Thursday, May 23, 2013

Where I Stand On Vernon Wells Today

"Here I come!"

After Curtis Granderson went 3-for-3 last night, including a double and home run, I figured this would be a good time to re-evaluate something I said almost a month and a half ago.
Yankee fans should enjoy the ride [referring to Vernon Wells hitting] but expect it to be over sooner rather than later, which will make the decision on what to do in the outfield when Granderson returns much easier.
At the time I wrote that the season was only 6 games old, but Wells was hitting .360/.467/.720, and he had many Yankee fans thinking he'd turned the corner. Like what Toronto saw prior to signing Vernon to that 7 year $126 million deal, some Bomber fans thought we had the guy that hit .282/.338/.493 between the 2004 and 2006 seasons, rather than the guy that hit .244/.291/.456 between 2010 and 2012.

While it's true that the numbers have come down, Wells is still hitting pretty well. He's hit .267/.327/.511 over the last two weeks, bringing his total for the season to .287/.341/.506. I wonder if he's changed my mind, and it may be Ichiro that is pushed back to the #4 outfielder instead?

"許" - Japanese for "huh?"

One of the stats I like to look at, and mentioned first in the above linked article, is batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Vernon's was .389 at the time, which was unlikely to continue. Sure enough, his BABIP current stands at .285, which is a number that I can totally see continuing. I got curious about how much contact he's making this season, and I found that his contact percentage of 79.3% is actually a bit lower than his career average of 82.7% (it was 85.6% in 2012). So we could start seeing a few more base hits, assuming he puts the ball in play more than he has been.

When it comes to looking at a players' BABIP, I also take a glance at their line drive percentage (LD%). After all, if a player is not hitting the ball as hard, then it makes sense for his BABIP to be a bit lower. Back on April 12th Wells had a LD% of 30%, which was much higher than his career mark of 19% (it was only 15% between 2010 and 2012), so keeping that up seemed highly unlikely. Sure enough, that number has fallen to 22% today, just a little more than his career mark. It does concern me that Wells' LD% was only 15% over the previous three seasons, but I'm optimistic that it won't drop all the way down to the 12% or 14% it was in 2010 and 2011 (it was 18% in 2012).

Vernon's strikeout rate was pretty close to his career norm, while he was walking a lot more than normal. At the time he was walking in 16.7% of his at bats, as opposed to 6.6% in his career (6% between 2010 and 2012). Today that number sits at 7.8%, and although that's still a bit higher than his average, I think he can keep up that pace.

Lastly, I looked at Vernon Wells' power, which was also out of whack as seen by his Isolated Power (ISO) of .360 at the time. His ISO is currently .219, which is higher than his career ISO of .195, but not so different that it should be of much concern. Breaking Vernon's ISO down, I expect his home run production to slow a bit, as how his home run percentage is currently at 5.6%, as opposed to his career mark of 3.9%. However, his extra-base hit percentage of 8.9% is a bit lower than his career percentage of 9.7% (9.9% between 2010 and 2012).

A few less home runs is not a big problem at all, as Wells should still hit around 25 bombs, which is what he averaged between 2010 and 2012. All that less home runs means is that the guys in front of him will have to get into scoring position more often, so that they can score thanks to Wells hitting more extra-base hits.

To sum things up, you can count me among those that have hopped on the Vernon Wells bandwagon. Not that this particular bandwagon is full of people that think he's going to garner some MVP votes during his time in pinstripes, but he not only has something left in the tank... he's going to show it.

"Now that's more like it."

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