Putting Sabermetrics To The Test: The Hitters

Now is when I take a look at the hitters. I’ll be able to make some easy predictions for some of these guys, and a few others are shrouded in mystery. I suppose I’m lacking in ideas for a better introduction, so let’s just dive in.

Joe Mauer

2010 stats: 137 games, .327/.402/.469, 9 HR, 75 RBI, .141 ISO, .348 BABIP, 11.1 BB%, 10.4 K%

There’s not really much to say about Mauer without repeating what we already know. He hits and hits and hits, and demonstrates great patience at the plate. He set a career high in doubles last season, despite the well-chronicled stories that his home run total suffered by moving into Target Field. His BABIP was right around his career average, and although it appeared once again that Mauer’s power hasn’t fully developed, we can’t be disappointed if he repeats his 2010 numbers.

2011 predictions: .331/.409/.480, 11 HR, 84 RBI

Justin Morneau

2010 stats: 81 games, .345/.437/.618, 18 HR, 56 RBI, .274 ISO, .385 BABIP, 14.4 BB%, 20.9 K%

You’ve probably already heard that Morneau was having a special year before he was hit in the head breaking up a double play in Toronto last season. Despite striking out more than ever, he was also driving the ball with more authority. Even without the concussion, Morneau’s numbers were likely to drop in 2011. He does appear to have fully recovered, but I think we’ll see him post a line closer to what he did in 2009 rather than last year.

2011 predictions: .293/.349/.515, 26 HR, 97 RBI


Alexi Casilla

2010 stats: 69 games, .276/.331/.395, 1 HR, 20 RBI, .118 ISO, .304 BABIP, 7.6 BB%, 11.2 K%

Casilla is an enigma to the team, where he hit well in 2008, then struggled in the majors the next season but hit very well in Rochester, and then hit fairly well in limited duty last season. He seemed to be playing a bit over his head in 2010, but we need to remember that we’re talking about our #9 hitter this year. As long as he’s hitting around .240 or higher with good defense, the Twins will be pleased with him. His ISO and BABIP were at career highs last season, while he struck out less than any other season. I do believe his numbers will drop off a bit this season, which is too bad considering the Twins had a better – though more expensive – shortstop going into the offseason in J.J. Hardy.

2011 predictions: .237/.294/.325, 3 HR, 29 RBI


Danny Valencia

2010 stats: 85 games, .311/.351/.448, 7 HR, 40 RBI, .137 ISO, .345 BABIP, 6.2 BB%, 15.4 K%

Valencia was a savior of sorts for the team last season (though not to the extent as Jim Thome) and he certainly appears to be the one that will halt the revolving door that the Twins had installed at the hot corner for the 2005-2009 seasons. He’s always been a solid hitter, but appeared to be a little over his head with that .345 BABIP. Despite that, his BABIP has always been high in the minors, so it’s still very possible to see him hit well this year. Hopefully some of his power returns as well. I think Valencia will take a little hit in his batting average this year, but he’ll also gain a little more power.

2011 predictions: .297/.340/.442, 16 HR, 68 RBI


Delmon Young

2010 stats: 153 games, .298/.333/.493, 21 HR, 112 RBI, .195 ISO, .312 BABIP, 4.6 BB%, 14.2 K%

Demolition Delmon (the nickname I’ve appointed him that appears like it will never become popular with others) had his coming out season last year, and it helped soften the blow of losing Morneau. Setting career bests in just about every offensive category made many fans believe that Young is ready for a second consecutive breakout, and it’s not impossible for that to happen. A year after posting his worst career K% (23.3), Young turned it around and struck out only 14.2% of the time last season, which was by far the best of his career. He swung the bat just as often as he always has, but he was better at making contact on pitches last season, especially on those thrown outside the strike zone (a nearly 20% increase from 2009).

Despite all the improvement by Young, the one thing that did suffer was his BABIP, but it’s not as bad as it may sound. An important thing to remember about BABIP is that is excludes home runs, and Young did happen to hit a few more last year than he had in any other season. The homers won’t fully explain the near 20 point drop from his career average, but it does contribute a bit. Finally, Young has always been a bit of a ground ball hitter, but he managed to drop that significantly for the second consecutive year. Simply put, you can’t get many extra base hits if you’re hitting the ball on the ground, so if Young continues to trade some of those grounders for line drives and fly balls (although his percentage of line drives have fallen as well), he could continue to see some improvement in his offensive game.

2011 predictions: .306/.339/.513, 24 HR, 106 RBI


Denard Span

2010 stats: 153 games, .264/.331/.348, 3 HR, 58 RBI, .084 ISO, .294 BABIP, 8.5 BB%, 11.8 K%

Where Delmon Young improved last year, Denard Span suffered. It was almost like he suffered from Alexi Casilla Syndrome, as his worst offensive season came in the same year he was given a permanent starting position in the field. Parker Hageman of Over The Baggy tackled a couple reasons why Span’s numbers were poor (by his standards) last year, and it seems as though he should experience a bounceback year. Whether it be his BABIP, ISO, or BB%, they all were down last season. Two of the few positives was an increase in stolen bases and Span did lower his K% to the point where it was 20th best in the majors. Span should be batting closer to .300 than .250 this season.

2011 predictions: .287/.364/.396, 4 HR, 63 RBI


Michael Cuddyer

2010 stats: 157 games, .271/.336/.417, 14 HR, 81 RBI, .146 ISO, .298 BABIP, 8.6 BB%, 15.3 K%

Cuddyer’s 2010 was actually very similar or better than his 2009 season, except in one respect: His power disappeared. Cuddy has had an above-average ISO of .180 for his career, but he was simply average in the power department at .146 last season. I believe he had a or some nagging injuries last year with his legs, which was to blame for the loss of power. It’s also important to note that he had a 6% increase in grounders and subsequent decrease in flies, It looks like Cuddyer will have a similar year, except his number of extra bases should increase in 2011.

2011 predictions: .278/.347/.461, 22 HR, 87 RBI


Jason Kubel

2010 stats: 143 games, .249/.323/.427, 21 HR, 92 RBI, .178 ISO, .280 BABIP, 9.6 BB%, 22.4 K%

Much like Cuddyer, Jason Kubel had a poor follow-up to his 2009 campaign. While some fans may point out that Kubel still hit 20 homers last year, it’s important to know that he hit 7 fewer and also 12 fewer doubles last season. Combined with a 51 point drop in batting average lead Kubel’s slugging percentage to drop over 100 points.

Kubel’s batted ball numbers didn’t differ much last year, but he still had a BABIP that was significantly lower than both last year’s BABIP and for his career. Looking at his career ISO, 2009 appears to be the outlier, so while he may still hit 20+ homers, his SLG will be in the high .400s or low .500s.

2011 predictions: .274/.355/.460, 23 HR, 94 RBI


Jim Thome

2010 stats: 108 games, .283/.412/.627, 25 HR, 59 RBI, .344 ISO, .310 BABIP, 17.5 BB%, 29.7 K%

Perhaps the offensive MVP last year if it wasn’t for Justin Morneau, Thome experienced a rebirth of sorts at age 39. Even without sabermetrics, I’m sure we all know that Thome won’t hit as well this season. So while his BABIP was similar to 2009 (and actually lower than his career BABIP), this might be one of those times when age overrides stats. However, we are putting sabermetrics to the test, so….

2011 predictions: .275/.390/.520, 17 HR, 46 RBI


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