Fan Foils By The Numbers: Jeff Blauser

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In this week's Fan Foils, we're reminded that "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" is not a strong way to operate a baseball team.

Not much represents "old school baseball" more than acquiring a player who tormented your club. The old-school eyeball test, and a failure to understand basic statistics principles like small sample size and regression to the mean, misled many a club to the true abilities of a player.

The Cubs were infamous for this type of evaluation, which led them to Jeff Blauser. The long-time shortstop for the Braves was a notorious "Cub Killer." So naturally, the Cubs signed him.

How well did he hit against the Cubs? Very. In 78 career games and 299 plate appearances (roughly a half season of games) against the Cubs, Blauser hit: .351/.413/.611 for an OPS of 1.023 with 15 HR and 48 RBI. Those are some pretty terrific splits and you can see why he was identified as a Cub Killer. Of course, that all came against Cubs' pitching from 1987-1997.

Blauser had a nice career. For his 13 seasons, he hit .262/.354/.406 and was a two-time All-Star. Defensive metrics are much more mixed for him, suppressing his overall value. He ended up with 19.7 WAR for his career, almost entirely driven by his '93 and '97 seasons when he was worth 5+ WAR each season.

Wanna guess which season the Cubs signed him after?

Blauser signed a two-year, $8.2 million contract with the Cubs for the '98 and '99 seasons. Those were his age 32 and 33 seasons. So the Cubs signed a player who had left his prime, coming off a great year, who had tortured them in the past. What could possibly go wrong?

'98: .219/.340/.299, 4 HR in 119 games worth -0.3 WAR

'99: .240/.347/.420, 9 HR in 104 games worth 0.6 WAR

So that makes $8.2M for 0.3 wins. Hooray! Though, a tip of the hat to Blauser for maintaining a perfectly respectable OBP even while he wasn't hitting (13.8% and 10.9% BB rates, respectively). Blauser's career came to an end following that 1999 season.

Some of you may think it's unfair to label Blauser a "Foil" and I wouldn't totally disagree with that. He wasn't a bad dude that I can remember and it's hard to blame a guy for signing a contract. But his signing embodied the kind of short-sighted moves the Cubs have made for virtually forever. To me, that makes him a Foil, even though the lion's share of the blame should be pointed at the front office.

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