was your classic good field no hit guy. In 2003, he had a 1.6 defensive WAR to go with a 0.2 offensive WAR for the Orange and Black.
The Bleedcubbieblue blog has a good post about the thick-headed "old school" Dusty Baker over-valueing Neifi during the 2005 season by batting him lead off. The Giants had released him in August 2004 after racking up OBPs of .276 and .285 in 2003 and 2004....
He joined the Cubs in August 2004 after being released by the San Francisco Giants.
And, in what turned out to be a problem, he played well. In just 23
games to finish off the '04 season, Neifi managed the best offensive
stint of his career. He hit .371/.400/.548. Of course, this was all
amassed in just 67 plate appearances, a total that should be a
meaninglessly small sample size. But Perez looked like Cal Ripken at the
plate compared to the "offense" provided by Cub shortstops (Alex
Gonzalez, Ramon Martinez, Rey Ordonez) in '04 to that date.
Naturally, the Cubs' brass thought this is what they were buying
(rather than the consistently subpar offensive numbers that Perez had
put up during his career) when they turned the shortstop spot over to
Perez full time for the 2005 season.
And oh, the humanity, of that
2005 season. Quick side note: for those worried about offense out of the
2014 Cub outfield, check out the three guys who got the bulk of the playing time that 2005 season. When you're done cringing, we'll turn back to Perez.
Jim Hendry and Dusty Baker put
Neifi Perez in a position to be exposed. In turn, Perez produced an
offensive season that could have been ticketed for indecent exposure. In
609 (!) PA, Perez hit: .274/.298/.383. He was the perfect kind of
player to fool the then Cub brass: a good defender with an empty batting
average. To hit .274 and still not have an OBP over .300 is a
nearly amazing feat of futility. But Perez achieved just that by walking
18 times all season. That's less than once a week. Good old Dusty never
had to worry about Neifi "clogging the bases," that's for sure. Three
of the walks were intentional, so Neifi only walked 15 times thanks to
his own effort. So, naturally, Dusty frequently batted Neifi near the
top of the order.
In a more reduced role in 2006, Perez managed to hit even worse: .254/.266/.343 before being dealt to the Detroit Tigers
in late August in exchange for Chris Robinson. All told in '06, Perez
was a below-replacement-level player, costing his teams (mostly the
Cubs) a total of -0.7 WAR. He played in 33 more games the following
season for the Tigers before calling it a career.
He ended up being "worth" -2.8
WAR over his career. That actually makes the 2005 season Cub fans look
back on in disgust as one of Perez' most valuable seasons.
So what should we make
of Neifi Perez and his time with the Cubs? There is a place for good
defenders like Perez in the big leagues, but they really ought to be the
worst bat in an otherwise strong offensive line-up. They probably
shouldn't be full-time players and should hit at the bottom of the
line-up. Those were lesson lost on "old school" Dusty Baker.