By Eric Notti - Angelswin.com Contributor
June 30, 2008
Behind every problem is a reason. There seems to be a simple way to quantify relationships between Vladimir Guerrero’s plate approach and his power number drop off and a statistical indicator for this decline can be found in Bill James book Baseball Goldmine 2008.
Let's first look at the basics that is his power numbers as viewed through his slugging percentage and home runs totals are decreasing every year since 2004.
2004 HR 39 Slg % .598
2005 HR 32 Slg % .565
2006 HR 33 Slg % .552
2007 HR 27 Slg % .547
Now it is not as those are unacceptable numbers but anyone can see a drop off but no one has pin pointed the reason for this steady decrease in productivity.
For years we've been happily saying Vlad is the best bad ball hitter they've ever seen but that is precisely why his numbers are on the downward spiral. His passion for hitting anything pitched to him has become increasingly noticeable that he has lost his plate discipline. The AL has adjusted and he no longer is getting anything reasonable to swing at, and yet he still does. From Bill James recent book entitled Baseball Goldmine 2008 are these very telling statistics.
2004 TS 112 SOZ 281
2005 TS 131 SOZ 303
2006 TS 121 SOZ 428
2007 TS 139 SOZ 604
The TS stands for taken strikes, the amount of times Vlad stared at pitch called a strike. The SOZ simply stands for swinging outside the zone. What is it that stands out is that the TS has only risen by about 15% while the TOZ has progressed 214% of his first year in the AL.
Vlad saw a total of 2,037 pitches last year and swung at 57% of them. Of those he missed 20%, fouled off 35% and put in play 45%.
His increase in swinging at pitches out of the zone results in a loss of power, instead of home runs he is hitting fewer triples and more singles. It is not that he isn't productive, he is just no longer as much of a threat to opposing pitchers because he has expanded his zone for each at bat to the point the odds are against him to make solid contact.
I love watching Vlad but I hate watching Vlad reach so far out of the zone to hit a weak grounder that may or may not squeak through the infield rather than the rockets he was hitting his first couple years. I think if someone can convince him to stay within the boundaries of the plate you will see two things happen. At first his walk totals will increase as pitchers try to bait him with junk and then the power numbers will increase as the league adjusts and goes back to challenging him rather than giving away free bases.
I think Bill James missed the boat on calling him the best bad ball hitter ever and that no kids coming up are being labeled as the next Vlad. I don't think any hitters are allowed the leniency with the strike zone Vlad has so there will never be a comparison. And soon, if he does not change his approach, he will no longer be a bad ball hitter, but just a bad hitter.