Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Quote of the day

From Steve Henson's Dodger Report in today's dog trainer...

In a short piece about Juan hitting too many fly balls, there's this:

Said Little, "You can see how he gets his 200 hits a year. He's also going to
make 500 outs." Hitting more groundballs "would give him a better shot at
getting 250 hits."
If he hit more grounders, he'd get more hits, and if a frog had wings, it wouldn't bump its ass a-hoppin'... but let's see what that would do for Juan.

Juan has averaged exactly 200 hits a season for a .302 average, a .349 OBP, and a .376 SLG. (Let's ignore the fact that those numbers have all been trending downward and that this year is his worst ever.) Add 50 singles to that and you get a .378 average, a .414 OBP, and a .453 SLG from a guy who will steal 50 bases. An 870ish OPS CF with speed? That is an All-Star, my friends.

I can't really fault Grady. He was probably speaking off the cuff and not really thinking about what he was saying. I'm guessing that the interview took place before the game and he had better things to think about than exactly how many hits Juan Pierre would get if he was a completely different hitter than he is. Still, I couldn't let it pass. This blog has one purpose: to destroy the myth that Juan Pierre deserves 750 major league at-bats a year and a healthy chunk of a team's payroll.

You know, now that I think about it, maybe I am misreading Grady's quote. Maybe the important part isn't the "250 hits" thing, but the "500 outs" thing -- after all, when was the last time Dodger brass brought that up? It's been the elephant in the room that nobody talks about as they focus on his other stats. Perhaps this blog is making some progress after all!


jimbilly4 said...

Little was probably just noting that he has been hitting too many fly balls. For his career, Juan has hit 56.7/21.7/21.7 GB/FB/LD without too mcuh fluctuation.

So far this year those numbers have been: 50.5/31.3/18.2. A 50% rise in fly balls is the likely cause of the crappy start, as Juan does not hit home runs (0 HR so far this year). Juan is particular bad at fly balls, sporting a .134 BABIP average (compared to .167 league average). If he keeps this up he will not get to 200 hits. My guess is he started out hitting the ball so weakly he started swinging from the heels. This gave him harder hit balls, but started lifting them into the air. He needs to work on getting the ball down.

As to 250 hits... Even if every fly ball turned into a ground ball, the ~.130 difference in BABIP is only going to result in about 20 more hits (assuming 150 FBs like last year). If all else is the same as last year, that gives you 224 hits. However, it is highly likely such an approach is going to cut down on line drives, which would just kill his hits.

What Pierre should do is increase his line drive percentage. If half of his fly balls became line drives, that would get him to 250. Of course, not exactly easy to hit a LD% of 30. Plus, as in all these broad statistics, luck both bad and good can really screw you.

In 2005 Pierre had a LD% of over 25.5% and a FB% of 19.6. It was arguably his worst year in the majors (OPS .680) because his BABIP was the lowest of career, low FBs and high LDs be damned.

Humma Kavula said...

Oh, he'll reach 200 hits -- or at least come close enough -- even if he keeps this up. Last night was the 27th game -- 1/6 of the season. At the close of yesterday, Juan had 32 hits... multiply by six and you get 192.

Here's the point -- 200 hits do not a valuable player make. That's why I disagree about what Grady's point was -- by saying he'd get 200 hits but make 500 outs, he's pointing out that despite 200 hits, he's not helping the team enough and needs closer to 250 hits to be a valuable player. If he makes 500 -- or 558 -- outs, he is helping to kill the offense.

Regarding BABIP -- I know the research says that pitchers have little control over what happens to batted balls... is that also true of batters? Batters have (some) more control over where the ball goes... I'm sure it has some predictive power, but as much as pitchers? I don't know.

Re: "What Pierre should do is increase his line drive percentage"... yeah, and he also should hit more home runs. And not get out so often. Easier said than done.

jimbilly4 said...

Obviously you can't just will more home runs. If you don't have the strength/bat speed, you just don't have it.

As plainly obvious seems to be that you can't will more line drives. The BABIP differences are so incredible that any player who could do it would be an idiot not to do it. The problem is that line drives are just hard hit balls with an angle high enough to not be GBs and low enough to not be a FB. I do not think the typical hitter can alter something in his swing to give him more balls in a 15 degree vertical arc. The only way to up your line drives is to hit more balls harder, that is to always make solid contact. I.e., become a better hitter.

I do think a hitter can have a big effect on whether they hit a ball down (GB) or up (FB). If you can't hit home runs, you should probably try not to hit it up. This is tricky, because you don't want to hit it down so much that you take a chunk out of your line drives. Even a great all ground ball hitter is unlikely to hit much more than .250 and even then they are going to be murder on guys on base ahead of them (many infield singles are outs at second).

Of course hitting is hard and most players have enough trouble just concentrating on making contact. Fiddling with your GB/FB ratio can easily up your Ks or greatly increases weak dribblers & popups. It think this is where Pierre is at the moment. He has been messing with his swing and getting erratic (career different) results. Assumedly he will find his groove, lower his FBs, and get his 200 hits. He will then be lauded by many and hated all the more by you.

Humma Kavula said...

You and I are not that far off about how we see this guy.

No matter what Pierre does, he's not going to get 50 more hits. He's just not that disciplined a hitter.

It seems to me that Pierre has become even more Pierrish than ever. His OBP numbers, which had been trending downward, are in the toilet, but he is still scoring runs and getting hits just as often as he ever did. You and I might say, "Well, that's not going to last if he doesn't start hitting more," but before today, it was legitimate to wonder if the Dodgers were happy with Pierre's performance.

Grady's quote today indicates that maybe that's not legit -- that they regonize that he is making too many outs and see that he is struggling at the plate, despite his 21 runs scored (on pace for 186, which would be 2nd-highest all time!).

That's why I'm backing off the thrust of my post -- the 250 hits thing -- and focusing on the other half -- the 500 outs thing.

While it seems small and tossed-off, I wonder if it's the very first step in a series of comments that leads to Matt Kemp in center field. I sure hope so.

jimbilly4 said...

You kid yourself. Pierre will get hot for a month and hit .350 pushing his BA close to .300. Everyone will say, phew! now he is playing well and he will not even be dropped in the batting order, not to mention out of a starter's spot. He will still do every other aspect of the game poorly (walk, hit for power, field, throw) but it won't matter. If it mattered, they wouldn't have hired him.

On the plus side he is stealing at an 80% clip, well above his career avg and starting to edge into actually useful range. He may return to norm here, but for now it is a ray of sunshine.

I still think he would be a fine addition to the team if he batted 8th and could field a ball. The fact that he has sucked so bad defensively is really what has me irked.