The Baltimore Orioles and Steve Pearce pulled a fast one yesterday as the Orioles re-signed Pearce after he declined the claim placed on him in waivers and elected free agency, and promptly re-signed with Baltimore.
In an odd twist, suddenly several Orioles fans, who had praised the team for DFA'ing him earlier in the week, were clamoring for the O's to get Pearce back because of Chris Davis being placed on the disabled list over the weekend, just days after the team DFA'd Pearce to make room for T.J. McFarland on the active roster.
Nick Markakis has been the primary fill in at first base since Davis went on the DL, and other than the issue in the rundown over the weekend, he has been fine defensively. In addition, the ability to use Markakis at first, allows you to move Nelson Cruz and or Delmon Young to right field, which is a much better option for those two than left field due to the lesser amount of space to cover with the big scoreboard. It also allows David Lough to play left field, which is a defensive upgrade when he plays.
Now, the concept that Pearce is the best option at first base is a bit of a curious one to us here. Let's take a look at some numbers.
In 94 career games at first base, Pearce has a .993 fielding percentage, which sounds good, but remember that a first baseman gets an incredible amount of more total chances due to being on the receiving end of almost every play at first base. Pearce has made five errors in his 94 career games, which only 57 of those 94 career games have been complete games at first base, meaning Pearce has played games from beginning to end at first base in his career.
So his fielding is not a great reason to justify him taking over at first base until Davis returns, but what about his bat? Well, his .237 career batting average is nothing that jumps off the table and despite the belief that he is this great power threat off the bench, keep in mind he has 17 career home runs in 854 plate appearances.
Of the other choices at first base, Markakis, albeit a very small sample size, has not committed an error in five career games at first, and we have already mentioned how Nick playing first can allow other bats and gloves more formidable than Pearce to play.
Ryan Flaherty is deemed a candidate, but he has shown that he has not yet figured out how to be a consistent hitter at the big league level, and although he may be the best defensive option at first base, his .216 career batting average and .278 on base percentage are enough to risk a little loss in defense for a big gain in offense.
The one guy that has seemed to be completely looked over is the pride of pigtown, backup catcher Steve Clevenger. It may be because Manager Buck Showalter does not want to toy with the idea of having both his catchers on the field at the same time, but Clevenger has a decent track record of playing first base. In ten career MLB games at first base, he has not committed an error in 37 total chances, while with the Chicago Cubs. During the course of his Minor League career, Clevenger had just four errors in 805 total chances while playing first base. It appears that defensively he would not be a liability, and thus far this season, he has been hitting the ball fairly well in the limited chances he has had while serving as Matt Wieters' backup. Clevenger has four RBI and four extra base hits in just 23 plate appearances and has a .348 on base percentage.
For us, Pearce would be the third option at first base behind both Markakis and Clevenger, but for some reason, the Orioles continue to bring him back and if he gets the everyday nod at first base while Davis is on the DL, there will be some serious head scratching going on.
What are your thoughts on who should play first while Davis is out?
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