2011 wasn't Maicer Izturis' greatest season, but it was far from his worst. More important than his production though was that for the first time in a long time, Izturis stayed healthy for an entire season. Can he do it again in 2012? Do the Angels even need him to?
2011 Stats: 449 AB, .276 AVG, .334 OBP, .388 SLG, 51 R, 5 HR, 38 RBI, 9 SB, 6 CS, 65 K
2012 ZiPS Projections: 369 AB, .268 AVG, .327 OBP, .377 SLG, 48 R, 5 HR, 43 RBI, 9 SB, 5 CS, 48 K
2012 Bill James Projections: 434 AB, .272 AVG, .338 OBP, .373 SLG, 59 R, 5 HR, 48 RBI, 10 SB, 5 CS, 58 K
2012 CAIRO Projections: 375 AB, .270 AVG, .331 OBP, .385 SLG, 51 R, 6 HR, 44 RBI, 9 SB, 5 CS, 52 K
2012 PECOTA Projections: 327 PA, .263 AVG, .325 OBP, .364 SLG, 36 R, 4 HR, 30 RBI, 8 SB, 4 CS, 40 K
2012 MWaH Projections*: 335 AB, .294 AVG, .353 OBP, .408 SLG, 49 R, 5 HR, 42 RBI, 6 SB, 2 CS, 44 K
*The MWaH projections are simply my best guess based off my own personal opinion and research
2011 in Review: Izturis played and played a lot in 2011, a very pleasant surprise for a thin Angel roster. But it was a surprise born less out of opportunity and more out of necessity. With a .722 OPS, Maicer wasn't exactly forcing his way into the lineup, which is somewhat damning considering that Callaspo was ripe to be unseated at third base entering the season and that the Angels desperately needed a leadoff hitter, a role Izturis seemed best suited for.
That only worked out halfway. Izturis was the main leadoff hitter for the Angels, logging 367 at-bats and a .340 OBP in that role. That was good enough for the Angels given what they had at their disposal, but it also wasn't good enough to not have Scioscia looking for other solutions throughout the season. An attributing factor in that was Callaspo proving to be a better hitter than Maicer as well as a capable defender at third base.
Overall, Maicer put up numbers almost exactly dead-on with his career numbers, which we really shouldn't complain about, yet for some reason I think we will. As silly as it sounds, Izturis was a let down in 2011 because he didn't do the one thing that Scioscia always praised him for: hitting in the clutch. Maicer posted a .259/.323/.343 line with runners in scoring position, a far cry from the superb situational hitting savant that Scioscia would often claim him to be. With a .831 career OPS with runners in scoring position, it certainly seems like Izturis let his skipper down.
Three Lingering Questions for 2012:
- Can Maicer stay healthy again? If Maicer can do it once, he can do it again, right? Or maybe he just got lucky. Will his year of durability cause him to try and push him self more physically this year or will he continue to exercise caution with free agency just a few months away?
- Where will Maicer's playing time come from this year and how much will he get? Scioscia always seems to find way to get Izturis playing time, but with Trumbo crowding the third base depth chart, Kendrick getting a big new contract and Aybar playing for one of his own, it could be hard for Maicer to find substantial playing time without someone suffering an injury.
- How much longer will Izturis remain an Angel? The Angels held onto Izturis this off-season despite teams overpaying for worse middle infielders on the free agent market. That suggests that they don't want to lose him, but could they change their mind come mid-season if Mark Trumbo takes well to third base and Alexi Amarista shows signs of being able to handle a big league utility job? After all, Izturis is in the final year of his contract, so he might be moving on from the team after the season if some other team comes offering more money and/or more playing time. Do they cash out now or let Scioscia hold on to his teacher's pet?
What to Expect in 2012: One of the more intriguing subplots of the 2012 season will be how Mike Scioscia deploys Maicer Izturis. Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick ar both clearly better than Izzy but Scioscia is going to find a way to play him regardless. That could be hard to justify though since Howie is being paid to be a big part of the lineup and Aybar is going to be playing for a big contract of his own. Wedging Izturis in a third won't be easy either if Callaspo plays like he did last season and Trumbo shows any acumen at the hot corner. But I've said all of this already.
What really matters is whether or not Izturis can hit enough to keep forcing Scioscia to place so much trust in him. Maicer was productive last year, but not especially so and maybe not even in a way that he can replicate. For years, Izturis seldom ever played against left-handed pitching, but he got 165 ABs against southpaws in 2011, nearly doubling his previous career-high. Maicer acquitted himself nicely with a .780 OPS, but did it with a .331 BABIP. As such, it has fluke written all over it. If Scioscia thinks the same thing, then that means Izturis is already going to be at a disadvantage playing time-wise.
It also might behoove Maicer to be used less in order to get more production out of him when he does play. The Angels played Izturis a lot last season, as was their plan. Knowing this, Izturis seemed ease off the throttle at times. This was most evident by his 14 steal attempts, a clear sign he was hesitant to stretch his balky quads and hamstrings. And this was even with Izturis sneaking in 47 at-bats at DH too. One would think Izturis could do more if he didn't have to play with the concern of getting hurt lingering over his head, which he will hopefully be able to do knowing that the Halos don't need him to play in over 100 games this season.
Factor in the decreased necessity for him to be as healthy as possible and his impending free agency and it sounds like a perfect combination that will lead to Izturis throwing caution to the wind and playing as hard as possible all the time, even playing through injury for a change. He'll need to avoid the DL and probably luck into someone else in the infield landing there in order to get 335 at-bats in 2012, but I think it is plausible. I also think that Maicer will be set loose after the season. As much as Scioscia likes having him around, they have viable replacements ready in the minors and paying Izturis upwards of $4 million per year is not something that is going to fit into the Angels payroll structure anymore. Frankly, I hope that is the case because Izturis deserves a starting gig somewhere after being such a good soldier in Anaheim for so long.
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