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Sunday, October 10, 2010

If Brooks Conrad Ain't A Second-Baseman, I Don't Know What He Is; Aubrey Huff for M.V.P.?

I've heard several commentators, including ESPN's Jon Miller, make excuses for Braves infielder, Brooks Conrad, who has made an outlandish four errors in the first three games of the NLDS, based on the fact that he's "not a natural second-baseman," having been forced into the position following injuries to Chipper Jones and Martin Prado.  The fact is, however, the 30-year-old rookie was only a third-baseman out of necessity.  Cox moved him to second this postseason in an effort to make him more comfortable, as 90% of him minor-league chances came at that position.  He hadn't exactly been slick at the hot corner, making 7 errors in 22 starts (.903 FLD%).  I don't mean to pile it on, but you can't blame these mistakes on Cox.  Conrad is playing his "natural" position.  He's just clearly having some sort of exacerbated Chuck Knoblauch performance anxiety in his first exposure to the October pressure-cooker.  He doesn't exactly bring the heavy lumber (1-for-10), so it's probably time to give Troy Glaus or Diory Hernandez a chance.

On a more positive note, in celebration of Aubrey Huff's game-tying and potentially season-saving hit, let's take a look at a highly underrated season-long peformance from the Huffinator:

1.) Huff led the Giants in runs (100), hits (165), homers (26), total bases (288), RBI (86), walks (83), average (.290), OBP (.385), and slugging (.506).  He also led the team in games played and at-bats, which may be the biggest accomplishment, considering he was coming off a season in which he was consistently hobbled by back and knee problems.  Obviously, even after Andres Torres was made a permanent starter and Buster Posey was promoted to provide him with a little protection, Huff was the single most important addition to this year's team.

2.) Huff's 891 OPS was good for tenth in the NL.  His 5.7 WAR was also good for tenth.  He also finished in the top ten in runs (7th), walks (6th), and runs created (9th).  All this, despite the fact that the lineup around him, especially in the first half, was among the weakest in the National League, and he played half his games in a pitcher's paradise (AT&T Park was 22nd overall in Park Factor this year).

3.) Huff's overall numbers are suppressed by the fact that he had a horrible April.  In the final five months of the season he hit .300 with a .922 OPS and 24 of his 26 homers.  During that span, only five NL players had a higher OPS than Huff.  They were Albert Pujols, Joey Votto, Carlos Gonzalez, Matt Holliday, and Troy Tulowitzki.  That's VIP company.

4.) Huff increased his value be being a kind of premium utilityman, when the Giants needed it.  He played over 250 inning in both left and right field.  And, according to FanGraphs, he was actually fairly decent in the outfield (1.3 UZR).  He was excellent once he took over as the everyday first-baseman, posting a 5.3 UZR, which trailed only Ike Davis and Adam LaRoche on the senior circuit.

I certainly won't be voting for Huff ahead of Votto, CarGo, and Prince Albert, but he should probably be on everybody's ballot.

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