FanPost

Matt Laporta, First Baseman?

Tipping my hat to notthatnoise from the Game 26 post-game wrap up where he posted about Matt Laporta quietly having a solid year thus far. notthatnoise mentioned Laporta's .818 OPS (135 OPS+) and particularly his GO/FO ratio that may be a key to the overall success thus far. I wanted to see how Laporta is doing compared to the other first baseman in the league because when I first saw the OPS, my thought was that it wasn't that good for a first baseman. Then quickly considered the 135 OPS+ and remembered that my mind has been trained to think that an .800 OPS was league average, which of course is nowhere near the truth these days. So optimistic about Laporta all of the sudden, I wanted to see where he stacked up against the rest of the American League's first baseman.

Baseball Prospectus doesn't yet have their 2011 individual player valuations up yet, so my original plan on including multiple points of reference went by the wayside there. Instead I just scanned Fangraphs wRC+ leaderboard for qualified AL first baseman and discovered the following:

Name

Team

BB%

K%

ISO

BABIP

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+ 

Miguel Cabrera

Tigers

17.60%

13.50%

0.302

0.325

0.333

0.454

0.635

0.454

194

Mark Teixeira

Yankees

15.70%

26.80%

0.293

0.273

0.256

0.392

0.549

0.408

161

Justin Smoak

Mariners

15.70%

24.30%

0.243

0.321

0.284

0.393

0.527

0.397

160

Mitch Moreland

Rangers

11.60%

17.30%

0.253

0.305

0.280

0.372

0.533

0.394

150

Billy Butler

Royals

16.40%

13.50%

0.167

0.338

0.313

0.431

0.479

0.390

149

Matt LaPorta

Indians

11.20%

19.50%

0.234

0.254

0.247

0.337

0.481

0.359

131

Adrian Gonzalez

Red Sox

8.60%

16.20%

0.143

0.368

0.314

0.379

0.457

0.367

131

Paul Konerko

White Sox

7.70%

15.20%

0.200

0.286

0.286

0.350

0.486

0.362

128

Adam Lind

Blue Jays

5.10%

18.90%

0.160

0.291

0.274

0.308

0.434

0.323

105

Mark Trumbo

Angels

2.20%

26.10%

0.193

0.279

0.239

0.264

0.432

0.305

93

Daric Barton

Athletics

16.20%

22.00%

0.088

0.264

0.209

0.342

0.297

0.296

89

Michael Cuddyer

Twins

6.90%

16.10%

0.129

0.240

0.226

0.287

0.355

0.293

85

Kila Ka'aihue

Royals

13.60%

32.40%

0.135

0.265

0.203

0.310

0.338

0.295

83

Derrek Lee

Orioles

10.20%

23.70%

0.062

0.301

0.237

0.315

0.299

0.285

76

Justin Morneau

Twins

7.20%

14.50%

0.079

0.262

0.224

0.289

0.303

0.270

68

 

Laporta's 131 wRC+ ties him for sixth in the AL for first baseman with Adrian Gonzalez of Boston, who has gotten off to a slow start himself. I think if anyone would have told the majority of us here at LGT that Laporta would be the sixth best offensive first baseman in the the AL and carrying a 131 wRC+ or 138 OPS+, we would be ecstatic. If Laporta can maintain his presence in the top 8 of first baseman in the AL for the rest of the season, would you still be satisfied with him or would some of that previous prospect projectionism come back into play and raise expectations that he moves up the list?

notthatnoise made this point, but check out the baBIP, Laporta is at .254 coming into today. Both his BB% and K% are adequate when compared to his peers at the position, and there is a more than .100 point spread between his AVG. and OBP. indicating that low OBP is likely mostly the function of his poor baBIP than poor plate discipline (I will mention this caveat that his O-Swing % is 32.1, one of the poorer percentages at the position thus far and certainly a sign of caution about his prospects). As things normalize, and he can keep his approach consistent, we could see Laporta climbing these rankings. For some reason I was surprised by his ISO being near the top grouping of players at the position as well. I guess with all of the bombs Carlos Santana, Grady Sizemore, and Shin-Shoo Choo have hit recently Laporta's hits are going under the radar for me. Though once again, this might just be a function of the baBIP. I would love to see that SLG. climb into the .500 territory and stay there. At that point we could be talking a near .900 OPS and in this age, that would be something.

As briefly noted above, Laporta has some points of caution in his plate discipline percentages. In addition to his out of zone swing percentage, he has the third highest swinging strike percentage of the group (12.2%) and overall has the contact percentage on his swings (76.5%). These can be troubling signs that he is struggling with pitch recognition and adjusting to major league quality off-speed pitches. I would be interested in what those who have been able to watch him (I mostly listen to the games on the radio as I don't have cable and am blacked out of mlb.com because I live in Cleveland zone) what you think of his plate discipline and ability to recognize and lay off of breaking balls out-of-the zone is thus far.

Finally, what's the consensus feeling on Laporta at this point, are you still in "wait and see" mode or have you moved past worrying about him and now see him as a legitimate answer for the position through the near future.

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