This is a column I have avoided writing, in part because I’d hoped I
wouldn’t have to and in part because I know some people are tired of
hearing about it. But I can no longer stand idly by and watch this player,
one of the most overrated, undercriticized players in baseball today,
continue to torpedo his team’s offense.
I’m speaking of Garret Anderson. Anderson, who has been a target of
my barbs almost since he came into the league, has completely outdone
himself in 2000. There are 89 players in the American League who have
enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. Of those 89
players, 88 have a higher on-base percentage than Anderson. His .256 OBP is
lower than that of Rey Sanchez, the worst hitter in baseball this
year. It’s lower than that of Troy O’Leary, who has gone through a
painful divorce this season. Even Deivi Cruz, who walks about as
often as A.C. Green buys condoms, has a higher OBP than Anderson.
Cruz is one of the few players Anderson has more walks than. His eight free
passes–one every two weeks or so–rank him 155th in the American League.
Russ Branyan has been with the Indians for about an hour and a half
and he has more walks than Anderson. Steve Cox only plays when the
rest of the Devil Rays are late coming back from the "Senior
Special" at Applebee’s, and he has more walks than Anderson.
Even for Anderson, far from a patient hitter at his best, this kind of walk
rate is unusual. His six unintentional passes in 316
at-bats-plus-unintentional-walks is the worst rate of his career:
Year AB+UIBB UIBB UIBB/AB
2000: 314 6 52.3 1999: 646 26 24.8 1998: 643 21 30.6 1997: 648 24 27.0 1996: 629 22 28.6 1995: 389 15 25.9
Anderson’s decent batting averages, increasing power and, in 1999, good
center-field defense made him an average, if overrated, player. What’s
happened in 2000 is that he has hit in bad luck; his average has hovered
between .240 and .260 for much of the season, and his OBP has slid
accordingly from borderline acceptable to…well, .256.
But even if you give Anderson his missing singles, his OBP is below its
normal level, and his increased power doesn’t make up for it. Right now,
Anderson is hitting .240/.256/.494. For the sake of argument, let’s give
him the 18 singles that would bump his batting average to its customary
.300 level. At that point, Anderson would be hitting .299/.316/.552, and
while the slugging percentage would be impressive, the OBP would still be
For Anderson to be productive with his current walk rate, he has to hit
.330 or so, and he hasn’t shown that kind of ability.
Anderson’s season illustrates one of the problems with hitters who don’t
walk. Hitting for average is more subject to fluctuation–luck–than plate
discipline or power. When a high-average, low-walk hitter like Anderson
hits in bad luck he can absolutely kill you. Which is what he’s doing.
Of course, it’s not apparent that the Angels notice. They seem quite happy
with his career-best power and his–wait for it–120-RBI pace. Mike
Scioscia continues to bat Anderson ahead of Troy Glaus, rather than
moving the player with the .420 OBP up in the lineup.
Anderson’s performance is a significant problem for the Angels. His abysmal
plate discipline is a problem they have avoided addressing for years. Now
that they have committed to him by trading Jim Edmonds and giving
him a lucrative contract extension, they have to take steps to ensure that
he’ll be a productive player, and not a 475-out vacuum.
Joe Sheehan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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