Sunday, April 20, 2008
Is Jason Giambi Cooked?
One of the traps we all tend to fall into when our teams aren’t playing as well as we would like is to start scapegoating. I’m as guilty of it as anyone. With the Yankees stuck at .500 after 20 games, there are a few primary targets for the Yankees relatively disappointing performances. It’s mainly on the pitching side with Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy struggling and with Kyle Farnsworth being Kyle Farnsworth. On the offensive side, poor starts by Robinson Cano and Johnny Damon are also big issues. I think most of us expect Cano to start hitting soon, and Damon is at least a decent defensive LF who can be benched for Hideki Matsui if he continues to not hit.
Which brings us to Jason Giambi and the questions about if he’s done. If you look at his current line of .109/.288/.283 it pretty much seems like a no-brainer, but we’re talking about 60 plate appearances. We can’t draw meaningful distinctions from 60 plate appearances, but I have to write about something, so here goes.
Giambi’s BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is an obscenely low .088. Let’s put that in context. Since 1945, there have only been seven seasons by a player who had 300 AB and had a BABIP under .200.
playerID yearID BABIP
kirklwi01 1962 .188
dittmja01 1952 .191
camparo01 1954 .191
triangu01 1959 .192
roberda06 1974 .197
huntebi03 1957 .198
maxvida01 1969 .198
There’s certainly some selection bias in here because anyone who is having a bad year on balls in play would likely be benched or released. If we change the threshold to anyone who got 100 AB, we find that only two players have had a BABIP under .100 in 100 or more ABs.
playerID yearID BABIP
chrisne01 1959 .089
jonesra01 1976 .094
Randy Jones was a pitcher and won the Cy Young that season, so he is forgiven. As far as Neil Chrisley, i guess there’s a reason he only lasted 5 years in the majors. The really amazing part of Chrisley’s 1959 is it was his age 27 season, which is many times a player’s peak season.
So in 20216 player seasons of 100 AB or more, only one person has had a BABIP as low as Giambi’s currently is. Is Giambi the worst hitter in the history of baseball at this point? I’m sure that the lefty shift that teams have been employing against him definitely doesn’t help, but here are Giambi’s BABIP stats by season as a Yankee.
Dan Fox, formerly of Baseball Prospectus, has done research that shows that a player’s BABIP typically relates to their line drive percentage, which makes sense since line drives are the most likely types of balls in play to become hits (around 75% of the time). If you add .12 to a player’s line drive percentage you get a rough approximation of what a player’s expected BABIP should be. In Giambi’s case, he’s got a pretty weak 8.3% line drive percentage this season. If we add .12 to that we get an expected BABIP of .203, which is still pretty bad. Still, if we plug that in then Giambi should have 4 more singles than he has so far, which makes his line .196/.356/.370. That’s still not very good, but it’s about 20 runs better over a full season. If we give him a weighted BABIP based on balls in play from 2005-2008 he’d have a BABIP of .255, and a line of .239/.390/.413, which is serviceable, if not great and would be worth another 10 runs or so over the .196/.356/.370 adjusted line.
The reason I’m not ready to write Giambi off just yet is not just the fact that he may be having bad luck on balls in play. His K rate is actually pretty good.
Year BB/PA K/PA
2002 15.8% 16.3%
2003 18.7% 20.3%
2004 14.6% 19.3%
2005 19.8% 20.0%
2006 19.0% 18.3%
2007 13.2% 21.8%
2008 18.6% 16.9%
He’s walking more than he’s striking out which tells me he’s not completely overmatched. Steve Lombardi had an interesting post about Giambi and how he matches up against certain types of pitchers. I don’t agree with Steve’s conclusion that the Yankees should just cut Giambi, but the matchup breakdown is food for thought. Against pitchers classified as power pitchers his production plummets pretty severely. This tells me that the Yankees may want to use matchups when playing Giambi, not necessarily by individual pitcher/batter matchups but by style of pitcher. I’d probably sit him against some hard throwers and lefties and get Morgan Ensberg into some games.
Giambi very well could be finished, but his performance to date is not enough evidence to convince me yet. I do think he should probably not be starting every game unless he works his way out of his current funk (if he can).
The Yankees beat Baltimore 7-1 earlier today. Andy Pettitte was brilliant, taking a perfect game into the fifth and going seven scoreless with five Ks and lowering his season ERA to 2.45. So much for all the hGh nonsense ruining his season.
Alex Rodriguez left the game with a strained quad, which isn’t good news for a team that’s not scoring as much as they need to. Hopefully it’s a minor issue and he won’t miss much time.
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