Tuesday, May 22, 2007

More Notes on K/BB (Part II)

Yesterday I commented on a couple of players, and courtesy of a two stupid glasses of Coke I drank at supper, it looks like I'll have the opportunity to continue tonight. (Getting old sucks.)

Denys Reyes
Sunday afternoon, I wondered what exactly was wrong with Reyes, and yesterday we found out that it was his shoulder. That's a reasonable, albeit convenient, way to explain his performance this year. But looking at Reyes's career numbers, one isn't struck by how he's slipped this year, but rather by how crazy good he was last year:

1999 39 72 3.80
2000 29 36 4.53
2001 35 52 4.93
2002 45 59 5.34
2003 10 16 10.66
2004 50 91 4.75
2005 32 35 5.15
2006 15 49 0.89
2007 9 10 5.84

Ignore the ERA column, and just compare those strikeouts to those walks. Last year Reyes' ratio was 3:1, which damn near doubles the results of most of his career. And this year it's close to 1:1, which is a lot closer to what it's been like for most of his career.

Again, this is in the good news/bad news category. It may very well be that while Reyes shoulder is part of the problem, it isn't the whole problem. On the other hand, if the Twisn can get a pitcher as historically bad as Reyes to improve his command for a year, there is still plenty of hope for Ramon Ortiz.

Torii Hunter
Hunter has been a torrid streak for most of the year, and damn but he's fun to watch when he's on fire. "Clutch" may not be a demonstrable skill, but it's sure fun to watch a supremely talented player bat when he's full of confidence, and Hunter is that player right now. A couple of years ago, he was being tagged with with a reputation of not coming through in big spots. This year, nothing could be further from the truth.

The question, especially in a contract year, is whether it will last. Torii has always been a streaky hitter, and I'd argue that his hot streak in 2002 was what lead to his current contract - a contract the Twins might not have signed in hindsight.

The biggest criticism of Hunter as a batter has been his selectivity. He chases too many bad pitches. He has always been a dangerous hitter, but lacked the plate discipline to become a hitter you trusted in tight spots. Good pitchers felt they could pitch to him. And for what it's worth, his recent hot streak doesn't demonstrate any change in that free-swinging philosophy:

1999 26 72 0.36
2000 18 68 0.26
2001 29 125 0.23
2002 35 118 0.30
2003 50 106 0.47
2004 40 101 0.40
2005 34 65 0.52
2006 45 108 0.42
2007 5 29 0.17

Whatever adjustment Hunter has made, it hasn't helped his batting eye. If anything, he seems to be less selective. Stay tuned.

Nick Punto
I was ready to put chuck Little Nicky Punto under a steamroller on Sunday afternoon. His two hits didn't look half bad in the box score, but he also got himself out on the basepaths, and then failed miserably - twice - to get the tying run home from third with one out. It drove me to look at some numbers for him as well. There's some relatively good news there:

2005 36 86 0.239
2006 47 68 0.290
2007 17 25 0.243

Again, look at the ratio between walks and strikeouts. Last year Punto discovered plate discipline, and coincidentally raised his batting average about 50 points. This year the batting average has been low, but it's been steadily climbing, and the the batting eye still looks like it's there. Punto might end up being the same player he was last year.

Now, you can debate whether that's enough from a third baseman, but make sure you question why it was enough last year, but not this year. I know this - it's certainly not enough if the Piranha can't also execute the things his team needs, like laying down a bunt on a suicide squeeze.

1 comment:

BD57 said...

The ESPN guys made a big deal of the change Hunter's made in his stroke since last year:

"Hunter 2006" had a high left leg kick in his swing (a la Kirby).

"Hunter 2007" has gotten rid of the kick; now he simply picks the left foot up and takes his stride.

IMO, Hunter 2007 should be more consistent even if his selectivity is no better than last year because a consistently quieter head leads to consistently better contact (it's hard enough to hit something moving when your head is still - try doing it when it's moving).