Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Hit-and-Run and Adam Everett

I've never been a big fan of the hit-and-run. Unless you have somebody whose bat control skills are out of this world, the hit-and-run can just as easily move the fielder into the ball as it creates a hole. Throw in the double play risk from a line drive, and I really don't view the hit-and-run as a strategy that is wise to use too frequently.

That's why I squirmed a bit when saw this quote from Jim Leyland after the Adam Everett signing:

"I'm very tickled about adding Adam. We're thrilled to get a great defensive shortstop who can also hit-and-run, bunt, and handle the bat well."

The first thought I had was something along the lines of "If he handles the bat so well, why is his career OPS in the .600's." Obviously, Jim Leyland was referring to his ability to hit and run, but I'd bet there is a pretty high correlation between hit and run ability and straight hitting ability. Luckily, there are some numbers out there that may help us figure out how good of a bat handler Adam Everett is.

There are two main objectives the hitter has during a hit-and-run. The first and most important of those objectives is to make contact. A whiff can hang the runner out to dry. The second is directional hitting. When they do hit the ball, it does no good to just hit the ball anywhere. A hit-and-run is only useful when the ball is hit in a place where there is no fielder.

Fangraphs.com displays the contact percentages for each player since 2005. The method for calculating this statistic is pretty basic. Simply divide the amount of times making contact by the amount of times the player swings at the ball. The more you swing and miss, the lower your contact percentage. Below, I have two lists. The first list includes the Tigers' projected starting nine with their combined contact percentages since 2005. The second list includes some shortstops available this offseason. Both are ranked in order of their 2005-2008 contact percenteges.

Placido Polanco 93.2
Carlos Guillen 84.1
Magglio Ordonez 84.0
Gary Sheffield 83.4
Adam Everett 83.1
Gerald Laird 79.8
Miguel Cabrera 78.5
Brandon Inge 76.6
Curtis Granderson 76.1

Cesar Izturis 92.7
Jack Wilson 89.3
Orlando Cabrera 86.1
Ramon Santiago 86.0
Edgar Renteria 84.1
Adam Everett 83.1
Khalil Greene 77.2

Based on these numbers, it does not appear if Everett is a star at making contact. To nobody's surprise, Polanco was the Tigers' best. If Leyland wanted to hit and run, he probably should have done it with Polanco. The big shock is that the Tigers' two shortstops from last year, Santiago and Renteria, each make contact more often than Everett. We'll just have to hope that Leyland keeps the hit-and-run attempts with Everett to a minimum, as there will be a runner hung out to dry one out of every six attempts.

Now, contact was only one piece of the equation. There is no statistic to directly measure how well a batter can direct the ball towards the holes. While this happens on a hit and run, you'd have to think that players are always trying to handle the bat, so somebody you want to be hitting and running should have a high batting average. With his .246 (and falling) career batting average, Everett is hardly the guy who is going to find holes on the hit and run. Unless there are scouts that have found that Everett has an inate ability to turn on his bat control only when the hit-and-run is put on, it does not seem like he is an ideal option for this play.

Luckily, Everett will not have to play small ball for this move to work. So long as his defense is near the top of the league, he will help the pitchers and the team regardless of how often his at bats are wasted on a hit-and-run.

4 comments:

Count That Baby And A Foul said...

How do you think a player like Everett gets a reputation for being to "handle the bat?" A couple of theories: 1) He can't hit for power and he's in the MLB, therefore he must be able to use the bat for *something.* 2) He plays good defense, which is associated with having good fundamentals, so it follows that he should be able to "handle the bat." 3) He's a skinny white guy who "looks like" someone who should be able to "handle the bat." I obviously hope it's not the third one, although my guess is that it's a combination of the three.

Lee Panas said...

Interesting post. I agree that his very average contact hitting ability makes him a poor hit and run candidate.

I think his low batting average is partially a result of lack of power. He makes OK contact but just doesn't hit it hard enough. That's just a theory. Lately, I've been looking at the correlation between batting average and some of the plate discipline stats at fangraphs. I'm really having a hard time trying to figure out what batting average measures. So much of it seems to be luck.

Daniel said...

I don't agree with the statistics. The statistics don't consider situations. You might remember Johnny Wockenfuss, who was the all-time hit and run king. In the early eighties teams would sometimes, wisely, leave the second baseman in place an have the shortstop cover with Wockenfuss at the plate because of his unbelieveable ability to take whatever pitch he got and put a ground ball through the vacated hole the second baseman would conventionally leave open with a baserunner heading to seocond base early and a right handed hitter hat the plate. Some guys handle those situations differently than others. I wouldn't trust Renteria with a nickel in a hit and run situation. The Tigers need guys who can put the ball in play in the right way with a given situation. I don't know if Everett can do this, but if he can I believe it's what the Tigers sorely needed last year. I also trust Santiago to a small degree with this. Inge is somebody who I wouldn't bet a nickel on for a situational play. I would have dumped him long, long ago.

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