some of his stupidity rubbed off on Puig in the field, too. Explains a lot.

    • NatsLady - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:16 PM

      Howell is back tracking on that now, saying the bullying was by fans and the media and of course they had a great clubhouse.

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