Beyond pudding, lollipop filled rainbows, and unicorns...
A large part of a player's public perception is performance. Before spring training started, I noted the difference in perception of Sean Rodriguez. To some Rodriguez was just a player we received in the Scott Kazmir salary dump. However, to others, Rodriguez was good enough to be considered a starter on most teams. After his fantastic spring, those who had never heard of Rodriguez expected him to hit .350 with 30 home runs. Meanwhile, when he got off to a slow start, there were instant calls for his demotion. Luckily for us, Rodriguez has settled somewhere in between and is a quality every day player.
More recently, I had a discussion about expectations with new baseball enthusiast, and former Buccaneer quarterback Shaun King. Coming into the season, King expected big things from Ben Zobrist in terms of power and offensive production. King's expectations were elevated further after Benzo signed his ~$30 million extension.
If your expectations of Zobrist were 30 home runs, 30 more doubles, and a slugging percentage that rivaled the Rays' early season win percentage, then yes, you will be disappointed like Shaun. On the other hand, if you expected Zobrist to hit for decent power (~50 extra base hits including 15-20 home runs) and get on-base at an above average clip with solid defense, then he is living up to those projections.
I say all of this because Matt Joyce has arrived and I can already feel the disappointment mounting. Don't get me wrong, I think Matt Joyce is fantastic. In fact, I'm more bullish than most on Joyce - sans for Anderson, R.J. That said, I get the feeling that some are expecting Joyce to be the savior of the franchise.
Joyce is good. A savior, he is not.
The good news is we really don't need Joyce to be a savior. On a team with Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena, B.J. Upton, and the aforementioned Zobrist, we just need him to be productive. If we temper the messiah expectations, and just ask him to be slightly above average, I think we will end up satisfied.
Assuming the bulk of Joyce's plate appearances will come as a DH, he should easily be an upgrade over the current production the Rays have received from the position. Tampa Bay has played musical chairs at the DH spot in 2010, however, the production remains lackluster. The Rays' DH has produced a slash line of .244/.301/.371 this year. It is fair to expect Joyce to be better than that. Looking at the American League average for DH, .244/.324/.407, it is still fair to expect a little bit more from Joyce.
According to minorleaguesplits.com major league equivalent calculator, Joyce's amazing production at the minor league level (.317/.458/.550) is equal to a slash line of .258/.373/.414 at the big league level. An OPS of .787 for Joyce would be .105 points more than the current Rays' collective and .56 points more than league average.
Again, some will no doubt be disappointed in Joyce if he doesn't hit .400/.500/.600 with 50-leven home runs with a hundred and umpteen RBI. He will be labeled a bust, and Andrew Friedman will be an idiot for trading Edwin Jackson for such a bum. However, I'm hoping cooler heads prevail and we look at Joyce with reasoned expectation. If he replicates his minor league numbers at this level, we will gladly accept. However, if Joyce turns out to be just slicker than your average, we should gladly accept that as well.