Left Handed Sock, Free to Good Home

Dave · January 9, 2006 at 9:15 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

442 at bats. .249/.366/.518 line. 110 hits, 60 (!) of them going for extra bases. 79 walks and 169 strikeouts.

Ladies and Gentleman, that’s Russell Branyan, the past three years, against right-handed pitching.

He was designated for assignment by the Brewers, and they’re “attempting to find him a big league job”. He’s already signed for 2006 for the grand total of $800,000 – and the contract is not guaranteed.

The guy has some serious flaws in his game. He’s basically a DH who shouldn’t play the field. He has no business ever facing a left-handed pitcher (.181/.233/.319 vs lefties last 3 years, 1-20 against them last year). He strikes out at an historic rate because of gaping flaws in his swing.

But replace “strikes out” in the last sentance with “makes outs” and that paragraph describes Greg Dobbs as well. And Greg Dobbs is never going to hit 30 homers and draw 80 walks in 500 at-bats.

If the M’s are willing to get past their hatred of strikeouts, they could have a quality bench player for nothing.


34 Responses to “Left Handed Sock, Free to Good Home”

  1. unholycow on January 9th, 2006 9:19 pm

    On my son’s first trip to Safeco, they were handing out baseball cards to kids, and he got Russell Branyon. I’m hoping the M’s hear you and pick him up.

  2. CCW on January 9th, 2006 9:27 pm

    …and in 182 ABs vs righties last year, .280/.405/.538, so it’s not like he’s been declining over the past 3 years. That’s pretty sick. The Ms could really use him.

  3. joealb on January 9th, 2006 10:04 pm

    Hmmmmm. Bavasi could have signed Wes Helms for low $$$ and picked up Branyan for really low $$$ and had an above average platoon at DH and a decent glove on the bench for 1B/3B with Helms. All for less then he paid for the SoDoMoFo. I really want to be positive but the more this off-season goes on the less I can find things to smile about.

  4. Smegmalicious on January 9th, 2006 10:24 pm

    Why must you torture us so? I wish the Mariners thought more like the good captains of the USS Mainer, but we all know they don’t. This seems like a damned good idea for a backup though.


  5. ChrisK on January 9th, 2006 10:30 pm

    The M’s can only think linearly. Since they have already placed a checkmark next to the “left-handed sock” box, they will not think about it again the rest of the offseason. Sigh.

  6. Mr. Egaas on January 9th, 2006 10:37 pm

    I was looking at his stats earlier today on ESPN and was amazed at how many of his hits goes for extra bases.

    Even looking at a guy like Richmond Lockwood Sexson (I say we call him Lockwood, it’s awesome!), proves that a guy can be heavily productive even if he does strike out a lot.

    Get him. Please. Righty-friggin-killer.

  7. joealb on January 9th, 2006 10:40 pm

    Lockwood? Gary Lockwood? Lockjock!

  8. Mr. Egaas on January 9th, 2006 10:51 pm

    Watch Billy Beane get him. I’m calling this shot.

  9. Jim Thomsen on January 9th, 2006 10:59 pm

    From a Milwakee Journal Sentinel story on the Branyan move:

    — “The Brewers shopped Branyan around this winter without finding a taker. He was eligible for salary arbitration but instead agreed to sign a non-guaranteed deal for $800,000, the same salary he drew in 2005.

    Because the contract is not guaranteed, the Brewers are obligated to pay only about $160,000.

    “I talked to Russell,” general manager Doug Melvin said. “I explained to him that when we got the chance to get Koskie, we had to do it. He said, ‘Yeah, that was a pretty good move.’

    “The opportunity was just not going to be here for Russell. We’d like to find a way to keep him in the big leagues. Friday will be decision day. If he’s not traded or claimed, I told him I wouldn’t rule out a non-roster invite (to spring camp).”

    — “Sharing time at third base last season with Cirillo, Wes Helms and eventually Bill Hall, Branyan had a great start by socking a pair of two-run homers in the home opener against Pittsburgh. But he fractured a finger attempting a bunt on June 2 and spent more than a month on the disabled list.

    Hampered throughout the second half by an ailing shoulder as well as back spasms, he had only 89 at-bats after the break. He finished with a .257 batting average, 12 homers and 31 RBI, with 80 strikeouts in 202 at-bats. Branyan was ineffective as a pinch hitter, collecting only one hit while striking out 10 times in 16 at-bats.

    “That was a problem,” Melvin said of Branyan’s pinch-hitting problems. “He’s a guy who has to be in (the lineup) a little more to keep his stroke.”

  10. matthew on January 9th, 2006 11:20 pm

    After what Jim said, no thanks. Then again, it’s not like we’re going to contend next year anyways.

  11. Mat on January 10th, 2006 12:04 am

    After what Jim said, I don’t want the M’s hiring Branyan as their GM. As a bench player, roll with it. Sure, there are injury risks involved, and the usual fairy tales used to try to give meaning to the randomness inherent in 16 ABs, but for whatever risk you assume, it comes at low cost, so it’s really not all that much risk.

