Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The One. The Only Jack Cust

Some players provoke more response than others. The Fan laughed when the story appeared that Jack Cust signed today for $2.8 million for a year. The laugh wasn't AT Jack Cust. He just provides that kind of reaction. Has there ever been another player like him?

Last year, Jack Cust came to the plate 592 times and did not put the ball in play 308 of those times. He struck out 197 times and walked 111 times. Put those two together and 52% of his plate appearances resulted in a ball not put in play. If you add in his homers (33), then 341 times out of 592 plate appearances, the fielders were not involved in his at bats (except the catcher). That's an astounding 56.7% of the time.

But that percentage did not beat the year before. In 2007, Cust had 500 official plate appearances, struck out 164 times and walked 105 times. So in 2007, he did not put the ball in play 53.8% of the time. Again, if you add in his 26 homers, then 59% of the time, the fielders just stood around and watched.

Cust is a former first round draft pick (by Arizona) in 1997. He was an 18 year old kid from New Jersey. He didn't make it in the Arizona and bounced from there to Colorado. He then caught on in the Baltimore system, then San Diego's before finally winning a starting job with the A's. Cust actually got a few at bats in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006 before he had a big spring training with the A's and made the team in 2007.

But what's to be made about a player like Cust? He only batted .231 last year but with his 111 walks, finished with a .375 On Base Percentage. Even so, his Slugging Percentage slipped from the previous year below .500. With his On Base Percentage, he did finish with a respectable .851 OPS.

Actually, there are some similarities with Cust and Adam Dunn. Both strike out a lot and both walk a lot. But Dunn put the ball in play more times. About 41% of Dunn's plate appearances were walks plus strikeouts. How about Prince Fielder? Nope, not even close: 32%. Ryan Howard? He did strike out 199 times, right? Nope, not close: 41%. Mark Reynolds struck out 204 times (incredible!!), but nope: 44%. No again for Pat Burrell (37%). The closest you can come is Carlos Pena of the Bay Rays at 48% (166 strikeouts and 99 walks).

So it is safe to say that of all players with 500 plate appearances, there is no one like Jack Cust. The Fan will leave it to Billy Beane or some sabermatrician to figure out if that is a good thing or a bad thing. To the Fan, it's just amusing.

P.S. - The Fan tried to find out how many times Cust struck out looking, but struck out searching everywhere. Can anyone find that number and leave a link? Thanks!

1 comment:

Josh Borenstein said...

Sabermatricians love OBP and OPS. They don't much care for anything else, really. I think sabermetrics is a valuable tool, but too often are the counting stats dismissed.