Jack Hannahan

CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 28: Third baseman Jack Hannahan #9 of the Cleveland Indians throws to first after fielding a ground ball hit by Alcides Escobar #2 (not shown) of the Kansas City Royals during the fourth inning at Progressive Field on August 28, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

This two-part series is titled "Moneyball Players of Today," and while it would be obvious to pick a player who gets on base or didn't look good in jeans, I've opted to choose a player whose game has been undervalued for a totally different reason.

When the Indians signed Jack Hannahan as a minor-league free agent last winter, the move didn't attract much attention, even for a club who didn't really have a starting third baseman. Remember that in 2010 third base was a revolving door, with Jhonny Peralta (the .698 OPS version) starting the year there, and Luis Valbuena, Jayson Nix, and Andy Marte sharing time at the position after Peralta was traded. None of the four gave the Indians anything resembling a competent third baseman. Peralta actually came the closest, posting a 94 OPS+ along with below-average defense at the position. His three replacements were much worse; Nix was awful at the position, and his offensive production cratered after the move from second, and neither Valbuena nor Marte did anything in their brief playing time at third.

The good news was that the Indians seemed to have a long-term solution in Lonnie Chisenhall, a 22-year-old who had just held his own in Akron. But he wasn't really ready for the majors, so the Indians needed a stopgap for at least a half-season. The stopgap would preferably be a good defender, with any offensive production provided a bonus. The Indians were planning that stopgap to be Jason Donald. Donald had been exclusively a shortstop in the Philadelphia organization before his trade to Cleveland, but the Indians were going to move him to third for the 2011 season. That is, before he broke his finger in a spring training game. Donald's injury opened the competition back up to an unattractive field: Jayson Nix was still around, as was Luis Valbuena. And there was also Jack Hannahan, who had a signed a minor-league deal with the Indians in the offseason.

Hannahan had spent most of his career in the Detroit system, where he posted decent offensive numbers, but kept getting promoted because of his defense. He would play just 3 games with the Tigers, and was traded in August of 2007 to Oakland for Jason Perry in a sort of challenge trade. Hannahan would get his break with Oakland, as Eric Chavez missed a half of the 2007 season and practically all of the 2008 and 2009 seasons. Jack did well in 41 games with the A's in 2007, but he was awful at the plate in 2008 (.218/.305/.342) and even worse in 2009 (.193/.278/.303). Jack played Gold Glove-level defense at third, and was actually posted a positive WAR (Wins Above Replacement) in 2008, but his offense was so bad in 2009 that the A's had to part with him. He was dealt to Seattle in July of that year, and hit a bit better while filling in for Adrian Beltre. Beltre would leave after the season, but the Mariners would sign Chone Figgins in his place, so Hannahan would have to make the club as a utility player. He didn't, so he spent the year in AAA, first with Tacoma, and then with Pawtucket, Boston's AAA club. A free agent for the first time in his career, he signed with the Indians in the hopes of snagging a starting job at third base.

When Donald went down, Hannahan had his opportunity, and made the most of it. He had hit well that spring, and so he won the starting job, at least until Donald was healthy again. Donald would not return to the majors until July 31st, and by then was mainly a second baseman. Hannahan would instead lose playing time to Lonnie Chisenhall, who also came up in late June.

Hannahan's overall offensive line (.248/.330/.388, 101 OPS+) is a bit misleading. He started the season off hot, but then fell into a three month offensive drought, not topping a .600 OPS in May, June, or July. That was the reason the Indians brought Chisenhall up. He hit like Albert Pujols in August (.420/.491/.660), so that brought his season averages back towards league-average.

But Hannahan's calling card has always been his defense, and he's been fantastic with the glove all season. He's been at the top of the defensive leader boards in both traditional and advanced rate categories. He currently ranks first among AL third basemen in Fielding Percentage and Range Factor/9, and ranks only behind Adrian Beltre and Alex Rodriguez in UZR/150. A sample of some of his better plays:


 

 

 

 

 

So what's the future for Jack Hannahan with the Indians? The Indians have him under control through the 2013 season, so they don't necessarily have to make a full commitment to Lonnie Chisenhall just yet. But if Chisenhall makes a normal progression in 2012, Hannahan should not be taking playing time away from him, even given his defensive value. I think Hannahan and Chisenhall are on next year's Opening Day roster, and if everything goes to plan, the Indians will trade Hannahan after Chisenhall breaks out at the major-league level.

Player Value

Year Age Tm Lg PA Rbat Rbaser Rroe Rdp Rfield Rpos Rrep RAR WAR oRAR oWAR dWAR Salary Pos Awards
2011 31 CLE AL 349 1 0 -1 -0 9 1 12 21 2.2 13 1.3 0.9 $ *5/3
CLE (1 yr) 349 1 0 -1 -0 9 1 12 21 2.2 13 1.3 0.9 $
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/13/2011.




Offensive Statistics

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB H 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB Pos Awards
2001 21 DET-min A,A- 60 261 225 70 15 1 1 31 46 .311 .391 .400 .791 90 WMI,ONE · MIDW,NYPL
2002 22 DET-min A+,AA 131 536 472 121 23 2 9 57 94 .256 .338 .371 .708 175 LAK,ERI · FLOR,EL
2003 23 DET-min AA 135 529 471 121 18 0 9 48 78 .257 .328 .352 .681 166 ERI · EL
2004 24 DET-min AA 108 431 374 102 21 1 8 53 60 .273 .365 .398 .764 149 ERI · EL
2005 25 DET-min AAA,AA 75 295 260 67 15 0 4 29 66 .258 .336 .362 .697 94 TOL,ERI · IL,EL
2006 26 DET-min AAA 119 494 415 117 27 0 9 61 114 .282 .379 .412 .791 171 TOL · IL
2006 26 DET AL 3 10 9 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .100 .000 .100 -71 0 /3D
2007 27 DET-min AAA 101 417 336 99 20 1 13 76 92 .295 .422 .476 .898 160 TOL · IL
2007 27 OAK AL 41 169 144 40 12 0 3 21 39 .278 .369 .424 .793 115 61 5
2008 28 OAK AL 143 501 436 95 27 0 9 55 131 .218 .305 .342 .647 76 149 *53/D
2009 29 OAK-min AAA 21 88 81 18 7 0 2 7 27 .222 .284 .383 .667 31 SAC · PCL
2009 29 TOT AL 103 301 267 57 14 2 4 30 71 .213 .297 .326 .623 67 87 53/64
2009 29 OAK AL 52 134 119 23 6 2 1 13 36 .193 .278 .303 .581 54 36 5/34
2009 29 SEA AL 51 167 148 34 8 0 3 17 35 .230 .311 .345 .656 77 51 53/6
2011 31 CLE AL 104 349 307 76 15 2 8 36 76 .248 .330 .388 .718 101 119 *5/3
5 Seasons 394 1330 1163 268 68 4 24 143 318 .230 .316 .358 .674 84 416
162 Game Avg. 162 547 478 110 28 2 10 59 131 .230 .316 .358 .674 84 171
OAK (3 yrs) 236 804 699 158 45 2 13 89 206 .226 .314 .352 .666 80 246
CLE (1 yr) 104 349 307 76 15 2 8 36 76 .248 .330 .388 .718 101 119
SEA (1 yr) 51 167 148 34 8 0 3 17 35 .230 .311 .345 .656 77 51
DET (1 yr) 3 10 9 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .100 .000 .100 -71 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/13/2011.

 


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