2012 in Review: Travis Hafner

David Richard-US PRESSWIRE

Travis Hafner has been an Indian for ten seasons. From 2004 to 2006 he was the Tribe’s best hitter, among the best in baseball. During the 2007 All-Star break, Hafner signed the richest contract extension in franchise history. It hasn’t gone well. The team has an option on Hafner’s services for 2013. Should they take it, or buy him out and perhaps part ways?

Bat: Left Throws: Right (ha!)

2012 Age: 35

2012 bWAR: 0.7

2012 fWAR: 0.6

2012 Salary: $13,000,000

2013 Contract Status: $13M team option (or $2.75M buyout)

Travis Hafner’s 2012 season was right in line with what Indians fans have surely come to expect from him. He hit for power, enough to lead to team in HR/AB and place second in slugging percentage, and he drew walks at the third highest rate on the team. His rate stats were lower in 2012 than in recent seasons, but some of that must be attributed to the lowest BABIP of his career, a .233 figure that is dramatically below his career number of .313.

Hafner was probably a bit unlucky in 2012, in terms of line drives being hit right at defenders and such, his BB% was actually its highest since 2007, while his K% was its second lowest since then. His isolated power was its highest since his 2006 season, when I’d argue he was the best hitter in the American League. At the age of 35, Hafner was about as good as he’s been at any point since that incredible year.

Hafner was about league average for a DH, his OPS+ and RC+ both ranked 6th among the 11 players who got at least 200 PA while playing mostly DH in 2012.* He wasn't in the same category as David Ortiz or Billy Butler, but he was better than Adam Dunn (maybe the worst 40 HR season ever) or postseason hero Delmon Young. Over 162 games, production at Hafner's 2012 level still wouldn't be worth the $13 million he was paid, but it wouldn't be a shame either.

* What OPS+ does for OPS, adjusting it for park factors and the run scoring environment of a particular season, RC+ does for wOBA, which is basically a superior version of OPS, because it more properly weighs the various components.

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Of course, the issue with Hafner isn't so much the quality, it’s the quantity. All total, Hafner appeared in just 66 games and had just 263 PA. Each of those is the second-lowest figure in all his years with the Tribe and it's now been five years since he played enough to be thought of as a full-time player. For a player at another position, you might suggest be be moved into a part-time role, given more time to rest, etc. But all Hafner has been asked to do is bat four times a night, and still, he cannot remain healthy. I don't think there's any reason to believe that will change as he moves into his late thirties.

Hafner got off to a torrid start this year, putting up a slash line of .327/.484/.531 over the season’s first three weeks. He cooled a bit after that, but was still sitting on an OPS of .819 at the end of play on May 23rd. That night Hafner hit a game-tying home run off Detroit’s Doug Fister, but he later left the game for a pinch runner. It turned out he needed knee surgery.

Hafner missed the next six weeks. He returned on July 4th, but was out of the lineup again by early August and played in just six games over the season’s final two months, his production dipping further and further as he attempted to play through back pain when he could.

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On October 2nd, Hafner hit a two-run pinch hit home run in the 9th inning against the White Sox, tying the game, which the Tribe would go on to win. It was his 200th home run as an Indian, making him only the eighth player in franchise history with so many. It may also have been the last hit he ever collects with the team.

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2002 25 TEX 23 70 62 6 15 4 1 1 6 0 1 8 15 .242 .329 .387 .716 86
2003 26 CLE 91 324 291 35 74 19 3 14 40 2 1 22 81 .254 .327 .485 .812 115
2004 27 CLE 140 576 482 96 150 41 3 28 109 3 2 68 111 .311 .410 .583 .993 162
2005 28 CLE 137 578 486 94 148 42 0 33 108 0 0 79 123 .305 .408 .595 1.003 168
2006 29 CLE 129 564 454 100 140 31 1 42 117 0 0 100 111 .308 .439 .659 1.097 181
2007 30 CLE 152 661 545 80 145 25 2 24 100 1 1 102 115 .266 .385 .451 .837 120
2008 31 CLE 57 234 198 21 39 10 0 5 24 1 1 27 55 .197 .305 .323 .628 69
2009 32 CLE 94 383 338 46 92 19 0 16 49 0 0 41 67 .272 .355 .470 .826 120
2010 33 CLE 118 462 396 46 110 29 0 13 50 2 1 51 94 .278 .374 .449 .824 130
2011 34 CLE 94 368 325 41 91 16 0 13 57 0 0 36 78 .280 .361 .449 .811 128
2012 35 CLE 66 263 219 23 50 6 2 12 34 0 0 32 47 .228 .346 .438 .784 121
11 Yrs 1101 4483 3796 588 1054 242 12 201 694 9 7 566 897 .278 .381 .507 .888 137
162 Game Avg. 162 660 559 87 155 36 2 30 102 1 1 83 132 .278 .381 .507 .888 137

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Place in the Indians’ 2013 Plans: His team option will almost certainly NOT be picked up (we’ll know very soon). It’s possible he’ll be offered a smaller contract and invited to return, depending on how other off-season plans take shape.

What do YOU hope to see happen?

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