Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Who are these guys? - Second Base

Tony Graffanino
OPS+ 79

Graffanino has only cracked 100 games twice in his career, but has always proved to be a useful utility infielder. He heads into spring training this year as the leading candidate for second base, after Desi Relaford signed a contract to provide positive music and many ground balls in Colorado.

Tony kept his on-base percentage respectable last year, but did suffer a dip in power, which may be attributed to arthroscopic knee surgery in the early part of the season. He was slugging just over .400 (which still isn’t very good, but more in line with his career numbers) before the injury and finished the year at .335 which is, technically speaking, terrible.

After a full off-season of recovery from a second surgery on the knee in August, T-Graf (as all the cool kids call him) should be ready to put his pluck and veteran leadership to use in 2005.

Fun Fact: Tony and Jeremy Affeldt share the same birthday, June 6. The sixth is an off-day for the Royals, so I bet they both get wasted!
Ruben Gotay
OPS+ 83

Like Blanco at short, Gotay was one of many youngsters who got thrown into the fire last year. Another player who has demonstrated good on-base ability with little power, his walk rate took a big hit when faced with major-league pitching – once every 17.89 plate appearances versus 1/8.61 in the minors.

A new stat that The Hardball Times began tracking last year is line drive percentage (LD%). By this measure, Gotay was 10% better than league average at hitting line drives, which gave him a 15% better batting average on balls in play (BABIP). While the correlation between hitting line drives and increasing batting average has yet to be sufficiently researched, it will be interesting to see if young Ruben can continue to improve his plate discipline while spraying frozen ropes into the valleys of Kauffman Stadium.

Donnie Murphy
OPS+ 26

You’ll notice from the AVG/OBP numbers that Donnie didn’t bother taking any walks in his cup of coffee with the parent club last season. 27 at bats in seven games are too small of a sample to really tell us anything about his ability, but I will note that three of his five hits were doubles. Should he keep that pace up over an entire season, he would best Earl Webb’s single-season record for doubles by two.

I have sincere doubts that Earl’s heirs are concerned at the moment.

Murphy also stopped stealing bases in 2004, grabbing just two at all levels after swiping 15 in A ball the year before. I’m sure there is a very good reason for the 86% drop-off in stolen base attempts, but I haven’t the time or the inclination to find out what it is.

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