  12. Churchill on January 10th, 2006 1:53 am

    It’s not like Helms and Branyan don’t have other options.

    Even if Bavasi picks up the phone, it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.

  13. Eric Walkingshaw on January 10th, 2006 2:06 am

    All hail the Three True Outcomes.

  14. NBarnes on January 10th, 2006 2:09 am

    Wow. That’s one hellacious half-a-platoon. It’s a shame he can’t even 1b or corner-outfield, but as it stands, how can it be that nobody needs this man on their bench? Roll his ass out there against mediocre right-handed middle relief and pretend you have Manny Ramirez.

  15. MER on January 10th, 2006 6:27 am

    Certainly, it seems that Branyan could be the right piece in the right puzzle, but how do you use him on the current Mariner roster? It seems that his best spot is as DH vs. right handed pitching but unfortunately we have Everett there for that role and even if we didn’t, it still puts Ibanez in left field (although, unlike most here, I don’t see that as the end of the world). I suppose you could use him as an occassional substitute at the corner infield spots but why would you want to rest Sexson or Beltre much unless they were hurt? He might be useful as a pinch hitter for Lopez or Betancourt, but then you going have to put someone else in the field. I am interested to get Dave or anyone else’s opinion as to how general batting stats apply to pinch hitting. My suspicion is that when corrected for the quality of pitching faced that they are accurate and that Branyan’s poor performance last year as a pinch hitter was mostly related to small sample size or maybe related to his injuries.

  16. Rusty on January 10th, 2006 6:44 am

    I don’t have high hopes that the M’s will grab Branyan. Another partial solution for left-handed sock and a definite need is at backup catcher. Earlier this year Tampa Bay designated Pete LaForest for assignment. This would have been a low risk/high reward signing of a catcher who swings left-handed. The M’s passed. Granted, Ben Davis didn’t work out as a left-handed catcher, but in that case they were trying to put a square peg in a round hole and make Davis their starter. If they had thought instead about the Tom Lampkin experience, they might have given some value to a guy like LaForest.

  17. Adam S on January 10th, 2006 7:41 am

    Unfortunately with all the lefties on the roster already (Everett, Ibanez, Reed, Lawton, and potentially Snelling), I don’t think the Mariners will ever consider another.

    What’s really sad is for next to nothing they could have Lawton and Branyon and get more production that what they’ll get from Everett for $4M.

  18. Mr. Egaas on January 10th, 2006 8:04 am

    One thing about just looking at the stats, as a guy can look entirely dreamy for your team — so you figure, yeah, let’s go get him. The quotes posted by Mr. Thomsen brings up a point that you just can’t see by looking at the stats, if he just isn’t a very good pinch hitter, then he may not be as good of a fit as it seems. This is the reason that Dave Hansen was always seen as such a valuable bench guy, he’s not a great everyday guy, but his numbers were just as good, if not better, as a pinch hitter, quite a rarity.

    I can hope that they make a play for him, it seems most elite closers in the game are right handed, as is the majority of dominant late inning relief anyway, and these are the kinds of guys that hit the late inning bombs at Safeco to turn a game around. Generally, they’re on the visitor side.

    He seems like an infield version Jeromy Burnitz, without the factors of ‘too old’ and ‘too expensive’.

  19. Bruce on January 10th, 2006 8:27 am

    16 pinch-hitting ABs is the very definition of a small sample size.

  20. Mr. Egaas on January 10th, 2006 8:37 am

    This is true, and it looks like he always has been a bit of a platoon player.

    2002 – Cle and Cin, 378 ABs, 24 HRs.
    2003 – Cin, 176 ABs, 9 HRs.
    2004 – Mil, 158 ABs, 11 HRs.
    2005 – Mil, 202 ABs, 12 HRs.

    I’m not sure if that’s based on platooning or being hurt, but he’s never been a full time guy. Considering the guy is just looking to stay in the majors, you’d have to believe he’d accept the bench duties on any team.

  21. Mr. Egaas on January 10th, 2006 8:55 am

    I was gonna go with the argument here that Hargrove knows Branyan from the Cleveland days, but it looks like they barely overlapped or just missed each other when Grover was fired in ’99, just as Branyan came up for a cup of coffee and a splash in the big leagues.

    So, essentially, they know each other, but do they ‘know’ each other. Nudge nudge, wink wink.

  22. mpbiggs on January 10th, 2006 9:25 am

    This is pure torture — When I see the ideas that the USSM staff comes up with — innovative, responsible, cost-effective, and compare to the moves made by the “professionals” running this club, it upsets me terribly. Here is a guy who is signed to a cheap, non-guaranteed contract for 1/5 of the cost of Carl Everett. (And I bet he believes in dinosaurs, and I don’t recall him spitting and crotch-grabbing at one of my favorite (old) players) Next off-season, let’s stage a coup and put the USSM staff in charge of the Mariners Front Office…

  23. PositivePaul on January 10th, 2006 9:51 am

    Unfortunately the M’s appear to be focused on things like the Win/Loss totals for pitchers and the Batting Average for hitters. They’ll look at Dobbs .300 BA in Tacoma and weigh that much heavier than Branyan’s .249 average — completely ignoring his ~.900 OPS…

  24. Grizz on January 10th, 2006 10:07 am

    If the M’s seriously considered Scott Hatteberg after signing Lawton, they should seriously consider Branyan now. In the worst case scenario, Branyan fails to find a role on the team other than corner infield insurance. But even in that scenario, Branyan’s salary is low enough that the M’s could hold onto him until another team loses a 3B/1B/DH to injury and then trade him for a moderately interesting minor league arm.

