Wednesday, April 23, 2008
The Invisible Man
What's going on with Lyle Overbay? As we come to the end of April it almost stops being a small sample size and it starts to become a cause for worry. It's not like he's a slow starter in April - he has an 813 OPS for the month over his career, and in his first year as a Jay he posted a 770 OPS. Not great, but it's better than the 705 OPS he has now.
I was looking over at Fangraphs, which has every stat imaginable about any player. The weird thing about Overbay is that his BAPIP is ridiculously high at 365. So as bad as he's been, he's been getting lucky and is potentially going to get worse. He's had an above average BAPIP for his career, but even 365 is high for him.
Another thing I noticed is that his BB rate is just through the roof at 15%, well above his career average of 11.2%. So it's possible he's getting pitched around because the guys behind him aren't exactly threatening with the bat - this includes any combo of: Stewart, Scutaro, Inglett, Bajaras, Zaun (and he's not half bad either) and McDonald.
Usually a sharp rise in BB rates are proof that a hitters bat speed is declining. Bill James first hypothesized about it, and they explain it quite well in this Hardball Times article. But I think it's too early in the season and too small a sample size to even suggest that this is the case.
Another possibility could just be that despite Overbay's claims that his hand is ok, it might not be 100% yet. He might not be in any physical pain, but it's possible Overbay may not be at full strength either. Maybe I'm reading too much into the stats, but his LD rate has dropped (17.3% now vs 23 for his career and even 20.9% last year). So what this shows is he isn't hitting the ball as hard, which explains why the power is gone - he isn't hitting the ball to the gaps or over the fence. His GB rate has drastically increased to 55.8%, compared to 47.1% over his career and 48.6% as recently as last year. This helps to show why despite hitting in less than 1/4 of the AB of last year, he's hit into almost half as many double plays. He's not a fast guy, and he's hitting the ball on the ground - probably the worst combination for a hitter. Finally, Overbay's flyball % has dropped to 26.9%, which is a bit lower than his career rate of 29.9% and last years 30.6%.
So what's the problem? Overbay is taking a ton of pitches, either because he can't drive the ball with power (and he knows it) or he isn't getting a pitch to hit thanks to the fact he's usually got a bunch of AAA scrubs hitting behind him. It could just be really poor hitting mechanics that are leading to Overbay's inability to drive the ball with any strength or lift. Overbay's a doubles machine, but he's hitting the ball into the ground way too much, and not hitting it very hard which leads to the GIDP and easy outs. Until he starts lifting the ball, and driving it to the OF he's not going to be much better than he is now.