Monday, April 26, 2010

Is the offense "really" this bad?

The question comes from Mickey on a mailing list from the USENet days, and it's a good one.  Note that I don't mean "Has the offense been this bad," because, well, look: of course it has.  It's been abysmal.  The team is "hitting" .223/.307/.337.  That's just pitiful.  Those look like numbers I grew up with in the '70s, when Frank Duffy and Charlie Spikes were flailing away and Dave Duncan was a "power threat."  (We referred to his "power" because his "ability to make contact" was lacking.)  Fully half the games (9 of 18) have resulted in the Indians scoring TWO OR FEWER RUNS.  To paraphrase NBA fans, "Outs don't lie."

No, the more interesting question is, "Are the players that make up this offense legitimately so limited that we can expect very, very bad numbers to continue into the season?"  I think the question to this is pretty obviously, "No," if only because I don't think any team in the New Modern Era (post-strike 1994) has put up numbers so putrid.  It's one thing for a single overmatched hitter like Tofu Lou to be awful: he'll get replaced, and then he won't make as many outs.  It's quite another for an ENTIRE TEAM to look like Ray Oyler.

So let's walk down the list, arbitrarily listed by AB because that's handy and can smooth over small-sample wonders on either end of the spectrum.  I will put guys into five categories:

This Bad (can expect more of the same)Not Quite This Bad (small improvement expected)Not This Bad (significant improvement expected)A Little Bit Over (small decline wouldn't suprise)Over His Head (significant decline expected)

Are these arbitrary?  Sure, they're arbitrary.  Sue me.  (AB+BB in parentheses)

Asdrubal Cabrera: .280/.299/.373 (77)

In one sense, he is this bad.  He's a .287 hitter in his short career, so .280 is hardly that far off pace.  His career ISO of .121 is reasonably approximated by his current .097: give him a couple more doubles or one homer (he's already played in three "big" parks in Detroit, Minnesota, and Oakland, and it's colder in April than the rest of the season, generally speaking) and he's right up there.

On the other hand, his career .064 OBP-AVG veritably DWARFS his .019 thus far.  This is going the exact WRONG way for Cabrera's new role as leadoff hitter.  I appreciate that he wants to "make things happen" and get on case, and frankly, he's not exactly swinging at every first pitch he sees.  But until he takes some walks, he'll make singles or outs and this won't help.

Verdict: Not Quite This Bad

Shin-Soo Choo .313/.436/.547 (77)

Um ... this isn't bad.  He's probably not a .436 OBP guy (or, really, a .547 SLG guy), but those numbers are at least in like with "a good season" or "career year," not some sort of unsustainable Tuffy Rhodes Gork.  Let's be conservative:

Verdict: A Little Bit OverG. Sizemore .220/.303/.356 (64)

This is horrific.  The one thing I can point to is that his plate discipline is pretty good, certainly way better than Cabrera's.  Still, last season was marred by injury and roundly panned, and it was still .248/.343/.445.  Sizemore should have more power and should get more hits.  The caveat is if his back injury lingers all season long, but I feel comfortable saying ...

Verdict: Not This BadTravis Hafner .214/.324/.357 (61)

Awful.  Dreadful.  Also not very good.  His 2008 was this bad, but that got nipped: his 2009, again widely considered a "bad season" for Hafner, was .272/.355/.470.  Do I think Hafner can post a .200 ISO?  I'm skeptical.  But I don't see anything less than .170 as being credible, or he'll sit because of injury.  His OBP-AVG is a good sign.  I'm not expecting TRAVIS HAFNER any more, but I don't think last year's numbers are out of reach, even for a damaged player in decline.

Verdict: Not This BadJ. Peralta .154/.308/.269 (64)

Oy vey.  Even as a notorious slow starter, this is bad.  Peralta isn't a .154 hitter.  I also don't expect him to stay in the Tyner Zone (OBP > SLG) all season.  He's got nearly 100 points of average in him, I'm certain, and this will raise his SLG back over .400 where it belongs.  He's only 27, fer crine out loud.

Caveat: Peralta may not be on the team in August.

