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Updating the Top 100: Ryan Hanigan

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A lost year; next year will be better.

Badassedness never slumps.
Badassedness never slumps.
Brian Kersey

One of my least favorite words in the English language is ‘untracked', because it sounds nearly indistinguishable from ‘on track' and means roughly the same thing, especially in modern sports terminology. Etymologically speaking, the word appears to be a bit of a mystery and moreover is a bunch of nonsense anyway. To be untracked suggests that a person could otherwise be ‘tracked', which means what, exactly? And if we approach the word from a literal angle, we would imagine that being on track to be a positive in pretty much every instance that a track comes into play (trains, race cars, etc.), and so why would ‘untracking' also be a good thing?

The point is that Ryan Hanigan was neither able to get untracked nor on track in 2013.

We'd grown to set our watches by Hanigan's numbers, steady and suggestive as they were: a solid walks and singles kind of guy that was both so patient and so slow afoot that an outside observer could be lauded or ridiculed for suggesting that Hanigan bat 2nd in the order and either response would be justified.

So when a career .275 hitter can't get off the interstate, despite keeping his walk rate at a Haniganian 11%, we search for clues and the most obvious clues here are the myriad injuries suffered by Hanigan, from thumb to oblique to wrist. Indeed, his BABIP fell from a rather tight range centered around the .300 mark all the way down to .216, representing the very definition of a banjo hitter.

I don't know any Reds fans who don't like Hanigan, and a person feels a bit guilty writing anything negative about him, so one more note to avoid belaboring the point: despite leading the league in caught stealing percentage for the second consecutive year, Hanigan recorded a negative WAR for the year, which is hard to imagine until you see the 58 OPS+ for the year.

In an offseason which will be rife with difficult decisions on salary increases, perhaps there is a silver lining in that Hanigan is still under team control, and will be hard pressed to demand any kind of significant income boost. The team clearly needs him, given the thin organizational depth at the catcher spot. From my vantage point, it seems reasonable to throw 2013 away when assessing 2014's outlook, since it was such an outlier. He's not old enough to suggest that we're already in post-cliff free fall, so I'm prepared to expect a strong bounce-back season.

That said, it strikes me as a deficiency in my thinking that I never (ever) include injury in my forward-looking statements. I know that the possibility of injury exists, and I know that some players/positions/ages are more likely than others to experience a season-ruiner, but it still always strikes me as a shocking disappointment anytime a player gets hurt, despite 150 years of baseball history to serve as contrary evidence. So, what the hell: Hanigan will probably suffer some type of malady during the year, but it won't be of the power-sapping variety, and will go on to hit OK and field like a star while splitting time with his understudy.

From 2007 through 2013, Ryan Hanigan has played in 474 games with the Reds, appearing only as a catcher. In 1,580 plate appearances, Hanigan has hit .262/.359/.343, good for an OPS+ of 90. He continues his trend of walking more than whiffing, with 189 career walks to 159 strikeouts. For his frustrating and injury-filled 2013, Hanigan nudges up the all-time list, from #160 to #147, and moves up one spot on the franchise's list of catchers to #12.

The Top 15 Catchers in Reds history

1 Johnny Bench
2 Ernie Lombardi
3 Bubbles Hargrave
4 Ed Bailey
5 Johnny Edwards
6 Ray Mueller

7 Ivey Wingo
8 Heinie Peitz

9 Jason LaRue
10 Eddie Taubensee
11 Larry McLean
12 Ryan Hanigan*
13 Joe Oliver
14 Farmer Vaughn
15 Tommy Clarke