When Atlanta allowed Matt Diaz to leave following the 2010 season, I had some mixed feelings. I had grown to be quite fond of the guy we at Chopnation had nicknamed Magellan for his often strange ways of tracking down a flyball to left. That said, for the money that Diaz could command, the results needed to be higher than Diaz had been able to muster in 2010 when he hit just .250 with a .319 wOBA and 0.5 WAR. Atlanta rightfully non-tendered him, jettisoning him the same way they did Kelly Johnson. Matty had some good years with the Braves, including three seasons of 2.0 WAR or better, and rightfully built a reputation as a left-handed pitching masher, but he had been paid $2.55M in 2010 and in arbitration, chances are he would have gotten a raise despite a bad season.
Diaz went on to sign with the Pirates for 2 years and $4M. Good for him.
And then, Frank Wren screwed me and brought him back in a trade last August 31st for some unGodly reason. The Pirates chipped in some cash and the Braves would send pitcher Eliecer Cardenas to the Pirates a month later. For what it’s worth, Cardenas hasn’t played this year because of injuries and isn’t really a prospect to get too upset about losing.
However, with Diaz back in the fold, the Braves had their left-handed pitching masher. Yay! Except, one thing. Diaz wasn’t hitting lefties with authority. I mean, he hit .295 against them last year and while that is nice, only seven of his 32 hits went for extra bases. A .692 OPS with no speed/defense does not make for a good platoon partner. The previous year, he had hit .273 with an .830 OPS against lefties. When you only have one skill that sets you apart from your co-workers, you better deliver that skill and Diaz was failing to do so last year. Still, Wren got him because I guess (hope?) that John Schuerholtz told him about how Diaz was such a find all those years ago.
Diaz was given the opportunity to redeem himself this year and wouldn’t ya know it…he’s not. He’s hitting .275 with a .754 OPS against lefties. That’s all well and good and everything, but often, the only reason he finds himself in the lineup is because the guy on the mound has the nerve to throw with his left arm. Diaz is supposed to punish that guy. A .754 OPS ain’t cutting it.
Having built a reputation, it’s sometimes hard to shed that reputation whether it’s bad or good. Fans on facebook, Yahoo, DOB’s blog, Atlantabraves.com, and a few mental hospitals in the greater Atlanta area still swear that Diaz destroys lefties. He crushes them! He pulverizes the shit out of them! He grinds up their bones!
But the results…they just aren’t there. And Atlanta is suffering. Diaz against righties is a sad, depressing tale full of disappointment so the only saving grace is that he can destroy those tough lefties. So far this season, Diaz is 3 of 28 against righties. The dirty little secret is that you can try to protect Diaz, but eventually, he will face a righty and he’s simply not suited to take on that task. It’s like Eric Hinske against lefties. If you could bring both of them into a lab and mold them together, you might have a crappy bench player, but at least you wouldn’t be holding up two spots on the bench for guys who supposedly have the exact same skill (severe platoon splits in their favor), but aren’t producing.
Atlanta’s bench has been a monumental failure this season and bringing back Diaz last year is looking like a mistake on Wren’s behalf. Something needs to be done about the black hole of WilDiSke. Of the three, only Hinske can even say he has produced in the last three seasons. Start with Diaz and Wilson and go from there, Frank. Your team needs your wheeling and dealin.’
Please, Frank. You’re our only hope.