Oracle Report: Batter Banter
We're going to review three hot White Sox batters: Abreu, Flowers & Ramirez. Can any continue along their early season success path?
Jose Abreu is Zeus. Alexei Ramirez is Poseidon and Tyler Flowers is Hermes. At least that's the thought in some circles (for more on the Twelve Olympians click on the link). Unfortunately I'm here to tell you that all may be nothing more than demi-god's, despite their strong starts to the season.
For the Oracle's review of pitchers click on Mound Musings.
BASHING THE WHITE SOX
You can may have read the title to this section wrong. It's not about the “bashing” White Sox. No, I'm going to bash three White Sox. Note I have nothing against Chicago. How could I? My BFF Jeff Mans lives there.
Jose Abreu is a top-5 first baseman. Just ask around. I mean the guys had about as an effective power month as any player who ever lived in his first season in the league, and through 33 games he has 12 bombs and 35 RBIs. That's totally elite stuff. With that ends the happy. Let's get to the real.
We all know Abreu won't have 170 RBIs this season, right? OK, won't waste time on that one.
The homers though, let's spend a moment. He's on pace to push 50 homers. Will that happen? Do I really need to address this? Fine I will.
How many players had a 35.3 percent HR/F ratio in 2013 (that's Abreu's current mark)? The answer is zero. No one even had a mark of 30 percent. Shoot, Chris Davis was the only man in baseball over 26.5 percent at 29.6. How many reached 30 percent in 2012? None. How many in 2011? None. How many in 2010? None. Get the point? You should also take note that in 2010 only one man reached 22 percent. In 2011 only one man reached 23 percent. Even 25 percent is a big time number. People don't do 35 percent, period.
How many batters had a 47 percent ground ball rate at hit 35 homers in 2013 (that's Abreu's current mark). None. Of the five men who reached 35 none had a ground ball rate above 44 percent (Paul Goldschmidt). Ask yourself, even if Abreu were to hit 35 homers this season, would you be truly happy after his start? A significant slowdown in the homer rate is likely on the horizon.
His approach isn't very good at this point either. He's walked 10 times in 33 games. Three of those walks were intentional. That's like a 35 walk pace (non intentional) for the season. That's not good. At all. He's also got 36 Ks in 33 games. That's obviously more than one per game. That's not good. The resulting 0.28 BB/K rate isn't good. The result is a batting average that is barely keeping up with the league average at .254. It's not likely to improve at all given his 71 percent contact rate either. His .317 OBP is below the league average. His 1.32 GB/FB ratio is lower than the league average, and that's the opposite of where you want it to be given his skill set.
Finally, do we know how he's going to hold up playing 150 games? He's certainly not used to playing a season that long.
Things can change. I admit that 33 games certainly isn't enough to paint a complete portrait. But I will write the following confidently. I doubt the batting average will come around, there's no speed to speak of, and there's simply no way to expect his power to continue along at this pace. In the words of my SiriusXM co-host Kyle Elfrink “Jose Abreu is Adam Dunn without the walks.”
Alexei Ramirez has had a special start to the year hitting .328 through 33 games. Reality check. He's not a .328 hitter. He's not a .300 hitter folks. Just look at his baseball card. In six full seasons he's never hit better than .290. In two of the last three seasons he's failed to hit .270. The truth follows.
Ramirez isn't young. He's already 32. People expecting his game to take a leap in 2014 shouldn't be basing that call on his age.
Ramirez is very durable having appeared in 155 games in 4-straight seasons. Ramirez is a very moderately skilled player who produces in fantasy because of the volume of games he plays.
Ramirez has walked a total of 42 times the past two years.
He's never had an OBP above .333 for a season, and his career mark is .317. That's below league average.
Ramirez has no real power. His first four seasons he hit 21, 15, 18 and 15 homers. Solid totals for a shortstop no doubt. However, the last two seasons he's hit a total of 15 homers. Do you therefore believe in the four in 33 game thing this year? I don't. Not just because of the last two seasons, but because his current ground ball rate of 50 percent would be a career-high. Pretty hard to think that number stays that high and he gets back to the 15+ homer level.
What about the steals? He's averaged 25 the past two seasons, and with five thus far he's right on that pace again.
Finally the batting average. As I noted never better than .290 for a season. Under .270 two of the last three years. From 2008-2013 his BABIP was between .288 and .309 every season. Rather remarkable really. Think he's gonna hold on to that .348 mark he's currently sporting? Uh, no. It's even more shocking to see him with a batting average and BABIP that are so high given that his current 14.8 percent line drive rate is a career low, four full points below his career mark. Just no way to paint a picture where the average continues.
Ramirez is a strong option as a middle infielder in mixed leagues. He certainly could be a top-10 option at shortstop as well, but note that the majority of that value will be derived from his wheels and his ability to play nearly every single game. He's not busting out in 2014.
Tyler Flowers isn't related to me. He's also about as far from being a dasher as you could get (well he dashed away from the starting line), but I need my triptych to rhythm, so there it is. Let me keep things simple here. Tyler Flowers isn't very good. How do I know that? Let me count the ways.
Do hitters surpass their career batting average by .100 often? You know the answer to that. Flowers has shown a complete inability to produce in the batting average category the first five years of his career (his season best mark was .213). So how the hell is he batting .330? One word – total luck. OK that was two. How about we try that again – luck. Tyler Flowers has a career .308 BABIP which is about .010 points above the league average. Totally normal. That number right now, and remember posting a .400 mark over the course of a season happens like once every decade, is .500. Seriously. Look it. It's .500. His line drive rate? Mr. Career Slightly Below League Average at 18.3 percent is sporting a 27.1 percent mark. That number is reached about once a decade too.
As if that wasn't all crazy enough, try this on for size. Dude has struck out 32 times in 91 at-bats. That's more than once every three at-bats. That is hideous. Absolutely embarrassing. And he's hitting .330.
More crazy? A power hitter by trade, he had 17 homer over 392 at-bats in 2012-13, Flowers has one homer this season.
The end is coming for Flowers, and it's coming quickly.
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