Posts tagged ‘Ben Zobrist’

2011 Rays Projections: Ben Zobrist

I won’t bore you with a long post about how Ben Zobrist will bounce back because quite frankly I already wrote it.

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. This is easily fixed, especially by a guy that works as hard as Zobrist and the projections show a big bounce back. Take a look:

 Stat  Total
 AVG  .272
 OBP  .376
 SLG  .449
 OPS  .825
 Plate App.  627
 At-Bats  530
 Hits  144
 Homeruns  19
 Doubles  29
 Triples  4
 BB  92
 SO  106
 SB  22
 UZR  +11


My gut had him in the .270/.380/.470 range with the article I wrote about him bouncing back and the projections are a little short but not too far off. Zobrist bouncing back is a key component to the Rays’ 2011 success and my money is on him doing so and possibly eclipsing the above projections.


March 22, 2011 at 10:31 am 2 comments

Why Not Leadoff With Manny Ramirez?

(AP Photo/Dave Martin)

It doesn’t matter where I hit. I’m Manny Ramirez, so it doesn’t matter.” – Manny Ramirez on (Ian Browne, 05/15/2005)

Rays manager Joe Maddon had new offensive weapon Manny Ramirez in the leadoff spot yesterday to get him at-bats in early before the weekend. This launched a run of jokes and actual misunderstandings about what a leadoff hitter should be when it was announced.

A lot of tweets joking about Manny’s ability to bunt for hits and steal bases were made, and it got me realizing that a lot of people do not understand what a leadoff hitter should be.

This same kind of thing happened last year when Maddon decided to bat John Jaso in the leadoff spot. You would have thought people actually believed that Joe Maddon lost his mind and needed to find it. Maddon proved to be correct when Jaso finished the season leading all players with a .380 OBP from the leadoff spot.

In a twitter conversation with R.J. Anderson and a few others there does appear to be growing concern among some that Jaso could see some regression if he does not learn to hit for higher than a .270 AVG that is loaded with mostly singles. If he cannot then Major League pitchers will catch on and do nothing but throw him strikes, forcing his hand at putting more balls in play (career .281 BABIP) and reducing his walk rates, which he lives by. If this happens he may be dropped to the bottom of the Rays order.

B.J. Upton has the leadoff spot against left-handers secured but struggled mightily against right-handers. So who will leadoff against right-handers if Jaso does regress? Ben Zobrist is a great option but why not Manny?

Over the past three seasons Manny Ramirez has posted a .428 OBP against right-handed pitchers as opposed to a .396 OBP against left-handers, not that there is anything wrong with that. Last year was his worst of the three seasons and he still posted a .404 OBP against RHPs.

Many’s power is on the decline with his ISO going from .270-to-.241-to-.162 from 2008-2010. Why not utilize his best weapon right now? Contrary to popular belief and what Mitch Williams may say on MLB Network, the leadoff spot is not reserved for speedy slap hitters who force the thirdbaseman in because their bunt is more potent a weapon than their power. The leadoff spot is meant to give high percentage on-base players a spot where he can get the most chances to get on-base.

Maddon’s decision to bat Manny leadoff was said to get him early at-bats but who knows, maybe we will see Manny bat there in the regular? If there is a manager out there that will bunk conventional wisdom it’s Joe Maddon and Manny was right in 2005, it doesn’t matter where he hits, and that includes leadoff.

March 12, 2011 at 9:02 am 3 comments

No Room for Kotchman on Rays Roster

(Photo by Jonathan C. Mitchell)

The Rays are stacked deep at almost every position except first base. The same question is always brought up: Who will play firstbase for the Rays in 2011? Will it be the unproven Dan Johnson? How about using Ben Zobrist but at the expense of his valuable glove playing 2B and RF? I laugh at those who mention Leslie Anderson. But one other choice that is brought up is Casey Kotchman, and one thing is for sure he does not belong on a contending team as a starting firstbaseman.

Kotchman has had four seasons in his career with at least 125 games played and over 430 plate appearances. Only once in those four seasons has he posted a BB% higher than 9%, a wRC above league average, an OPS+ above league average, and a wOBA above .325. In fact, his stats have declined to the point where last year he was worth -1.1 fWAR and -0.9 rWAR. Take a look at his declining stats:

 Stat  2007  2008  2009  2010
 AVG  .296  .272  .268  .217
 OBP  .372  .328   .339  .280
 SLG  .467  .410  .382  .336
 ISO  .172  .137  .114  .118
 OPS+  119  93  90  73
 wRC+  120  97  92  66
 wOBA  .362  .322  .317  .270
 fWAR  +3.3  +1.8  +1.0  -1.1
 rWAR  +3.1  +1.1  +1.5  -0.9
 UZR  12.6  11.7  7.8  -0.4


Even his “bread-n-butter” defense was of negative value last season and if you were to take the average of those four seasons you would get a firstbaseman that would hit .264/.331/.401 with a 95 OPS+ and 1.2 rWAR and 1.25 fWAR, and there is no reason to believe Kotchman could put those numbers up in the AL East after declining each of the past three seasons.

