I was going to write something on how Kelly's season hasn't been as bad as all that. After all, he's still got an obp of .330 which, considering his anaemic batting average, is pretty impressive and surely the rest is down to sample size or something....
Anyway, I was looking at the figures and trying to convince myself that maybe everything was going to be alright really and that next year he'll be giving Victor the chance to play 1B 2-3 days every week as we ride Lee and Martinez to the 2010 post-season and perhaps beyond and hang the consequences!
As someone who doesn't get to see actual ballgames the following could be complete codswallop or blindingly self-evident. If it's either I apologise in advance. However, what becomes apparent to me when looking at Shoppach's stats is the following:
- Forecasting for hitters with less than a thousand plate appearances isn't easy. Pecota reckoned he'd be at .248/.324/.469 (ba/obp/slg) this season. His 10th percentile projection was down at .200/.272/.369. Somehow, with the exception of his obp he's managed to be even worse than that as .192/.330/.365
- Maybe last year was the exception? This season isn't THAT different to Shoppach in 2006 and 2007. There's slightly less power than in '06 and .100+ points less than in '07, but without his 2008 season, this year doesn't look terribly different in the end. Thanks to the increase in walks his OPS in 2009 actually exceeds 2006 by nearly .100 points and is only just under 2007's .782.
- Maybe there's an easy fix? In '06, '07 and '09 Shoppach has averaged nearly one ground-ball for every fly-ball hit (0.81, 0.91 and 0.91 respectively). In 2008 that dropped to 0.66 as he cracked 48 extra base hits with 21 homers. Is it possible he just needs to elevate the ball more when he's hitting? Like I said above, I don't get to see him hit so it might be that this wouldn't make a difference, but it seems like the one good year he's had was when he did hit the ball in the air more. Also, this might just be a natural result of him hitting the ball well in 2008 and not hitting it that well the rest of the time.
- He really is walking a lot. Choo is the only other player on the roster who adds more than .100 points to his batting average for obp and Kelly even surpasses him. Now when you're batting .192 then it's not as impressive, but adding nearly .140 points to your obp from your batting average is pretty good going and it means he's still valuable in the lineup - although not the potent threat we grew used to having last year.
Without another season or two of playing time it's impossible to tell if Shoppach is done, or whether he's just having an off 200-odd trips to the plate and when you compare his travails to the bullpen or the Clifton-less part of the rotation they're not that important. But with Victor playing as many days as possible key to a productive offense going forward, is carrying Shoppach with his present production tenable next season?