Some Thoughts On Juan Rivera

Juan Rivera parlayed his strong hitting with runners in scoring position into a reported $4 million guarantee with the Dodgers.

One year ago the Dodgers signed a 33-year old player who hit .288/.350/.491 (a 122 OPS+) with 12 home runs in 237 plate appearances to a one-year contract worth $1 million. The right-handed hitter was not expected to play every day, but at least provide pop off the bench and hit left-handed pitching while playing occasionally in left field and perhaps first base.

This year the Dodgers have are about to sign a 33-year old right-hander, who hit .258/.319/.382 (a 91 OPS+) with 11 home runs in 521 plate appearances to a one-year contract (plus an option year). The price? $4 million, guaranteed, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.

That is what the Dodgers are going to pay Juan Rivera to return to Los Angeles, hoping his second-half production will continue going forward. Or at the very least outproduce what Marcus Thames provided in 2011 (.197/.243/.333 with two home runs in 36 games).

Rivera was dumped by the Toronto Blue Jays at the All-Star break last year, and the Dodgers picked him up off the scrap heap, acquiring him for cash.

Rivera performed reasonably well for the Dodgers, hitting .274/.333/.406, but he made his money in run-scoring situations. Rivera hit .344/.405/.484 in 79 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, and drove in 46 runs in his 62 games as a Dodger, finishing ninth in the National League in RBI after the All-Star break. As a Dodger, Rivera came to the plate with a runner on third base and less than two outs 22 times, and he got the runner home 18 times, an astonishing 81.8% (the National League average in that situation was 49.9% in 2011).

Rivera's overall numbers were rather ordinary, but he was Ruthian compared to what the Dodgers got out of first base and left field in the 92 games before the break:

  • 2011 Dodgers first basemen, prior to All-Star break: .263/.308/.322 with four home runs
  • 2011 Dodgers left fielders, prior to All-Star break: .231/.305/.313 with two home runs

The Dodgers had a need for anyone who wasn't an automatic out at two positions, and Rivera provided that. But to expect much more than thought seems unwise. Here are Rivera's last four seasons:

Year Team G PA BA/OBP/SLG OPS OPS+ wOBA wRC+
2008 Ana 89 280 .246/.282/.438 .720 86 .306 83
2009 Ana 138 572 .287/.332/.478 .810 111 .348 110
2010 Ana 124 455 .252/.312/.409 .721 99 .314 94
2011 Tor/LA 132 521 .258/.319/.382 .701 91 .308 96
Thanks to Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs

Rivera during that span has hit .284/.338/.501 against left-handed pitching, so at the very least Rivera would make an interesting platoon partner at first base or one of the corner outfield spots. But it's unlikely that the Dodgers guaranteed Rivera $4 million to sit on the bench.

*****

In other news earlier today, in case you missed it, the Dodgers added outfielder / first baseman Scott Van Slyke and outfielder Alfredo Silverio to the 40-man roster. Both were with the Double A Chattanooga Lookouts all season.

There are now 32 players on the Dodgers' 40-man roster, 33 once Rivera officially signs.

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