Welcome to “Get To Know a Nat.” There are currently 39 men on the 40 man roster, and we’re going to give you the straight scoop on all of them! Not sure where to start with player and season previews? Not ready to jump into heavy metrics? Just want to get to know the players, what they do, and what to expect from them in 2013? Then you’ve come to the right place!
Name: Chad Austin Tracy
Nickname(s): Captain of the Goon Squad
DOB: May 22, 1980 (Age 32)
Twitter?: No, but there is an @ChadTracysBeard
From: Charlotte, North Carolina
Role: Bench Player Positions Played: Mostly First and Third Base
Hand: Bats Left, but throws Right.
With the Nats Since: Signed deal with Nationals in 2012
Chad Tracy has been around baseball for a long time. Tracy spent most of his career in Arizona, having a very good year in 2005. He steadily declined after that, however, and the Diamondbacks did not pick up his contract in 2010. He spent that year splitting time with the Cubs and Marlins (and was actually a Yankee for a few days too), but had poor performances with both teams. After spending 2011 in Japan (playing for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp) the Nationals signed Tracy to a minor league deal in 2012 but made the major league squad out of camp. Then he just went ahead and had a very good year as the chief Goon of the Goon Squad.
Tracy’s veteran presence is widely considered a stabilizing and positive force in the Nationals clubhouse, and he handled himself at the plate fairly well last year as well. While he isn’t much of a replacement in the field he did admirably in 12 starts and 24 appearances. Tracy largely made his hay as a lefty pinch-hitter with the team, and that’s the role he’ll be reprising for the team in 2013.
What’s Expected: No better way to start than with a little look-see at the numbers from Baseball-Reference:
You can see that slide from 2005 to 2010 pretty easily, just about everything keeps going down. If you compare his 2012 and 2010 outings you can see how much better he is hitting. In 55 fewer plate appearances he has managed to improve basically all of his offensive numbers-and that’s all that will be asked of him. To get some hits late in games.
Tracy got 12 of his 25 hits as a pinch hitter, generally key parts of a game. As with any statistic so spread and of small sample size, it’s hard to say that some of that wasn’t luck (or that decline would be some level of unluckiness) but the fact remains that 12 hits was good enough for 6th-tied amongst pinch hitters in the National League.
Occasionally, Tracy will be asked to fill in at first and third base. When he plays those positions, unfortunately, the drop off from Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman is notable. Still, he’s good enough that the team can win with him on a limited basis at those positions. You don’t mind him starting 10-15 games this year, but more than that and it’s going to end up costing the Nationals.
If It All Goes Wrong: Anyone can have a good year, and Tracy’s good year was 2012. A new limited role suited him well, and luck was on his side. 2013 could be a totally different story. Tracy doesn’t make hits the way he did before, and Nats fans have visions of Matt Stairs every time he comes up to the plate. Perhaps the arthroscopic knee surgery he had in the fall acts up as the season goes on. He’s not a very good defensive replacement either, so the Nationals might not wait to long to pull the plug on Tracy. The team signed him to a one year deal last year, but that’s pretty easy to get out of. He could get DFA’d fairly quickly and find himself out of a job, particularly with younger players hitting fairly well this spring in the minors. The Chad Tracy story could end quickly and suddenly if he doesn’t perform.
If It All Goes Right: But why think like that? Lots of people have second acts to their careers, and Tracy’s might be as a key bench player. This article from last year seems to indicate that Tracy enjoys and accepts his role on the bench, and my instincts tell me that is a lot of what it takes to be a bench player. An acceptance and understanding of just what your role is. He certainly seems to have the ear of the younger guys on the bench with him, and a repeat of his 2012 campaign isn’t out of the question. Chad Tracy was a key piece in the NL East division championship last year, and if he has a repeat performance in him for 2013 he’ll help the team do the same again this year.
Get To Know More Nats!
Starting Rotation: Ross Detwiler, Dan Haren, Jordan Zimmermann
Outfielders: Bryce Harper, Denard Span, Jayson Werth
Catchers: Wilson Ramos, Kurt Suzuki
Infielders: Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche, Danny Espinosa
Bench: Tyler Moore, Roger Bernadina
Bullpen: Ryan Mattheus, Craig Stammen, Zach Duke
Callups: Part I, Part II