In my recent back-and-forth with Chuck regarding the wisdom of signing Hafner to a 4-year contract, I combed over his month-by-month performance. Holy God. Digest this, and then you'll understand why I died inside a little.
Also, as I post this, I'll engage in a (likely fruitless) search for answers.
Cliff's Notes Version: The 2007-2008 numbers reveal a Pronk who simply fails when he's down in the count. It's a huge contrast. But we'd have to ask the scouts -- I'm dead serious -- for why this is. Pronk is now Proon.
Almost impossible consistency. Gape at the numbers. Bonus cool stat: Hafner's walk totals by month, which were 10, 9, 12, 12, 12, 13.
April: .413 / .591 / 1.004
May: .386 / .523 / .909
June: .417 / .484 / .901
July: .451 / .744 / 1.195
August: .369 / .568 / .937
September: .437 / .603 / 1.040
After a very weak start in April and May of 2005, the Stud Pronk arrived to take over the baseball world in June. It started a remarkable run, 11 months of productive awesomeness.
April: .404 / .427 / .831
May: .378 / .432 / .810
June: .430 / .736 / 1.166
July: .481 / .795 / 1.276
August: .389 / .576 / .965
September: .398 / .660 / 1.058
Missed September, but sick sick sick. His comparatively poor July has to be considered an outlier after seeing his bouceback in August. No signs of a coming decline in 2007.
April: .463 / .644 / 1.107
May: .415 / .589 / 1.004
June: .485 / .632 / 1.117
July: .339 / .577 / .916
August: .484 / .856 / 1.340 (!)
Outstanding April, if slightly single-heavy. Who could have known. September seemed like a step toward the Pronk of 2006, highlighted by a massively huge home run against the nemesis Tigers in the home sweep series.
April: .471 / .550 / 1.021
May: .394 / .455 / .849
June: .346 / .356 / .702 (!)
July: .321 / .400 / .721
August: .366 / .392 / .758
September: .414 / .551 / .965
We obviously had hopes the old Pronk would return. His April, while not yet complete, has not only been a disappointment; it is his lowest OPS month ever (excluding the first full month of his career), 16 points below last June's funk, and literally half of his OPS from August 2006.
April: .305 / .381 / .686
Any lessons here?
Is he just flailing against left handed pitching? That's not it. This April his OPS against right handers is just 28 points higher. Last year, Swoon Season 1, his OPS was two points higher against left handed pitching. In fact, he's been roughly even against right and left handers since the start of 2006. And consider that his OPS against lefties was 400 points lower in 2004 and 184 points lower in 2005. So that's not it. I mean, he's not hitting any kind of pitching.
How about K rate? Going back to his first full season, 2004, Hafner's 2008 K rate is the highest of his career. But in Swoon Season 1, his K rate was markedly lower. Take a look.
2004-2006: One k per 4.9 PA
2007: One k per 5.7 PA
2008: One k per 4.2 PA
All this tells me is that pitchers are just not afraid of him these days, as also measured by his falling BB rate.
2005-2006: One BB per 6.3 PA
2007: One BB per 6.4 PA
2008: One BB per 11.8 PA
FINALLY, something that stands out. The New Pronk is utterly junk when he gets behind in the count. It's truly staggering. Hide your eyes if you can:
2005-2006: OPS after falling behind 0-1 in the count: .888
2007: OPS after falling behind 0-1 in the count: .654
2008: OPS after falling behind 0-1 in the count: .546
2005-2006: OPS after falling behind 0-2 in the count: .810
2007: OPS after falling behind 0-2 in the count: .735
2008: OPS after falling behind 0-2 in the count: .385 (very small sample)
These numbers are more likely symptoms of Pronk's problems and not the root cause, though.
Swoon Pronk (Proon?) flails when pitchers start him with strikes. He's striking out more than ever this year, but that was not the case last year. He's not driving the ball, obviously. And now that pitchers have figured out that they're dealing with Proon and not Pronk, they're not issuing him as many free passes.
A return to 2006 seems beyond unlikely now.
I refer to what Jay said several weeks ago: The best we can hope for is now flashes of inconsistency, with spikes of power and production that rival old levels. But asking for a sustained return to those levels is a waste of your hopin' time.
And I say this with no sarcasm whatsoever: The best person to answer what is wrong is a seasoned MLB scout. Cause I sure as hell will never know.