At the time, the Orioles' trade for Gerardo Parra seemed like a solid deal for a team in need of an offensive spark.
Throughout his career, Parra had always been more of a super-complimentary player. Never a superstar, but always a producer. Heading into this season, Parra had a career slash of .274/.325/.394, averaging 7 HRs and 43 RBIs. Again, these aren't the kind of numbers that thrust a player into a necessary spotlight, but rather, the sort of above-average production that you notice over the course of 162 games.
Prior to arriving in Baltimore, Parra broke out of his established above-average label and rose to new heights with the Brewers. In his time with Milwaukee in '15, Parra jumped out to a .328/.369/.517 slash with 9 HRs and 31 RBIs in 100 games, hitting almost exclusively at the top of the order. He was a table-setter for a Brewers club that threw expectations out the window after April, but still, Parra continued to produce at a high level despite being surrounded by an atmosphere of downtrodden smog.
Orioles' general manager Dan Duquette initiated a trade that worked into the parameters of the club when acquiring Parra. The team's new outfielder was owed only $2.5M over the final two months of the year, and though he was set to hit the free-agent market at the conclusion of 2015, Parra made sense as a possible buy-back candidate. Simply, Parra was a very Orioles-type acquisition.
Unfortunately for Parra and the O's, the team's newest Trade Deadline toy has been less than stellar.
Since coming to the Orioles, Parra has hit a meager .215/.244/.340, which includes at least a .123 point free-fall in all three offensive categories when compared to his earlier Brewer days this season. Duquette and company needed to make a move, even at the expense of Futures Game participant Zach Davies (who has allowed three runs or less in three of his first five ML starts), but expecting Parra to continue his first-half rampage, in hindsight, was inspired by inflated expectations.
Asking Parra to be something he isn't led to his downfall.
As was said before, Parra is a strong role player, and winning clubs are always in desperate need of consistent production from the "other guys". Parra came from a very lax situation in Milwaukee, one in which the pressure to win on a day-to-day basis was hardly a talking point. At the time of the trade, the Orioles were 52-50, 6.0 GB from the AL East lead and only one game back from the second Wild Card spot. Parra was expected to propel an average team into a realm this squad had no business reaching, and that wasn't fair to him.
The Orioles had to do something at the deadline. A trade had to be made. Some attempt to improve was a must. It's just unfortunate that this version of the O's wasn't going to ascend to the required heights, with or without Parra.
The malicious terribleness of the likes of Alejandro De Aza, Travis Snider, Delmon Young, Ryan Flaherty, Chris Parmelee and David Lough perpetuated a year-long run of mediocrity. The necessity for these historically average players to produce at a level unbecoming of their talent level was the Orioles undoing. With such despair flooding the lineup, the pressure falls squarely on Adam Jones, Chris Davis and Manny Machado to carry an order made of nine men, not three. As soon as Parra came into town, that same pressure was bestowed to him, because he was the prize at the deadline.
The lingering cloud of pressure over Parra showed in his play.
Imagine going from a losing atmosphere with no aspirations to a clubhouse that desires to win, has expectations to win, but just isn't? The need to press is natural.
Gerardo Parra 2015
Though Parra's sample size with the Orioles is nearly cut in half in comparison to his time with the Brewers, Fangraphs' data paints the picture of a batter that's been trying to do too much.
Parra's plate discipline numbers show he's swung at more pitches off the plate, as well as taking more hacks in general, forcing him to move out of the comfort of the strike zone. A higher contact rate naturally correlates with a higher swing rate, because when a hitter is trying to earn his keep, he tries to force the action. In the two months I've seen him on a near day-to-day basis, Parra seems to be someone with a good understanding of the zone, and though he doesn't inherently walk much (career 6.4 BB%), he has the look of a hitter that takes borderline strikes and forces pitchers to come into his territory. Wanting to create offense rather than letting it come to him has been a detriment to Parra.
In his two months with the Orioles, his batting average has subsequently fell from .239 in August to .181 in September. His .372 BABIP with the Brewers was a target of conspiracy when the trade was made, as most folks cited his breakout first half to his irregular average on balls in play. With a dwindling batting average comes a paralleled BABIP, and in Parra's two months, his BABIP has lowered to .247 in August to .211 in September.
BABIP is a strange stat, because one can attribute its function to luck, but it really isn't a coincidence that most of the game's best hitters are guys with above-average postings. Good hitters hit baseballs hard, find holes, and make things happen. The Mike Trouts and Miguel Cabreras are who they are mostly because they are just naturally good hitters, but because they play with in their own limits and talent level. Not to say that Parra is on the same level as those two, because he isn't, but that's where one could say his disappointing offensive output originates.
Adam Jones' battered body hasn't helped, as Parra has been moved around from right field to center field over the past month, which leaves a pivotal bat out of the lineup, forcing his production to come elsewhere. Parra was traded for a promising young pitcher, so naturally, we point at him to replicate Jones' ever-consistent presence. That isn't conducive to a winning environment.
It also doesn't help Parra's move to the American League saw him face a bevy of American League pitching he's never once faced. That's an adjustment that takes more than two months to adapt to.
I like Gerardo Parra a lot. I think he's someone the Orioles should strive to bring back for the upcoming future, because while I don't believe he isn't a .328 hitter, he is still a .270-.290 kind of player with occasional pop, and that type of player helps win ballgames as much as the next. His defense, attitude and overall persona fits the Buck Showalter mold, and it's unfortunate that we weren't able to see exactly what we wanted.
Again, I'm not so sure that was entirely his fault.