In 2008, despite Omar Vizquel’s fantastic defensive play at shortstop, the position was a major challenge for the Giants. Vizquel started the year late because of a knee surgery and the Giants rotated in several infielders to play the position. Brian Bocock, Ivan Ochoa, and Emmanuel Burriss all spent time at short but none of them — outside of Burriss whom the Giants most likely view as a 2B right now — were able to have sustained success. Eventually, Omar returned and while he could still field at a high level, his bat was among the worst in the majors — by bat alone, Vizquel was worth -23 runs below the average major league hitter. That’s not to say that Vizquel doesn’t have any value, fielders that can play top-shelf defense like he can will always find work, but the Giants decided to switch gears and shortstop became a major point to upgrade over the offseason.
Enter Edgar Renteria whom the Giants signed to a 2-year, $18.5M deal in December.
Renteria was coming off a career low in Detroit in ’08 when he posted a wOBA of .308 that was nearly 30 points under his career average. Early in the season, Jim Leyland questioned Renteria’s work ethic and playing shape. Renteria struggled in the 1st half of the season but bounced back some in the second half. By reading various Giants sites and other MLB sports blogs, I’ve seen a good bit of criticism directed towards Edgar Renteria. Most don’t like the price the Giants paid for Renteria, but the team jumped on him early in the market before prices really started to drop. The other common criticism is that Renteria simply isn’t a good, valuable addition to the team that saw a combined shortstop production of: .228/.295/.281.
We’ll talk about valuation some in the next post, along with a year-to-year trending of Renteria’s skills (both offensive and defensive) by using my player value graphs. But today, we’ll lightly touch on the topic of Renteria’s offensive performance over the last three seasons. The claim is that Renteria’s underlying peripherals haven’t shifted much over the last three seasons and that he should be a decent bet to bounce-back in ’09.
The first plot we’ll be looking at will examine Renteria’s batted ball types over the last three seasons. His career numbers are also included. We’re looking at groundballs, flyballs, line drives, and the ratio of home runs hit to flyballs.
From 2006-2007 Renteria enjoyed two fine seasons with the Atlanta Braves. In particular, Renteria’s 2007: .332/.390/.470 was his 2nd best offensive performance ever — his ’03 slightly eclipses it because he accrued more PAs. You can see that from the three year sample we’re looking at, his batted ball data looks remarkably the same. By looking at this plot, you can get a feel for the type of hitter that Renteria is. He’ll hit lots of groundballs and line drives. From ’06-’08 his LD% doesn’t dip below 22%, even in his down year last season. He won’t hit the longball much, but that’s not really part of his skill-set. The most important thing to take away from this plot is that his batted ball data really didn’t change that much last season. His GB%, FB%, LD%, and HR/FB% are all around his established career numbers.
If the batted ball data didn’t change, what has? Let’s check out our next plot.
This plot looks at Renteria’s ISO and BABIP.
Renteria’s very good 2007 was largely helped by his .375 BABIP. In fact, in all of baseball in that year, Renteria ranked 9th in BABIP. We know that hitters can have more influence over their BABIP and for Renteria’s career he’s posted a .323 BABIP. His ’06 season was closer to this established career BABIP. His ’07 BABIP of .294 was a little on the low side, but nothing criminal — a quick xBABIP calculation says it should have been closer to .302 instead of .294. You can also see a slight decline in Renteria’s ISO but hitting for power isn’t a huge part of his game. If he can continue to hit line drives at 20%+, you can live with the decrease in power.
I think it’s pretty clear that expecting Renteria to post a .370+ BABIP like he did in ’07 isn’t smart because it’s not going to happen. But, if he can bounce back closer to the .320 range that he’s been able to reach over his career, his numbers will improve some.
Renteria’s upside is basically a league average hitter or slightly worse. In our WAR projections, that’s exactly how we’ve projected him for the ’09 season. But, an average hitter playing shortstop does have value. And that’s something we’ll be examinging tomorrow with our player value graphs. Stay tuned.