A Statistical Look at Mitch, Ian, Elvis, and Michael

Since this is the time that everyone is coming up with their season recaps, I decided to recap the season had in 2010 by the Rangers' primary infielders for 2011.  Also, you will notice that I left out catcher, and that is because analyzing Matt Treanor and Bengie Molina's stats really is as boring as it sounds.  For the rest of the infield, however, I tried to find certain aspects of their performances that might not show up in the usual reports that you would read at ESPN or the Dallas Morning News.  As far as statistical jargon for those who aren't up to speed, I've posted a quick-and-dirty glossary below the content of this post.  And here we go:



Elvis Andrus:  You may remember my previous post entitled "The Eye of the Elvis", which noted the improved plate patience of Elvis set against his less-than-desirable slugging abilities.  The main point of the article is epitomized by the fact that Elvis ended the season with the highest SLG - OBP disparity in baseball this year of -.041 (OBP=.342, SLG=.301).  In fact, -.041 was also the league leader last year, set by Luis Castillo.  This mark is good for third overall in the past three years, the two preceding it being in 2008 when Gregor Blano posted a -.057 and Chone Figgins posted a -.049. 

The previous paragraph brings to light the paradoxical changes in Elvis' numbers from 2009 to 2010.  He improved in OBP and plate discipline, but regressed significantly in terms of slugging (he had only 18 extra base hits all year).  This, coupled with Elvis' registering as an average defensive shortstop this season by most advanced defensive metrics, make it hard to not consider 2010 a bit of a sophomore slump.  And it doesn't just "seem" that way, either:  Elvis was worth 3.1 WAR in 2009, and 1.5 WAR in 2010.  Here's to hoping Elvis can bring the best of both worlds to the diamond in 2011.



Ian Kinsler:  Ian Kinsler is perhaps the most enigmatic of all the Rangers hitters.  He's been consistently above average, but his consistency ends there.  In fact, looking only at his slashlines from the past four years it would be difficult or impossible to conclude that they were produced by the same hitter:

2007:  .263/.355/.441

2008:  .319/.375/.517

2009:  .253/.327/.488

2010:  .286/.382/.412

See what I mean?  There is some reason to think that Kinsler has finally found an approach that has worked, though:  he posted the highest BB/K ratio (.98) of any second baseman in the AL (third second baseman in MLB behind Keppinger and Utley).  It also ranked 8th overall in baseball, 4th overall in the AL.  This is encouraging because it is noticeably different than his previous career norm of .75.  He may pop out more than we care for, not run out ground balls, and put up wildly different kinds of numbers from year to year, but the fact that he ranks so highly in BB/K ratio in 2010 suggests that he has found an extremely effective approach overall.  Hopefully he sticks to it.



Michael Young:  Michael was 1st among AL third basemen with 481 total outs made at the plate.  For those scoring at home, that's 17.8 full games worth of outs.  It's also good for 3rd overall in MLB behind Derek Jeter (488 outs) and Juan Pierre (484 outs).  Yes, much of this is due to his position at the top of the lineup -- more plate appearances do mean more outs.  But it also has just as much to do with his dead-average OBP of .330, which leads us to question whether he belongs in the #2 spot.  Traditionally, average OBP hitters with decent pop are perfect for the #6 slot in the lineup (perhaps he needs to be switched with the more-OBP minded Ian Kinsler?). 

Additionally, I would wager that Young had some of the biggest disparities among two of the major splits (Home/Road, 1st Half/ 2nd Half) : 

Home vs. Road:  .307/.361/.509 vs. .260/.299/.380

1st Half vs. 2nd Half: .301/.353/.478 vs. .262/.302/.401

Good lord those are some horrible splits.  Young was worse than replacement level on the road, and his second half stats are even worse than Vlad's. 



Mitch MorelandMitch posted a more-than-respectable .255/.364/.469 line in 173 PA in his rookie season.  Perhaps more impressive is that he only hit .275 on balls that he put into play.  I've written before that it is noteworthy when a rookie's BABIP significantly deviates from the league average of .300, and usually it means that the rookie is overperforming (see: Francouer, Jeff -- 2005).  In this case, however, it means the exact opposite.  Is it difficult to get too serious about Moreland because of the small sample size?  Maybe.  But more importantly, it means that he posted those numbers in spite of bad luck, meaning that those numbers are largely sustainable and repeatable (with a likely improvement when his BABIP regresses to the mean). 

Eric Nadel commented late in the season that "Moreland doesn't swing before there are two strikes unless he gets the pitch he's looking for."  This approach was certainly reflected in his .69 BB/K ratio.  Not too shabby, considering that the only other first basemen ahead of him are veterans with names like Teixeira, Morneau, Cabrera, Youkilis, Butler, etc.  Of the notable first basemen behind him in this category are Konerko, Lowell, and Cuddyer.  This characterization typifies the player Moreland projects to be:  solidly above average, but below superstar.  Moreland won't win any awards, but his approach is one that will make him a solid-OBP first baseman with some pop for years to come.  In fact, his performance makes me feel much better about losing Justin Smoak.   If Moreland posts a .255/.364/.469 line every year (and we have good reason to believe that he is likely to exceed these numbers), we as Rangers fans should be very comfortable with that.



On a somewhat unrelated note, I'd like to read what you think about posts like this (as this article is consistent with my overall style).  Also, if you have an idea for a post you'd like to read that seems to be related to these kinds of articles, let me know in the comments.  Thanks for reading!  --JP


SABERMETRIC GLOSSARY:  Here are the basics you need to know to make sense of the statistics used above:

**The triple slashline: a player's batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage separated by slashes as AVG/OBP/SLG.  Though it varies by defensive position, the slashline for the average major leaguer is usually around .265/.330/.445. 

**Strikeout to walk ratio (BB/K):  The number of walks divided by the number of strikeouts recorded by a hitter (there is an analog for pitchers, of course, but it does not appear in this post).  The MLB average this year was .46.

**Wins Above Replacement (WAR):  a statistic that is difficult to compute but easy to understand: it's the number of wins that the player contributed to the team more than an average replacement would have.  For hitters, it takes into account both offensive and defensive contributions.  A negative WAR means the player was worse than replacement level, 0 means the player was replacement level, positive means the player was better than replacement.  For more information, visit the Sabermetrics Library.

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