Carlos Quentin was emerging as a fantasy stud before broke his wrist toward the end of 2008 which derailed a quality season. After undergoing surgery (he would play the entire 2009 season with a pin in his wrist) and was given a clean bill of health, concerns lingered about his power. Quentin quickly put those worries aside as he bashed 21 home runs in limited playing time. He averaged a long ball every 16.7 at bats, not to far off the league best 13.3 AB/HR rate he posted in ’08. Unfortunately, Quentin couldn’t escape the injuries as he once again landed on the DL, this time with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. He appeared in only 99 games for the White Sox.
While the power was nice, the underlying concern of the ’09 season was his drop in batting average (.236) and on base percentage (.318). Quentin was still making contact at a solid rate – he put the ball in play in a career best 70% of all plate appearances – yet those balls just weren’t falling in for hits. In 399 plate appearances, Quentin posted an abysmal .221 BABIP.
A situation like Quentin’s often signals a buying opportunity. Here we had a guy who was coming off his age 26 season, battled through injury, kept most of his home run power and had poor luck on balls in play which suppressed his batting average.
How about that buying opportunity now?
Let’s compare the ’08 Quentin through his first 129 plate appearances with the ’10 version we've seen so far to get a handle on how he's gotten out of the gate in good times and in bad.
It's interesting that his walk and strikeout rates are so similar. It's also interesting to see he's still bringing home runners. Unfortunately, this year Quentin is having the exact same issue that hurt him in 2009: His BABIP is unbelievably low. In fact, his .186 BABIP is the worst in the AL.
It’s not like Quentin has lost the plot while in the batters box. He’s not expanding the strike zone and swinging at bad pitches. Although he has developed a hole in his swing that certainly needs correcting. Of all the strikes he’s seeing, he’s swinging and missing 22% of the time. That’s after swinging and missing at 17% of all strikes in each of the two previous seasons. Of course, all of this swinging and missing has lowered his contact rate. However, he's actually putting a higher percentage of balls in play this year (67%) than he did during his fantastic 2008 season (65%). He's making contact. It's just not good contact.
The lack of quality contact can be seen in the dip in his home run rate. After hitting a home run every 14.6 at bats over the previous two years, his rate has plummeted to 26.8 AB/HR. While the focus here has been home runs, it should be noted that even though his HR rate was still fairly healthy in 2009, his overall power dropped – and it's continuing to slide. Now, with the decline in home runs, that loss of power has become extremely noticeable. Here is Quentin’s ISO over the previous three seasons:
2008 – .283
2009 – .219
2010 – .187
The lone area where Quentin is doing OK is with runners on base, driving in 18% of all base runners while hitting .241 with runners in scoring position. Since that’s about 50 points higher than his overall batting average, I guess that’s a small victory. However, consider that Quentin has bashed four home runs this year. Of those, three have come with men on. In fact, of Quentin’s 20 RBI, half of them have come via his home runs. (He’s hit a grand slam, a three run homer, a two run homer and a solo shot – the cycle of round trippers.) Nevertheless, he’s driving in a run every 5.4 at bats which is an accomplishment. The major league average is an RBI every 7.6 at bats.
His TAv is at .251, so he's giving you below average offensive production and despite holding steady in the RBI department, Quentin no longer represents a buy. Certainly, his batting average will lift from it’s current depth, but given the length of this trend, it’s going to be a long slog back to respectability. At this point, I have some serious doubts that he'll get is BA up to .250 for the season. Couple that with a loss in power and you have a player that will crush your fantasy team. If you own him and don't want to give up hope, keep him on your bench to see if he ever shows signs of life. Especially in sim leagues where his poor defense is a double whammy.
2008 seems like a long time ago.