Thursday, 3 July 2008

The Invisible Man, Part Two

Earlier in the year I did an "Invisible Man" section on Lyle Overbay, showing why he was struggling offensively. I'm going to try and do something similar here with Alex Rios.

Rios was signed to a contract extension at the beginning of the season, which made us all very happy that our 850+ OPS defensive stud RF who could play CF in a pinch was going to be here the next 6 or so years. I was going to start off making some bullshit argument about how Rios let the contract get to his head, but that's not the case. In April Rios hit 306/386/449, good enough for an 835 OPS. Rios showed more patience than he normally does which led to the high OBP, which is why nobody really noticed or cared that he only slugged 449 that month.

In May he did his best John McDonald impression - and not with the glove - as he 'hit' 231/270/315 (585 OPS). It was around this time that we started to notice that Rios was struggling significantly, and that for the second straight month he wasn't showing much in the way of power. In June it got a little better, as he hit 320/361/460 (821 OPS). He showed the greatest slugging by month to this point, but don't let the slugging fool you - that was a batting average determined slugging. Had his BA been the same as in April, his slugging would have been an identical 449 in April and June.

Some would attribute his June resurgence to Cito, but again, he wasn't any better in June than he was in April. Until he regains his 06/07 swing, this is essentially his ceiling.

Now, if Rios could hit 280 and get on base with at least a 350-360 OBP, while slugging 450, I don't think anybody would really mind. As an 800 OPS RF with elite defense, Rios would still have a ton of value. But with a career 7.1 BB%, I don't think Rios is going to approach that OBP (of 350-360) without hitting 300. So he's going to need to show a significant amount of power if he wants to be a valuable major leaguer.

Right now there's nothing wrong with Rios' line drive rate - it's 21.2%, above his career mark of 20.5, and identical to his breakout year with the Jays. The number that jumps out of me, and not in a good way, is his GB %. If you're going to be a GB hitter, you need Ichiro, Reyes, or Crawford type speed. Rios is quick, but he's outclassed by those guys in terms of pure speed. So when I see Rios has a 47% GB rate (up nearly 12% from the past few years), a 31.8% FB rate (down nearly 13%!!!) and a HR/FB rate at 4.8% (down 5-7% from the past few years) - I think the problem becomes very obvious.

This really isn't anything shocking. We knew Rios couldn't hit a HR by watching the game with our own eyes. We know he's hit into a ton of double plays (12, which puts him 2 away from a season high). The stats just confirm that all these things are true.

What's surprising, is that he's regressed into the player (I refuse to call him a hitter from this point) that showed up in 2005 - a player with no plate discipline, no power, and untapped potential.

To me, this isn't about Rios not having a game plan, or just being a lazy hitter. That's making an excuse, but it's not dealing with the problem. Someone has to teach or show Rios how to hit the ball into the air again. Because otherwise, we just spent 65 million dollars on a 700 OPS RF. But at least he doesn't clog the bases.


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