Thursday, August 24, 2006
Instead of the lowlights of the Giant batting order, lets focus our attention on a guy who surely is deserving of the Hank Aaron Award nomination, Ray Durham. After an awful start (.528 OPS in April), Durham started bashing in mid-May and hasn't looked back, going into the Cincinnati series with a line of .292/.362/.531(!). His .893 OPS is obliterating his previous career high of .848, set in 2004. His 77 RBIs are also a career best, and his home run today tied his career high in that category as well. He's just having a monster season and he's been far and away the Giants' most productive hitter.
As a corner infielder or outfielder, he'd be good enough, but with this kind of mashing coming from second base, it's a sensation. A lot of fans have bitched about Durham's contract and his nagging injuries but the guy has certainly produced more often than not, and at a premium positon, no less. Baseball Prospectus has Durham as baseball's best second baseman behind Chase Utley, according to VORP.
The question now is what to do with him for next year. Durham hits the free agent pool this winter and the Giants, with Kevin Frandsen still a question and Marcus Sanders still not ready, might find themselves with a hole at second base. As a huge Durham fan, I'd love to see him back, but it's important not to get too seduced by his awesome season. Whenever a guy has a season like this that deviates as far from his normal production as Durham's has it means that it's probably an aberration. Don't get me wrong, Durham has always been a quality hitter, but he's never been this good, and with age and his usual gimpy lower body possibly hindering things he'll probably revert back to normal Ray-Ray next year.
Even so, production at second base is hard to find. The Giants have been spoiled ever since 1997 with super offense at a tough position to find good bats at. Durham's defense is subpar and who knows how his spit-and-kleenex hamstrings will hold up in coming seasons, but if the Giants can bring him back for like two years, in the area of $5-6 million, why not? He's not ancient and, again, good bats at second base are just incredibly hard to find. Sure, we have Frandsen, but who knows if he'll be ready and/or even half as productive.
All of this is assuming that Durham isn't put through waivers and traded before the end of the month. I'm very curious as to what the market will be for his services in the offseason. Durham has always been underrated, but this huge year is likely to open the eyes of many potential suitors with pockets deeper than the Giants. I'd think the aforementioned $5-6 million might be the going rate, but then again, I'm sure there are plenty of teams (like the Cardinals) willing to overpay towards the double digits for a good second baseman.
If the Giants can bring Ray back on a shorter term deal, I'd take it in a hearbeat, but if he wants a guaranteed third year or more (which is very likely, given the market and his age), then I think I'll pass and just bask in the glow of his incredible 2006.
For me it's no no on Ray Ray. This is a great contract drive, and he's been the best hitter on the team, but he's just missed way too many games over these four years.
His increasing power is nice, but he used to be a major base stealer. Starting in his rookie season of 1995, he stole 18, 30, 33, 36, 34, 25, 23 and then 26 in 2002 before coming to the Giants. That speed is long gone, having been replaced by a long series of pulled hamstrings.
He'll be 35 in November. We appear to be signing Marquis Grissom again, a major base stealer in his early years, who helped extend his career by increasing his power as his legs slowed down.
Let's move on and get someone we can get excited about. It's not anyone in their minor leagues. Let's go sign Soriano and build a team around him.
As they used to write in the company newsletter at my first job, let's thank Ray for his service with the firm and wish him well for the future.