Monday, October 23, 2006

Lucky Or Just Good?

After I looked at Endy's season last week, I thought I'd take a look at how some of our batters did. Were they lucky? Did their approach change? Let's see! Just as the peripheral stats can tell a lot about a pitcher, they can sometimes tell a bit about a hitter.

  • Brian Schneider: Through the first four months of the season, he was competing with Cristian Guzman for worst season by a Nats regular. He rebounded, of sorts, but still had an overall disappointing year. When you break down his stats, though, nothing shows up. He walked as much, struck out as much, hit as many line drives, and hit as many grounders as usual. He set a career low in HR/flyball (by quite a bit), and that's certainly reflected in his career-low .329 slugging percentage. He actually did better on his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) this year than last.

  • Nick Johnson: The Walking Stick's breakout season comes mostly on the backs (ahem?) of his eye. He upped his already excellent walk rate to 18% of his plate appearances (up from 15 and 13.7% the last two years). But he also did a better job, unlike Schneider, of pure slugging. He turned more of his flyballs into homers than before: 16% versus 11% and 10% in the last two. That sort of power advancement, especially for someone his age and with his eye isn't likely a fluke. If his leg stays bolted together, there's no reason he can't do it again.

  • Jose Vidro: Lower walk rate? Check. Higher K rate? Check. Fewer line drives? Yep. BABIP that's down about 20 points from your glory days? Check. Bloated monstrosity of a contract for a player with declining skills and the range of Pauly Shore? Bingo. Shoot me now.

  • FelipE Lopez: He didn't slug much for the Nats, but he got on base, setting a career high -- and considering the execrable shortstop play Washingtonians have witnessed, we'll take it! Lopez' walks were way up, but his slugging (and HR/FB) were way down. Some of that, for sure, is the park. Everything else, to include BABIP, was roughly at his career averages. If he comes back at short, he's an asset, even with the arm of a feces-flinging monkey.

  • Ryan Zimmerman: There's not much to compare him to. He has an encouraging (for a young kid) 9% walk rate, but struck out in about 1/5 of this PAs. One thing to watch for next year is that he did a really good job (11.4%) of turning his flyballs into homers. I suspect he's due for a (what the statheads would call) a consolidation. The interesting thing from his chart were his 18 infield hits, and his 10/12 success rate on bunting for hits. That was one of my favorite parts of seeing the games on tv (finally!) -- watching him casually look over his left shoulder to see where the 3B was set up.

  • Alfonso Soriano: Gone, but it'll be illustrative. He nearly doubled his walk rate up to 9.4% versus a career average of just 5.4%, which helped to drive his career-high .351 OBP. He wasn't especially hit lucky as his BABIP was actually below his career average (though much higher than in 2005). He hit about 5% more flyballs than in the past, and also converted them, at a higher rate, into homers, accounting for the bump in his counting stats. It should be noted that with him sleeping through the final three weeks of the season, his slugging average actually dropped all the way down to .560, which isn't much better than he did in his 2002 season -- when he missed 40-40 by a single homer.

  • Ryan Church: More walks, more Ks, fewer line drives, but a lot more flyballs. Other than his Soriano-like HR/FB rate, seems like he'd be able to do the same thing he's been capable of doing the last 3 years -- providing league-average production in the outfield for the league minimum.

  • Nuke Logan: Danger Will Robinson! Danger! He had a flashy, fairly impressive end to the season, but that was built on an unsustainable .377 BABIP. The ground-ball-hitting speedster even set career highs in flyballs hit and for fewest groundballs per PA. Somehow, he only had 2 infield hits in about 100 At Bats.

  • Austin Kearns: Walks went up. Ks went down. The rest of his profile is all over the map. He had a very high BABIP, but its offset by a low line-drive percentage. If he gets that up, it should offset some of the reversion to the mean in his BABIP, right? (You can tell I'm making this up, can't you?) He upped his flyball rate, and the groundballs went down accordingly. Austin Kearns fun fact: He's only attempted a bunt for a hit twice in his career.

    Sooo.... Now what? I'm not really sure what that told us. Most of the Nats, it seems weren't really doing anything outside their means. No one, save for Logan, seemed to be lucking into what they were doing. The stats do show the cratering of Vidro. They show the excellence of Johnson, but everyone else pretty much did what they typically do. Yay for being average!

    I'm still delusionally optimistic about this offense, but I've been saying that for 4 months, and they've yet to show it. Perhaps that's just my coping mechanism for dealing with a truly dreadful pitching staff. When the choices are clinging to the future of Felipe Lopez' bat or reconstructing all 438 line drives given up by Pedro Astacio....

    Go Lopez!

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