Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Name: Chad Tracy
2013 Expectations: Tracy came into camp on the heels of a splendid 2012, during which he posted numbers gaudy enough that you might have called him the best pinch-hitter in baseball for the season. Tracy’s left-handed hitting prowess off the bench, not to mention his ability to spell either corner infielder, earned him a contract extension for 2013 before 2012 was even finished. On the whole, the Washington Nationals bench was more productive than its starters in 2012, and every member of the “Goon Squad” came back in 2013, with Tracy at the forefront.
2013 Results: Despite featuring the exact same cast of characters as in 2012, the 2013 Nationals bench was a major disappointment. Collectively, the reserves hit only .207 with a .264 OBP and a .614 OPS. When pinch-hitting, Washington could only muster a .250 OBP, worst in the majors.
Tracy’s regression mirrored that of the team’s pinch-hitters, although he was by no means the only culprit. Whereas he posted a .784 OPS in 105 plate appearances in 2012, the 33-year-old dipped down more than 200 points in that category to .568 — he needed a late charge just to get his batting average to .202 and posted just a .243 OBP. At his lowest point, on June 30, Tracy was hitting a meager .133 and remained below the Mendoza Line until the last day of the season.
Tracy did have to make more appearances in the field in 2013, seeing time at third base while Ryan Zimmerman sat out with his shoulder issues, and also subbing at first base periodically when Adam LaRoche needed a rest. Tracy played in 20 more games in 2013, picking up 30 more plate appearances. He did stay healthy all season, so was always there for manager Davey Johnson to call upon as the primary left-handed pinch-hitter, but Tracy couldn’t replicate 2012’s success.
One area he did improve upon in 2013, however, was his power numbers — his four homers represented an increase of one from the previous season. And while Washington would undoubtedly have liked to have seen Tracy be more productive all season, there is no denying he had a flair for the dramatic homer. To wit:
May 17, vs. San Diego: Tracy homered in the 10th inning against Padres closer Huston Street to snap a 5-5 tie and lift the Nats to a 6-5 victory.
June 15, vs. Cleveland: Tracy clubbed a game-tying homer in the eighth inning against Cleveland’s Joe Smith in a game the Nationals won 7-6 when Anthony Rendon repeated the home run feat in the ninth inning.
June 17 vs. Philadelphia: Tracy hit a two-out solo homer off Philadelphia’s Jonathan Papelbon to tie the game at 4, although the Nationals went on to lose the game in the bottom of the ninth.
2014 Outlook: With his contract up, and coming off a down season, Tracy knew as well as everyone else that he would not be back in Washington for 2014, and the club made it official by not making a qualifying offer to him. He has stated that he wants to continue playing and will be looking for a fit somewhere, but it won’t be with the Nationals.