It May Be Time For Defensive Specialist John McDonald To Retire
John McDonald just completed his 15th big-league season. The 39 year-old infielder played for four different teams in 2013, finishing the season with the Boston Red Sox. In between, he played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Indians, and the Philadelphia Phillies.
Calling McDonald a light-hitting shortstop would do Brendan Ryan a disservice. He possesses a career .235/.274/.327 batting line with a 57 wRC+. Even in the minor leagues, McDonald only hit .260/.321/.327. Over the course of 1005 career games and 2560 plate appearances, McDonald has compiled exactly 1.0 WAR.
Given that he’s more than 125 runs below average as a hitter and almost exactly average as a hitter, it’s not hard to figure out where his value has come from. Despite playing in only 123 games in 2007, Baseball Reference ranked him second in the AL in Defensive Runs Saved.
His defensive ability diminished some with age, but here are some nice defensive plays he made this season. Here’s one for each team he played for in 2013.
Nice defensive plays aside, 2013 wasn’t too kind to McDonald. He produced a woeful .116/.197/.174 line with the bat. If you extrapolated his 77 plate appearances into a full season, he would have been worth -7.0 WAR.
He did find his way to the mound for the first time in his career. McDonald blew a 79 mile per hour fastball past Tuffy Gosewisch for a strikeout. Look at the strikeout leaderboard. That’s not Aroldis Chapman on top, its John McDonald.
So 2013 wasn’t his best campaign. Let’s revisit some of the good times.
McDonald played for the Toronto Blue Jays from 2005-11, his longest tenure with any team. It was also his most productive, as he put together 1.6 WAR. In addition, McDonald had three of his four career walk-off hits as a member of the Jays. One of which was this home run in 2011 against Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Adam Russell. So, if you ever come across the trivia question, “Who was the only pitcher to surrender a walk-off home run to John McDonald?” well, you know the answer.
Speaking of home runs, McDonald didn’t have much power, or any power at all. However, in 2010, McDonald caught the home run bug from his teammates, who set a Jays franchise record with 257 home runs. His .204 ISO was on par with noted slugger Prince Fielder. The 35 year-old shortstop broke out with a career-best 90 wRC+ that season. He drilled six home runs in just 163 plate appearances. In 2010, he left the yard more frequently than Hanley Ramirez. AL East counterpart Derek Jeter took 576 more plate appearances to amass just four more home runs than McDonald.
They weren’t highlight reel home runs, but they had just enough. Here’s a link to what was probably John McDonald’s last home run as a major league ball player. I think “snuck out” is an apt description. A couple years from now, Michael Bowden will be the answer to the trivia question. “Who gave up John McDonald’s last career home run?’ Or not. Probably not. Maybe I’m getting a little too hopeful with regards to John McDonald’s name being tossed around in trivia games.
If he decides to hang up the cleats, I wish Happy Trails to John McDonald. His best years were with the Blue Jays, but every baseball fan with a soul had a soft spot for McDonald.