Grades so far: Outfield

byrd-soriano-fukudomeI haven’t gotten to this one as quickly as I’d hoped, but here it is. You can read about the article I wrote about the infield if you haven’t already.

Alfonso Soriano – It hasn’t been pretty, but Soriano has been a productive hitter to this point in the season. He has a .359 wOBA thanks to his 11 home runs and career best .278 ISO. Despite that, his OBP sits at .292 thanks to a career worst BB% (3.6%). He’s also struckout more than any other season in his career. His K% is 28.6% compared to a 22.3% career rate. As Soriano’s HR/FB rate comes back to earth, Soriano’s wOBA will too. Soriano can still crush left-handed pitching. He’s hit .438 wOBA vs them this season. He’s also only a league average hitter vs righties (.333 so far this year). Since 2008 he’s hit between .328 and .333 vs righties. His BB% vs righties this year is under 2%. I’m not joking.

Soriano has also managed to post the worst fielding percentage of his career. This includes his years at 2nd base. Fielding percentage isn’t a very good metric, but I don’t even know how a left fielder has a .953 fielding percentage. As a result, he has the lowest UZR/150 of his career with the exeption of 2005 when he was at 2nd base with the Rangers.

Marlon Byrd – Despite a rough batting line through 19 or 20 games of the season, Byrd has hit batting line up to .312/.342/.390 (.325 wOBA). Byrd’s BB% has declined to 3.1% this season, which keeps his OBP rather mediocre despite a .312 batting average. The biggest problem so far for Byrd is that only 23.6% of the balls he puts in play have been fly balls (32.1% career). On top of that, only 3.3% of those have left the yard compared to 8.2% in his career. His FB rate will probably increase a bit and his HR/FB rate should also increase somewhat. The BB% is a concern. Byrd has never had much plate discipline, but 3.1% is just awful. Byrd also has a .373 BABIP which will also decline. In the end, expect him to hit about the same as he’s hit the last few seasons. UZR has Byrd at -1.6 while DRS has him at -1 and Total Zone at 3. He’s always been a league average fielder and that’s what he’s been so far this year.

Kosuke Fukudome – I published a few charts earlier in the week about Fukudome and how his average and OBP were pretty much the same as it was his previous 3 seasons through 26 games. Where it differs is that Fukudome has hit for almost no power at all this season. He only has 4 extra base hits on the season and his ISO is ridiculously low at .044. He has posted a career high BB% (16.4%) and thanks to an absurdly high .431 BABIP he’s posted a .387 wOBA. Fukudome is also hitting far fewer balls in the air and none have been hit out yet. Expect more fly balls and an increase to his HR/FB rate. That should help offset the inevitable BABIP regression.

Reed Johnson – In less than half the plate apeparances as Fukudome, Reed Johnson has more extra base hits. He has 4 doubles, a triple and a home run. He’s been extremely lucky on balls in play (.452 BABIP), but he does have nearly a 26% line drive rate. Both numbers are going to come down considerably and when they do, the .456 wOBA will as well.

Tyler Colvin – Colvin has lost playing time to Reed Johnson because Johnson has hit very well in part due to luck while Colvin has hit terribly. The poor hitting from Colvin is also luck. His BABIP is .116. Only 68 plate appearances so far, he’s increased his BB% to 8.8% and slightly decreased his K% to 27.4%. A lot has been made about Colvin’s approach at the plate, but it’s important to point out that the league average BB% is 7.8%. Colvin has walked more frequently than the league average hitter so far. He walked 7.6% of the time last year so a slight improvement would be expected at his age.

If we adjust Colvin’s line to his ZiPS projected .286 BABIP, it changes Colvin’s batting line from .113/.191/.258 to a more respectable .231/.311/.391. That would be a .304 wOBA. Obviously not good, but significantly better than the ugly .199 wOBA he currently has. I’d like to see Colvin get some more playing time. He probably ends up getting sent to Iowa, but I think the increase in BB% is a good sign. He’s never going to be a great player, but he’s better than he’s played so far by quite a lot.

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