Micah Owings

Rizzo is on the way to his final goal.  No, not winning a World Series, turning the Nats bench into the 2008 Arizona Diamondbacks! Recently he signed a couple more D-back guys to get closer to this goal.  Chris Snyder is organizational depth.  The guy has NEVER played more than 115 games in a season. (ok he played 122 games in the minors in 2003.  You got me!) If you can discount last years horrific performance, he's not a terrible bat.  At only 32 he might have something left.  Really nothing to see here, just a guy that if the Nats are down to their 4th string catcher because of injury and such, you can accept starting him for a week.

But people are fascinated by Micah Owings. Micah was a pitcher/hitter who was great at both in college.  not good - great. Led the team in homers, SLG, and RBIwhile batting .354.  Had a 9.6 K/9 and a 6.24 K/BB ration. You could argue that he was the best hitter AND best pitcher in Conference USA that year (you'd lose the argument - but it's impressive it could be argued). He ended up in Arizona where they focused on making him a pitcher. While doing that he was still raking the ball as a hitter, putting up a .319 / .355 / .552 line, mostly from the pitcher spot.

What happened then?

Well he wasn't a good major league pitcher. To get guys out he had to dial things up and when he did that he lost his control. Plus he was prone to the gopher ball. He has some success converting to relief but in very limited trials.

Who cares about that though.  The Nats signed him as a hitter! Yeah well he hasn't been much of that either the past few years. .236 / .250 / .438 since 2009 and that pop is all before 2011. The hope is the problem with his batting the last couple of years is simply a combination of small sample size and the lack of repetition. (so small (15, 33, and 11 PAs in the past 3 years)  I don't feel there is any point in looking at the fancy stats)  Give him enough regular at bats as a hitter and he'll shine again. Is that a false hope though?

Probably. Yes, he did hit well in the past, but that was in very limited at bats 4 years ago. Yes, Rick Ankiel made a successful switch but he did it at age 25. Micah is trying it at an old 30. At that age you are at the beginning of your decline years. You get slower, and your body fights you. Micah has suffered through a bunch of injuries the past couple years, including season ending elbow surgery last year. For the sake of argument I took a look at guys who were 26/27 in 2009 and hit with an above average OPS+.  Out of roughly 20, only 4 had a better year last year than in 2009. (If you must know Wright, Cabrera, Cano, and for some reason Aaron Hill).  Yeah I know that's kind of a skewed look at things but we're looking at Owings in a skewed way.  "He was good in 2009 so he must be able to be good today!". It's tough to bet on some one switching positions while coming back from a major injury at this age.  Even guys not doing that can't keep up production.

But what about both? He may not be able to have value as a pitcher or a hitter alone but what about as a hybird pitcher/hitter, with the pitcher part being limited to long relief or non-important innings? Well as this (way too optimistic) fangraphs post notes, if you are going to assume his hitting will improve with more focus, you have to assume his pitching will get worse.  If his pitching gets worse, you're not even looking at a mop-up guy.  You are looking at a guy that could pitch only in the biggest of blow-outs or in games entering the 15th inning. No, this won't be it.

I'm not knocking the signing. There's no such thing as a bad minor league deal.  You sign someone, roll the dice, and usually come up empty. Micah Owings is at best an interesting distraction, not the bench star of the future. 

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