Friday, October 20, 2006

So, About That Catch

Inning-Endy Chavez' (man, you don't know how please I am that that nickname took off!) catch last night would've been the stuff of legends. But with their loss, it's relegated to just a foot note, along other such great catches like Bernie Carbo's in Game 6 of the '75 World Series; they're great, but ultimately pointless. But considering how mundane this NLCS was, it'll be the one thing most people remember from it, in much the same way that last year's NLCS is remembered most for Pujols breaking Brad Lidge.

There's been a lot of Endy love going around, especially by the Mets fans. He had a terrific year, getting on base and playing sensational defense. And last night, the preening Joe Buck attributed that to Endy's change in attitude and his willingness to hit the ball on the ground, while not always trying to hit a homer. If that sounds familiar, that's because those are the talking points the team used when they drummed him out of town. But is it right? Let's look at the numbers.

Endy hit 55.3% of his balls in play on the ground this year. His career average is 55.4%. Last year, when he was being pilloried, he hit a higher percentage, 56.7.

Endy hit 24.6% of his balls in play in the air, which is about his career average. Last year it was just 22.7%.

By those two measures (and sure they're not perfect), Endy really isn't doing anything different. In fact, if you look at the types of balls he's hit, he's had a typically Endyian year.

The only major difference in the types of hits is that he was able to succesfully bunt a few more times. When he did it (and in fairness, he did do it more often this year) he was successful about 48% of the time. In '04, when he played for the Expos full time, he was succesful only about 30%. Bunting more often and with more success is definitely an improvement, but as Bernie Castro showed, man cannot live on the bunt alone. All other aspects of Chavez' game are basically the same.

Oh, there's one thing more, though. Endy Chavez had a career-high in his batting average with balls in play (BABIP). That is, when he didn't K, BB or homer, he hit .341. For his career, it's just been .295. Now, it's certainly possible that this is a reflection of a new skill, a new approach at the plate (although that's not borne out anything other than his bunting success rate), but it's also possible that it's just dumb farkin' luck.

I'm leaning towards the latter (of course I would; I don't like Endy).

He had a great season and was a valuable fourth outfielder, but the gnashing of teeth over losing him might just be because he lucked into a few more hits this year than in the past. Considering how management was trying to hammer his round peg into a square hole (so to speak), the Nats weren't likely to get this kind of performance out of him. And considering the potential they acquired for him, even though Marlon Byrd would stink underwater, losing him isn't the worst thing in the world.

Mets fans are high on him today, but a crisp dollar bill here says that they, too, will be gnashing their teeth next year.