Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Nick Swisher

Nick Swisher via twitter:
Wow! What a crazy few weeks.
Cleveland! Are you ready? Because
I'm coming home! Roll Tribe
Cleveland has agreed to sign free agent outfielder and Ohio State alumni, Nick Swisher. With the signing, what are the Indians getting offensively and how will Progressive Field affect his offense as a switch hitter?

To begin, lets look at his career. Over the last eight (9-year career) seasons, Swisher has been a model of consistency. Since 2005, Swisher is one of only sixteen outfielders to have at least 4,500 plate appearances. Of those sixteen players, he has the eighth highest slugging percentage and the fifth best on-base percentage.  Using wRC+, which is park and league adjusted, Swisher was 20% better than the league average in that time period.

Furthermore, over the last four seasons – his prime years – Swisher posted a .367 on-base percentage and a .483 slugging percentage with the Yankees. Those numbers, however, will likely begin to trend downward now, as he is now on the down side (age 32-35) of his career, and will no longer be playing half of his games in an offensive friendly park.

Contrary to most right-handed batters, though, Swisher should not be affected a great deal by Progressive Field and it’s history of suppressing homers for right-handed batters. Why? Because most of Swisher’s power comes from the left side, which plays to the park’s strengths, according to Stat Corner’s Park Factors.

While I do believe he will regress toward the end of this deal, most of his power should only decline minimally from the left side and with most of the regression coming from aging. Going back to his Oakland Athletic days, he still remained as one of the better offensive outfielders in the game in one of the more pitcher friendly parks in baseball. If he can hit 17 homers (2006) and post a .477 slugging percentage in Oakland, he can hit anywhere.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Stubbs' Struggles

Drew Stubbs is a very intriguing player. Since making his Major League debut in August of 2009, his career has been one of little highs and many lows. But with so much potential, why has he under-achieved so much?

First, looking at his home and away splits, it is evident that he benefited from an offensive friendly park in Cincinnati, Ohio. At home, Stubbs’ on-base percentage rose 39 points and his slugging percentage increased 104 points in Great American Ballpark. Essentially, he was an above average player at home, but a Larry Bowa – offensively - on the road.

His new park, Progressive Field, tends to suppress any offense coming from right-handed batters. In Cincinnati, right-handed hitters have the advantage. Using the Park Factors from Stat Corner, the Indians could expect a 23% reduction in homers at home for Stubbs. In his career, Stubbs has averaged about nine homers at home. As a result, he could lose up to two homers from just switching home parks next season.

Aside from the parks, he has a history of struggling against right-handers, which make up 75% of the pitching in Major League Baseball. In his career, Stubbs has posted a .301 on-base percentage and a .355 slugging in 1,491 plate appearances. On the other hand, he’s phenomenal against left-handers: .344 on-base and a .476 slugging percentage in 513 career plate appearances. 

And finally, to the more revealing: advanced and batted ball statistics. Over the last three seasons, his strikeout rate has climbed from 28.8% to 30.5%, while his walk rate has dropped from 9.4% to a lousy 7.7%. Those are alarming trends. But he’s also hitting less line-drives and more ground balls than ever before, too. According to Fangraphs, line-drives create 1.26 runs per out, while fly balls produce 0.13 runs per out and ground-balls only produce 0.05 runs per out. 

In the end, will the change of parks help? I don't know, but the numbers do not suggest so.  An increase in his contact rate and perhaps a spike in his line-drive rate would do wonders for his career.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cleveland Signs Mark Reynolds

Cleveland has finally made the signing of Mark Reynolds official. As a right-handed hitter, he brings a lot of power to a team that lacks offense. With Reynolds though, a lot of the focus is on his strikeouts. And while he does strikeout a lot, he still provides a lot of value in other ways.

In 2012, the Indians were absolutely terrible at hitting left-handed pitching. Cleveland had the tenth worst on-base percentage (.312) and the third worst slugging percentage (.352) against southpaws in Major League Baseball. Reynolds, on the other hand, smashes lefties. Going into last season, he never had a slugging percentage under .454. 

Against right-handed pitchers - outside of 2010 when he posted a .396 slugging, Reynolds has held his own. Since 2007 (Min. 2,500 PA), he ranks twenty-first with a .470 slugging percentage against right-handers in all of Baseball. 

He’s also one of the more patient hitters in the league. His 4.27 pitches per plate appearance was tied for the fifth most among qualified batters last season. That approach has led to an excellent walk rate. In his career, Reynolds has walked in 10.4% of his plate appearances. That's well above the league average of 8.5%. 

His history of staying on the field, hitting for power and having a great eye are extremely valuable. In fact, Bill James projects a slash line of .231/.336/.463 and 32 homers in 155 games next season. That would make him one of the better offensive first base-man/designated hitters in the American League.