A season in which Ryan Flaherty received eight starts at first base and five starts in right field should tell you all you need to know about 2015. According to Fangraphs.com Flaherty posted a -0.2 WAR in 91 games and 67 starts. He managed his worst offensive year since his rookie season posting an illustrious 71 wRC+ in 2015. On top of his failings at the plate were sub par defensive numbers from Flaherty as well, even though the vast majority of his innings were logged at 2B, his natural position.
Flaherty was pressed into duty early on as Jonathan Schoop went down to a knee injury in April. That, in combination with a J.J. Hardy injury and the late spring training addition of Everth Cabrera playing so poorly that he met the great DFA in the sky meant that Flaherty was pushed into even more full time duties. Starting is not the purview of Ryan Flaherty.
He played alright for awhile, but the Orioles got him for nothing back in 2012 for a reason. Left out in the sun too long he dried up. He posted a respectable 89 wRC+ in the first half of the season, but followed that up with a 43 wRC+ for the second half. All wrapped up in that was the month of July in which he posted a -6 wRC+. That's right, for a month Ryan Flaherty was 106% worse than the league average hitter.
The defensive numbers lagged for Flaherty in 2015 which caused his overall value to dip below replacement level. Breaking down his UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) a bit further, it appears his range suffered greatly this year. Yet, it is only one year and defensive numbers are notoriously fickle in smaller sample sizes, even one's of 500 innings. Not yet a trend, but something to keep an eye out for.
Flaherty did himself no favors at the plate either. He continued to struggle to make contact. He posted a career high 77 percent contact rate, but still below league average and he struck out 26.9 percent of the time, nearly 7 percent higher than the league average. Which is particularly egregious for a non-power hitter. One could argue he had a bit of bad luck with a .251 BABIP. But, that would be looking through rose colored glasses considering his overall career BABIP of .259. No matter how you slice it, Flaherty was pretty bad in 2015.
Really though, this is not the fault of Ryan Flaherty, pressed into a career high in innings played, he was exposed for what he is. Flaherty is probably one of the best 25th men on any roster in major league baseball. He can play multiple positions well enough to not embarrass himself and once in awhile he will run into one at the plate. A defensive replacement/injury replacement. Yet, he's not a very good 24th man on the roster. Asked to play more than sparingly and his glaring holes at the plate or his lack of range (especially at shortstop) expose him for what he truly is, a spare tire.
Like a spare tire, Flaherty is very useful to have around. When you blow out your tire close to a auto shop it is nice to have a spare in the back to get you the rest of the way. But, if your in the middle of the desert and the tire blows, you have to hope and pray your car can stay together to get the rest of the way. So, the wheels blew out in 2015 for large portions of the season and the spare tire could not keep it together.
In many ways, Ryan Flaherty is the quintessential acquisition of the Dan Duquette era. Passed over by most teams, a former first round pick, acquired in a strange way, and Duquette had to manipulate the roster and bend the rules just enough to keep him around. On top of all that, he isn't very good either. Don't get me wrong, it is nice to have a Ryan Flaherty type around in case of a defensive replacement or injury substitution. But, when a season like 2015 rolls around and the wheels start falling off early on, the spare tire just won't do.