Requiem for Fred Lewis

It seemed weird that this site was one of the main hubs for Fred Lewis love. I liked the guy, sure, but I never thought of him as anything more than a fourth outfielder. Well, occasionally I’d get caught putting unfair expectations on him, but that’s just an example of the Fred Lewis Theorem:

When an offense is so indescribably bad that there’s only one hitter with an average on-base percentage, fans who understand sabermetric basics will exaggerate that player’s value and/or potential.

Guilty, for the most part. But I didn’t have a problem with the Giants looking for a better option this offseason. Whether or not Mark DeRosa is that better option is up to you. And as long as I’m dropping theorems, let me dig into the vault with an updated version of the Armchair Scout Theorem:

If a player or team is underperforming, and his problems can be traced to an easily identified fault, the struggles of the player or team will be blown out of proportion

It’s not a perfect fit for Lewis, as he had a couple of quirks that drove people nuts, but when the Giants failed to score for the 173rd consecutive inning with runners on base, and Fred Lewis was the guy who made the third out, it was easy to pop a blood vessel thinking about Fred Lewis, strikeout machine. The reasons why the Giants had problems scoring were myriad, but when Fred Lewis ended a threat with a strikeout, it was an easily identifiable flaw that needed to be excised from the lineup.

The key to that last one, though, was the word "armchair." You’d expect a fairer analysis from the folks running the team, but once again we’re looking at how bizarrely the Giants handled a player. Fred Lewis...

 

  • came up in ‘07, Barry Bonds’s last season, and put up a .374 on-base percentage in limited at-bats
  • started in ‘08 only after Dave Roberts was injured. Think about that with the benefit of hindsight for a minute. A 90-loss team that needed to get younger wanted to start Dave Roberts over Fred Lewis
  • performed well as a starter in his first full season, and then was penciled in as the #3 hitter the next season. Why? Because the team expected him to magically develop power at the age of 27, even though he had never hit more than 12 home runs at any professional level.
  • lost his job in the middle of a slump that brought his numbers just slightly below what was expected
  • never regained his job even as he got hot and his replacement got cold

Bizarre. Again, it’s not as if Lewis is going to morph into Stan Musial on another team, but that’s just a weird sequence. It’s so, so Giants, though. And now Lewis is gone because the Giants need a spot on the bench for an outfielder who can’t hit lefties, who makes odd baserunning mistakes despite his speed, and who takes poor routes in the field. In other words, they needed someone with the exact same easily identifiable flaws, but who doesn’t get on base. I don’t want to get too glib: Velez can play second base poorly, which is quite the necessity on a team with Juan Uribe and Mark DeRosa. But if anyone has a legitimate reason why they would keep Velez over Lewis, I’d love to read it. For some reason, Velez was always given the benefit of the doubt.

There’s a chance this could embarrass the Giants, but I’m not going to worry about what Lewis might be able to do if he taps into his supposed potential. I’ll just worry about what he could have been for the Giants this year -- a good bench player and spot starter on a team that could use more players with a little plate discipline. I’m sure the cash considerations for Kevin Frandsen and Lewis will subsidize that extra tier of movie channels for the clubhouse cable box. That’s just a boffo allocation of resources, there.

Good night, and good luck, Fred. You deserved better.

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