The Mockingbird

All or Nothing

with 5 comments

It doesn’t take a lot to see the problem with the Jays offense. The team is hitting a collective .257, when last year hit .293 over the first half. Thirty-six points of average across the board! Imagine you had a lineup that hit .300 from top to bottom and then the next season they all dropped down to mediocre .264 hitters.

From top to bottom, every player except for Alex Rios is hitting below their career averages. Glaus’ average is up, but he’s missed a lot of games and his power numbers are down. This is why management continues to insist that the team will eventually hit once it’s healthy. Barring more injuries, it is incredibly unlikely that the entire lineup will continue to underperform over the entire season.

However, it is fundamentally against human nature to be able to accept that these sorts of things just happen, and you have to wait them out (unless you are a professional poker player in which case you live and breathe this concept). And so, theories abound as to what is wrong with the Jays. One of the most popular is that we don’t steal enough, even though all of baseball discovered long ago that the effect of the SB was hugely overrated and it has dropped off the map for good reason.

Another is that we rely on the HR too heavily: the “all or nothing” theory. The Fan 590 published an article today by Michael Hobson that made my head spin. The author claims that we would be better off with hitters in the middle of the lineup who hit for average rather than the perpetual 100 RBI machines that are Troy Glaus and Frank Thomas. This is wrong on so many levels.

First, baseball analysts will tell you that clutch hitting doesn’t exist to any significant degree. You don’t have to look any further than their splits from the last three years to see that Troy and Frank‘s averages with RISP are right in line with their normal averages. (And as for “men on base”, the term the article uses- Frank is hitting the same as his normal average with men on base and Glaus is hitting much better (.301)).

Second, a power hitter will always drive in more runs in the long run. Yes, it hurts to watch them take huge cuts at a 2-2 pitch with the bases loaded when you wish they could choke up, but the fact that they strike out 100 times a season has nothing to do with their potential to produce runs. They also lead the team in OBP (which means they get out the least often) hit sacrifice flies at command, and on and on.

The entire definition of a power hitter is he will drive in more of the runners on base in exchange for doing it with slightly less frequency. There’s really no way to argue it- a team’s success is most directly linked to the number of runs it scores. If a player manages to drive in 100 runs, it doesn’t matter if they hit .150, they are greatly helping the team. The conclusion that it would be better to have two contact hitters in the 4-5 spots instead of proven RBI producers is absurd.

While I’m at it, the article also asks the rhetorical question:

This is a club that is at the bottom of the league in hitting with men on base. Why?

To which I can only be a broken record: Because they’re hitting .257 (21st in the league). In fact, they’re hitting better with runners on base, at .269 (18th), and even better with runners in scoring position: .272 (11th). I seriously doubt that they are “among the lead leaders in leaving men on base”.


Written by halejon

July 12, 2007 at 9:54 pm

5 Responses

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  1. I think the reason for the Jays’ major drop-off in hitting is a rather simple one, injuries and the subsequent replacement players.
    2007 1st Half: .257 .327 .425 .752
    2006 1st Half: .293 .361 .482 .843

    All you have to do is look at who’s taking up all the ABs (from last year’s starters) and its easy. I won’t pull up all of them, because I need to show the pretense of work at the office – (though it is a Friday after all).

    Left Field:
    Reed Johnson 2006 First Half:

    235 .365 .451 .507 .958

    Adam Lind 2007 First Half:
    254 .230 .274 .383 .657

    Bengie Molina + Greg Zaun 2006 First Half:
    243 .283 .329 .420 .749
    158 .316 .392 .529 .921

    Greg Zaun + Sallyboy + Jason Phillips 2007 FH:
    148 .240 .324 .384 .708
    49 .178 .229 .311 .540
    151 .212 .275 .277 .552

    Approx. same number of PAs.

    Yes, I know that Zaun was also picking up the slack at DH last year, but aside from all the walks, Shea “No Job” Hillenbrand is handing it to the big hurt this season:

    Shea Hillenbrand 2006 First Half:
    315 .305 .346 .486 .832

    Frank Thomas 2007 First Half:
    338 .251 .376 .441 .817

    Throw in a slumping Vernon, a “very average” Hill at the plate, and every AB Royce Clayton has had this season – and you’ve easily got a team that .29 drop, and luckily its not larger.

    Basically, the need for a large number of “stopgaps” this season, as well as, pushing Lind into a ML role that he perhaps wasn’t 100% ready for (though the kid does need ABs), and some poor hitting backups. And presto, the team average plummets.

    What’s keeping them in the game, is that the bulk of the run production (2-5 in the order) has remained relatively healthy and productive.

    And whoever’s been leading off in Reed’s absence has been getting on reasonably well enough to score runs:

    67 .275 .338 .500 .838

    So things aren’t all that bad after all, if people stay healthy.


    July 13, 2007 at 3:47 pm

  2. Yeah, I still love the kid, but .230 out of LF is brutal. Same goes for Sal (and I think Phillips’ eye surgery was a terrible botch job). There was also Overbay, who was off to a MISERABLE first two months after being insanely consistent all last season. Fortunately, we had a backup for him who massively exceeded expectations.

    I don’t know if 2006 is handing it to Thomas this season, though…comparing the two but saying “aside from all the walks” is like trying to compare Barry Bonds to John MacDonald aside from all the HR’s. 2006 Shea got out more often, GIDP more, drove in fewer runs, hit fewer HR, has less isolated power. This is one place where 50 points of average is deceiving because it didn’t translate into any more usefulness.

    Augh- unfortunately that guy who has been leading off and getting on base reasonably well has been driving himself in a LOT and should probably be our #3 hitter…


    July 13, 2007 at 4:21 pm

  3. True, but those .50 points of average are another “outlier” for that 2006 first half. Something to think about.

    A few guys, thrust into the spotlight – Johnny Mac (but don’t tell him) and Stairs have been incredible. But we’re not making up for the production lost across the board.

    But if anything, the fact that our rookie pitchers have outperformed expectations nearly 100x, is cause for excitement. Hell, we may have a “real” rotation one day, and not a 4, 5 made up of castoffs, throw-aways, and dudes that look like Mark Hendrickson.


    July 13, 2007 at 5:05 pm

  4. Yeah, it’s part of the reason why they’re hitting so much lower- if also part of the reason that such a gigantic drop has only made them mediocre and not the worst offensive teams in the league.

    Seriously…Gustavo Chacin has gone from being our #3 guy to probably fighting for the 5th spot. We haven’t had a rotation this deep, or with such lights out potential 1-2-3, in years. If only our 1-2 punch could get it’s act together…


    July 13, 2007 at 6:00 pm

  5. […] on the Jays’ lack of situational hitting for the season’s woes. As I pointed out in a previous post, going into that series they were hitting significantly better with runners on or in scoring […]

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