The Los Angeles Dodgers have signed second basmean/utility infielder Aaron Miles to a minor league contract, and the veteran will likely replace Jerry Hairston Jr. as the team’s utility infielder with Hairston on the DL with a hamstring injury.
Last season, Miles had a .314 OBP in 490 PAs with the Los Angeles Dodgers last season. The 35-year-old infielder was worth 2 WAR in 2008 while with the St. Louis Cardinals in a career year, but he had two poor seasons after that. Miles’s 2011 campaign with the Dodgers was a bounce-back season for him, as he was worth 0.8 WAR in the second best season of his career.
Aaron Miles finished the 2011 season with an 83 wRC+ and a -3.6 UZR (DRS also shows that he was below-average in the field). His power, walk, strikeout, and BABIP numbers were all in-line with his career averages.
After a 2010 season in which Miles had an insanely low 12.6 LD%, he brought up that bad luck and had a 21.2 LD% that is in-line with his usual line drive rate. The line drives didn’t affect his BABIP, but they contributed to a terrible 68 wRC+ due to weaker contact. Line drives are the most effective type of hits, so a significantly lower output of them hurts. They fluctuate from year to year, so the regression was expected.
Two things to note from his plate discipline statistics from 2011 were his lower contact rate and higher swinging strike percentage. Aaron Miles usually has a Contact% of 90%, and he hit that number each time in the five years before the 2011 season. However, Miles had a Contact% of just 87.1%. He also had a SwStr% of 6.3% compared to a usual total of around 4.5% (6.3% is a career high).
The interesting thing is that Miles started to chase way more pitches out of the zone last season (37.4 O-Swing%), and that total only went down slightly this year. He usually has an O-Swing% of around 26%, and pitchers took notice of this new habit. They are pitching more first-pitched strikes (over 60% last year) and throwing it out of the zone. Aaron Miles used to see a strike about half the time, but that number went down to 46% in 2010 and 44% last year.
We’ll see how the Dodgers implement Miles going forward, especially when, and even if, they call up the veteran utility man. He’s about a 0.5 WAR player at this stage, so there is still some utility back-up left in him. He wanted to play this year, and he got his wish with the same team that he played for in 2011. The plate discipline statistics show that something is going on with Miles, but the plate discipline didn’t cost him last year. Let’s see if that changes or if this new way is actually helping Miles mitigate the effects of decline.