4:00 PM ET – Boston (1) vs. Detroit (1) – John Lackey (2.8 rWAR) vs. Justin Verlander (4.6 rWAR)
8:00 PM ET – St. Louis (2) vs. Los Angeles (1) – Lance Lynn (1.8 rWAR) vs. Ricky Nolasco (0.4 rWAR)
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To say that Brett Lawrie’s 2013 was a tale of two halves somehow doesn’t even do it justice. There was certainly a point where it looked like that was going to be the case– much to our delight. Back in late August, we passed along a comment from a scout who had spoken to Baseball Prospectus and said, unequivocally, “I am comfortable saying that he is going to be a superstar third baseman, and it’s more likely to happen sooner than later.”

At that moment Lawrie was healthy for the first time in basically a calendar year. His swing was quieter, and he was finishing up his best month at the plate since he burst onto the scene in August of 2011.

Taken as a whole, the difference between his first- and second-half splits is encouraging, with the second-half ones being pretty close to what you’d expect of a player who missed Spring Training, rushed himself back into the lineup, went down with an ankle injury, and then came back as healthy as he’d been since the first half of 2012. In the second half of this season his walk rate ticked up by two percent over the first half, and his strikeout rate dropped by 12%, thanks largely to a month of August in which he made crazy contact, combining to walk and strikeout in just 12% of his plate appearances.

His second half slash line of .283/.346/.417 looks very nice for a third baseman who plays outstanding defence (despite not being nearly as well liked by the advanced metrics– perhaps because of the lack of shifting– in 2013 as compared to 2012), and still might have some additional home run power in his bat, considering that he’s still going to be just 23 years old for another three months.

But, while we really don’t want to put too much stock into a single month of data, his September wasn’t so hot, and it would be much easier to salivate over the possibilities of a Jays lineup fully healthy and running on all cylinders, with Lawrie fulfilling his supposed superstar potential, if not for it.

Though, actually, it does do a pretty good job of illustrating the fine line between success and failure in this game. Lawrie’s wOBA for September was 70, as compared to 146 for August, but some of the raw numbers aren’t as far apart as they seem:

In August he had 117 PA, 26 singles, 8 doubles, two homers, seven walks, and seven strikeouts.

In September it was 112 PA, 20 singles, 4 doubles, one home run, seven walks, and sixteen strikeouts.

He also had a triple in August. So… it’s not like there isn’t a significant difference, especially in terms of extra base hits, between the two months, but we wouldn’t expect those sorts of things to be distributed evenly anyway. If we feel comfortable lumping the entire second half sample together– and I think we probably should– it’s really not so bad.

Better than that, even.

Still not great, though. Not for a guy whose position wasn’t supposed to matter all that much, given that his bat would carry him at whichever position he ended up on. But again, he’s still just 23, and I think we’d all really like to see what he could do if he actually was able to stay on the field for a full season– something that hasn’t happened since 2010, his last year in the Brewers system.

Crucially, the odds of that happening seem better now than ever, though, as Lawrie displayed a newfound on-field maturity this season, appearing to play more in control, while still being able to take advantage of his tremendous athleticism.

What may also bode well for him is the fact that Lawrie posted a reverse split in 2013, hitting left-handed piching to the tune of just a 66 wRC+. That figure includes both halves of the season, so if we believe he’s more likely to be the guy we saw in the second half, it’s bound to get a little better on its own, but it’s still rather odd.

And… maybe it’s nothing, but I can’t help but immediately make the connection to the fact that J.P. Arencibia oddly struggled mightily against right-handers too (but what didn’t he struggle at?), though by the end of the year his platoon splits ended up pretty even, and Edwin Encarnacion wasn’t quite himself in the split either. Could this have had something to do with the Jays’ displeasure with their hitting coach? Granted, Edwin worked primarily with Dwayne Murphy, we’re told, but… yeah, I don’t know. Maybe?

Probably not. But either way, you’d think that Lawrie would be hard pressed to be that bad against left-handers again, which is another reason– when I allow myself to indulge in some heavy wishcasting– I can actually believe he may finally be on the cusp. No, really.

Comments (71)

  1. Really enjoying these Stoeten.
    Excellent work.

    Go Tigers.

  2. Why is there something smart-alecky in brackets after my little Jonny’s name all the time?

    • Really interesting. I wonder if we can take the fact that none of them really said pitcher wins is the be all end all (couple mentioned it but few gave it more than a cursory mention) and take it to some of these columnists, show them the results at yell “BUT THEY HAVE PLAYED THE GAME!”

