by Eric STashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
It’s not uncommon for players to get off to slow starts after signing big free agent contracts. However, struggling for a few weeks (or months) does not mean that they can’t turn it around. Let’s take a look at two examples who are struggling early on to see if they can turn things around:
Brian McCann – Catcher – New York Yankees
It’s fair to wonder if the move to Yankee Stadium, and the appeal of the short porch in right field, has helped to contribute to the early season struggles of McCann. It’s a story we’ve certainly heard before, so it wouldn’t be a complete surprise. Hitting .225 with 7 HR over his first 200 AB, it would be an easy excuse as well.
However, let’s just compare his batted ball profile from 2014 against his career marks:
|Line Drive Rate||22.5%||20.1%|
|Fly Ball Rate||43.8%||42.5%|
|Infield Fly Ball Percentage||10.8%||9.6%|
So, we are looking at marginally more fly balls and popups, but not enough to dramatically change his production. Instead, the problems are a 9.5% HR/FB (career mark of 12.6%) and an incredibly unlucky .232 BABIP.
While we would think a recovery would be in order, we also can’t forget that in 2012 he posted a .234 BABIP (so it can’t be taken as a given). Still, we would anticipate better days being ahead for the veteran catcher. Don’t give up hope, as the numbers indicate his struggles are more bad luck than anything.
Jhonny Peralta – Shortstop – St. Louis Cardinals
There were going to be concerns regarding Peralta after his 50 game suspension in 2013. However the Cardinals felt comfortable enough to give him a massive four year, $53 million dollar contract in the offseason. Thus far it’s easy to argue if the value has been there or not.
Peralta has hit 10 HR, so it isn’t all bad, but it’s come courtesy of a .231 average. There was always a good chance his average fell from 2013, considering his .303 mark came courtesy of a .374 BABIP, but there may be more to the drop than that.
While he isn’t striking out a significant amount (18.7%), he could be trying to hit a few more home runs. His fly ball rate is up from 35.8% to 41.3% and his infield fly ball percentage is up from 4.5% to 10.8%.
His .249 BABIP is unlucky (given his 20.7% line drive rate) and the other increases shouldn’t torpedo things as much as they have, so there is reason to believe that there are better days ahead in the average department. However, it is something worth keeping a close eye on. Don’t consider it a given that the average climbs up to .260ish, especially if he starts pressing to hit home runs even more (52.0% fly ball rate in June).
Source – Fangraphs