Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bud Black's Love Affair With Alexi Amarista

On May 3rd, 2012, the San Diego Padres made a trade with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. San Diego traded reliever Ernesto Frieri and received minor league pitcher Donn Roach and infielder Alexi Amarista in the deal. Amarista was instantly added to the Padres roster and saw a lot of playing time, as the Padres released second baseman and free agent bust Orlando Hudson a few weeks later. 

On the surface, Amarista was kind of an interesting pickup. He is listed at 5'8, but is probably closer to 5'4, and his stature (or lack thereof) earned him the nickname "Little Ninja." He was never considered a top prospect, nor did he flash any tools that would led the average fan to believe that he would bloom into a useful player. 
Sure, Amarista hit in the minors, as his .312 career minor league average dictates. However, he only homered 21 times in nearly 2000 minor league at-bats. and his stolen base percentages were below average. Most scouting reports had Amarista pegged as a utilityman, at best. It didn't matter much to Padres manager Bud Black, who played Amarista in 105 games in that 2012 season. He rewarded the Padres with a paltry .282 OBP. He also rated out as below-average defensively at every position he played, including a -38.3 UZR/150 in center field, where he logged over 500 innings. Amarista proved he wasn't much with a bat and wasn't even useful at any position defensively. 

Flash forward to 2013 and Amarista posted a .282 OBP, identical to the number he posted in 2013. Again, he was far below average at every single defensive position he played at. Oh, did this author mention he tied for the team lead with 146 games? That seems like an awful lot of time for a utility guy that cannot hit or field. Oh, it gets worse: 132 of those games were starts. In terms of WAR last season, Amarista rated out at -0.8. Amarista was a Swiss Army Knife for the Padres, except he made fans wish they could slit their wrists with said knife. 
Despite all the aforementioned instances of terrible work, Amarista was once again on the big league roster once again. In 2014, Amarista has somehow been even worse with the bat. currently sporting a Rafael Belliard-esque OPS of .559. The Padres are currently without second baseman Jedd Gyorko, who is on the disabled list. The team sent down prospect Jace Peterson to the minors on Saturday, which means that Amarista has become the de facto everyday second baseman for the Padres. The Padres have made some questionable decisions over the last few years, but the playing time that Amarista receives has to be near the top of the list.

Padres manager Bud Black has been reassured by Padres management that he will remain the manager of the club for the rest of the season. The vote of confidence comes, despite a team-record $90 million payroll and nearly every position player (except for Seth Smith and Cameron Maybin) having a career-worst season.  
However it is easy to question Black's decision to play Amarista so much. Is there a deeper reason he plays that the Padres fanbase is not privy to? 

Does Amarista have evidence of Bud Black cheating on his taxes? Or does Amarista have incriminating photos of Black that could erupt in a scandal? Who knows why Amarista started 132 games last season, and could match that number this season -- however production and potential cannot even be in the discussion. 
Obviously, a utility infielder who could fit into a Little League uniform is not the major reason why the Padres are one of the worst teams in baseball. There are a plethora of reasons that we are not going to get into now, however, Amarista is a microcosm of why the Padres have been so awful: they have been doing the same thing and they expect different results.

As the author mentioned before, Amarista has had an identical .282 OBP two seasons in a row, remarkably consistent as it is disguisting. What the statistics show is that Amarista is clearly not deserving of the playing time he receives, yet he continues to get opportunities to play everyday. No one can argue that the Padres can't do better, as a .282 OBP in 700 at-bats and below-average defense everywhere is not hard to replicate. Bud Black loves trotting him out, so fans are forced to deal with one of several automatic outs in the worst lineup baseball has seen in nearly 100 years. 

This author is not trying to pick on Amarista, but is just using the infielder as an example of why the Padres and Bud Black have failed. Doing the same thing and getting the exact result means one thing: its time to make a change. Bud Black and Alexi Amarista are examples of the entropy of losing that the Padres have fallen into. Heck, Amarista and Black might be baseball soul mates: two entities that will forever be joined in the black abyss that has become Padres baseball.

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