Enzo Hernandez – 1972 Topps

February 16, 2012

RBI’s Don’t Tell The Whole Story

Lovers of baseball minutae seem to point to Enzo’s 1971 season as one of the hallmarks of futility, mainly because over the course of 549 at bats (618 plate appearances) he collected a grand total of 12 RBI.

Yes, you read that right. 12 RBI.

Now, those of us who are hip to the new metrics realize that Enzo’s 12 RBIs aren’t any kind of measure of a player’s effectiveness because they are so team related. This is quite true, since if 1971 Enzo hit clean-up for the 1927 Yankees he’d definitely have more than 12 RBI, and if 1920 Babe Ruth replaced Leon Roberts in the 1978 Mariners he’d struggle to accumulate 100 RBI.

Enzo’s 12 RBI is a symptom of his suckitude and of the overall awfulness of the 1971 Padres, not the disease in of itself.

Enzo arrived as the Padres shortstop of the future after Baltimore traded a pu-pu platter o’ prospects to the Padres for Tom Dukes and Pat Dobson. Baseball teams always jumped when the Orioles traded prospects since they were so good at developing them – of course if Earl Weaver and the O’s were willing to trade them then they may know something that others in baseball didn’t know. Time and again Baltimore hornswaggled teams by peddling ‘prospects’.

Hernandez was one of those ‘prospects’. He allegedly could pick it and he had wheels. By the end of his career, he was fortunate that Johnny LeMaster came into the league to replace him as the poster child of no-field, no-hit middle infielders.

Preston Gomez installed Enzo as the lead-off hitter and shortstop for the 1971 Padres early in the season when Tommy Dean was found wanting. Gomez had Enzo lead off 137 times, and Hernandez rewarded his manager and the Padres with a sub .300 OBP and a .255 SLG. As a leadoff man his OBP was .289 and he scored just 55 runs in those 137 games.

That’s a measure of stink that the 12 RBIs can’t match. The 12 RBI, though, are a reflection on the rest of those wretched Padres. Sure, his OPS was .395 with runners in scoring position, but he had just 105 plate appearances with runners in scoring position.

No one got on base in front of him either. The pitchers were, well, pitchers. The seventh place hitters had an OPS+ of 73. The eighth place hitters had an OPS+ of 101.

Wait, what?

That was 81 games of Bob Barton, who was at least competent with the bat. But he was dreadfully slow and didn’t have that much power, either. So he needed to be on third for Enzo to score him.

So no one on was on base for Enzo, and when they were, they needed to be on third base. Ergo, the 12 RBI’s are a reflection of both the individual and collective ineptitude on display in San Diego in 1971.

A convergence of stank, as it were.



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