Fill in with Blanks, signed X

Early yesterday afternoon the Padres announced the call-up of Kyle Blanks.  To make room for him, Xavier Nady was Designated for Assignment.

Initially I couldn’t figure out why a team that dragged Mark Kotsay‘s rotting carcass around for a full season would DFA X. But, Nady isn’t hitting (.135/.238/.405).  Why he isn’t hitting is harder to answer. He did get thrust into a more prominent role than he probably expected.  He was never intended to start regularly, which became something of a requirement thanks to Carlos Quentin‘s seemingly unending rehab, Tommy Medica‘s sudden inability to hit Major League pitching, and Cameron Maybin‘s injury.  Nady played the full 9 in 5 of his first 17 games.  In contrast, Kotsay played a full game in only two of his first 17 appearances last year.  Nady got more work early; it didn’t help.

Another factor might be as simple the timing of his slump.  X was off to a horrid start, as the slash line above shows.  Kotsay, in his first 42 PA last year, hit .333/.381/.359.  Big contributor, got out of the chute hot.  Of course, for the rest of the season Kotsay hit .147/.181/.392, leaving him plenty of time on the bench to perfect his taco recipe.  But that hot start may have cemented his value to the team in the eyes of management, no matter how bad his later performance was.

Xavier seemed to have two things still going for him:  he is the current team leader tied for the team lead in HR (3), and he still terrorizes LHP (SSS, but .200/.368/.667 in 12 PA).  His current OPS+ is 82.  Here’s a complete list of current Padres not meeting that lofty standard.

All of those guys start regularly (except Jace, who’s here until Headley comes back).  On this team, Nady’s an above average hitter.  Hard to part with that, but the offense is struggling.  Who else should get shipped out?  What other hitter is going to get sent down to bring Blanks up?

There’s no question Blanks should have been brought up.  As the above list demonstrates this team is STARVING for offense.  Blanks has been tearing it up in AAA.  The problem is, as I will try to show next, Blanks isn’t a real good answer.

Blanks struggles to hit Major League pitching.  That he struck out twice last night is coincidence, but not all that unexpected.  Although his traditional career numbers are somewhat gaudy (28 HR, 98 RBI in 796 PA), and his OBP is decent (.312), he carries a .791 OPS and a barely league average career OPS+ (102).  Most of his career numbers are driven by his excellent 2009 debut, when he hit 10 of those 28 HR and posted an OPS+ of 137.  Since, he’s been just below league average or worse by OPS+.

Blanks has prodigious power; he also swings and misses a lot.  He has struck out in 30% of his career plate appearances.  Striking out that much means there are holes in your swing, and plate coverage.  Consider this graphic, courtesy of Brooks Baseball:

blanks percentage whiffs - brooksbaseball

Basically the RED sections on this chart are places you want to pitch Kyle; the BLUE show where if he swings, he normally makes contact.  That’s a whole lotta places Kyle can be worked, especially up and  in away, low, or low and away in.  To my untrained eye Blanks has never been able to handle the low outside pitch off the plate; like Kid Kelly, he can’t hit that pitch, but can’t lay off it either.  This graphic seems to back that up as well.

Maybe Blanks has figured it out this time. That would be awesome, as the Padres sorely need a reliable bat; a reliable power bat would be like Christmas and the Fourth of July rolled into one.  If he hits at his career OPS+ he’s a top six hitter on the current team.  It’s more likely that Blanks will struggle this turn with the team as well, cementing his status as a AAAA hitter – too good for AAA, not quite good enough for the Majors.

I post on Tuesdays, and sometimes on other days when Eric Stults isn’t driving me to distraction.

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  • Cardinal70

    Good stuff, as always, but can you find Kotsay’s taco recipe on-line anywhere? Thinking it might be worth a try.

  • Lonnie Brownell

    “That’s a whole lotta places Kyle can be worked, especially up and in, low, or low and away.”

    I think that should be “…up and away, low, or low and in.” Kyle’s right-handed, and that chart is from the catcher’s POV.

    In any case, there’s a whole lot of red and purple in that chart, and there’s only a few places you really don’t want to pitch to him.

    • Curse my left-handed bias! You’re right. Fixed.

  • LynchMob

    Alonso at OPS+ = 23! Wow, that’s *painful*! How? Why? Can / will he get back to career norms?

    And it’s pretty amazing that Gyorko and Headley and Venable are also so sub-100 OPS+ … these guys should all still be around 100 … right?