Is Zobrist Due to Bounce Back?

December 18, 2010 at 1:24 pm 2 comments

Ben Zobrist

Ben Zobrist saw a major decline from his breakout 2009 season during 2010.  Take a quick look:

 Stat  2009  2010
 AVG  .297  .238
 OBP  .405  .346
 SLG  .543  .353
 OPS+  149  95
 ISO  .246  .115
 HR  27  10
 wOBA  .408  .323
 BABIP  .326  .273


Looking at those huge drops in numbers you would expect the drop in BABIP but you would also think there had to be some other stat that stood out.  Drop in BB%, spike in K%, or drop in BB/K rate?

Zobrist actually mantained his BB and K rates from the 2009 season.  In 2009 he had a 15.2 BB%, 20.8 K%, and .88 BB/K rate.  In 2010 he had a 14.0 BB%, 19.8 K%, and .86 BB/K rate.  In 2010 Zobrist also stole more bases and still psoted a 3.1 fWAR, salvaging a horrible season at the plate.

Do I think Zobrist will reach his 2009 season again?  Probably not.  His 2009 season was MVP caliber with his 8.4 fWAR.  The .336 BABIP is well above his career average of .278, although that is brought down due to his first few stints in the Majors.  But I do believe he can be an All-Star again.

His drop in numbers in 2010 can be attributed, I believe, to three things:  his swing, his out of zone contact, and his in zone patience. 

Prior to the 2008 season Zobrist sought the counsel of independent hitting instructor Jaime Cevallos and he helped Zobrist level his swing and add loft. 

In 2010, Zobrist’s swing seemed to flatten, leading to a 2.6% increase in groundballs, 2.2% decrease in line-drives, and a lot of weak flyballs.  His HR/FB rate went from 17.4% in 2008 to 17.5% in 2009 then to a measly 6.0% in 2010.

Although he remained a patient hitter with a lot of walks and his overall Swing% stayed the same at 37.8%, his O-Swing% jumped from 19.5% to 25.3% while his Z-Swing% fell from 59.3% to 53.4%.  We also saw his O-contact% jump from 65.3% to 72.6%, creating a ton of weak contact. 

Bottom line was that Zobrist was still swinging the same percentage of time but he was letting more strikes in the zone go by and swinging, yet making weak contact, at more balls out of the zone.

Zobrist is one of the hardest workers in the game.  If something falls short in his game he finds other ways to add value while he works to make the weakness better.  His weakness that brought his numbers down is something that he can fix and I do expect a bounce back season somewhere in the .270/.380/.470 realm from Zobrist in 2011.


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