Imagine the pangs of excitement I felt this morning when I read the headline of a Globe and Mail piece, “Blue Jays’ Arencibia scoffs at average“. That’s especially so because, with a .282 OBP last year, he’s maybe not the first guy you’d think would be approaching the same way as Brandon McCarthy, Oakland’ssabermetrically-obsessed Opening Day starter, who resurrected his career after turning to newfangled stats because he “didn’t want to suck at baseball anymore.”

Truth is, judging by Arencibia’s comments he’s not quite seen anything close to as much of the light as McCarthy– I mean, RBIs? Really?– but that doesn’t mean he isn’t headed in the right direction. Nor does it make it any less refreshing to hear his scoffing (or, frankly, kinda unsurprising, unless you’re still one of the old-school guys trying to cover teams without having any concept of the… er… concepts they’re now using when it comes to stats and evaluations).

“I don’t want to hit .219. Don’t get me wrong,” Arencibia tells the Globe. “But I will put my .219 with 23 homers and 78 RBI up against, say, .291 with five homers and 40 RBI. What I’m most interested in is productivity. Look at Carlos Pena. Do you think the Rays are worried about his average?”

“Are you paid to drive in runs or hit .300?” he adds.

Well… actually, Joe Carter, if you’re just scavenging RBIs on opportunities created by guys getting on-base in front of you, I’m not sure you’re doing either. But overall… sure. Fair enough.

Then, talking about breaking up Justin Verlander’s perfect game last May, he says, “ball four was the only time in my life when I did something wrong by getting a walk.”

Scoffing at average? Thinking walks only ever bad when they’ve “ruined a perfect game”? Um… yes, please.

Comments (18)

  1. JPA actually seems to have made some big improvements in drawing walks. His first few years in the minors his BB% was pathetic (5.6%, 4.2%, 2.5%, 5.2%), but his last year in AAA he bumped that up to a healthy 8.3%, and then posted a decent 7.4% as a MLB rookie last year. Still not a great BB rate but no longer awful, or even bad.

    If he can get his avg up to a decent level, that walk rate will play.

  2. “Are you paid to drive in runs or hit .300?” he adds.

    Not specific to the JP piece, but this is a common argument for the pro-RBI guys that drives me absolutely insane. There’s this false idea in the anti-sabremetric community that seems to think “being a good hitter” and “being a productive hitter” are somehow not the same thing. Generally speaking, if JP had been at bat in the exact same situations as he was in 2011 and hit .300 instead of .219, he would have driven in more runs. I absolutely cannot understand the line of reasoning he’s using in the quote above.

    That said, it’s true: batting average is pretty much useless. But I kinda get the sense that JP was intending to take that debate in the opposite direction of where it should be headed.

    • I’d need some convincing to believe this comment, because the assumption is if JP Arencibia tries to hit for average last season, it is at the expense of his power. So if he hit’s .300 and only hits 2 home runs, why is it an automatic that he has more than 78 rbi’s?

      Wade Boggs used to say that he could hit 30 home runs a season, however he wouldn’t be able to keep his average over .300 if he did that. I believe Ichiro has made similar comments.

      What effect this has on a walk rate, I’m not sure? (Also, I am in no way trying to promote RBI’s or Average as a useful statistic.)

      • Yeah, I should note that I was taking the comment without the the condition that higher average = less power. If that’s the implication – that increasing his batting average would drag down his SLG, say – then I can get behind that line of reasoning.

        In that sense, I think the anti-SABR guys are actually advocating more advanced statistics without realizing it. Slugging % is literally just weighted batting average, and it correlates much better to creating runs than average does. So when they say they don’t care about AVG as long as the production is there… really, they’re just unknowingly espousing the uselessness of AVG as compared to more predictive statistics.

      • The only thing I have to nitpick about that line of reasoning is if Aaron Cibia’s average was higher, he’d have more hits. Some of those hits would be flyballs, and with his 14.7% HR/FB ratio, obviously he’d have a few more homers added to his 23.

        Arencibia’s problem with his average was his 49.8% FB ratio, which is the main reason for his .255 BABIP. If he can cut that down a bit and hit more line drives, his average will most certainly increase. His power is legit, so that wouldn’t get affected too much, thus increasing his wOBA too.

        Also, to expand on his value, he probably would have been a 2+ fWAR rookie if he could have been an average fielder. Hopefully he greatly improves this year.

      • I think that’s a fair assumption though. Ever play baseball or softball? You can hit for a much higher average just dropping the barrel on the ball and directing into play than you can when you swing as hard as you can.

    • Players are routinely paid for reasons other than maximising their team’s chance to win. On that basis alone, the argument is specious at best.

    • I don’t know what ever happened to the concept of “going with the pitch” in hitting. Dwayne Murphy seems hell-bent on getting your pitch and driving it out of the yard. I think this hurts young hitters like Cibia.

  3. I definitely expect Arencibia to get on base much more often this year, though. He’s got a ton of opposite-field hitting ability (and power) that was pretty much completely lost for half of last season because of his hand injuries. When he’s healthy, he’s a much less one-dimensional hitter than he was in the 2nd half of 2011, and I think that’ll show up in his batting line at the end of the year.

  4. Barring injury i think we’ll see what kind of hitter JP really is this season with d’Arnaud ready to take his job. But if I have to sit through another season of him trying to backhand balls in the dirt then it’s going to be a long season.

  5. Click over to ESPN to read the story on Bobby Jenks DUI charge, some cops are soooooo blabby about the arrest process – lots of details about Bobby’s night out at Babes (a gentlemen’s club, or as we know it, the ballet). His excuse to the occifer: he had to quickly leave the scene of the car he smashed into in the parking lot. EPIC NIGHT OUT.

  6. Okay, JP didn’t give a disquisition on the linear weights of different batting outcomes, but I think we can be pretty positive here: he realizes he’s a power guy, and isn’t going to try to sacrifice power for average. He puts a good value on taking walks. This is basically what we want his approach as a hitter to be.

  7. JPA’s all about getting the ladies into the Rogers Centre. For the Jays, if he can add more fannies in the seats, it will add to his WARish value.

    • He is popular with the fans. Will the Jays keep him or trade him once Travis D’Arnaud is ready in 2013?

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