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The legend of Johnny G., Part 2

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Johnny Giavotella was Mr. Clutch in his first season with the Angels. Should they explore an upgrade in case the pixie dust wears off?

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Back in May I wondered, "Will the legend of Johnny G. live on?" At the time he was hitting .275/.336/.353, leading me to dig deeper into his batted ball data and arriving to the conclusion that yes, it would live on, indeed. Or, that he'd be useful, at least.

Fortunately, Little Italy made me look smart with a series of clutch hits throughout the season, cementing his place in the hearts of the Halo faithful as the anti-Howie. Following a return from the DL, Johnny hit .367/.406/.733 in the season's final ten games. While the Angels fell just shy of the second wild card, Johnny Arthur Giavotella is widely credited as the spark the Halos needed for their late-season push.

His quick start last season endeared him to us and his heroic finish made him a minor legend in Angels' lore. Over the bulk of the season, though? Not so hot. Thanks to a modest tool kit and questionable glove, many Halo fans are skeptical that Johnny G. is David Eckstein incarnate and hope the Angels explore an upgrade at the keystone this offseason. After all, sandwiched between a fast start and furious finish was a whole lot of mediocrity:

Split

G

GS

PA

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB

CS

BB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

TB

GDP

HBP

SH

SF

IBB

ROE

BAbip

tOPS+

sOPS+

April/March

21

20

73

63

9

20

3

0

1

10

0

0

6

11

.317

.380

.413

.793

26

1

1

2

1

0

0

.365

130

126

May

29

26

101

92

9

22

5

1

0

7

1

0

7

13

.239

.290

.315

.605

29

3

0

1

1

0

0

.275

75

72

June

26

25

105

92

9

23

3

0

2

10

0

1

8

16

.250

.304

.348

.652

32

2

0

3

2

0

3

.276

88

84

July

24

24

110

101

14

27

5

2

0

10

0

0

7

7

.267

.309

.356

.666

36

0

0

0

2

0

1

.281

92

86

August

19

19

80

75

6

20

5

0

0

3

1

0

2

10

.267

.295

.333

.628

25

0

1

2

0

0

1

.308

82

72

Sept/Oct

10

10

33

30

4

11

4

2

1

9

0

0

2

2

.367

.406

.733

1.140

22

1

0

1

0

0

0

.370

223

203

(Data courtesey of Baseball-Reference)

While Johnny cooled off, there were no alarming drop-offs in the areas he could most control. He maintained excellent contact rates on pitches in the zone, connecting 93.1% of the time, tying him with Buster Posey, Jason Heyward and Mookie Betts. He only offered at 27.9% of pitches thrown out of the zone, just a hair below eagle-eyed Joe Mauer at 27.6%.  When he did swing at pitches outside the zone, he still made contact 72.8% of the time, putting him in the top 40 of all hitters in MLB (minimum 500 PA).

Now, I won't pretend those numbers mean Johnny belongs in the same conversation as any of those other hitters mentioned. His isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average) was just .104, tied with Jose Reyes. The number puts him in the bottom percentile in the league, ahead of Erick Aybar (.069), Jean Segura (.079) and Jacoby Ellsbury (.088).

There are certainly options if Billy Eppler decides to upgrade at second, as this year's free agent pool is deeper than it's been in recent years. We already explored the possibility of bringing Howie back and most of us seemed to agree that while we'd like to see the return of the "future batting champ", it is not worth the draft pick and overall commitment. Daniel Murphy was bandied about early on during our third base discussion, but his next contract appears to look more and more foolish with each postseason homer. Ben Zobrist is enticing, as he'd help the Angels at several positions that need to be addressed while being a perfect fit for the top of the order. Another positive: he was traded mid-season so he is ineligible for a qualifying offer. The problem here is he's 35 and will likely be looking to cash-in on his only opportunity to score a big free agent contract.

With so many areas of need, it seems to make the most sense for the Angels to hold on to Johnny and supplement his modest production with two utility players: one that can hit a little while filling in at second and third; the other a slick-fielding glove-man that can back-up shortstop and sub in for Johnny late in the game. In all, Giavotella ended the year with a 96 OPS+, just a hair under league average. He was worth roughly 1 WAR, according to both Baseball-Reference (1.0) and Fangraphs (1.1). Both sites hate his defense, with Johnny posting a -0.9 dWAR and a -7.2 UZR. This jibes with the ol' eye test, as Johnny seemed to have a knack for bone-headed decisions around the bag.

At age 28, it is highly unlikely we see any improvement from Johnny with the glove. At best, we can hope that Alfredo Griffin can work some magic with is footwork and positioning, minimizing the damage out there. Even if his glove is what it is, his defense is not the complete abomination it seems. For what it's worth, he bested Robinson Cano and his -7.9 UZR, reminding us that single-season defensive numbers should definitely be taken with a grain of salt. I feel confident in proclaiming that Johnny is a legit second baseman, just a below average one.

If he can build on his positives with the bat and his issues with fourth cranial nerve palsy are behind him, he could very much be a useful player for the Halos in 2016, giving them one less thing to check off on their laundry list of offseason items.