The Rays will be best served by giving the firstbase job to Dan Johnson and letting Joe Maddon use the versatile Ben Zobrist to back him up, thus allowing Sean Rodriguez and Matt Joyce to get playing time at their respected positions. Having Kotchman on the roster kills the chances of Rodriguez and Joyce finding ample playing time. There simply is no room for Kotchman on the Rays roster.

March 5, 2011 at 7:53 pm 2 comments

Is Zobrist Due to Bounce Back?

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.

December 18, 2010 at 1:24 pm 2 comments

2010 MLB Predictions


Man, it has been a while since I’ve written.  This is me, coming out of my hybernation and predictiong what will happen in the 2010 baseball season.  Hint:  If you know me personally, I have been touting my World Series winner for this season since the beginning of 2007.

AL East
1. Red Sox (95-67)
2. Rays (94-68) (Wild Card)
3. Yankees (93-69)
4. Orioles (74-88)
5. Blue Jays (70-92)

AL Central
1. Twins (87-75)
2. White Sox (82-80)
3. Indians (78-84)
4. Tigers (78-84)
5. Royals (70-92)

AL West
1. Rangers (84-78)
2. Angels (83-79)
3. Athletics (80-82)
4. Mariners (79-85)

NL East
1. Phillies (91-71)
2. Braves (88-74) (Wild Card)
3. Marlins (78-84)
4. Mets (76-86)
5. Nationals (73-89)

NL Central
1. Cardinals (89-73)
2. Brewers (85-77)
3. Cubs (78-84)
4. Reds (77-85)
5. Pirates (71-91)
6. Astros (71-91)

NL West
1. Rockies (87-75)
2. Dodgers (85-77)
3. Diamondbacks (81-81)
4. Giants (79-83)
5. Padres (74-88)

World Series
Rays over Rockies in 6

World Series MVP
Ben Zobrist

AL: Evan Longoria, Joe Mauer, Nelson Cruz, Ben Zobrist, Dustin Pedroia
NL: Troy Tulowitzki, Chase Utley, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Pablo Sandoval

Cy Young
AL: Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, Jon Lester, Brett Anderson, Zack Greinke
NL: Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum, Adam Wainwright, Ubaldo Jimenez, Dan Haren

Rookie of the Year
AL: Brian Matusz, Scott Sizemore, Wade Davis, Ausitn Jackson, Neftali Feliz
NL: Jason Heyward, Stephen Strasburg, Alcides Escobar, Buster Posey, Aroldis Chapman

April 4, 2010 at 1:30 pm 5 comments

There is No Justice When it Comes to Gold Glove Awards

Franklin Gutierrez

The 2009 Gold Glove Award winners have been announced. *Sigh*. I’ve made it known that I believe the Gold Glove Awards are a joke and I know I am not alone. I want to believe that the award will one day actually go to the best fielders. I hold hope. Well, 2009 was not a year the award took a step forward. In fact, it took a step back, which is very hard to do.

Here are all the 2009 winners with my notes on each:

C – Yadier Molina (STL) – This was one of those without-a-doubt winners. There was no other catcher even close to him. He is the best at throwing out runners, blocking balls in the dirt, and one of the best at calling a game. He is also the best at blocking the plate and catching the ball with a runner charging at him like a raging bull. This is one of the few the voters got right, mainly because it was almost impossible to get wrong.

C – Joe Mauer (MIN) – This is not an awful selection but Gerald Laird deserved to win it here. Laird is the best in the AL at throwing runners out and any scout will attest that he is a plus defender behind home plate. The Fielding Bible Awards (which is the real award for fielders in my opinion) also suggests that Laird is the best in the AL. Mauer wins here because the managers tend to look at offensive stats and star names first. Again, Mauer is not a bad selection but Laird deserves to win.

1B – Adrian Gonzalez (SD) – First base is tough here. I can live with Gonzalez but I do think Derek Lee and Albert Pujols were better. Pujols doesn’t get the win due to his 13 errors but he still managed to have a .992 fielding percentage and the most range at the position in the NL. I can flip a coin between the three but I do believe Pujols got robbed here and the Fielding Bible also believes so; he scored a 95 (out of a possible 100) points. The only man that had a chance to win over him was Casey Kotchman, the best fielding first baseman in the game in my opinion, but he did not log enough innings at first for me to warrant giving him the award.

