As Time Goes Byby Dave Studeman
August 08, 2004
I was watching a Cubs/Brewers game about a month ago, when Steve Stone mentioned that Scott Podsednik's average had declined because he was hitting more balls in the air than he had earlier in the season. Steve went on to say that the Milwaukee coaches were working with Podsednik to try and get him to hit the ball on the ground and take better advantage of his speed.
Now, I have to admit that there's something about Steve Stone that makes me wince. It might be that flukey Cy Young award he won, but it's more likely just something about his voice. He kind of sounds like a salesman who knows everything about that software he's trying to sell you, very friendly and interesting to a certain degree. But you sort of have this feeling that he can't talk about his product in depth. You ask if it will run on Linux, and he responds with several paragraphs of fine words, but you don't quite trust the answer.
Of course, I'm not being fair here. So I thought to myself, "Hey, I can figure this out with the Hardball Times stats. I can calculate Podsednik's GB/FB ratio by month to see if Steve Stone really does know what he's talking about."
So I did, and he does. Here are a few monthly stats for Podsednik: his Groundball/Flyball ratio, the percent of his hits that have been line drives (LD%), his Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP; doesn't include strikeouts or home runs) and his On-Base Percentage.
Apr May June July GB/FB 1.7 1.4 .7 1.5 LD% .128 .140 .143 .168 BABIP .341 .227 .278 .277 OBP .383 .325 .312 .262Keep in mind that Steve Stone spoke to me in the middle of June, and you can see that he was right on at the time. Podsednik's ground ball ratio had declined dramatically. Give them both credit. Stone knew his stuff and Podsednik started hitting the ball on the ground again. Unfortunately, his bottom line hasn't improved -- his July OBP was the worst of the year.
The BABIP tells you that Podsednik had a lot of hits go his way in April, and they didn't go his way in July. BABIP is typically a result of how many line drives a batter hits -- adding .110 to a batter's LD% is a good rule of thumb for BABIP -- and the Pod was extremely lucky in April, unlucky in May and just right in July. Really, those coaches should work on his ability to draw a walk -- he only received four bases on balls in July.
Of course, the Pod wasn't the only batter to get off to a hot start and subsequently see his performance decline. Here's a list of players whose second two months were appreciably cooler than their first two. To compute this list, I computed each player's :GPA: for each month, and then looked at the biggest declines from the first two months to the second two months.
Player Team Apr May Jun Jul Diff Wilson PIT .366 .347 .198 .269 -0.123 Uribe CHW .350 .278 .231 .153 -0.122 Giambi NYY .325 .302 .210 .176 -0.120 Berkman HOU .354 .435 .255 .299 -0.118 Payton SDP .240 .322 .147 .186 -0.115 Johnson COL .407 .269 .201 .247 -0.114 Harvey KC .326 .312 .224 .228 -0.093 Lowell FLO .329 .389 .223 .317 -0.090 Casey CIN .364 .344 .288 .246 -0.087 White DET .318 .294 .179 .260 -0.087 Posada NYY .363 .338 .251 .277 -0.086 Mora BAL .331 .387 .258 .295 -0.083 Palmeiro BAL .300 .280 .213 .222 -0.072Of course, Jason Giambi and Sean Casey have good excuses. And you knew some of those other players, like Craig Wilson, would find their way to earth. My prediction: Juan Uribe's GPA will go up in August. You can quote me on that.
How about the positive spin? Here are the guys whose second two months were significantly better than the first two:
Player Team Apr May Jun Jul Diff Nevin SDP .273 .258 .328 .419 0.108 Kotsay OAK .204 .252 .331 .328 0.101 Edmonds STL .317 .278 .328 .452 0.092 Vidro MON .236 .216 .358 .275 0.091 Winn SEA .212 .235 .291 .325 0.085 Sheffield NYY .281 .266 .391 .325 0.084 Rowand CHW .239 .262 .349 .317 0.083 Lee CHC .267 .252 .367 .317 0.083 Polanco PHI .251 .075 .259 .232 0.082 Beltre LAD .348 .231 .344 .387 0.076 Jeter NYY .182 .261 .352 .236 0.072 Ortiz BOS .313 .271 .370 .350 0.068 Cameron NYM .263 .200 .253 .345 0.068This list is insightful -- we often remember the guys who had the hot starts, but we tend to overlook those with the hot middles. For instance, Jim Edmonds' .452 GPA in July has been the best month of any major league player not named Bonds this year. On a team with Scott Rolen and Albert Pujols, that might get overlooked. And while Phil Nevin only had 50 plate appearances in July, he has been sizzling since returning from knee surgery in the middle of the month. Modern medicine is amazing.
So who have been the most consistent batters this year? Here's a list of those players with the lowest variance, or standard deviation, in GPA for each of the first four months:
Player Team Apr May Jun Jul SD Konerko CHW .300 .301 .301 .301 0.001 Kendall PIT .274 .271 .277 .266 0.005 Jimenez CIN .245 .260 .250 .258 0.007 Gonzalez COL .222 .240 .238 .229 0.008 Drew ATL .330 .340 .356 .333 0.011 Martinez SEA .269 .237 .252 .245 0.013 Hall MIL .231 .254 .219 .223 0.015 Bellhorn BOS .278 .273 .273 .307 0.016 Molina ANA .237 .261 .227 .258 0.017 Guzman MIN .234 .246 .219 .260 0.017Friggin' Paul Konerko. After an abysmal 2003, he has been the very model of consistent run production this year. And J.D. Drew has been consistently even better. Kudos should also go to Mark Bellhorn and Jason Kendall for their dependable, above-average production this year. Unfortunately, Bellhorn was just sent to the disabled list.
Of course, consistent doesn't mean good. Check out Billy Hall in Milwaukee, or the Twins' Cristian Guzman.
Speaking of good, I'd like to finish with a couple of New York Yankees. After slow starts, both Gary Sheffield and Derek Jeter have turned it up this season -- especially Sheffield -- and I thought a little more monthly detail might be in order. Hopefully, all of these stats are familiar to you by now:
Sheffield April May June July GPA .281 .266 .391 .325 SLG .393 .422 .730 .612 GB/FB 1.8 1.1 .9 .7 LD% .192 .155 .239 .180 BABIP .319 .280 .300 .256Sheffield was just hitting too many groundballs in the beginning of the year. He is a line drive/flyball hitter (check out the line drives in June), but he wasn't finding his groove the first two months. Obviously, he's found his groove since, and he now leads the American League in Win Shares Above Average. You can see it in the results (GPA, SLG) and in the underlying stats as well (GB/FB, LD%).
Jeter April May June July GPA .182 .261 .352 .236 SLG .248 .492 .622 .388 GB/FB 2.5 1.1 1.3 1.5 LD% .221 .163 .208 .165 BABIP .214 .307 .394 .286Derek Jeter also hit too many groundballs in April, but the real story was his BABIP. It appears that Jeter actually hit the ball well in April -- he was hitting line drives at a .221 rate -- but hits were falling in at only a .214 rate. In retrospect, that was the clue that his April was an aberration.
On the other hand, his June was tremendously lucky, as his BABIP far exceeded his LD%. Unlike Sheffield, you can't really say that Jeter is in a groove. All you can say is that his luck has evened out. That's what tends to happen in the fourth dimension.
References and Resources
If you haven't read Stephen Hawking's book, I highly recommend it.
Dave was called a "national treasure" by Rob Neyer. Seriously. Comments about this article can be sent to him through the miracle of e-mail.
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