Thursday, February 25, 2010

More on Wells

With lineup-based self-flagellation stepping in for rosterbation now that the roster is what it is, the calls for Vernon Wells to step forward as the new leadoff hitter are growing louder. While his free-swinging, rarely walking ways aren't exactly conducive to the role, who on this team would be better? Nobody.

In his latest at mailbag, Professor Griff fields questions from the S1Ws about all matters Blue Jay. Griffin suggests Wells might prosper at the top of the order because Wells "could be aggressive and see more good pitches early in counts." Despite this flying in the face of conventional "the leadoff guy sees a lot of pitches so everyone on the bench gets a good look at the starter" thinking, might be crazy enough to work?

Griffin slightly twisted logic came in response to a question about Vernon Wells's at bats and the script they apparently follow. Fastball down the middle, slider/curve away. 0-2 count or pop-up, take your pick. If only it was that simple.

431 fastballs out of 684 plate appearances. That's kind of a lot? 63% of the time, of which our boy Vernon took 141 for strikes. That's enough to create a bias all right. What about the ones he lashed at? Can Vernon make hay early in the count?

Vernon put the first pitch into play 94 times in 2009, reaching base 26 times (5 home runs!) BABIP of .274 in a teeny tiny sample size. Enough to go on? Does Vernon fair better early in the count rather than later?

Sort of. Vernon reached base 65 times when putting the first or second pitch he saw into play, 66 times when he put the bat on the third or fourth pitches he saw. Considering his pitches per plate appearance clocked in at 3.43, this is pretty interesting. Vernon doesn't need to work the count but is equally likely to reach if he goes up hacking versus waiting a little bit before letting fire.

In the end, not too much of this matters. If Vernon leads off or hits clean up, he's duty-bound to disappoint. The future of this team is patient fat dudes. The patient, powerful shortstop continues to elude AA and everyone in the front office. Hopefully Wells can fire on all cylinders once again.

Guess. And guess again.


  1. Over his career, VW's got an OPS of .800 when leading off an inning. Combine that with the purely anecdotal eveidence that he hits a hell of a lot better when there's no one on base, I'm almost sold on this.

    OK, I just looked it up. Over his career, VW's no better with the bases empty, but last season he was a whopping .150 OPS better. My eyes are good for something!

    With all that, I'm still intrigued by the idea of putting Overbay at the top of the order.

  2. Overbay had a pretty interesting response to the idea of hitting first when Griff asked him about it. Apparently Overbay doesn't like hitting at the top of the order because you get a lot of early strikes, and he doesn't like being aggressive at the plate. He basically said people want him to hit there because of his high OBP, but he believes his high OBP is a result of hitting later in the order and being able to be more patient.

    A lot of that also flies in the face of traditional logic and it's pretty shitty to hear your first baseman basically say "I'd rather take walks than get good pitches to hit," but for whatever it's worth, I'm no longer sold on the idea of Overbay hitting leadoff.

  3. I saw that, too, Ty. I also saw The Manager talking about how he had success converting Devo into a leadoff hitter even though he didn't want to do it (same article maybe?)

    I think the fact that Overbay's afraid to bat leadoff, Hill and Lind are afraid to be moved from the 2 and 3 spots, and the VW needs to bat 4th so his confidence isn't destroyed speaks to a larger issue. That being that The Manager doesn't have a fucking clue how to go about instilling any sort of confidence in his players.

  4. Agree about confidence issue - how the fuck has he managed to get our best orders afraid to hit in certain spots of the batting order?

    You'd think that with all the first-pitch fastballs VW sees, Clarence "Have A Plan" Gaston would have Wells sitting on a fastball, at least for the first few pitches.

  5. The thing about Overbay is that he's not afraid of the pressure of leading off or anything, he just doesn't like having to swing the bat early in the count. It's not really about psychology or anything as much as it's about batting style. Hill said he'd be happy hitting anywhere as well... Gaston just seems like he's putting words in his players' mouths a lot of the time, and then making decisions based on his ideas of how they might feel rather than actually doing things that make sense.

    If anything, I wouldn't mind seeing Wells in the leadoff spot just because it would almost definitely make him change his approach at the plate, and that's what it seems like he's needed most over the past little while.

  6. I could go with trying VW in the lead-off so long as Clarence doesn't commit to trying it for 50 or 60 games just for stability sake. I'd still want to see Overbay at #2 with Hill and Lind going 3 and 4.
    And I don't know if it's Clarence or the other guys, but somebody needs to have some confidence, and not simply in saying "there are no good players here."

  7. By "continues to elude" do you mean "was allowed to walk for a second round draft pick by"?

  8. God I hope you don't mean Scutaro.


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