Monday, July 8, 2013

Johnny G's Patience at the Plate

Despite hitting .306/.380/.441 throughout his career in Minor League Baseball, Johnny Giavotella has left much to be desired in his time with the Major League Club. Entering Monday night, over 395 professional plate appearances he has hit just .239/.271/.335. Quite simply that isn't going to get the job done, especially when it is coming from a below average fielder.

Giavotella's problems stem primarily from three issues: bad luck on balls in play, lower walk rate than he displayed in the minors, and a higher strikeout rate than he displayed in the minors. Just because I'm a nerd and love numbers, I wanted to take a look at what would happen if these problems were corrected.

First, let's remove Giavotella's bad luck from the equation. Using a simple expected babip calculator I found that the former second round pick's babip should be roughly .323, a much higher figure than the .283 that he has sat at thus far in his career. So if we assume the same distribution of extra base hits with the same paltry 2.9% HR/FB, Giavotella's line jumps to roughly .263/.293/.370. Obviously, this is a little better but definitely nothing to write home about.

Let's take this a step farther and adjust Giavotella's career walk rate to the same as he had in the minor leagues. This jumps his career walk total all the way from 15 at the 3.8% mark to 41 at the 10.3% mark he displayed while riding buses to road games. By getting back to the selectivity he showed in the minors, Giavotella's career line jumps all the way to .263/.359/.370. We're getting close now.

At this point an OPS of .739 out of second base would be a welcome change for the Royals. Let's see what happens if Giavotella could get his strikeout rate to the one he displayed at the minor league level. So far, Gio has struck out in 17.2% of his Major League plate appearances. If he were to get that mark down to his minor league level he would be striking out only 11% of the time. So when we adjust Gio's line in all three of these areas, he would be sitting on a .287/.365/.401 career line. An OPS that would rank him fourth on the team, behind (you guessed it you didn't guess it) Jarrod Dyson, George Kottaras, and Alex Gordon.

Obviously, one can't expect Giavotella to produce strikeout and walk rates equal to those he displayed in Omaha. However, if Giavotella can simply find an approach that comes close to those marks he should be alright. For 395 plate appearances he has shown the ability to make hard contact. (Hard enough to lead me to believe that his HR/FB% is pretty unlucky as well.)

Sure Giavotella has had three separate stints in the Major Leagues, but I don't believe he is the type of guy whose approach should totally fall apart. If Gio just had a few more of those hard hit balls fall, it might be enough to give him a bit of confidence and help him get back to the approach that led to the #FreeGio movement in the first place. Let's hope the Royals feel the same way and show the kind of patience that got Gio to the Major Leagues.

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