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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Was David Ross Just the Victim of Bad Luck?

I posted this over at Red Reporter a few days ago, but I thought I'd repost it here for safe keeping and because I think it's an interesting take on a player I've dissed a bit lately. If you're interested, you can also read its complementary article, Is Jason LaRue Just the Victim of Bad Luck, from the '06 season. That, and a glance at LaRue's 2007 stats, should remove any trace of credibility I have with respect to these sorts of claims. :) But it also explains some of the methodology I use to evaluate luck in hitters.

Anyway, here you go:

I've been thinking some about Ross lately, and he's an interesting case.

Compared to 2006, while his ground ball % was up slightly last year (bad), his line drive percentage was actually up substantially, and his strikeout rate was down.

He didn't walk nearly as much (pressing?), and his home run per fly ball rate (a stat subject to random fluctuations) was down quite a bit. But one of the biggest differences between '06 and '07 is that his BABIP was unusually low (0.226) for a guy with an 18.5% LD rate (eBABIP = 0.305).

If you give me a guy who increases his line drive percentage from 16.8% to 18.5% while at the same time cutting down on his strikeouts, I'd most certainly predict that he'd have a higher batting average the following year. That didn't happen with Ross. And his BABIP indicates to me that the reason for his struggles last year had more to do with bad luck than a change in skill.

FWIW, PrOPS agrees with me, giving him an expected OPS based on his batted ball stats of 0.808, quite a step up from his true OPS of 0.670. PrOPS matched up to his actual OPS quite well in 2006 (0.967 v. 0.932), so it's not the case that it always massively overestimates Ross's performance.

To be clear, I'm not suggesting that Ross is going to revert to his 0.900+ OPS form next year. But a high 0.700's/low 0.800's OPS is not out the question, and that's acceptable production from a defensive-oriented catcher.


Thing is, I said almost the exact same thing about LaRue's performance in 2006. And that didn't turn out so well. So I dunno, maybe I'm wrong about Ross too. But everything I see about his batted ball stats indicates that he was hitting the ball much better than his batting line would suggest.