Thursday, April 18, 2013

Early season slow starters

Most of us notice when a Major League Baseball player gets off to a fast start. Just about everyone is aware of the fast starts by Justin Upton and Bryce Harper. Their exploits are all over the highlight shows. But unless they are sucking the wind out of your fantasy baseball team or watch your team every night and see the numbers, players off to a really poor start get little notice.

One of the reasons this is so is because these players are not making the highlight reels. Secondly, slow starts are more apt to be excused as small sample size blips that will correct upward over time. And generally, that is just as true in that Upton will not hit eighty home runs.

We are only fifteen to sixteen games into the season. And we are talking about fifty to sixty plate appearances for these players. That is hardly a sample size to worry about. But when looked at it another way, nine percent of the season is now completed. While still a small sample, we are not talking insignificant here.

When divisions and wildcards are won and lost by a single game, can a 5-10 start be labeled insignificant for a team? Yes, there is a lot of time to fix it, but a team has to play above its talent level to catch up.

All this is mentioned so that first, you know that many of these players will "fix" the depths that they are in, and secondly, they will have to play above their talent level to make up for such a horrendous first couple of weeks.

Our list starts with the batters or position players or whatever you want to call non-pitchers. I was going to use WAR, but with it being so early in the season, can we really penalize players for their fielding after just two weeks? Base running? Nah. It is too early.

And it does make a difference. When counting by WAR, Asdrubal Cabrera places fourth in our list of suctitude. But when using wOBA or OPS, he falls to tenth. The same thing holds true for Matt Kemp, who is off to a terrible start. He falls from second to eleventh.

Okay, enough talk. Here are the seven worst starts for batters this season:

  1. Aaron Hicks: The rookie Twins' center fielder is not having any fun to start the season. And it will be interesting to see how long the Twins stick with him. The youngster has played twelve games and has been to the plate 51 times. He has two singles. Twelve games: two total bases. Ouch. He scores the lowest wOBA (should call his, "woeBA"). He is walking at a decent eleven percent, but is striking out close to forty percent of the time.
  2. Pedro Alvarez: This guy sure makes it tough on his fans, does he not? Alvarez has played fourteen games, come to the plate fifty times and has four singles. His triple slash line: .089/.180/.089. He too has decent walk numbers but has struck out 34 percent of the time.
  3. Yunel Escobar: Yay! The Rays finally got a shortstop that could hit more than his weight. Wait. What? Escobar has a .163 woeBA.  His on-base percentage is not even higher than his weight.
  4. Jeff Keppinger: A lot of teams wanted this guy after his season in Tampa Bay last season. So far, the White Sox are not getting the worth of what they paid. Yes, he has eleven hits in 61 plate appearances, so he is closer to the Mendoza Line than the first three. But he has not walked--not even once. He has not been hit by a pitch either. His batting average is .183. His on-base percentage is .180. That, friends, is hard to do.
  5. Dustin Ackley: Take a batting prospect. Send him to Seattle. Watch him die. What goes on up there? Smoak, Montero and yes, Ackley. At least Ackley has walked twice. So that gives him a woeBA of .167, one point higher than Keppinger.
  6. Russell Martin: Remember all the Yankee fans and writers screaming that the team did not keep Martin? Well...he is making Francisco Cervelli look like a superstar right now. Martin is batting .103 with just four hits so far this season. And just for kicks, he has only thrown out two of ten base steal attempts. But he can still frame those pitches like the best of them (not sarcasm).
  7. Adam Dunn: The pitchers are listening to me! After railing on for several posts about why you would ever walk Adam Dunn, his walk rate is down to just 5.2 percent thus far. Yes, the guy will beat you 35 to 40 times this season. But the rest of those 600 plate appearances will be pretty useless. Take your chances, pitchers! Dunn is batting .211 and has a .413 OPS and a .188 woeBA.

Well, there is our slow seven. Granted, many of these hitters will turn out all right in the end. But for right now, there is a whole lot of flailing going on. These seven hitters have not only had a tough start, they are the only qualifying batters with a wOBA of less than .200. Good times, eh?


Derrick said...

Great article. Do you keep a guy like Hicks up so you don;t destroy his confidence, or does running him out there for an 0-4 2k day everyday ruin it more?

William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

Thanks, Derrick. Tough call on Hicks. I'd keep running him out there for another twenty or so games I think.