The Hangover: Allen Cordoba Is Performing (Slightly) Better Than His Numbers

Allen Cordoba got a rare start at shortstop yesterday and went 0-for-3 with an error, although he drew a walk and turned a couple of double plays.

Cordoba, of course, is a Rule 5 pick, plucked from the Cardinals over the winter and dropped into the majors from Rookie Ball. That kind of disruption to the normal developmental process is supposed to backfire, but Cordoba’s hitting .263/.333/.456 through 63 scattered plate appearances, generally looking the part of a legit player. It’s a super small sample size, and those numbers don’t mean much in the long run, but it’s still impressive to see a player with Cordoba’s limited professional track record hold his own, and more, in a rushed big-league debut.

I got to thinking: maybe he’s faced a ton of left-handed pitchers or just a ton of really bad pitchers, and that’s inflating the numbers some. It’s possible that Andy Green and company have picked the perfect spots for Cordoba, and that his performance has come in situations that don’t quite reflect what a typical everyday player might face. In fact, that’d make perfect sense, as you’d want to ease Cordoba in as much as possible with favorable matchups.

Turns out, it’s the opposite. First off, Cordoba has only gotten 12 PAs against lefties all season, about a 19 percent clip (and seven of those are against Madison Bumgarner, Patrick Corbin, and Clayton Kershaw). By comparison, Wil Myers has faced a left-handed pitcher in 30 percent of his career PAs. Same thing for Hunter Renfroe. Cordoba definitely isn’t facing an abnormally large share of lefties.

Perhaps more interesting, though: he’s facing good pitchers in general. Baseball Prospectus tracks the quality of pitchers each batter faces, and so far the group of pitchers Cordoba’s faced this season has posted a .247/.309/.406 (.255 TAv) triple slash line against all batters. By BP’s method, that’s the 42nd toughest set of pitchers faced in all of the majors, among the 337 hitters with at least 50 plate appearances, and first among Padres. Sticking with Myers as a comparison, his opposing pitchers have given up a .249/.316/.411 (.263 TAv) line, a relatively slight uptick. Other hitters have had a more glaring edge, like Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers, whose opposing pitchers have been rocked to a .261/.330/.431 (.283 TAv) tune.

In general, it’s not a huge difference and it’s important to restate that the small samples involved here render these findings even less meaningful. Thing is, we’re not searching for an answer here; we’re not necessarily trying to figure out how good Cordoba is right now, or even how good he’ll be in five years. We’re just searching for clues, kicking around pebbles and seeing what turns up. This makes Cordoba’s early success just a tiny bit more impressive, but we’ll take whatever we can get.

He’ll be interesting to follow the rest of this season regardless, and if he keeps this up, he’ll be on the field more often this summer.

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  • Tommy Wright

    Thanks for the analysis Dustin. This certainly adds color to the context of Cordoba. Along with Hedges’ power, Renfroe’s recently plate discipline, Margot’s all around excellence, and Podermo’s step forward, Cordoba is one of the highlights of the Padre season thus far.

    • Appreciate it, Tommy. Like you mention, there have been a number of positive strides made by younger players this year (plus Trevor Cahill!). In that sense, things are going pretty well. Hopefully the young guys will keep improving and adjusting as the season goes on.

  • chili

    You continue to do great work, man. Impressive.