Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Will Mike Stanton hit for average?Posted by Brian Oakchunas
Baseball fans everywhere are excited about getting a good look at Mike Stanton now that he’s in the majors. And there is not a doubt among them—he will hit for power. Mad power. Three-alarm chili pepper hot wings from Wild Bill’s Fire Emporium-type power. And even while they salivate over a hitter who has several more home runs in the minors than anyone in the majors this year, there is still a doubt even among his advocates: can he hit for average?
Because while we have all heard about the home runs, we have also heard about the strikeouts. 53 of them. In the minors. In only 190 at-bats. Sure he has a .311 average, but he wouldn’t be the first hitter to see his average fall out from under him upon his promotion to The Show. With all those strikeouts, one might think his average is bound to crash. Consequently, many fans are tempering their expectations, even as fantasy leaguers—for whom average really counts—are steering clear of him. They don’t want another Mark Reynolds with a .215 average on their team. With that in mind, it is necessary to dive a little deeper into the mystery of Mike Stanton’s minor league numbers to decipher what he is capable of doing in the majors.
In order to really understand what Stanton did in the minors, we need to see a translation, or what those numbers would typically be if someone with the same exact skill-set hit in the majors. Sometimes a rule of thumb for this is to take 30 points off a batting average, which in this case leads to a .281. However, the difference between environments can change greatly depending on the league and park in which a player performs. We can find a more accurate translation by consulting Davenport Translations (DT’s) at Baseball Prospectus. These confirm our suspicion since Stanton’s translated line does indeed sport a .281 batting average. Unfortunately, batting averages can vary wildly depending on luck and Stanton only had less than 200 at-bats.
It is more useful to look at his translated home run and strikeout numbers. The DT’s give him 20 homers and 61 strikeouts in 199 at-bats. Considering that Stanton would still have to send his teammates into the liquor store to buy him beer at this point, his previous baseball record is not going to tell us much either. These are the numbers we have to work with.
Consider a batting average. For every extra hit a player gets in 100 at bats, his average increases by ten points. With the 61 K’s, Stanton’s strikeout rate would be about 31%. Yes, that is some serious Ryan Howard territory. It is about 12% higher than average, which means that he’d K 12 more times than a regular major leaguer in 100 AB’s. If all 12 of those balls were in play, three or four of them would fall in for hits (since BABIP trends around .300). To account for this, we can take 35 points off the typical MLB average (.267 in most years). That would give him a .232 average.
Ouch. Fortunately for Stanton and fantasy leaguers everywhere there is more to it than that. All those home runs he hits are automatic hits. A typical major leaguer hits round-trippers in only three percent of at-bats, but Stanton’s 20 homers would be good for ten percent. Of those seven extra dingers in every 100 at-bats, usually only two would be hits if they stayed in the park. That means that Stanton would get five extra hits due to his power and consequently raise his average by 50 points. That gets him back up to .282, confirming that his minor league and translated averages were not enhanced by luck he had in the minors.
There are other factors to consider. While pop-ups hurt hitters and line drives help them, there is no way to know how Stanton will do in these areas because batted ball data is not available for minor leaguers and even if it were, we don’t have enough at-bats to know whether his trends in these areas would continue.
Speed can also help batters improve their average. While Stanton does not steal many bases, his speed score has hovered around average in his minor league career according to Fangraphs. And Florida’s ballpark is neutral in its effect on batting average.
In other words, we don’t have much to go on other than the whiffs and the power. While the strikeouts hurt Stanton, the homers help him even more and it adds up to a decent projected average. As a result, we need not fear the strikeout—at least not for this masher.
Brian has been writing about baseball and playing in high stakes fantasy competitions for the better part of the last decade. He can be reached via e-mail.