Power in Numbers

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:

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 Cabrera

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%
Everth Cabrera 59 0.067 20.9% 9.1%
Career 85 0.085 19.2% 5.0%

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:

BB/K Swing% Zone%
Everth Cabrera 0.21 44.40% 50.20%
Career 0.41 41.30% 50.10%

Womp womp.

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 Grandal

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 Grandal 95 0.168 17.4% 15.3%
Career 115 0.162 18.3% 14.3%

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:

BB% K% BABIP Zone Contact%
Yasmani Grandal 12.4% 27% .250 79.4%
Career 13.6% 21.5% .285 83.1%

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.

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  • LynchMob

    And the Padres’ perspective here … http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article/sd/padres-choose-rangers-assistant-gm-aj-preller-to-be-next-gm?ymd=20140805&content_id=88158682&vkey=news_sd

    Sounds like a good move … and I would have been happy with Kim Ng …

  • ballybunion

    The offense hasn’t been that bad since the All Star break. Then it was .214 but now it’s up to .224. The .171 June performance may have masked a better hitting team than the numbers suggest. There may also be a bounce with the departure of Headley and Quentin to the DL. There are now recent call ups and trades looking to impress the new GM, and Seth Smith is back on a tear, anchoring the middle of the lineup.

    And don’t look now, but Everth is starting to hit, as is Alonso. I have to give Grandal a pass, since the knee surgery he had usually requires a much longer rehab than he took. He should still be on a rehab assignment, working himself back into shape, but instead was doing spot duty behind the plate, and Bud’s been pulling him from starts after 5-6 innings recently, so he’s not all the way back yet.

    I’d still like to see another reliable, everyday bat in the lineup, without weakening an excellent pitching staff, but that might be all it takes to contend.