  25. capmblade on January 10th, 2006 10:48 am

    Is there enough room on a 25 man roster for someone who can’t play defense AND can’t hit lefties? Just wondering.

  26. Evan on January 10th, 2006 10:58 am

    There should be. A DH platoon isn’t unreasonable, especially if you’re willing to play the GuitarMan in left.

  27. Smegmalicious on January 10th, 2006 11:05 am

    Capmblade, are you talking about Branyan or Dobbs?

  28. Jim Thomsen on January 10th, 2006 1:03 pm

    I like Branyan, but the 2006 Mariners are not the right team for him. One, he’s not going to play at third base; and two, the Mariners surely see themselves committed to five-times-as-expensive Carl Everett as their designated hitter, right or very wrong. There’s no time-share arrangement for him at any position, and his history shows that the less he plays, the worse he does.

    If all that’s available for Branyan is a 150-at-bat-a-year bench job, I’d just as soon find somebody else who can more capably “play cold.”

  29. theberle on January 10th, 2006 1:32 pm

    Dave Hansen is not a good pinch hitter. He may have been once upon a time, but last year he was 2-31 as a pinch hitter (.065), in 2004, he was 8-51 (.157), and in 2003, he was 9-55 (.164).

    That’s what you get when you pay for a “proven” pinch hitter.

  30. vj on January 10th, 2006 1:51 pm

    The thing about Hansen is that as a starter, both in 05 and particularly in 04 he was one of the Mariners’ better hitters. I realize its small sample size theatre (applies all the more to pinch-hitting, though) but especially in 04 when neither Olerud, Edgar nor Spiezio were putting up all-star numbers, I thought that he should’ve gotten more chances to start.

  31. Jim Thomsen on January 10th, 2006 2:03 pm

    Hansen’s career is a Shakespearean tragedy of sorts, in that he blew his one chance at a starting job (third base, Dodgers, 1992, when he went .214/.286/.299), got labeled a sub-regular thereafter, and drifted aimlessly along ever since despite no compelling evidence that he wouldn’t have succeeded as a starter given a second chance. Worse players than Hansen have been given many more chances to fail.

    Now he’s too old, and it’s just too late.

    But Hansen seems to be taking it all in stride, playing his guitar in front of his locker and smiling his Mona Lisa smile.

  32. eponymous coward on January 10th, 2006 3:39 pm

    This is reason number 312 why Carl Everett was a completely superfluous signing and waste of $4 million. Branyan and Lawton between them (and maybe a RH bench bat- worst case, you use Mike Morse and see if he can build on 2005 to become a decent backup OF, plus he is a possibility along with Willie B as your disaster SS if Lopez or Betancourt goes tits-up for some reason) would be completely capable of delivering everything Everett could and more, except for bizarre comments during interviews.

    Everett’s pretty much useless on defense as well, so it’s not like Branyan makes things worse there, either (probably Lawton becomes the primary defensive OF sub unde this scenario).

  33. Oly Rainiers Fan on January 10th, 2006 6:50 pm

    Alright, so, since you brought up Everett a couple times, I just have to say… my season ticket partners bailed this year, so I had gone down to a single ticket, and then, when they signed Everett, well, I decided to cancel even that and go watch the Rainiers this summer instead. I sent a letter to Chuck & Howie, explaining why I was cancelling, and just today, got what surely has to be in large part, a form letter, back from them.

    Still, from the sounds of it ‘We need to see more intensity, more fire and more drive from all our players and we need to bring players to the Mariners who can help us achieve this. We believe Carl Everett is one of those players”, “And given what we know of the makeup of our team and its needs for the coming season, all of us, from Mike Hargrove to Bill Bavasi to Chuck and to me feel that Carl Everett will help our team” “We also concluded that from a performance standpoint, he would provide us with some much-needed improvement in offensive production”…. well, it seems like the Ms front office is pretty solidly behind Everett being a big part of the 2006 team.

    (so yeah, even if you brought in others, between the money they gave him and the strident defense of him I just received, I’m doubting anybody else would get much time in that DH/Everett lineup slot).

  34. John D. on January 19th, 2006 5:49 pm

    RE: BRANYAN’S DEFENSE (See # 25) – It’s not terrible, just below- average–and not markedly below-average. (Check it out.)

    HANSEN A POOR PINCH-HITTER? (See # 29) – So was the rest of the league. Of all players with at least 10 PH AB, he came in 6th. (BTW, DOBBS came in 2nd.)

    EVERETT SUPERFLUOUS? (See # 32) – Try to remember that he was signed at a time when BRANYAN was not yet available.

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