Monday, June 1, 2015

Kung Fu Panda and Red Sox Angst

Photo by Brandon Wade / AP
Unclogging our writer's block...

On twitter this Sunday afternoon, the legendary Michael Schur bemoaned how much the Red Sox owe Pablo Sandoval: “Don't worry, Sox fans -- we only have to pay Sandoval $18m a year until 2019 and then we're free! (Except for a $5m buyout in 2020.)”

Ken Tremendous is one of my favorite writers and contributors of the past ten years; none of this is designed to criticize his statement. On the contrary, it got me thinking… how bad has Kung Fu Panda been? I’ve seen him in highlights. Looking into today's action, it's clear the outburst was partially triggered by Panda's defense.

Sandoval's batting numbers are below average, with just a .312 OBP and .369 SLG. Does his hitting line deserve the vitriol from Schur? Probably not. Sandoval is hitting about the same, or better, than Mookie Betts, David Ortiz, and Xander Bogaerts… they’ve been the lousiest of the everyday Red Sox hitters through May.

Does Sandoval deserve so much blame for this anxiety? Probably not, but he is struggling with a low output of extra base hits. Sandoval has only 5 doubles and 5 home runs this season. How poor is that performance? As any good economist will say, it depends.

Numbers and data can often be found and used to make a case for either side of an argument.

Pablo Sandoval has the 7th lowest extra base hit rate, among everyone with at least ten extra-base hits this year (xBH/100 PA's):
Plate appearances are a better criteria than extra base hits. Simply drawing the line at Pablo Sandoval's 180 PA's, there are fifteen players averaging less than Panda's 5.46 xBH's per 100 plate appearances.

At 150 min PA's, Sandoval has the 24th lowest score. The lightest hitting player with at least 150 PA's is Melky Cabrera, who has only 5 xBH's in 215 PA's (2.33 per 100 PA's).

We'll get to some more provocative thoughts soon, but we just needed to get the ink flowing again. Be well and enjoy the games!