      • Agreed.

      • When evaluating starters to draft/buy in fantasy leagues,
        I look for WHIP of 1.200 or less combined with a K rate of 0.9/inning
        for my first tier and same WHIP plus K rate 0.8/inning for my 2nd tier.

        I stay away from everybody else unless there are extenuating circumstances
        like injuries or very good or very bad luck as indicated by advanced stats.

        It has worked out VERY well in fantasy leagues and I suspect
        that they are pretty good benchmarks for real baseball as well.

  3. GO TIGERS!!! This is a huge game for the ALCS. If Tigers lose this one I think they are in deep trouble.

  4. I think AA should lock Lawrie up for several years while he is still cheap. he is so young and he is going to get better. lock him up before he starts FA years and carry the contract into his FA years.

  5. holy shit are the Tigers starers ever incredible. they are totally dominating the Red Sox hitters this series. what have they given up…like 3-4 hits in 18 IP with like 30 Ks???

    if they don’t win the WS this year with that rotation there is something seriously wrong. wow.

  6. 6 k’s in a row for Verlander.Sweet

  7. Lawrie is going to be a star.

  8. Hey Stoeten, have you changed your tune on Avisail Garcia?

    • What was my tune? That he kinda sucks? Then no.

      • I know he doesn’t walk much but he looks like he’s going to smash.
        I have absolutely no data to back that up though. Just a feeling I get when I watch him play.

        Get the same feeling watching Lawrie, one day soon he’s gonna figure it out.

        Don’t you ever get that feeling watching a player? You don’t take all of your opinions on players from stats alone do you?

        Haven’t you ever watched a player go 0 for 4 but thought “shit, nice swing, good timing, he’s gonna get his knocks.”

  9. “Lawrie’s wOBA for September was 70, as compared to 146 for August”

    I believe those were his wRC+ numbers.

  10. Detroit hitters waaaaay too aggressive. How many 1-0, 2-0 curve balls outside the zone are they going to swing at for Lackey?

  11. Cabrera sucks.

  12. My God. Swinging at such junk.

  13. damn I hate the Red Sox

  14. Man, when I think of the guys Texas has dumped in the last three years for fuck all.
    Uehara, they let walk!
    Traded Chris Davis AND Tommy hUnter to Baltimore ( for the aforementioned Uehara)
    Let Napoli walk
    Let hamilton walk.
    Fuk and we doubt AA

    • Hamilton? Come on now son. He didn’t even put up 2 fucking fWAR this year.

    • And..I forgot about CJ Wilson, the No2 starter now on the LAA. Fuk they w/h a great team now

    • Jon Daniels has always been the most similar GM to Anthopoulos, I think. He takes big risks, especially in trade. A lot of them have paid off really well, but there’s been quite a few huge misses on his plate too.

      I believe his first big trade was dealing Adrian Gonzalez to the Padres in a deal based around Adam Eaton (the pitcher).

    • I don’t know that I would call losing a player to free agency dumping a player. If you are going to do that, however, I question how you could possibly put Hamilton, his declining skills, his ailing body, and his massive contract into that discussion.

  15. This is depressing. As I mentioned in a previous post, Boston is beginning to look like a team of destiny.

  16. lol. AA also traded Napoli but crap (Francisco) but at least he isn’t Chris Davis!

      • I think AA thought he had enough catchers and that Napoli wasn’t going to be as good as D’ Arnaud and/or JPA at the time. With the Angels he wasn’t anywhere near what he has been with the Rangers and Sox. Plus at the time AA badly needed a closer that he could later flip for a draft choice. Far as I’m concerned though he could be waving goodbye to Adam Lind this year if he had kept Napoli for all the good Francisco brought.
        Oh well everyone’s allowed one of those. I’m absolutely ecstatic he refused to even think about Prince Fielder.

        • Napoli would have hit free agency last year, so he’d likely be gone regardless.

          The whole idea was to get a compensation draft pick.

  17. Verlander looks like he might kill someone

    • It’s obvious that Dombrowski didn’t value defense enough and Cabrera isn’t a good leader. I hear he argues balls and strikes more than anyone in the league.

      And Leyland doesn’t know how to play small ball. You need that to win in the playoffs.

