Knuckleballs

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Archive for May 20th, 2010

Carlos Lee

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Since 2000, Carlos Lee has been very consistent.  While he’s always been slightly overrated, he learned early in his career to walk enough and make enough contact to really be a valuable hitter.  Of course, he’s given a lot of that back in left field, particularly since he’s been an Astro.  He averaged 151 games, 29 home runs, 101 RBI, 87 runs scored, and a 0.291 batting average from 2000 to 2009.  Most projection systems had him doing it again, hitting 0.290 with 25-30 home runs in 2010.

Season Team G AB PA H 2B HR R RBI BB SO SB AVG
1999 White Sox 127 492 517 144 32 16 66 84 13 72 4 0.293
2000 White Sox 152 572 619 172 29 24 107 92 38 94 13 0.301
2001 White Sox 150 558 605 150 33 24 75 84 38 85 17 0.269
2002 White Sox 140 492 576 130 26 26 82 80 75 73 1 0.264
2003 White Sox 158 623 671 181 35 31 100 113 37 91 18 0.291
2004 White Sox 153 591 658 180 37 31 103 99 54 86 11 0.305
2005 Brewers 162 618 688 164 41 32 85 114 57 87 13 0.265
2006 Brewers/Rangers 161 624 695 187 37 37 102 116 58 65 19 0.300
2007 Astros 162 627 697 190 43 32 93 119 53 63 10 0.303
2008 Astros 115 436 481 137 27 28 61 100 37 49 4 0.314
2009 Astros 160 610 662 183 35 26 65 102 41 51 5 0.300
2010 Astros 39 148 158 30 3 5 16 16 8 21 1 0.203

So far in 2010, it’s not been pretty.  It took him 26 games to hit his first home run; he now has 5, 3 of which he hit in the past week.  His walk rate is the lowest since his rookie season, and his strikeout rate is the highest it’s been in 6 years.  His BABIP is way down, a function of his line drive rate being cut in half; most of the shift has been toward flyballs, of which he’s hitting fewer out of the park than he ever has before.  He’s seeing fewer fastballs and isn’t hitting any type of pitch well.  He’s being thrown fewer strikes than ever, and to make up for it, he’s chasing a lot more pitches.  This could be the result of his teammates being as bad as they’ve been in his career.

Based on the pitchf/x data compiled from TexasLeaguers.com, he’s swinging less and whiffing more, and the actual charts show exactly what he’s swinging at.  Changeups seem to be the major culprit, as he went from swinging and missing at just 5.5% of changeups he saw in 2009 to 14.9% this season.

2008 2009 2010
Pitches Seen 1650 2254 528
Strike 64.2% 62.3% 62.7%
Swing 49.0% 46.4% 46.6%
Whiff 6.3% 5.5% 7.4%
Foul 20.0% 16.3% 15.3%
In Play 22.7% 24.6% 23.8%
Ball 35.8% 37.7% 37.3%

For comparison’s sake, here’s Joe Mauer’s 2009 swings.

Do I think that, at age 34, El Caballo is done?  No.  I think he’ll be ok…but just ok.  They days of Carlos Lee being a significantly above average hitter are over.  He’ll probably finish the season at 0.260 with 22 or so home runs and 85 RBI and gladly collect the 37 million dollars he’s owed the next two years.  The Astros are bad, and an aging sunk cost is not going to help them get better soon.

Written by Dan Hennessey

May 20, 2010 at 11:21 PM

Posted in Uncategorized