Thursday, April 27, 2006

Are the Sox making enough contact? 

After watching about a month of Red Sox baseball, I've become curious as to whether the lineup, as a whole, was putting the ball in play enough. I've decided to take a look at the Contact Rates for the Sox lineup. Contact Rate measures a batter's ability to get wood on the ball and hit it into the field of play. Those batters with the best contact skill will have levels of 90% or better, while the hackers will have levels of 75% or less.

Below are the Contact Rates for the 2006 Red Sox:

I figured the best way to get a feel for this would be to compare the 2005 and 2006 Contact Rates for each player. Below are the 2005 Contact Rates for the current lineup:

Surprisingly, the results aren't quite what I had expected. What shocked me most was how Mike Lowell actually had an 88% contact rate in 2005. Clearly, last season, he was putting the bat on the ball, but his power had completely dissipated.

Nixon and Varitek, the usual #5 hitters vs righties and lefties, respectively, are consistently getting wood on the ball. Considering the superb contact rate of Mark Loretta, the lineup should be hit its stride once Manny (and Ortiz to a lesser extent) hit their groove.

Right now, the lineup is really troubled by having to employ Alex Gonzalez, and one of Dustan Mohr, Wily Mo Pena, and Willie Harris on a nightly basis. The Sox, as a whole, are putting the ball in play a meager 79% of the time.

Tomorrow, I will take a closer look at the Isolated Power of the Sox lineup.

Having Alex G. in the line-up, no matter what the offensive consequences might be, is a blessing. He's the glue that cements the infield. Can't say that about anyone else on this version of the Sox.

Interest numbers on the contact rate. I'm sure you've read about this, but Voros McCracken, now a Red Sox consultant, determined that pitchers have little to no control over balls put into play (for his purposes, he excluded home runs).

He focused on Randy Johnson as obviously an elite pitcher, but also a pitcher whose balls put into play varied from one year to the next in terms of how many of those balls resulted in hits vs. outs.

The conclusion was amazing obviously. He basically said that if a pitcher can strikeout players, he is going to be better b/c there is no chance of a ball being put into play (thus out of the pitcher's control).

I wonder if the contact rate is a similar, if not reverse, situation. Mike Lowell at 88% in 2005 sounds good, but obviously he was hitting it at people. Home runs for a hitter seem to be the bit differential in raising a players effectiveness. It makes you wonder how Tony Gwynn, high average, little power, could maintain as such a great hitter.

Anyway, great post and great site.


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