Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Understanding the Importance of Intangible Players

There are some players on professional baseball teams that, quite frankly, don't get the attention they deserve. It might be because they lack the ability to produce "sexy" results...hitting a homerun, striking everyone out, etc. For the Angels in recent years, it can be said that "Mr. Overlooked" was none other than Maicer Izturis. He belongs in the group known as the intangibles: players who lack the hype, but bring the late punch.

 Izturis, also known as Mighty Maicer, always seemed to find a way to get a base hit when it counted. Outside of a sub-par 2012 that saw him struggle with runners in scoring position, Izturis was a dependable utility infielder who occasionally found himself as an everyday player when someone would go down with an injury.

It's not every day that you come across a player who owns a clean .300 average with runners in scoring position for their career, and that's exactly what Maicer Izturis brought to the table. He was also a slick fielder, capable of making a variety of plays from second base, shortstop and third base. From 2005-2012, Izturis was a quietly effective player who scored runs and drove runs in on a consistent basis and never got the praise he deserved.

And now, he's on the Toronto Blue Jays, having signed a 3 year, $9 million deal. This was not earth-shattering news when Angels fans heard it, by any means. After all, some of them probably didn't even know who Izturis was. But they will certainly notice a difference when the Angels lose a close game in extra innings because no one was able to come off the bench and provide a spark.

Teams cannot succeed unless they have just that...a team. There is more to winning than just having a few superstars; there are intangibles that are not normally paid attention to, but that can add up and produce a World Championship.

For a case in point, look at the San Francisco Giants. Yes, there is star power there: Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, maybe Hunter Pence. These are very good players, but beyond these players, the team that plays around them works together as a cohesive unit that pulls for each other. That is why this Giants team has won 2 of the last 3 World Series: they pitch, they get timely hits, and everyone has a specified role that they embrace.

So, what does this mean to the Angels? It means that they must add to the depth of their ballclub by plugging in the intangibles along with the superstar caliber players. For the days that Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols aren't enough (though those days will, hopefully, be limited), the Angels need a presence off the bench that can provide late dramatics.

That is where a guy like Bill Hall comes into play. It would be wise to pay attention to him in Spring Training, because Hall is the kind of player that, when he's going right, has the chance to become one of those intangible pieces that can mesh a team into a winner.

Yes, Hall is 33 years old. And yes, he hasn't had a really great season since 2006 with
Milwakuee in which he hit .270 with 35 home runs and 85 RBI. But this guy can play. In other seasons, he has been known to hit 15-20 bombs, and that's some solid production for a utility infielder/outfielder.

Next time he's in a Spring Training game this March, look at the determination on the guy's face. He's been hitting the ball with authority, seemingly to all fields. These are the kinds of players that, when placed on a team with superstar talents, will make a ballclub truly dangerous. And when it comes to winning a World Series, these are the players that steal that extra base late in a game, or get the base hit that scores that extra run.

Don't underestimate the impact of less-heralded players. Just ask the San Francisco Giants.

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