The Padres’ offense is bad. This much we know. Well, we know the Padres offense is performing poorly. Some, perhaps most, of the Padres offense might also be bad. That statement is less concrete because baseball is complicated.
When things don’t go the way we expect, we tend to look for answers. That’s life. What is also life, is accepting answers that may we may not completely understand, because having an answer–any answer–helps us feel better.
Yasmani Grandal and Everth Cabrera were punished last season for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. This season, they’re not hitting as well as we hoped they would. Once answer to why that may be is that our hopes for them were false. Because the two were caught using PEDs, their actual level of talent may be lower than we thought, due to false expectations set by the drugs.
This got an old friend of ours thinking out loud on Twitter, in his usual voice of brutal honesty:
Grandal's HR/FB is 15% so maybe stop throwing the suspension in his face.
— Pog Lankford (@poglankford) August 5, 2014
It got me thinking too. Rather than just sort of guessing I decided to take a look at some things I think could indicate a drop in power, which seems like something that would happen if that player’s previous seasons were fueled by steroids.
Everth is having a poor season at the plate compared compared to previous years. Here are some numbers to consider:
|wRC+||ISO||Line Drive %||HR/FB%|
First, for a general frame of reference, is Cabrera’s park and league adjusted wRC+. He isn’t hitting well. Next is his ISO, or ISOlated Power. I didn’t mention it in my stats series, but ISO looks at a player’s slugging percentage without being affected by the weirdness of batting average. Cabrera’s ISO is fairly below his average, which is pretty poor to begin with. It didn’t drop off a cliff, but it’s down.
Up next is Cabrera’s Line Drive %, which is actually above his career average. Finally, his HR/FB% measures whether Cabrera’s fly balls are hit with authority and land out of the ballpark, or lazily into a fielder’s glove. Cabrera’s three home runs on the year have actually increased as a percentage of his total fly balls, which are down.
Put that all together and you get a guy who’s increased his ground balls a good deal with a slight increase in line drives. For a speedster like Cabrera, that doesn’t sound too bad right? Unfortunately, unless you’re standing behind me, you haven’t seen this chart:
Cabrera is walking less, striking out more, and swinging more this year compared to his career. If you’re thinking that may be because pitchers know he’s off the gear and are challenging him in the strike zone, you must be a pretty awesome person because that’s something I was also thinking. Unfortunately we’re wrong. He’s seeing the same number of pitchers in the zone this year compared to his career.
Yasmani, or “Yazzie” as I like to call him when I’m trying to be annoying, is also not having a great season offensively. Not quite in the same way as Cabrera, instead of hitting “bad” when the expectation is “mostly-decent”, Grandal is hitting “decent” when the expectation is “explode-all-over-baseball-for-being-a-good-hitting-catcher-holy-crap-I-can’t-believe-this-is-actually-happening.”
It may not surprise you to learn Yasmani Grandal is my favorite current Padre.
Anyhoodles, here is Yazzie’s chart:
|wRC+||ISO||Line Drive %||HR/FB%|
Yasmani is hitting poorly for a first baseman but pretty dece for a catcher. His ISO is up compared to his career, so there’s power. His Line Drive % is slightly down, but he’s hitting more fly balls with authority.
The second chart is the fun one:
Yasmani doesn’t seem to have the same issues as Everth with walks, though they are slightly down. But he’s striking out a lot more, and looking at his Zone Contact %, making less contact with balls in the strike zone. His batting average on ball in play (BABIP) is well below both his career as well as below major league average.
Grandal’s season seems to be fueled by a good amount of BABIP related bad luck, plus whatever is causing him to swing and miss at good pitches. That is not the business.
This is where I write my conclusion
We don’t see any indications of a major power drop-off for either player. Hey, we’re all looking for answers for what went wrong with the Padres’ offense this season. But lets not let our desire for explanations get in the way of thinking about stuff. I offered some of my own thoughts for what might be happening to Grandal and Cabrera, but that’s not even a complete explanation. There’s lots going on there. Baseball is complicated, lets treat it as such.