Saturday, July 26, 2014

Checking in on Adam Eaton

There was a lot of head scratching going on before the season started when the Arizona Diamondbacks traded two promising young players in Adam Eaton (25-years-old) and Tyler Skaggs (22-years-old) for basically a lumbering power hitter and two minor league players that do not appear to be going anywhere. Sure, there is a power shortage in the Majors and Trumbo can hit homers, but many viewed this trade through squinted eyes as some sort of organizational waywardness by the Diamondbacks. After two-thirds of the season, where do we stand on Adam Easton, one-third of the big trade?
It seems the answer to that question depends on who you ask., Baseball Prospectus and all have different takes on what value Adam Eaton has brought to the White Sox. All agree that his defense has been quite good. All agree that his base running has been a problem, but to a varied degree.
Baseball Prospectus has him valued the lowest at 1.2 WARP. Then comes at 1.5 fWAR and finally, doubles that to 3.0 rWAR. Well...that's confusing.
Okay, if we put that all aside, what do my non-expert eyes see in Eaton's season with the White Sox? I see a lot of positive things. Eaton has missed time at three different points in the seasons with hamstring problems with both legs and a wrist problem. But he has still managed to get into 82 of the White Sox' 104 games.
The constant starting and stopping of his season might have slowed him down at times, but, like I said, I see a lot of nice things in his season. A lead-off batter's primary responsibility is to get on base and Eaton has done that at a higher than league average rate of .355. If you compare that to the average lead-off batter in baseball, that is 25 points higher than average. So far so good.
Eaton's batting average is also higher than the league average lead-off guy and his slugging percentage is about eleven points lower. That leaves him with an OPS that is 14 points higher than league average. Not bad. His 107 OPS+ and wRC+ (depending on which system you prefer) is above league average overall as well. So for overall offense, Eaton is doing his job.
And what should be pointed out is that for the last two months, he has really been above average. Adam Eaton had a horrible May and that month colors all of his numbers. But his slash lines for the last two months look like this respectively: .309/.391/.454 and .299/.379/.403.  He has a .986 OPS in his last eight games.
What about this base running thing? Most of the problem seems to be with his stolen base attempts. Adam Eaton does not appear to be very good at stealing bases. He has attempted to steal sixteen times and has only been successful ten times. A 62.5% success rate is not going to cut it. And his success rate over his short career is worse at 60.7%.
But the good news is that he is five for his last seven attempts showing his overall boost in performance over the last two months. A 71.4% rate is a little better to deal with. The success rate might show that he has better wheels under him now that the season has gone along. Remember that I mentioned those two hamstring issues earlier in the season.
I also like some other things about him as a lead-off batter. For one, I think he is going to get better with his plate discipline. His 9% walk rate is not bad, but it is way below what he did in the minors. His O-rate, or rate of swinging at pitches out of the strike zone is 28%, which isn't bad, but could be a little better. What I like most is that he swings and misses only 4.7% of the time and his strikeout rate is an acceptable 16%. Without looking more closely, the guess would be that most of his strikeouts are looking.
As a left-handed batter, Adam Eaton handles left-handed pitching quite well. In fact, his batting average is higher against lefties. The only real loss against southpaws is that he doesn't steal any bases against them.
Eaton, at this point in his career, is a slash and dash kind of hitter. His ground ball rate is Jeter-esque, but with his speed, that's not a bad thing. In fact, it's a good thing as his BABIP on ground balls is .325, which is pretty amazing. It would be nice if Eaton hit more line drives and drove the ball a little bit more, but perhaps that will come with maturity.
Something about Adam Eaton did not click with the Diamondbacks. His Twitter handle calls himself AdamSpankyEaton. He plays with a lot of enthusiasm but perhaps is a bit of a free spirit. Who knows. And it is not fair to really judge the Diamondbacks' return right now because Trumbo got off to a great start and then had a really bad injury and has been abysmal since getting back.
What can be said is that Adam Eaton has a higher on-base and OPS than center fielders in Arizona and their lead-off batters. He could have helped them. But as it is, a few injuries and a poor May that was probably a result has held Adam Eaton's overall numbers down a little bit this season. But for a 25-year-old guy in his first full season, he's doing quite well--especially in the last two months.

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