Sunday, May 8, 2011

46's Hitting Streak

This is just a slight expansion of a comment I left from Martha's Vineyard the other day.  Yeah, I was there on business.  But 46, the Red Sox' center fielder whom I longer refer to by name, is now riding a 17-game hitting streak, the longest such streak in the major leagues currently.  Good for him, all sarcasm aside.  The team has gotten hot, slid, and then won two in a row over the course of this streak, but he has pretty much claimed the leadoff spot. 

I'm not going to say "rightfully so," because I still believe that Drew should be leading off for this team, as it maximizes his one skill.  Whatever.  46 has done a serviceable job while reclaiming that job.  He's hit .389 over this span, and while he has only walked five times over the course of this streak, he's gotten on base at such a rate that he hasn't had to.  Walks are fine, but as we have mentioned here many times over the course of the sabermetric euthanasia, walks do not advance runners like hits do.  And 46, as much as I don't like him, has been getting hits lately.

This player had some significant holes in his swing, both during his 18-game vacation last year and dating all the way back to the 2008 and 2009 seasons.  A lot of it is because, as I was saying about two weeks ago, he was trying to do stuff outside the scope of his services.  During many stretches over the course of '08, '09, and this year, he got this idea inside his head that he should be a power hitter.  That's when the holes in his swing develop.  When he tries to play within his skill set, making contact, and driving balls to the opposite field instead of being a jackass and waiting for the perfect pitch, stretches like this hitting streak happen.  And this is absolutely not the first time this has happened with 46.  He's had tears like this before, including during the 2007 season when he hit a misleading .353.

By the way, as much as haters (including myself) want to say that he got all those hits off of minor leaguers, Roy Halladay and Andy Pettitte were not minor leaguers.  But he was playing within himself. 

I'm not going to pull up a spray chart because I don't have to.  I can use my eyes.  All this guy is doing right now is going with the pitch delivered to him.  A lot of those pitches become singles to right.  A lot of them turn into doubles off the wall.  A lot of them turn into singles to left, and others turn into doubles down the left field line.  From those singles, especially because the bottom of that order is probably not on base, 46 should be able to get himself into scoring position with his other tool.

That's right, I said "other tool," insinuating that 46 is not a one-tool player, but a two-tool player.

This guy can hit .300-.320 as long as he remembers he's not a power hitter.  46 has zero home runs since this hitting streak started, and mark my words, the minute he gets his first home run, he'll start thinking he's a power hitter again and the streak will end the next night because just by watching the guy play, you know he's got below average to bad baseball instincts, he's not that bright, and he'll go right back into swinging for the fences.

Fact:
Before the hitting streak:  .182, 4 home runs, 14 strikeouts in 59 AB.
During the hitting streak:  .389, 0 home runs, 15 strikeouts in 72 AB.

Also, don't start walking, because your eye sucks, too.  Just keep doing what you're doing.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

DV

I have to admit that I'm a little surprised with how well Ellsbury has hit lately. And I have always been higher on him than you have. Would it be nice if he walked more? Absolutely. But as you said, he's not trying to do too much right now. He's slapping the ball to left when the pitch is away and he's not trying to pull every pitch that's out there. He's also done a great job driving in runs in some big spots. He tied it up in the ninth on Wednesday. He drove in two big insurance runs on Saturday. He was all over the bases yesterday as the Sox rallied back from an early 3-0 deficit.

Now, the guy is not going to be involved in a perpetual hitting streak, but if he can level his numbers off where they are right now it would be more than adequate for the lead-off position.

On an unrelated note--whomever wins the Celtics/Heat game tonight is going to win the series. Not the most bold prediction of all time, but I'm sticking with it.

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

Gunn,

I'm serious about the walks. If 46 never walks again but also never takes a meatball right over the plate for a called third strike again, I'd be happy. When he's hitting instead of being an idiot, he's a real asset to the baseball team. I do think he should steal more, for what it's worth.

Bosh was a disaster on Saturday.

Patrick said...

very good post gm. it stands to reason that for a lot of players the more they try to hit for power the more exposed their swing is going to be. for some players this is a worthwhile tradeoff. they have legitimate power and/or hitting homeruns is one of the primary ways they contribute to the team. so they absorb the downside of increased strikeouts or making weaker contact more frequently due to being pitched in a certain way for the upside of the power when they get pitches they can handle.

for a guy with the skillset ellsbury has this is not a worthwhile tradeoff. while he has some pop it isn't enough to take on the negative exposure it gives his swing. and that is before we get to the most important point, that swinging that way minimizes his greatest tool in his legs. added exposure to swing + minimizing biggest production asset = bad approach. ellsbury should be consistently looking to hit the ball on a line, like all players do. since you can't do that all the time, the rest of your balls in play are either going to be in the air or on the ground. power hitters want the ball in the air. ellsbury should want it on the carpet. line drives and groundballs is how he helps the team win most often.

so i hope he goes back to swinging for the fences.

the gm at work said...

Right, I mean, if 46 was Mark McGwire or freaking Rob Deer, who were slow as molasses and probably couldn't hit singles if they tried, that would be one thing.

46's numbers when hitting home runs were sort of like McGwire's numbers in his last season if you really think about it.

46 can hit singles if he tried, and that's what he's done the past three weeks. With great success. Actually, with so much success that I'm okay if he doesn't walk or have good "plate discipline" for a leadoff hitter. If he tried to be like McGwire, Rob Deer, Wily Mo Pena, or Gary Sheffield, he wouldn't succeed, because those guys could actually hit home runs on a regular basis. 46 hits lazy fly outs or popups instead. He doesn't have the power to do anything aggregately productive when swinging for the fences. Therefore he shouldn't be doing it.

TimC said...

Where does 46 fit best here? His speed can really make his outs productive but only with runners on. Can Jacoby Mays Hayes fit in behind Drew at the #2 spot?

Massive must win tonight. The Celtics have three advantages on Miami. One, KG > Bosh, and, like last season's KG-Gasol battle, it seems that KG has overcome an initial defeat to regain the upper hand. If this holds, the Heat are a perimeter team in the mold of last year's Cavs or Lakers and the Celtics should be in good shape to battle back.

Two, Rondo. No one really knows what the deal is here but he simply has no match on the court. I suppose all basketball players start one-handed, anyhow, so here's hoping eight year old Rondo can outplay eighty year old Bibby.

Finally, and most importantly, the pressure, the pressure. Miami would feel pressure at 2-2 like no team in NBA history but the series has to get there. At 2-2, Wade and LeBron might stop sharing, the role players might stop contributing, the interior could be gobbled up by the C's superior washed-up vets, and Miami could really crumble in a Friday night Game 6 in Boston. At 3-1? Series over, as LeBron James will do what he does best- be basketball's Papelbon- and probably look really, really good in what seems like but is not really a high-pressure spot.

Anonymous said...

So much for KG being better than Bosh.

Also, there is no one in the league that can guard Dirk Nowitzki right now. I think it's a tough matchup for the Mavs with either Memphis or OKC because they are both so athletic, but it should be an interesting series.