Ben Zobrist’s Kind of Decent Start

Ben Zobrist photo taken from Google Images

This post was written by Jesse Sakstrup.

With a batting average flirting with the Mendoza line, those who drafted Ben Zobrist are probably a bit annoyed with his performance so far. Putting batting average aside, he is still on pace for 20 home runs and 17 stolen bases. And putting fantasy value aside, he is actually having a kind of decent year.

His walk rate of 16.6% is 5.2% higher than it was in 2011 and well above his career average of 12.5%. This is offsetting his batting average deficiency, as his .341 OBP is just shy of his career rate. His wOBA (.317) and wRC+ (103) are about the lowest they have been in his career, but they both represent a slightly above league average player. All of this despite a batting average, .203, that is 7th worst among 170 qualified players. With his defensive skills rating well, as usual, Zobrist has compiled a 1.2 WAR in his first 49 games, which puts him on pace for a 4.0 win season. That isn’t a great total for a player of Zobrist’s caliber — he has averaged 6.4 WAR over the past three seasons — but only six second basemen, including Zobrist, eclipsed the 4.0 WAR total in 2011. And all of this assumes that Zobrist will hit .203 the remainder of the season.

There are plenty of reasons to expect a bounce back, in terms of batting average, for Zobrist going forward.

Year O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Swing% SwStr%
2010 24.1% 51.5% 37.4% 72.6% 90.2% 84.4% 48.7% 5.8%
2011 24.1% 56.8% 40.2% 69.5% 88.2% 82.5% 49.3% 6.9%
2012 20.7% 51.4% 34.9% 68.1% 91.0% 83.7% 46.3% 5.7%

Zobrist hasn’t shown any decay in his plate discipline. Pitchers are throwing him fewer strikes in 2012, but he is actually chasing those pitches at a lower rate than in either of the past two seasons. His contact percentages look fine, too, but he could probably stand to be a little more aggressive on pitches inside the strike zone, as only four players have a lower Z-Swing% in 2012.

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