A Tale of Romance

It’s a script that is often written in Hollywood. A man falls in love but continually gets his heart broken. After several repeated attempts, it comes down to one final push, one final shot at finding love. I could be talking about a romantic comedy, about a chick flick, or about everybody’s least favourite show the Bachelor.

But I’m not.

Change a few things around in that synopsis, and you’ll see that I’m talking about myself.

Not about my relationship failures or shortcomings with women, but about my continued frustrations with one man. I have had a love/hate relationship with this guy for several years now. He is constantly letting me down, yet I am constantly coming back, ready to give him one more shot.

Well 2012, my friends, is my last time coming back.

2012 is this guy’s last chance to come through for me.

The man I’m talking about is none other than Edwin Encarnacion.

I have loved and hated EE for a long time now, but it never started out that way. In the beginning everything was positive. I have been a fantasy baseball fanatic for over a decade now, and back in 2006 I picked up Edwin – then a second year player on the Reds – as a 3B in August as I dealt with injury problems. All that he did that month was destroy NL pitching: 27 games, 7 HR, 24 RBI, .317 AVG, .992 OPS. That was all I needed – I was hooked.

Sure there were warning signs, but I chose to ignore them. In September of that very same year, EE was awful. He hit only 1 HR, drove in only 5 runs, and hit a paltry .205 in 26 games. Had I chosen to pay more attention to those stats, perhaps this entire on-again/off-again path would never have happened.

But I didn’t, and it did. Two years later I drafted him for my team, and he responded with 26 HR. Though the average dropped into the .250’s, his OPS was still above .800.

When he was acquired by the Blue Jays in’09 as part of the Scott Rolen trade, I was pretty excited. I thought we were penciling in 30 HR power at third for many years to come. But when he started playing, one thing became evident, one thing that I had never considered. You see, fantasy baseball only cares about offensive numbers. Champions are determined by average, home runs, runs scored, RBI’s, and stolen bases.

Defense doesn’t play a part in fantasy. And Edwin Encarnacion doesn’t play any defense.

A quick look at his dWAR numbers tell you all you need to know. While offensively in his career Edwin has been very good (a 10.6 oWAR), defensively he has been atrocious. His career dWAR is -6.3. That’s right: negative

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6.3.

For those who might not be too familiar with what that means, I’ll tell you: it’s bad. It’s really, really bad.

But still, I gave him a chance in 2010. I had high hopes that his offense would at least make up for his glove. But it was an awful season for EE, as he battled injury, wound up in the minor leagues for a bit, and then limped his way into September. Fans were booing him. I had given up on him – the love was gone.

Except….

He took off again. Yes the average was low (.231), but in 16 September games he slugged 8 HR, had 15 RBI, and had an OPS of .939, all with an insanely low BAbip of .128. That last stat suggested that Encarnacion was extremely unlucky and should have likely had a much higher batting average.

Suddenly I was once again intrigued.

Then, without warning, the Oakland A’s claimed EE off waivers in November of ’10. For about a month I felt free. No longer would I be jerked around by Edwin. He was gone. Of course, just as the script would have it, Encarnacion was granted free agency, and re-signed by Alex Anthopoulos. Are you kidding me?

So began the most tumultuous year yet. April and May of 2012 were horrible months. His defensive play was awful, and he could no longer hit. But something funny happened around the end of May. EE finally lost his job at 3B, moving instead to a 1B/DH combo role. Maybe it was the stress of playing third, of having to field ground balls and make accurate throws to first that was throwing him off, because his offensive stats took off. As a 3B his OPS was .672 last season, compared to .800 at 1B, and .855 at DH.

For reference purposes, of all players with over 200 AB as a DH in 2011, only David Ortiz and Victor Martinez had a higher OPS than Edwin’s .855.

Which brings us back to this year. An argument can be made about several different Blue Jays being the team’s most important player in 2012 in order for Toronto to take the next step. Brandon Morrow must develop consistency, Colby Rasmus must finally break out, Travis Snider must stick with the team and prove he belongs, Sergio Santos must provide stability out of the bullpen, Brett Lawrie must continue his progression, etc. You’d be right about any of those guys.

But allow me to present an argument on behalf of Edwin Encarnacion. Toronto’s most glaring weakness last season was protection for Jose Bautista. Adam Lind struggled. Aaron Hill struggled when he was here. J.P. Arencibia was inconsistent. Brett Lawrie was good, but a rookie and still raw. With AA not bringing in a big, middle of the order bat, that same glaring weakness still exists. With all of the nonsense about Edwin playing third finally put to rest, he can finally focus on being the slugger that he has the potential to be. That will be like adding a middle of the order bat in its own right. A 30-plus HR season might not be out of the question.

So I’m back on board Edwin, back on the bandwagon. I’m giving you one final chance to come through.

Prove me right.

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