June 6, 2010
Using SO% And BB%
It's been discussed in this space often already this year, but one thing we often lack when trying to do fantasy analysis is enough of a sample size to make any kind of definite statement. That's why, two months in, we have some good news on that front: quite a few everyday players have logged enough plate appearances for us to make some meaningful observations. After 150 plate appearances, strikeout rate has begun to stabilize, and after 200, you can pay attention to walk rates. Some other statistics (line-drive rate, ground-ball rate) start to stabilize after the same number of PAs, but we'll take a look at those in another piece.
Chris Coghlan, last season's Jackie Robinson Award recipient, was picked by four of our seven fantasy authors as the most likely sophomore disappointment. He's opened the year hitting .259/.311/.351, which isn't all that unexpected from a guy who posted a .365 BABIP en route to a .321 batting average in 2009—given his ISO was a pedestrian .139, it's not a shock that a significant drop in base hits would lead to this year's paltry slugging output. Coghlan has seen his walk rate dip 2.7 percent, for two reasons that we can identify easily: he's swinging at a higher rate of pitches out of the zone (and making more contact with them) and he's being attacked by pitchers earlier in the count—his first pitch strike percentage has climbed to nearly 64 percent, whereas last year it was closer to the league average at 57 percent.
More contact with pitches out of the zone likely means he isn't driving the ball as well, as he's not hitting it squarely. Combine that with his 7.8 percentage point increase in strikeouts—the second largest amongst any hitter with 200 plate appearances this year and 450 in 2009—and it's easy to see why he can't get anything going. If you've held on to Coghlan this long, you may want to find a replacement for him if one is available.
Adam Lind has also had his share of struggles in 2010. The left-handed Lind struggled against southpaws in 2008, hitting .253/.303/.385 in 91 at-bats. He faced them 167 times in 2009, and put up a much better showing of .275/.318/.461, but so far in 2010 he's been having a tough time with them, hitting just .103/.159/.121 in 58 at-bats. In 100 fewer at-bats against lefties, he has just 10 fewer strikeouts than against right-handers. This has contributed to his strikeout rate jumping 7.3 percentage points, the third most of anyone on this list.
Lind hit .286/.359/.486 in April, before falling apart in May (.174/.220/.312). Had the Jays' star outfielder had a higher solar mass, this sort of collapse would have changed him into a real-life black hole, rather than just a metaphorical one in the middle of the lineup.
Lind's ISO of .161 is close to 2008's .156 showing, but it's nowhere near 2009's .257 mark. You can direct blame for that to his performance against left-handers, as 2009 was the one time he managed to hit them with some pop. His batting average (and therefore, slash stats in general) are lower than they should be, as he has a BABIP of just .247, but when he struggled against lefties in 2008 and had a BABIP of .317, he was able to hit just .282/.316/.439. Lind is a better hitter than that, but until he picks things up against right-handers, he's going to look bad.
I know the moment I write about Chris B. Young, things are going to fall apart for him, but at least we'll be able to figure out why he has struggled these past few years (sorry, Arizona, I didn't know I had that kind of power). Young is hitting .271/.333/.458 and has an ISO of .187, the same rate as 2009. There are a few key differences though. To start, the strikeouts that have plagued him most of his career have finally dropped a bit—he's cut 6.1 percentage points off of his strikeout rate, and though he's also lost a few points on his walk rate, though that might be for the better.
Young is swinging at a few more pitches out of the zone, and making more contact with them. He's also making more contact in the zone, which leads to more overall contact. He's still nowhere near the top of the leaderboards as far as contact goes—he's still below average on that note—but he needed to make progress in that regard if he wanted to bring up his BABIP and his batting average.
One other thing to note about Young—now that his on-base percentage has climbed well over .300 (though still not where you would like it) he's swiping more bases. He's at seven steals already this year after just 11 last season, so while he may not hit for a ton of power or hit for a very high average, he's well-rounded for a center fielder in fantasy baseball.