Wednesday, January 18, 2012

More Options for DH

He's seen many HR fly off his bat in his career.

Ken Davidoff tweeted that representatives of Vladimir Guerrero and Raul Ibanez contacted the Yankees. I've already looked at Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, and Carlos Pena. So are Vlad or Raul good options, or is this another rumor that should be tossed into the wastebasket? Well I'm going to take a look at them separately, starting with Mr. Guerrero.

Last season Vlad Guerrero hit a line of .290/.317/.416, with 13 HR, for the Orioles. A bit different from the .300/.345/.496, with 29 HR, he put up the year before in Texas. Rangers Ballpark at Arlington is a homer haven, as there were a MLB-high 1.5 HR/game hit there last season (Yankee Stadium was 4th in MLB, seeing 1.267 HR/Gm), so that could have had a lot to do with the power drop after leaving the Rangers. But it's not as though Orioles Park is that much worse, as last year it was 8th in MLB in HR/Gm with 1.144. Vlad did play in 7 less games, but that doesn't make up the difference either. Looking further you'll see that his HR% dropped dramatically, from a career average of 5% to 2.2%, and his FB% did go down a bit from a career 36.3% to 32.4%. But the biggest change I see his his HR/FB, which went from a career mark of 13.4% to a career low of 5.9%. He did suffer a hairline fracture in his right hand in July, but looking at his game logs he wasn't hitting home runs any more before the injury than after, so that was really a non-factor. Lastly, his Line Drive percentage was exactly the same as his career average... 20%. So I really don't think the days of Vlad hitting around 25 HR are behind him.

Vladimir's batting average still lookes pretty good, but what about Guerrero's OBP? The reason for this seems to be in his walk percentage. Now, Vlad has never drawn a ton of walks, as he's a hacker. But like Robinson Cano, the guy makes more than enough contact to make up for not seeing a ton of pitches. However, even though he doesn't walk much anyway (8.1% for his career, while Nick Swisher's walk-rate is 13.5%), Vlad's walk-rate went down to 2.9%.

Here's my guess as to what happened... Baltimore did not have a strong lineup at all. The O's scored only 708 runs, which was 1 less than the worst offense in the AL East... the Rays (although the Rays run prevention was easily the best in the AL). I'm certainly not the biggest proponent of the idea of lineup protection, but in this case it's hard to ignore. I'm guessing that Vlad saw very few strikes, as there was really no reason to give him pitches to hit. I wasn't able to find hard stats to back that up, but I did find that he saw a lot more curveballs last season (10.4% of pitches to him were curveballs, as opposed to 7.1% in 2010).

To go along with righty-lefty splits that aren't that far off (career vs. RHP .316/.372/.546, career vs. LHP .322/.400/.572), while believing he'd see a rebound in his power numbers in Yankee Stadium (and with that lineup), I think he'd be a pretty good pick-up. The only obstacle may be salary, as he made $8 million with Baltimore last season, and although he was far from great (for comparison, Carlos Pena does not really deserve a salary drop at all), I don't see him going anywhere for around $2 million. Making all that work above possibly worthless.

I wanted to note that all stats were gathered from Baseball Reference and Fangraphs. Not sure what I'd do without those great websites, which is why SOPA really scares me.

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)