Rich Tandler's Nationals blog.
Saturday, February 26, 2005
Jose Vidro’s Vitals
Second baseman, 30, 5-11, 193. Switch hitter, throws right. Career BA .304, OBP .367, SLG .470, 101 HR, 471 RBI in 8 seasons.
A three-time All-Star second baseman who is a perennial .300 hitter. An injury cloud is over his head.
For the past six seasons, Vidro has been the one consistently good bat in the franchise’s lineup. A homegrown talent, he was inserted into the every day lineup in 1999 and responded with a .304 average. That started a string of five straight seasons where he hit .300 or better with a peak of .330 in 2000. That string ended last year when he hit .294. His season ended prematurely as he had season-ending surgery for tendonitis in his right knee. He can display a decent amount of power, smacking line drives into the alleys from both sides of the plate when he’s on.
Behind the batting average, the numbers are not bad, but not particularly impressive either. He has become more patient at the plate over the past several seasons, increasing his walks and cutting down on his strikeouts. Still, his OBA hovers right around where you would expect that of a low-.300’s hitter to be, no better, no worse. As his strikeouts have declined, his power has, too. After a high of 24 home runs in 2000, he hit just 15 and 14 in the past two years.
Vidro is considerably more plodding than you would generally expect a second baseman to be; in his career he has stolen 20 bases and has been thrown out 15 times. This is a guy you don’t even want to see leaning hard off of first base, much less taking a big lead.
His lack of speed makes him something of a liability in the field. While he has a good arm that allows him to play a little deeper than most he still fails to get to a lot of balls that the average second baseman. Over the past two seasons, in fact, looking at the range factor data presented at Baseball-Reference.com (see link below), over the last two seasons Vidro got to about .5 fewer balls per game than the league’s average second baseman. That means that if Vidro plays in 140 games, 70 balls that the average second baseman would have fielded will get by Vidro. Playing more on the RFK Stadium grass rather than the Olympic Stadium rug will almost certainly help this average, but remember that the Expos played just 59 home games in Montreal, the rest on the grass in Puerto Rico. This will help some, but he’s still likely to be a negative in the field
Vidro’s progress from the knee surgery—which was similar to the kind that essentially marked the end of the career of former Expo Fernando Tatis and that of an older Mark McGwire—has been promising so far. He has been able to perform all baseball functions relatively free of pain so far in spring training.
Of course, spring training is not the regular season, where the grind of playing inning after inning, game after game, week after week can wear down the body, especially surgically repaired joints. It remains to be seen how Vidro’s knee will hold up to that pounding. This is another instance where playing on grass rather than Olympic Stadium’s rug will help, but it remains to be seen how much.
In a move that was rather stunning for a team with no owner and a very unsettled location situation, Vidro was signed to a four-year, $30 million contract extension last May, a deal that kicks in this year. At the time, the deal was thought to be a home-town discount, Virdo’s way of saying thanks to and being loyal to the organization that has brought him along in the big leagues. A more cynical view now would indicate that perhaps he wanted to get a contract signed prior to having the surgery for his tendonitis.
Even if the Nationals’ payroll climbs to the level near those of the major markets, that’s still a lot of money to have tied up in a player coming off of such surgery. One thing that new fans of the team have learned quickly is that they need to hope for the good health of several key players. Vidro is on the top of the list.
2005 Down and Up
Downside: .290 BA, 12 HR, 50 RBI
Upside: .320 BA, 19 HR, 75 RBI
To find Jose Vidro’s career stats on Baseball-Reference.com, go to http://www.baseball-reference.com/v/vidrojo01.shtml