OAKLAND, CA - JULY 25: Johnny Damon #22 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates after scoring on a fielders choice hit by Matt Joyce #20 in the fifth inning against the Oakland Athletics at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on July 25, 2011 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Johnny Damon is a heckuva guy. Johnny Damon loves the fans and is loved by the fans. Johnny Damon is a great addition to any clubhouse. Johnny Damon is having the second worst season of his career. Johnny Damon really wants to reach 3000 hits and will swing at anything thrown within six inches of the plate. These are all true statements.
Damon enters today with 2677 hits and could reasonably reach 3000 hits with 2-3 more mediocre seasons. Damon's approach at the plate makes one believe he could reach 3000 hits by this time next year. Lately, the man swings at anything short of a pitch out. He has 5 walks since June 21st, a span of 110 plate appearances, or the equivalent of how often Corey Patterson walks. His O-Swing% (percentage of swings out of the strike zone) is a career high at 31.8%. His career O-Swing% coming into this season was below 21%.
Damon is having his worst season since his major league sophomore year of 1996. His current OBP of .322 is only beaten by his 1996 season. He is on pace for 1.2 fWAR and 1996 is the only year he has had less and that includes his rookie year of 1995 when he had only 206 plate appearances. He should be displaying more patience than ever right now and walking a heck of a lot more than he is. At least that's what his 2007-2010 trend suggests.
His BB% were very good the past four seasons starting with a career high (at the time) if 10.9% in 2007, 10.3% in 2008, a new career high in 2009 with 11.3%, and matching that career high again last year in 2010. Most people who were excited about the Damon signing were excited about the high walk rate and the .362 OBP over those same four seasons.
Sure, his wRC+ is 106, meaning he is 6% better at the plate than the league average but he is far from average at the designated hitter's position. The cumulative OBP for qualified designated hitters, and this includes Adam Dunn's .297 OBP, is .350. Most of us expected, even with regression due to age, an OBP somewhere near what the average qualifying designated hitter was bringing to the table.
Johnny Damon does not look at stats. Johnny Damon is helping the Rays' offense. Johnny Damon should play out the year in a Rays uniform. These are all false statements. Please, do not get me wrong, this is not a Damon bash session. I love Damon. I have had the pleasure to meet him on three different occasions and he has been one of the nicest athletes I have ever met. He brings a certain flair to a ballclub that is matched by few and fans adore him wherever he plays. I hope he gets to 3000 hits one day but not at the expense of below average production on a contending team. His quest for 3000 hits is hurting both himself and the team he plays for.