Verdict: Not This BadMatt LaPorta .192/.263/.231 (57)

Great googly moogly.  Another ostensible 20-HR guy in the Tyner Zone.  Sure, he's doing some defensive jerking around and had surgery in the off-season, but look: this is Utility Infielder territory.  Professor D.P. Gumby Territory.  Even LaPorta's detractors think more of him than that.

Verdict: Not This BadLuis Valbuena .178/.302/.356 (52)

Well, what are we basing this on?  His patience has actually been excellent, with 7 BB in 52-odd PA.  His power has been even better than last season's unexpected number.  What makes us think the 24-year-old Valbuena is really a .250 hitter?  He's probably not a .180 hitter, but ... look, the man hasn't even played a full 162 games in the bigs yet.  Why is he guaranteed to improve?  Still, I don't think he's a .178 hitter given his swing and newfound patience: note that his OBP is actually higher than last year's.  I'll be conservative here, too ...

Verdict: Not Quite This BadAustin Kearns .324/.361/.441 (36)

Kearns has actually been a bright spot, to the point where placing the "washed-up bust" in the cleanup spot earns nods rather than screams.  He's not a .324 hitter, but he could post an OBP near .350.  2007 was a .266/.355/.411 season for Kearns, which I don't think is out of the question and isn't that much worse than this.

Verdict: A Little OverLou Marson .088 .162 .088 (37)

No one is this bad.  Mike Rouse wasn't this bad.  The Geico mascot isn't this bad.  On the other hand, it isn't inconceivable that Marson simply isn't a major-league catcher in 2010, either with the bat or the glove.  I think Marson can hit a legit .150 even if he's truly terrible: I don't think a Mendoza .200 is unreasonable.  With an extra-base hit to boot.

Verdict: Not This BadM. Brantley .156/.229/.188 (35)

Again, Brantley didn't look this bad, his results were just poor.  I don't think he's the .313 hitter he was in 2009 (I mean, I think he's capable of that eventually, but not in the majors at Age 22), but he's not a .156 hitter either.  On the other hand, he's not here, either (largely replaced by Kearns in my view, not Branyan).  He's not entirely relevant to the analysis, but I'll opine anyway:

Verdict: Not This BadMike Redmond .250/.280/.333 (24)

Yeah, this is pretty much it.  He's 38.  He wasn't good in the first place.  He doesn't play all that much.  This is largely Face Value.

Caveat: if Carmona's performance can be attributed even a little bit to Redmond, he will be worth at least 5 times what he is paid.  The Tribe didn't sign Mike Redmond to hit.

Verdict: This Bad

M. Grudzielanek .208/.208/.208 (24)

Boy, it's hard to believe he didn't get signed to a big multi-year deal.  Or play anywhere at all in 2009.  Wait, no, I totally believe it.

Verdict: Not Quite This Bad, But So What?Andy Marte .188/.350/.375 (20)

Yeah, whatever.  Nice homer.  Worse defensively than I thought.  He's a guy.

Verdict: This BadR. Branyan .333/.385/.500 (14)
Hey, it's Captain Small Sample!  He has 3 Ks in 4 games: check.  Half his hits are for extra-bases: check.  He's not going to hit .333: check.  It's 13 PA.  C'mon.  He's barely influenced us at all.
Verdict: Irrelevant Thus Far
In the final tally:
Not This Bad: 318 AB+BB, 6 players
Not Quite This Bad: 153 AB+BB, 3 players
This Bad: 44 AB+BB, 2 players
A Little Over: 113 AB+BB, 2 players

Irrelevant: 14 AB+BB, 1 player

So, roughly half our AB+BB (318 of 642) are given to players who are clearly underachieving and can reasonably be expected to improve significantly; 73.4% of the AB+BB are given to players who should improve.  In other words: no, the offense isn't "This Bad."

That doesn't make it more fun to watch, but it does suggest that the team will be more fun to watch in the future.

1 comment:

  1. I hope the sticks get hot soon. The two bookend games in the series against Oakland were dreadful. I have zero confidence in most of these guys when we need a big hit. I just hope that we can hang around .500 this year to keep everybody in Ohio at least semi-interested in this team.