#60 - GARY DISARCINA, SS
Gary DiSarcina holds a few big accomplishments from his playing days in Anaheim.
He played in 1,086 games (tied with Dick Schofield for seventh most in club history) as an Angel, the only major league team for which he took the field during his professional career.
He is in the franchise top ten in ABs and Plate Appearances, being one of only nine Angels with over 4,000 PA. His 186 doubles is the eighth most for the franchise. His 732 singles are the ninth most by an Angels hitter. His 77 Sacrifice Hits ranks fourth most for the club.
Gary was difficult to strike out. His 12.2 AB per SO is the third best ever for an Angel.
Best of all is his 12.6 Defensive Wins Above Replacement. This is the second most DWAR in club history.
The guy sounds great, right? The Angels were on their way to winning the AL Western Division in 1995 when Gary got hurt in August during his career year where he had been named to the All Star Team. The team ended up squandering a massive lead, the Mariners played out of their minds great ball and beat them in a one-game playoff.
In Angels lore, the reason the team lost it was because of DiSarcina's injury.
But let's cut the hagiography off right here and now. The only reason Gary DiSarcina has any of the Angels records cited above is because General Manager Bill Bavasi saw something in him - what it was exactly eludes me and every other baseball analyst on the planet - but Bavasi signed DiSar to a long-term contract and no matter how poorly the shortstop did, he had to play him.
Now, Gary was a clubhouse guy. When the Angels went to the postseason in 2002, the veterans on the team who had played with him phoned him from the visitors clubhouse in order to let him be part of the celebration. Good players, great Angels but terrible judges of talent.
However... what the man accomplished between the lines is one of the poorest showings in the history of professional baseball - most of the time, when a player is lousy, they are not given the playing time to continue to be lousy. DiSarcina had some pretty mediocre seasons, back to back to back - and there was never the slightest hesitation by management to reward him with the starting job.
1992 was Gary's first full season. He had 553 Plate Appearances in 157 games. He batted .247 with a .283 On Base Percentage and a .301 Slugging Percentage. This .584 OPS added up to an OPS+ of 64. OPS+ uses 100 as a benchmark of league average. Sometimes slick-fielding defenders are given a pass for a bad OPS+ because of the value they bring on defense. Rarely is a 64 OPS+ rewarded with confidence, but in the club's defense he was worth 2.0 Defensive WAR that season. Considering he was 24 and a had great "chemistry" with the tea, he returned as a starter in 1993.
Yep he regressed - a 56 OPS+ in 445 PA and a dWAR of only 1.1 (along with an offensive WAR of NEGATIVE 0.2) ...but 1994 saw him back for more. He had 421 PA and a 61 OPS+ with his pleasant 2.0 dWAR to be all shiny and sparkly. Nonplussed, he just rocked on as an everyday starter in 1995.
1995 really was his best season. Was it so great that when he got injured the team was lost? Well... not exactly. He batted .307 with a .344 OBP and a .459 Slugging (wow, five home runs!). That .802 OPS translated into an OPS+ of 108. Yes, Gary's greatest season saw him eight percent better than a league average player. He had 3.1 total WAR that year.
How critical was he to the 1995 Angels? Of the nine most often-used starters SEVEN had a better OPS+ in 1995 than him. Even the execrable J.T. Snow batted to a 112 OPS+ that year. It is one hundred percent hindsight to pin blowing a giant division and losing the division on the loss of a player who contributed such a paltry presence on the field. It flatters and mythologizes a guy who actually kept the team from winning in eleven of the twelve seasons he played for the team.
When you want to talk about great infielders for the Angels, talk about Bobby Grich and Chone Figgins. Figgy is a great case study because we can measure his playing time to DiSar by number of Plate Appearances as an Angel. Figgy had 4,075 PA to DiSar's 4,036 and yet Figgy had 22.3 WAR as an Angel. TWICE the amount of Wins Above Replacement in almost exactly the same amount of playing time as measured by PA. Figgins made 272 fewer OUTS as an Angel in 39 more PA than DiSarcina. Embarrassing, really.
Bobby Grich had 4,876 PA as an Angel - 840 more than DiSarcina. He had 35.0 Wins Aboev Replacement. That is more than THREE TIMES the production of Disarcina with only 20% more playing time. Or consider Maicer Izturis. The Mice Man had 12.3 WAR in 1,200 fewer PA as an Angel. He was more than a WIN better than DiSar in only 2/3 the palying time.
And on and on and on. Gary DiSarcina was a beloved Angel who never reached the glory a haphazard front office envisioned for him. He comported himself with the utmost class, despite being from the Boston area. He holds many Angels records due to the team's faith in him, a faith that ultimately cost the team wins on the field. But his name is in lights enough that he has to be counted and it is with plenty of generosity that he and his 11.1 WAR are ranked here at number 60.