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We are reaching that time of the baseball season where this series offers more of a prospective look. What I mean by that is that the players we look at from here on out may not contain any real-time analytical value. That’s sort of of an eccentric way to say that it’s too late for me to help you now. In fact, I was thinking of arugula when I typed that sentence. But it’s never too early to begin and gather what we’ve learned from this year and apply to the next. Of course, we’ve been doing that with every single post, but the focus has been mainly on the now and soon-to-be now. The time has arrived when we can officially start laying our eggs in the proverbial futuristic basket. A robot basket, with The Matrix twins and lasers. Wait, is there a proverb that involves a futuristic basket? Virginity like bubble, one prick all gone. No, that’s not it. Man who leap off cliff jump to conclusion. Eh, close enough. Today’s focus is an interesting one — taking a player who has never really done anything great, but done a lot of things well, and when’s he’s done those things well, he’s done it with multiple positions. That’s what she said.

I speak of none other than Ben Zobrist. Now, as stated above, he brings a lot of things to a fantasy team. There’s a mediocre batting average, a sprinkle of power and speed, multi-positional eligibility, and also consistency within all of those things. The old adage that when it rains, it pours, doesn’t really describe the production you get here. Rather, you get The Drizzle.

High school yearbook picture of Ben Zobrist. He was voted most likely to destroy Japanese coastal cities. 

And there’s nothing wrong with drizzle production. It’s helpful, unflinching, a rock in the wind. Something-something wax poetic. Except, this season is different. This time, we aren’t getting that drizzle. Granted, Zobrist’s batting average is along his career norms, and the steals are still kinda there. But what made Ben Zobrist into the Zorilla was the fact that he could hit 20+ home runs. Without the power, there is no longer any drizzle. There is only Daniel Murphy. Which is all well and good, but that’s not what you were paying for. If you wanted Daniel Murphy, you would have simply waited around 160 picks to go by, and then, boom, Daniel Murphy is on your roster. But, alas, barring a late season power surge, the damage has been done and we are now looking at a guy that will barely make it to double digit homers. In fact, talking about surges and homers and booms has got me reminiscing.

How Ben Zobrist hits a home run.

How I fart when home alone.

Similar? No. Relevant nonetheless.

To start things off, let’s take a look at the last five years, and I’ll choose the trusted table approach to make this summation.

HR R RBI SB BB% K% ISO AVG OBP SLG BABIP
2009 27 91 91 17 15.2 17.4 .246 .297 .405 .543 .326
2010 10 77 75 24 14.0 16.3 .115 .238 .346 .353 .273
2011 20 99 91 19 11.4 19.0 .310 .269 .353 .469 .310
2012 20 88 74 14 14.5 15.4 .202 .270 .377 .471 .296
2013 7 56 54 9 10.6 14.0 .121 .276 .358 .397 .311

Let’s get the obvious out the way. Some time, during this upcoming off-season, you might one day read a post saying that Ben Zobrist is a sleeper candidate. They might point out the fact that this year could be an outlier. And they might also state that he had a year very similar to this one, back in 2010, and did just fine the following year. Yes, both of these things might be true. But sooner or later, someone is going to look at his BABIP. Sooner I guess, since we’re looking at it now. But this is our secret, don’t tell anyone. Back in 2010, Zobrist’s BABIP was sitting at .273. Now, remember, BABIP doesn’t include home runs, but it does include all balls hit into play, both on the ground and in the air. Combined with the fact that his batted ball profile and plate discipline numbers were all well within career norms, I surmise that whatever was going on that season, luck, or in this case, bad luck, was certainly part of it.

Now, fast forward to 2013, another underachieving year, and you’ll notice a .311 BABIP. That’s not only much higher than in 2010, it’s also above his career average of .292. You might think that’s a bad sign. Afterall, at a basic level, what we are seeing here is that despite Ben Zobrist doing everything at the plate the same way he’s always done, but with a higher BABIP, he still isn’t hitting the ball out of the ballpark. When that’s the case, there are usually only two possibilities… he’s injured or he’s getting old.