1B – Mark Teixeira (NYY) – Another close call. Tex has incredible hands and plus range. The only better everyday defender at 1B is Kevin Youkilis but he only totaled 647 innings at the position because he was asked to play third for a chunk of the season. Tex only posted a -4.1 UZR/150 as well. Lyle Overbay posted a -0.8 but had the best fielding percentage and the second most assists and should get a mention here.

2B – Orlando Hudson (LAD) – Not even close. Chase Utley, again, gets violently robbed. Utley posted an +11.3 UZR/150 and from scouts that I have talked to he is the best fielding second baseman in the entire league. I have to agree with them. Hudson posted a below average -3.7 UZR/150. Not even close to what Utley did. This is a complete shame and Utley has now been robbed for the fourth and possibly fifth year in a row.

2B – Placido Polanco (DET) – He was voted the winner thanks to only making two errors. While it is important to not throw the ball in the stands and not kick it around it is more important to reach balls out of your zone. Ben Zobrist, in a rare case for me, should get the Gold Glove here. He destroyed everyone in UZR/150 by posting a +30.8 compared to Polanco who had a +11.0, which is Gold Glove caliber. Zobrist loses a little credit due to all the positions he had to play and his lack of innings at the position. I rarely, if ever, vote for a guy with 714 innings at the position but when your UZR/150 is almost three times as high as the second place fielder then you deserve some credit. Oh, and I saw him play almost all 714 innings and his range and arm are plus there, no doubt.

3B – Ryan Zimmerman (WAS) – He deserves this. Plus arm, plus hands, plus range. His UZR/150 of +20.1 is almost double the second best NL third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff at +10.7.

3B – Evan Longoria (TB) – A solid selection here but one can make an argument for Adrian Beltre. Longoria posted a UZR/150 of +19.2 and Beltre posted a +21.0 but Longoria gets the slight nod due to having a better arm and the best range and hands of any third baseman in the league. The Fielding Bible had Beltre at 76 points and Longoria at 75, for what it’s worth. A very close call here by all accounts.

SS – Jimmy Rollins (PHI) – This is almost laughable. Troy Tulowitzki, Rafael Furcal, Brendan Ryan, and J.J. Hardy were all better at short. Tulowitki’s metrics don’t match what scouts say and what I’ve seen of him. Ryan has the best UZR/150 of +13.8 with Furcal at +8.5 and Hardy at +8.8. Tulo only posted a -0.9 so I have to discredit him some there but he did have the second most assists and putouts, not to mention the best range of any shortstop in the NL and a cannon of an arm. Rollins had a +2.9, which is a far cry from the Ryan, Furcal, or Hardy. The Fielding Bible gave the award to Jack Wilson (who posted a major league best +20.4 UZR/150) but he spilt time between the two leagues and didn’t log close to enough innings to give him the award. Tulowitzki was 2nd in the FB, losing by one point to Wilson.

SS – Derek Jeter (NYY) – Geez! This again. His range is poor. His arm strength is below-average. He looks bad on balls in front of him and to either side. Cesar Izturis posted a +14.1 UZR/150, Adam Everett a +13.6, and Elvis Andrus a +11.7. Jeter had a solid +8.4 but he is not match for any of the three mentioned above. This is another case where the managers looked at offensive numbers and notoriety first. The Fielding Bible had Jeter ranked 8th among AL shortstops with 3 points. Andrus was first among AL shortstops at 69 points.

OF – Michael Bourn (HOU), Matt Kemp (LAD), Shane Victorino (PHI) – Let me start by stating that I hate how the award isn’t divided among all three outfield positions. Why does the infield get divided and not the outfield? Makes zero sense to me. Anyway… Bourn is a solid selection here. He has incredible wheels, great range, and a decent arm. His UZR/150 is +8.7 with 11 assists and the Fielding Bible had him as the highest rated NL centerfielder with 40 points. Kemp posted a + 3.2 but only received 12 points in the FB but does have the best arm of any centerfielder and had 14 assists. Victorino is another laughable selection. He has poor range, makes bad judgment calls on balls hit in front of him, a weak arm, and only gets credit because he dives for balls even though most centerfielders would be camped under them. His UZR/150 is -4.2 and he received 14 points in the FB. Better selections would have been Nyjer Morgan (+35.8 and 13 assists), Randy Winn (+20.1 and no errors), Tony Gwynn (+19.4), and Hunter Pence (+5.3 and 16 assists).

