Monday, June 05, 2006

Cuckoo For Clayton

There's been lots of love for our crappy shortstop lately partially because he's not Cristian Guzman, and partially because he's sporting a pretty good, but empty, batting average over his last few games.

Much has been made (Yeah, passive voice) about how his move to the two-hole in late May has been the catalyst for his improvement, and, by extension, a reason for the team's success.

Seriously.

I know. Yeah, it does kinda smell like horsecrap, doesn't it?

First, let's establish that while hitting .333 is a good thing, that Royce demonstrates that that's not necessarily a valuable thing. In those 14 games since his promotion to the two-hole, he's hitting .314, not the .333 that mlb.com is erroneously reporting. His on-base percentage is a respectable .357, but his slugging average is a woeful .333. That's a .690 OPS.

That .690 'improved' OPS, by the way, would rank 86th in the NL, just ahead of Preston Wilson on the leaderboard. Dreadfully, there are only 11 worse batters in the NL who've had enough ABs to qualify for the Batting Title (3.1 Plate Appearances per team game), and one of those is Royce Clayton's full-season totals.

Even when he's hot, he stinks.

What's the reason for his recent *cough* success?
Part of Clayton's recent offensive productivity can be attributed to an increase in the number of fastballs he has recently seen. With leadoff hitter Alfonso Soriano a perennial threat to steal, Clayton has taken advantage of the fact that pitchers are forced to throw him fastballs when Soriano is on base.

"I wasn't getting any in the eight hole, that's for sure," Clayton said. "You get two or three pitches compared to one in the eight hole. It betters your chances of doing your job."

In addition to seeing a change in pitches, Clayton has also seen a change in his own attitude. Asked if being placed in the eighth spot early in the year generated a negative mindset in him, Clayton didn't hesitate to be candidly honest.

"I mean it has [affected me]," said the shortstop. " I tried to get over it and make the best situation I could out of it. Who's not to say I wouldn't have gotten hot some point in time. This just makes it a little easier."

Putting the anal in analysis, I went through the game logs.

Over those 14 games, how many times did Royce Clayton bat in one of those fastball situations -- that is, with Soriano on first and no one clogging the base in front of him? Six times. He went 3-6 in those limited chances (with a SAC).

So he owes his recent success to those 6 ABs? Yep. Sure. Whatever.

Other meaningless (and I mean meaningless!) stats:
--After Soriano hit a homer, Clayton went 1-6
--Leading off an inning, Clayton went 1-7 with a BB and a HBP
--With Soriano reaching base ahead of him (H, BB, HR, whatever), Clayton was the Eliott to Soriano's ET, hitting an amazing 14-26 with two SH and two BB.

The larger point I'm trying to make is that the team isn't winning because Clayton's hitting second. And Soriano's not hitting 'better' (Whoever invented scare quotes deserves a Nobel) because he's batting second. The hoary old baseball tradition is to pick a random trend, see what's happening and say that that's the reason. Correlation, as they say, ain't caustion. That faulty kind of thinking has more to do with Wade Boggs' OCD obsession with pre-game chicken than it does with reality.

Besides, doesn't it make a helluva lot more sense to think that the fact that Ramon Ortiz and Livan Hernandez aren't getting knocked around the way Joy Browning smacked Bodes is the reason for the team's turn-around?

It's just lazy thinking. Sure, it makes for an interesting storyline. And it's nice to get an extended non-grunting quote from a player. But it's horse manure that even Barbaro would be ashamed to excrete.

(If you want some extra pure pucky, check out this BPG thread!!)