Gerald Laird took an oh-for-three yesterday to lower his batting average to a disgusting .154. I usually justify numbers like that by arguing one of the following points: (a.) it’s early, there’s a lot of baseball left to play, (b.) he’ll bounce back, players usually hit their career averages, or (c.) he’s doing the little things either offensively or defensively to justify his spot in the lineup. Sadly, I don’t think any of these arguments can be soundly applied to Mr. Laird.
First, it’s not that early anymore. We’re about one-third of the way through the season which means Gerald will have to hit about .285 the rest of the way to even reach his .242 career average. In his time as a Tiger, Laird has only had a calendar month above .285 once; he hit .286 last April.
And that leads me nicely into my second point. Players only tend to hit for their career numbers on a season-by-season basis because they tend to hit for their career numbers on a game-by-game basis. The notion of being “due” for a hot or cold streak is false, so we really can’t expect a player, like Laird, to exceed his career numbers for the rest of the season (or any portion of the season) in order to match them by the year’s end. What we might reasonably expect, though, is for Gerald to hit for his career numbers from here on out. So, assuming consistent playing time and a .242 average, we might expect him to end the season somewhere around .215.
But is expecting .242 for June through September too much to ask from Laird? Probably. Since putting on the Olde English D prior to last season, he’s only surpassed that number in two of the eight full months. His career average as a Tiger is a measly 0.211 (526 at bats). The only positive thing you can say about that number is that it’s above the Mendoza line.
But what about the little things? He draws a fair number of walks, but certainly not enough to overcome his ultra-poor batting average. On the year, Gerald Laird has been on base less than a quarter of the time. That’s well below poor. And on defense, he hasn’t been performing to the exceptional level we enjoyed last season. His caught stealing percentage is down to 31% (compared to 41% a year ago). There really isn’t anything he’s doing this year that could be considered exceptional (or even above average), and he’s certainly given us no reason as to why he should remain in the lineup.
The alternative to Laird is obviously Alex Avila. At first glance he doesn’t seem to be a big upgrade, but at least he’s showing signs of life. In his last eight games, he’s hit .333. They’ve all been singles, so let’s not get too excited, but at least we’re seeing hits. He’s more than held his own behind the plate, throwing out six of fifteen potential base stealers. Alex has youth on his side, he’s still a nice catching prospect, and he should be getting the lion’s share of the starts. No more of this fifty-fifty business. It’s time to see Alex full time. I’ve seen enough of Gerald Laird.