Tuesday, May 16, 2006
During the season, four statistics are good indicators to better understand in-season veteran performance. They are line drive percentage, net walks (BB less Intentional BB) per plate appearance, strikeout per plate appearance and isolated slugging percentage (SLG - BA). If there is much variance from his career levels, the player could be turning the corner or falling off a cliff, but more data and analysis needs to be completed to render an educated assessment. On the other hand, little difference indicates that the player’s skill set has likely not changed. His performance has changed because he is hitting the ball right at people, just missing that hanger, moved to a new home park or the sample of data is too small.
Mark Loretta looks like he will end up with similar numbers as his 2005 campaign, if not better. Loretta’s line drive percentage is slightly above his 2005 mark and 5.2% better than his career year in 2004 when he hit 336/391/495. Line drives fall for a hit around 75% of the time, so the higher the line drive percentage, usually the higher the batting average as long as the hitter continues to make contact. Loretta is doing just that - his strikeout rate has decreased over 2005 and is steady with 2004 levels. As we are witnessing now, Loretta’s hits are falling and his average is rising. It could get even higher, if he keeps hitting more liners in a better hitter’s park and gets a bit lucky.
Loretta’s walk rate has dipped slightly from 2005 and 2004, but it is not significant. One or two more walks and this season's rate would match his past years. What is a potential problem is the drop in isolated slugging. It has fell from 159 in 2004 to a PETCO park aided plummet of 64 and to-date 82 at friendly Fenway. SLG and Iso in 2003 and 2004 are clearly Loretta’s outliners. He is unlikely to repeat those years. An Iso of no more than 100 or a SLG of 380 is probable and in line with the rest of his career numbers.
It appears that Loretta is on track for another 290/340/390 season. He will be a slightly above average second baseman in 2006. The other two veterans - Mike Lowell and Varitek - that are performing outside of their career and expected norms will be evaluated in the near future.