John, over at the very good Only Baseball Matters, has a ongoing post about Ray Durham. Durham, like Wile. E Coyote, has fallen off a cliff this year. I’ve talked about Ray’s year a few times on this blog, at here, here, and a little here.
I ended one of my post’s with the precaution of:
Even though I have faith that Durham can turn it around, we must also understand that he’s 35 this season and he could decline some. I believe that once Durham gets over some of his nagging injuries and his luck changes, he’ll be back to being one of the better hitters on the Giants.
In a recent Chron article authored by Henry Schulman, Durham spills the beans on his frustrating season:
One season after he batted .293 with 26 homers and 93 RBIs, earning a two-year contract and a since-lost job as the fifth-place hitter, Durham is languishing at .222 with 10 homers and 61 RBIs. Moreover, his defense has gone south as he fumbles too many routine grounders.
Durham confessed to a no-no, sometimes dragging his struggles at the plate to second base in the next inning.
“They’re always saying not to let your offense affect your defense,” he said. “In a sense, yeah. In a sense, no. Of course, I’m a competitor, so I’m thinking about what I can do differently. If I’ve just lined out, in the next inning I’ll get a groundball I normally catch and my mind is somewhere else.”
So, while the prospects for a revival from Durham look grim, the question begs, has he been a good Giant?
Ray came to the Giants for the 2003 season, at age 31, after playing his entire career with the White Sox (and short half season stint with the A’s). In Durham’s first year with the Giants he experienced hamstring and leg problems, only appearing in 120 games on the year, but he appeared in 120, 142, and 137 games over the next three years. His durability has often been questioned but more often that not he found his way into the lineup. Obviously, Brian Sabean had banked that Durham would continue to be the same healthy player that he was with the White Sox. When Durham did find his way into the lineup, he was productive.
Durham’s rank among NL 2B by VORP from 2003-2006
2003 – 8th
2004 – 3rd
2005 – 6th
2006 – 2nd
Durham ranged from good (2003 and 2005) to great (2004 and 2006) and has been a better than league average hitter during his tenure with the Giants, minus this year.
Injuries did slow Durham down, he stole at least 20 bases a year from 1996-2002 for the White Sox but only reached double digits once for the Giants when he swiped 10 in 2003. Because of the injuries Durham moved away from the leadoff type hitter that he was with the White Sox during his time with the Giants. I thought it would be interesting to see the percentage of PA’s that Durham has had at leadoff, his original batting position with the White Sox, over his career.
Percentage of Durham’s PA by the leadoff position
1997 – 63%
1998 – 95%
1999 – 88%
2000 – 99%
2001 – 84%
2002 – 42% (also had 53% from the 2-hole)
2003 – 80%
2004 – 99%
2005 – 18% (Durham hit all over the lineup this year, the bulk of his hitting was in the 5 spot)
2006 – 0% (Had 0 PA’s from the leadoff spot. Once again, hit mostly 5th)
As you can see, from 2005 onward Durham has been more of a 5th hitter than anything he resembled during his White Sox days. The Giants were rewarded with Durham’s best season as a hitter in 2006 when he hit (.293/.360/.538) which included seasons highs in HR’s (26), RBI’s (93), and SLG% (.538). I sometimes think that Durham gets a bad rap because he was replacing Jeff Kent, love him or hate him, he had some monster seasons for San Francisco. It’s possible that the fanbase put unrealistic expectations on Durham to produce at the same level that Kent did. Kent had some truly huge seasons for the Giants, his 2000 season in itself was woth 11.7 wins, which is just out-of-this-world production from a second baseman.
Durham on the other hand had never topped his 1998 8.1 win season, which is still outstanding production from a second basemen. Durham’s number #2 comparable through his age 34 season is future HOF Craig Biggio. He probably won’t play as long as Biggio did, but Durham has had a very successful career as a major league ballplayer and as a San Francisco Giant.
Can Tim Lincecum mix drinks as well as he can throw a 97mph heater? Go find out on Wednesday the 29th at 7PM at the Dolce bar and lounge in San Francisco. It’s all for a great cause for young Logan Sevarance, who’s a young child with spinal muscular atrophy. The event includes special guest bartenders from the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics. Giants Rich Aurilia, Noah Lowry, Matt Cain, Vinnie Chulk, Kevin Correia, and Tim Lincecum will all be bartending! The cover is only 15 bucks, so go, drink, and have fun!
Giants’ fans represent! Home Run Derby is having a battle of the mascots, NCAA bracket styled, and Crazy Crab and Dinger (the unfortunately named purple dinosaur mascot of the Rockies) are set to throw down. Show some support for our favorite crab, go vote right here. Seriously, Dinger may be the worst mascot in the entire league next to the D-Backs Baxter and the Astros Junction Jack, a demented looking rabbit in a weird hat.