Recently, someone posted something on Juan Rivera that didn't make much of an argument toward his futility. Well, to all of us calling for his head, I've included some truths regarding just how truly overrated Rivera has been throughout his career.
This season, his WAR stands at -.2. The Angels could have played virtually anybody on baseball's scrap heap because someone else could contribute something: defense, baserunning skills, walks...Rivera this season has been below average on the bases (no surprise) in the field (he's a full two runs below average this year and 17 below in his career) and at the plate, with an OPS+ at a weak 90. But this last fact really isn't a surprise, because the Angels have been overvaluing his bat for years, as evidenced by his 4 million plus salary.
Rivera's lifetime OPS+ stands at 105, just above average, not exactly promising for someone contributing so little elsewhere. In comparison, Bobby Abreu has a 106 OPS+ this season and a 131 for his career. He's also a better baserunner, not finishing with a negative run total on the bases since 2000 (although his defense has suffered in recent seasons).
Back to Juan hopefully-soon-to-be Gone. Last season, supposedly a banner year for him, Rivera's WAR stood at 1.7, certainly solid, but beneath such studs like Michael Bourn (2.6) Brett Carroll (2.1) and Craig Counsel (2.8...WTF??!!). The difference? Largely defense, although Bourn's value comes from baserunning above all else. But there's another troubling reason as to why Juan Rivera fails to outperform some of the more punchless hitters in baseball while smacking 25 home runs and batting .287: He just isn't much of a hitter himself.
Rivera doesn't draw walks, which neutralizes his solid batting averages. For his career, his OBP is .328, abysmal considering his .281 mark. Think a more fragile Garrett Anderson without the plus defense. At least Rivera doesn't strike out, right? This would be more reasonable to celebrate is Rivera didn't ground into 20 double plays per 162 games. The old Moneyball refute about players clogging the bases only lends credence toward arguments based on players who don't get on base very often to begin with, players like Rivera.
Juan's the sort of player who would work well off the bench, starting against lefties (his OPS of .837 off southpaws is over 70 points higher than off righties). He could DH, pinch hit off relievers late, provide a little power...His glove deficiencies would be minimized by less playing time in the field, and Rivera's bat might even wake up a little if he didn't have to worry so much about moving six feet to catch a ball. For now though, playing Rivera costs the Angels wins. Remember how bad Vladdy looked last year, like an arthritic swinging a led pipe? Vlad's WAR was 0.3, weak, but at least a positive contribution. And that was Vlad at his worst. Rivera's supposed to be helping the Halos get to October. Better give Michael Ryan a call (2010 WAR: -0.1).