With the unfathomable success Sharknado had at the tail end of July, followed by the annual dorsal lovefest currently airing on the Discovery Channel, you’d think 2013 was the best year ever to be a shark. Unfortunately for Roger Bernadina, this has not been the case. The man who inspired the Sharkadina movement has looked famished at the plate all season.
Bernadina’s batting average (well below .200) and his minnow-like 1.5 RBI-per-MONTH have many believing the Shark is dead in the water. Heck, even the guys who created his nickname are having a tough time supporting the native of Curacao, as evidenced by this tweet:
What is happening? What will become of Bernadina?
— Sharkadina (@Sharkadina) July 24, 2013
If his biggest supporters are guilty of a little doubt, you can imagine what others are saying. I’ll sum up the consensus opinion with one more tweet embed:
Shark for Harper is like replacing your Ferrari with an asthmatic donkey
Yikes! It’s like Roger swam into a killer whale breeding ground! What I don’t get is how Nationals’ superfans have forgotten the defense Bernadina has showcased over the last five years. The term “Gold Glove caliber” is bandied about far too often in MLB; but it actually applies in this case. If I wanted to go the easy route in proving my hypothesis, I could show you this or this or about 50 other web gems. But that wouldn’t make my position unassailable. No, I’m going to go on a stat feeding frenzy and prove to you that the Shark is the apex predator patrolling the Major’s outfield oceans…
Over the last 2.5 years, Bernadina has committed one error. One. It came on 9/22/11 in a blowout game with two outs in the 9th. It was a one-hop throw to home that Jesus Flores had to move for but probably should have received cleanly. [You can view it here by diving in at the 10:15 mark.] During the same time period, Roger has 13 assists.
Now let’s look at the figures of three top-end defensive players for comparison’s sake. Denard Span, brought in as a Bernadina upgrade, has committed five errors and has 11 assists since 2011. From the start of that season until today, Span has been on the field for 10,917 plate appearances versus 6263 for Roger. Last year’s Gold Glove winner in the NL, Andrew McCutchen is a physical marvel. In 5770 PAs on defense, he only had one fielding error and three assists. Matt Kemp, meanwhile, had five errors and 11 assists on 5794 defensive PAs in 2011 before being named as the NL’s best CF gloveman.
Objectively speaking, Bernadina has the best line of the four. [And none of this even takes into account the fact that Roger has to deal with the challenges of playing every OF position, while the other men have been allowed to Sharpie themselves in at center every single game.] You can throw all the UZR and whatever other newfangled Sabremetric at me you want, but I would trust my numbers over those any day of the century…
Of course, some of you won’t be satisfied if I don’t address Roger’s offensive woes. And that part is pretty grim. Still, the Shark is, and virtually always has been, the 4th outfielder for Washington. In the NL, it is a necessity to have defensive replacements for late-inning double switch situations. For him to chomp on opposing pitchers is a bonus. His career average is around .250 and includes enough steals and HRs to increase his pinch-hitting value slightly. Moreover, the numbers Bernadina put up last year suggest he is capable of big years – in other words, he has realized his breakout potential and isn’t some eternal project in the vein of Henry Rodriguez or Elijah Dukes.
Roger Bernadina is under contract thru the end of 2015 for only about a million dollars. Why would the Nats want to get rid of such a known-quantity bargain? Just because the rest of the Goon Squad isn’t hitting doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice the whole lot. As you can probably tell, the Shark would be the last one I’d get rid of, if I was GM. Sink your teeth into that and get back to me…