It would have been interesting to see what Mark Sweeney could have done if he were given a full-time job in the majors ten years ago. In 1995, he hit .345/.452/.518 for the Angels AAA affiliate, and was traded, finishing the year with 76 at-bats of .368/.468/.553 work for the Cardinals AAA affiliate. He then fell into the Utility Player Zone, only performing well enough to stick around on the bench as a lefty-swinging, high-OBP guy. There are only two ways to crawl out of the UPZ:
- Use sample size flukes to your advantage, and explode with 100 at-bats of .380-hitting nonsense.
- Get on a bad team without any other options for a starter.
If Sweeney were on the Giants in 1995 instead of the Cardinals, he might have the same investment portfolio as Sean Casey or J.T. Snow right now. He wouldn't have been a star, but he might have broken the magic .300 barrier enough to keep a starting job somewhere for the better part of a decade. Instead, the stars aligned against him. The second act of Sweeney's career:
1997 - Hits.213/.319/.262 in 61 at-bats spread out over 44 games for St. Louis before being traded to the Padres.
1998 - Stinks with the Padres in a super-utility role, hitting .234/.324/.339 over 192 at-bats.
2000 - After bludgeoning the International League for two years, he gets another chance on the Brewers, but only hits .219/.337/.342 in 73 at-bats.
2001 - Fares better in the limited major league time he sees, but is barely adequate in AAA.
2002 - Has one at-bat for San Diego's AAA team. At this point, most 32-year olds would give up. Thus begins the third act.
Other than '98, Sweeney looks to be a player jacked around because of the occasional 70 at-bat slump. He wouldn't have been an All-Star, and probably wouldn't have even been a league-average first baseman or outfielder, but he deserved more of a chance to win at-bats for a last place team somewhere. He found fool's gold with a bad Milwaukee team, as one of the only things going for the Brewers was Richie Sexson. After looking adequate in Colorado Springs (.297/.407/.461), which is one of the best AAA parks for hitters, Sweeney did okay in Coors Field, not exactly a pitcher's park either. Then:
2004 - Hits .266/.377/.508 in Coors. This isn't terribly impressive, but it is the first time he exhibits even consistent doubles power anywhere other than the International League.
2005 - Has a great season for the Padres in the pitcher-friendly Petco Park, hitting .294/.395/.466. He probably didn't tell a whining Ryan Klesko to stop complaining about the park, but I'd like to think he at least thought about it.
So, faced with another abridged career summary you didn't ask for, it's time to project. Woe is the team that counts on a 36-year old hitter coming off a career year, but I don't think the Giants are
counting on him. A year of Sweeney's career averages
-- .266/.363/.411 - would get the Giants a good return on a minimal investment. If he does step up to get a majority of the right-handed at-bats, it's hard to know how he'd respond. Do more at-bats wear down an older hitter, or do more at-bats allow a professional hitter to maintain a consistent swing? I don't think we'll find out: