The news came out yesterday that the Miami Marlins were re-activating Ed Lucas from the disabled list and designating the immortal Greg Dobbs for assignment, essentially ending his time with the Marlins. While it is unlikely a team actually takes Dobbs away from the Fish, it seems equally unlikely that the franchise would cut him from the 40-man roster only to make room for him again in the future. Dobbs's time with the Major League roster is likely finished.
This marks the end of a truly strange era in Marlins baseball. Dobbs signed an innocuous and seemingly unnecessary one-year contract in 2011, presumably to serve the same gritty veteran bench role that Ross Gload and Wes Helms once played for the team. But due to depth and injury problems, Dobbs was forced into the starting lineup and got way too much playing time for anyone to be happy. A whopping 236 players accumulated over 1000 plate appearances from 2011 to now. Only one player (Yuniesky Betancourt, whom the Marlins once considered signing) was worse than Greg Dobbs in that much playing time, according to FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement (fWAR). Dobbs was worth almost two wins below replacement level in three-plus seasons, meaning that your typical Triple-A All-Star would have been two wins better than Dobbs and probably would have cost Miami nothing.
How did Dobbs pull off such an ignominious feat? He did so by being incompetent at every turn. Dobbs began his Marlins career filling in at third base after the team could not find a permanent player at the position in a lost 2011 campaign. He was red-hot to start, fueled by an inflated BABIP that eventually dropped to .325 on the season. Even with all of that help, Dobbs still managed just a .275/.311/.389 (.306 wOBA) batting line, something that was 14 percent worse than the league average that season. The next year, he was tasked with the same role after Miami traded Hanley Ramirez and lost Logan Morrison for the season with injury. Dobbs was forced into full-time play and hit almost the exact same BABIP, this time hitting .285/.313/.386 (.297 wOBA), good for 17 percent worse than average.
You may notice that Dobbs was posting the epitome of empty batting averages. He rarely walked, putting up walk rates below five percent in each season. His power numbers were nonexistent, as he hit just 13 homers and just 51 extra-base hits in over 750 plate appearances. This only got worse in 2013, when his BABIP collapsed due to bad luck and his empty batting average gave way to terrible results.
Over the course of those three-plus seasons with the team, Dobbs hit a paltry .264.307/.362 (.290 wOBA), a line that was 21 percent worse than the league average over that time period. Any objective observer could tell that this was bad, but what frustrated Marlins fans was not only that Dobbs was terrible, but that the Marlins thought he was excellent! In 2011, he posted a line that was better than his usual, complete with a .300 batting average, in high-leverage situations, the sorts of things pinch-hitters often see. He pseudo-repeated that in 2012 by hitting over .300 with runners in scoring position. This earned him praise from the clubhouse and from the broadcast booth, as Rich Waltz and Tommy Hutton geeked out over his rate of scoring runners from third base with less than two outs. While Dobbs was making plenty of outs, he was put in situations when they would have been productive, and that grew the legend of the Most Interesting Man in Baseball. Despite his terrible numbers, somehow he had gained a reputation as a "professional" hitter.
If Dobbs was not a professional hitter, he certainly could not pass himself off as a professional fielder. His best position over this three-plus year run was first base, but the Marlins did not play him there regularly until 2013. Prior to that, Dobbs saw a lot of time at third base, where he no longer has the skills to really flourish and he displayed that fact on the field. But the most egregious crime was committed in 2012, when he saw play at multiple positions as a corner infielder and outfielder. Thanks to injuries to Morrison and Giancarlo Stanton, Dobbs played 227 2/3 innings in the outfield that year, and the results were laughable. It did not take advanced defensive stats to see that Dobbs was awful there, but the numbers did indicate between three and five runs below average in just that small time frame. It was truly a horrific experience.
Dobbs put Marlins fans through difficult times with his consistently bad play coupled with his surprisingly high playing time. The Fish often had no choice since they had already signed him to a two-year contract covering 2012 and 2013. But most figured Miami would cut bait in 2014, except that owner Jeffrey Loria liked Dobbs enough to negotiate a deal behind the back of the front office and give him a one-year contract. It only looks sillier now that the Fish are designating Dobbs for assignment and pulling him off of the 40-man roster while paying him the remainder of his $1.7 million salary.
The Greg Dobbs experience, the Most Interesting Man in Baseball, has finally moved on from Miami. For our sake, let's hope it stays that way forever.