OF – Ichiro Suzuki (SEA), Torii Hunter (LAA), Adam Jones (BAL) – The AL winners consist of two guys that received their 9th award in a row and one first time winner. Ichiro posted a +11.3 UZR/150 with 5 assists and 93 Fielding Bible points, Hunter a -2.1 with 2 assists and 25 FB points, and Jones -4.1 with 9 assists and 2 FB points. I am unsure as to how the managers chose Jones. I know exactly why they chose Ichiro and Hunter, although there were many better selections. Franklin Gutierrez had a +27.1 UZR150 with 6 assists, 97 points in the Fielding Bible, and possibly the most range of any player in the game. Carl Crawford had a +17.5 with 6 assists and had 99 points in the Fielding Bible. Of the 10 voters, 9 gave Crawford first place votes and one gave him a second place vote. He is by far the best defensive leftfielder and has now won 3 of 4 Fielding Bible Awards and no Gold Gloves. What a shame! Ryan Sweeney posted a +27.6 and 11 assists and 60 FB points. David DeJesus had a +15.1, 13 assists, no errors, and 68 FB points (thanks to Crawford). Rajai Davis had a +16.2, 8 assists, and 42 FB points. Juan Rivera had a +15.0 with 11 assists and 65 FB points.

P – Adam Wainwright (STL) – I would’ve taken teammate Joel Pineiro and Johan Santana over Wainwright. He makes all the right plays but he is not a Gold Glover.

P – Mark Buehrle (CHW) – The right choice here. He is the best fielding pitcher in the AL, hands down. He is great at holding runners and picking them off too.

So, with all that said, here are my selections for the Gold Glove Awards:

C – Yadier Molina (NL)
C – Gerald Laird (AL)
1B – Albert Pujols (NL)
1B – Mark Teixeira (AL)
2B – Chase Utley (NL)
2B – Ben Zobrist (AL)
3B – Ryan Zimmerman (NL)
3B – Evan Longoria (AL)
SS – Troy Tulowitzki (NL)
SS – Adam Everett (AL)
OF – Nyjer Morgan (NL), Hunter Pence (NL), Michael Bourn (NL)
OF – Franklin Gutierrez (AL), Carl Crawford (AL), Ryan Sweeney (AL)
P – Joel Pineiro (NL)
P – Mark Buehrle (AL)

As you can see, I only agreed with 6 out of 18 of the selections that the voters made. While some of the selections were decent and not far off there were far too many that were purely laughable and simply had zero thought when they were voted for. It’s time for MLB to re-evaluate the Gold Glove voting process and take it out of the hands of the managers and into the hands of the scouting directors.

November 12, 2009 at 1:37 am Leave a comment

Zobrist’s Season Deserves More Love


Taking a quote from Nate Ravitz earlier this season over at ESPN: “I’m just a big fan of what Zobrist is doing this year, and would like to see more written/said about it”, I have been inspired to write about Zobrist and I can’t agree more that Zobrist deserves more love.

Zobrist has put up amazing offensive stats. Yes, that is right, amazing. Take a look: .297/.405/.543 with a wOBA of .408 and an OPS+ of 144 to go with 27 homers, 28 doubles, 7 triples, 17 stolen bases, and a 91/104 BB/K. He is 3rd in the AL in wOBA, 4th in OBP and OPS, 7th in SLUG, and 6th in walks. Ridiculous numbers for a guy who didn’t have a starting job coming into the season and played over 100 games in the middle of the field.

Zobrist’s defense has been nothing short of Gold Glove worthy.  Here are his ratings:

2B: 21.4 UZR/150, .989 Fielding Percentage, 714.2 innings

RF: 31.5 UZR/150, 1.000 FLD%, 5 Assists, 329.1 innings

CF: 29.9 UZR/150, 1.000 FLD%, 46.2 innings

SS: -4.7 UZR/150, .926 FLD%, 62.0 innings

He also played 38 innings in LF, 13.0 innings at 1B, and 5.2 innings at 3B, all well below average according to defensive metrics but the sample sizes are so small that it’s not that big of a deal.  Heck, his sample sizes are small at CF and SS too so we can’t totally take those into account.  But one this is for sure from scouts and my own eye: Ben Zobrist can handle just about any position on the field and he looked like a Gold Glover at second and in right this year.

To top off Zobrist’s accomplishmets he finished 1st in all of the majors in WAR (wins above replacement player) with 8.5 and 1st in value at $38.2M (while only making league minimum).  Both higher than Albert Pujols and Joe Mauer.  This is why I had him 2nd in my AL MVP standings.

Zobrist had an amazing season and it deserves to get a little more attention and a lot more love from writers around the blogosphere.

October 9, 2009 at 4:51 pm Leave a comment

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