If you’re like me, you’ve found yourself wondering a lot about two particular players in the Reds’ lineup. Devin Mesoraco and Billy Hamilton were the two biggest unknowns coming into the season and, thus far, they’ve had wildly disparate results. I thought, perhaps, now was a good time to look at them and see what useful information we can get from these early season results.
Let’s start with the bad news.
Right now, BIlly Hamilton has a wRC + of 3 (yes, 3). 100 is average. By way of comparison, Votto and Phillips have career numbers of 156 and 96 respectively. This season, Hamilton has a 3. Ouch.
But, there is some hope. Hamilton only has 66 major league plate appearances. Only 44 have come this season. The best we can say given that tiny sample is that we might be starting to have a sense of his plate discipline. Generally speaking, swing% stabilizes around 50 PAs, and this season, Hamilton has been swinging at about an average rate. Contact% becomes relevant at about 100 PAs. Right now, he’s actually making contact more often than league average when he swings.
The results have been bad for Hamilton thus far, but to this point, it still looks like his numbers are heavily BABIP driven.
Devin Mesoraco has been something this week. His wRC+ currently stands at 317. You could divide his OPS in half and he’d still be above the league average. He has, of course, many fewer plate appearances than Hamilton this season, but for his career he has almost exactly one full season’s worth.
What’s interesting about that last statement is that it might tell us something useful. Mesoraco has 609 career plate appearances. In that time, he has managed a wRC+ of 78. That’s not very good. Of course, we all know that Devin hasn’t had the best handling since he joined the big club. His peripherals are interesting, though. His Isolated Power (SLG-BA) is .151, which is above league average. Additionally, his BABIP of .254 is low, even for a catcher and should be expected to rebound.
Given those two pieces of information, I think we might reasonably assume that what we’ve seen from Devin the past few seasons represents his offensive floor right now. Certainly, he’s not going to maintain his current torrid pace, but he does have legitimate power (19 HRs in those 609 PAs) and his average should rebound simply from the law of averages.
From just this year, the numbers we’re looking at need hundreds of at bats before they stabilize, but they should serve as a reminder that Mes hasn’t had a run like this before and that he was, to use a very imprecise term, due.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) is the batting average a player has on… balls he puts in play. That is, it excludes homers and strikeouts. Pitchers tend to have very little control of this, mostly gravitating toward .290 or so.
Hitters do exhibit some control. However, the number can fluctuate wildly from season to season (See: Bruce, Jay) and a reasonably wide view is necessary before it can be identified as an actual skill. Votto’s career BABIP of .358 is otherworldly and among the best you’ll ever see as he currently ranks 5th all-time among players with at least 3000 PAs in the modern era.
In general, BABIPs below .270 or above .320 (or so) should be viewed very, very skeptically until there are several seasons of evidence. Think of BABIP for hitters as similar to advanced fielding stats. One season doesn’t tell you much, but if a player keeps it up, you can be confident something is going on there.