Managing Expectations

Just for the heck of it, here are three second-half split lines for your review.

  • .367/.404/.656, 136 PA, .436 BABIP
  • .308/.386/.592, 329 PA, .332 BABIP
  • .348/.381/.625, 118 PA, .423 BABIP

One of the most difficult things to evaluate is a player hot streak.  Is it an indicator of a new level of performance the player will keep?  Is it a flash in the pan?  This evaluation is made more difficult when the team is ‘playing out the string’.  Even though the competition is major league all the time – unlike spring training, where it can vary dramatically – it’s tough to determine causality.  Is the player looser at the plate because the games matter less?  Has he changed his pitch selection pattern?  Has he fixed a hole in his swing?

Will Venable is currently on a hot streak.  The reigning NL Player of the Week won the award by hitting .406 (13-32), leading the NL in hits during the week, and tying for second in runs scored (seven).  A fifteen game hitting streak that was snapped last Monday night, he leads the team in HR this season.  As VM Nate detailed Monday, none of us  – and I daresay, none of you reading this either – are getting excited about his future hitting potential, current hot streak notwithstanding.  Venable is 30; by every player aging metric, he’s already peaked.

That ‘grain of salt’ approach wasn’t necessarily taken for the other two players above.

The middle line is Chase Headley‘s 2012 run after the All-Star Break.  It was good enough that he finished 5th in the NL MVP voting and sparked a still-ongoing debate as to whether he should be extended.  Is that two-month Headley the real Chase?  Or is the hitter he has been every other month of his major league career, and that surge was just a career ‘year’?  This year he has been merely average by OPS+ (99, in fact), not helping his case for an extension based on his offensive output.

Headley is 29.  His defense is still superior.  Most recent example:  the diving stop he made yesterday to rob Gaby Sanchez.  He looks lost at the plate right now, especially from the left side (more detailed Chase analysis was done by AJM last week).  The Padres have a couple of converted third baseman on the roster at the moment, so one wonders if they will eventually let Headley walk and move Forsythe or Gyorko back to third.

The first line is Nick Hundley, 2011.  Nick’s line very much resembles Venable’s current line.  He had a ridiculous average on balls hit in play.  He hit for power.  And, he had less than 150 plate appearances.  Nick had come back from injuries earlier that year and appeared to put it all together.  At least, I thought he had.  The Padres didn’t think so, trading for Yasmani Grandal in the off-season.  Hundley spent most of 2012 hurt.  This year he’s been average (OPS+ of 101).

Nick Hundley is 29.  His situation is the most interesting, because we don’t really know what we have in Grandal.  Is he the monster hitter he was in 2012?  Or was all that steroids induced?  Grandal’s 2013 cannot be used to project his future.  Suspension and injury sandwiched 108 PAs and an OPS+ of 102.  Quite a drop from last year’s 143.  Hundley could remain the #1 catcher here regardless of how he hits, until Austin Hedges is ready.

As Padres fans we are conditioned to look at the glass as always half-empty.  No one expects Venable to turn into Brian Giles.  No one thinks Headley is as bad a hitter as he has been this year, but probably isn’t going to be as consistently good a hitter as he was July-Sept 2012.  Nick Hundley is just holding down the fort until younger players take over.  All very realistic, all sound.

This was to run Tuesday but didn’t due to unexpected events.  Thanks for reading.

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