I’m not convinced on either count. Why? Simply put, take a look:

  LD% GB% FB% HR/FB Distance
2012 21.8 43.2 34.9 12.5 279.25
2013 19.9 43.1 37.0 5.2 278.82
Career 19.6 43.8 36.6 10.8 286.34

If you look at his batted ball profile and fly ball average distance, there is only one number that doesn’t belong. And that’s his 2013 HR/FB rate of 5.2%. Zobrist is still hitting his balls to all the same places. And, more importantly, he’s still hitting them the same distance. No injury, no degradation of skills from getting old or otherwise, which we would see in these numbers. Rather simply, he’s been unlucky. But, but, but, the BABIP doesn’t say that! True. But that’s taking all of his BABIP values into consideration. MIND BLOWN. Look at it this way. I don’t necessarily care how much he hits the ball on the ground, or the luck associated with that. (However, it should be noted that his batting average may be a bit lofty and some regression could occur there. Not enough to change the dynamic though.) Only fly balls will turn into home runs, and in this specific case, with Zobrist, we only want to care about that one aspect. We’re here to figure out what happened to the power. And the one stat that can help show us what’s going on is his fly ball BABIP. In 2012, it stood at .118. His career number? .111. What is it this year? .084. I rest my case.

You know that sleeper post that I said someone would write on Ben Zobrist next year? I just wrote it. BAM!

Final Verdict:

Jaywrong is a 30-year old Korish writer who finds solace using Makers Mark as a vehicle to impress women, and also has an affinity for making Jennifer Lawrence GIFs. You can follow him @jaywrong, read his blog Desultory Thoughts of a Longfellow, or, you can find his GIFs at his tumblr, named Siuijeonseo.

  1. Barker says:
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    12 team head to head
    I offered segura for kipnis the dude countered with reyes for kipnis
    I am rocking neil walker and kelly johnson at 2nd base — i am in 2 nd place and have reyes and segura the kid in first has pedroia and kipnis so i figured id give it a shot with the first trade but now i assume he wants reyes so is pedroia or kipnis a better return

    I guess the ultimate question is which set of MI would you prefer or stand pat with walker johnson WW

    Nice article and thanks for the help all season

    • Jay

      jaywrong says:
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      @Barker: no prob. I actually might hold in this case. Though, if you do go through with it, I’m leaning Kipnis.

      • barker says:
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        @jaywrong: thank you dude — i wish i woulda just got a decent 2nd baseman in the draft — so this means you would rather do segura rather than reyes and you are turned off by pedroias injury — also that u like my SS better than his 2nd base guys too bad i cant get cano

        i will probably stand pat tho it is tempting to get that 2nd slot filled and use an OF in my util slot

        • Jay

          jaywrong says:
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          @barker: Well, for me, I generally like holding at this point. Unless I can make up quick ground in counting stats categories. I usually cut myself off at the around the same time the MLB trade deadline goes. It’s diminishing returns at this point.

  2. JJ says:
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    I am looking to drop C.Crisp as he hasnt produced in a long time and I cant afford to wait for one of his hot streaks
    Which of these bats would you grab?
    A.DUNN
    J.MORNEAU
    W.VENABLE
    J.SMOAK

    Which of these DLed pitchers will produce the best numbers ROS

    Thanks!

    • JJ says:
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      @JJ:
      I guess I should have included the pitchers:)
      T.CAHILL
      W.RODRIGUEZ
      P.MAHOLM
      J.JOHNSON

    • Jay

      jaywrong says:
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      @JJ: Venable has been hot so I’d lean him. I might stream guys between those four while they’re hitting.

  3. TheGoods says:
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    Avisail Garcia or Oswaldo Arcia??

    • Jay

      jaywrong says:
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      @TheGoods: Oswaldo. Its not close.

      • TheGoods says:
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        @jaywrong: thanks, what i thought. Just got a little frantic lol

  4. Mrs. Featherbottom says:
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    Awesome fart gif!

    • Jay

      jaywrong says:
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      @Mrs. Featherbottom: awesome avatar! Another banger in the mouth?

      • goodfold2 says:
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        @jaywrong: i think it’s just sausage.

      • Mrs. Featherbottom says:
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        @jaywrong: Ha! I’ve been trying my hardest to make all of my team names Featherbottom’s Mouth-Bangers, but the interwebs thinks its too long!

  5. Lilith says:
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    I’m in desparate need of a future 1b with power. I’m thinking Middlebrooks will move to 1b next year with Bogaerts coming up. Should I risk offering for him? Young & looking toward the future. Also I have Flores I am hoping will become a 1b this/next year. Timeline next year or the following year…

    • Jay

      jaywrong says:
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      @Lilith: Depending on price, I would target another guy. I’m not sure I like Middlebrooks profile longterm.

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