      The offense needs to communicate more with the pitchers and Tigers starters need to learn to pitch to the score. Only allow solo shots when they’re leading by 2 or more. That sort of thing.


      • @Dexter


        Don’t forget AA was an expos fan when Dombrowski built a very competitive expos team 1987-1990. Dombrowski got Mark langston, who was a star pitcher in those days. Expos were leading the division in august 1989 until they slumped. You can’t go wrong with a manager named buck rodgers.!

        • Hmm…Mark Langston for a 6 foot 10 pitcher(and 2 others)…Langston sucked for the
          Expos. How did The Big Unit work out for Seattle?

      • @Dexter – Thought you were serious for a second.

        • @hsc.

          It’s obviously a Joke, but you have to give credit to Dombrowski , former Expos GM, for putting an excellent team together. The GM in Baltimore is also a former Expos GM.

  18. Boston going to the World Series… great.

    Not one fucking interesting team left in it.

  19. A Cards/Red Sox world series could turn me into a hockey fan. Fuck both of them and their douchey, entitled fanbases.

  20. Brett Lawrie……..nevermind, not worth it.

  21. Twitter’s saying that Kevin Seltzer is the new hitting coach.

  22. Some stuff from Seitzer on his philosophy:

    “We went with the oppo-approach when we were down in the count, which is what all good hitters do. The key to being a good hitter is putting the ball in play — you increase your odds dramatically by keeping the ball in play. And we did that. I saw a lot of these young guys really start to figure things out as the year went on. “

    “Seitzer issued a warning that a pull-the-ball philosophy could be disastrous for the Royals’ young hitters.

    “Personally, I think it’s a recipe for disaster,” Seitzer said. “And there aren’t too many hitting coaches who wouldn’t agree. You start committing yourself too early on pitches and a lot of bad things can happen. You’ve got less time to react and you’re going to see a lot of foul balls or weak ground balls.”

    “Really, if you ask any good hitting coach or any good hitter if a dead-pull approach is a good approach and we all know what the answer will be: No.”

    • @jazayerli: Fascinating if Seitzer is the Jays’ new hitting coach. His philosophy is almost the exact opposite of Toronto’s sell-out-for-power approach.

    • “Back in May, Russell Carleton published a study at Baseball Prospectus that evaluated hitting coaches based on whether the hitters under their tutelage improved or declined. By his methodology – and it’s only one way of looking at things – Kevin Seitzer was worth about 58 runs over an average hitting coach over the course of a season. Among every hitting coach of the last 20 years who had held the job for more than two seasons, the only hitting coach worth more was Clint Hurdle – who coached for the Rockies from 1997 to 2001, before the humidor, when Coors Field was maybe the best hitters’ park in world history. Carleton admits that the extreme conditions may have affected the numbers in a way he could not control for, and made Hurdle look better than he was.

      So basically, Carleton came to the conclusion that Seitzer was, if not the best hitting coach of the last 20 years, certainly close. And that was before this season, when practically every hitter he coached last season has declined to varying degrees. I imagine the same study performed today would rank Seitzer even higher.”

      Now what does that actually mean and will it translate to results?

      I have no idea.

  23. Oh God how great this would be! to get a non-grip-and-rip batting coach would be amazing.

    • +1

      • Have to say I liked Mottola a lot. But I’ve never seen anything to support that he was “grip and rip”. As I understood Mottola, he stressed correct basics like stance
        hand position, and swing. The aggressive approach (IMHO) came from Cito and Murphy.

        Whatever…as long as we don’t get

        Gary- fucking- Denbo

    • If Mottola had anything to do with the players poor approach at the plate, then I’m all for his firing. I wish I had access to stats that would confirm my suspicion that the Jays swung at a LOT of balls – at least more than most teams. Combine that with their awful two strike approach, it was painful to watch. Maybe Mottola did tell them all the right things, but if they didn’t listen, it’s still his fault.

      • I agree but my perception might be skewed by watching JPA swing though balls over and over again. That having been said, over the 25 years I’ve been following the team I could say the same about lots and lots of players and it always pissed me off that they were such easy strike-out targets. I was at that looooong game with NY when it went to maybe 16 innings. In around inning 13, the Jays had no outs, the bases loaded and a kid on the mound who had walked them that way. Brad Fullmer came up to bat. And all he had to do was stand there. The kid was wild as hell. But no. He swung through 3 balls. And then they got a double -play. The Yanks won that one and they well deserved to.

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