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2022 Dodgers in review: Hanser Alberto

Infielder, outfielder, pitcher

Los Angeles Dodgers v. Washington Nationals Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Hanser Alberto joined the Dodgers as a utility man in 2022, and he ended up playing even more positions than expected.

The infielder signed a one-year contract with the Dodgers in March that included a club option for 2023. Versatility was the key for Alberto, who played second base, third base, and shortstop throughout his career, which included six years with the Rangers, Orioles, and Royals prior to joining Los Angeles.

Alberto’s offensive expectations weren’t high, hitting just .276/.298/.383 with a 78 wRC+ through 2021. He fell a little short of those numbers with the Dodgers, posting a 73 wRC+ while hitting .244/.258/.365. He rarely strikes out, as his 15.7-percent rate was well below average in 2022, but that was well above his career 12.2-percent strikeout rate.

Alberto walked just 1.9 percent of the time, ranking 466th among the 469 major league batters with at least 100 plate appearances in 2022.

While offense isn’t Alberto’s strong suit, he has been an above average hitter against left-handed pitching in his career, posting a 109 wRC+. To that end, he was deployed correctly with Los Angeles, with almost two thirds of his plate appearances — and 31 of his 38 starts — coming against southpaws. He had only a 90 wRC+ against lefties in 2022, hitting .279/.286/.394, but it could have been worse. He hit only .173/.204/.308 (9-for-54) with a 41 wRC+ against right-handers.

What Alberto lacked with the bat he made up for in good vibes, as the Dodgers clubhouse leader in smiles, celebrations, faux pepper grinding, and keeping everybody loose.

It wasn’t enough for Alberto to earn a spot in the Division Series roster, but even as he was left off the active squad, his presence was duly noted.

Asked during a press conference before Game 1 if Alberto would still be allowed on the bench even while not active, manager Dave Roberts said, “He will. Thank goodness. Hopefully he is banging the side of his helmet a lot with his fist.”

The bulk of Alberto’s time in the field came at second base (37 games, 21 starts) and third base (20 games, 13 starts). He also made the only two starts at shortstop not by Trea Turner, and filled in late for ironman Freddie Freeman in three games at first base, totaling 10 innings. Those were the first games at first base for Alberto since 2016, and he also started once in right field, his first outfield time since 2019 with Baltimore.

But it was another position where Alberto stood out, as he pitched in ten different blowouts in 2022. That was mentioned multiple times as a major league record for a primary position player, but it’s hard to reconcile the veracity of that while Shohei Ohtani is redefining what’s possible for one person on a baseball field.

No matter how you slice it, Alberto pitched a lot. Even with the proliferation of position player pitching in recent years, one non-pitcher pitching ten times stands out. Since moving to Los Angeles, the Dodgers used a position player to pitch in a game 21 times in 64 years before 2022, never more than four in any one season.

Across MLB last year, position players not named Ohtani or Alberto pitched in a game 122 times. The vast majority (90.9 percent) of those appearances came in losses, which makes sense, because trailing by a ton is usually when the white flag is raised. But Alberto pitched at the end of wins in eight of his 10 games, a real outlier.

Alberto totaled 11 innings in his pitching appearances, allowing five runs on 10 hits and three walks. He allowed two home runs, matching his total while batting.

Padres first baseman Josh Bell had the ignominy of being the only batter struck out by Alberto, going down looking on a 68-mph fastball on September 3 at Dodger Stadium.

Alberto’s 159 plate appearances were the most in a season by a Dodger who pitched in at least five games since Clarence Mitchell batted 178 times for Brooklyn in 1922, a season in which he also started 39 times at first base. If we lower the bar to Dodgers who pitched more than once, only three players in between Mitchell and Alberto batted that often — Skip Schumaker (356 PA, 2 pitching games in 2013), Drew Butera (192 PA, 2 pitching games in 2014), and Russell Martin (249 PA, 4 pitching games in 2019).

Counting hit hitting, fielding, and pitching, Baseball Reference rates Alberto exactly at replacement level in 2022, at zero WAR. FanGraphs has Alberto’s season as 0.5 wins below replacement. I’m not sure that adequately represents his total value, but at the very least Alberto had a memorable year.

2022 particulars

Age: 29

Stats: .244/.258/.365, 73 wRC+, 2 HR batting; 4.09 ERA, 4.71 xERA, 11 IP, 1 K pitching

Salary: $1.6 million

Game of the year

Alberto didn’t start on July 13 in St. Louis, but he did enter the game as a pinch-hitter for Gavin Lux in the eighth inning. The Dodgers trailed 6-2 with two on and one out, and Alberto got the call with Cardinals left-hander Genesis Cabrera on the mound. He struck out, but the Dodgers rallied for three runs with two outs in the frame.

LA tied things in the ninth, and Alberto got another chance, this time with two outs against closer Giovanny Gallegos, and Cody Bellinger on third base. Alberto lined the first pitch into left field for the game-winner.

Roster status

The Dodgers declined Alberto’s $2-million club option for 2023 on November 8, instead paying him a $250,000 buyout. Alberto is a free agent.