Keys to Contention: Ben Zobrist’s Power | The Process Report

Keys to Contention: Ben Zobrist’s Power

Ben Zobrist hit .238/.346/.353 in 2010. A modest rate when compared to second basemen (.265/.330/.389) and less so compared to big league outfielders (.267/.335/.425). If there is a player that requires perusal beyond the slash line statistics to understand his value on the Rays, then he probably wears the number 18.

Zobrist is the king of hidden value for a reason … nay, reasons. He’s a switch hitter who usually fares well against both hands, a smooth fielder who can fill in at any position short of catching or pitching, and a clever base runner during the run of play or when stealing bases. Unlike offense, people unfairly assume stability with the value those attributes create. That is false, but truthfully Zobrist’s bat is the most intriguing of the bunch because of the volatility involved. He’s probably not the all-world slugger of 2009-2010, but he’s probably not the slap hitter of 2006-2007 and 2011 either, instead he’s probably in the middle.

This is not to imply Zobrist’s offensive skill set is without stability because Zobrist is going to walk and walk often. Despite watching his ISO drop by more than .100 points from 2009 to 2010, his walk rate remained over 14% and his strikeout rate decreased. As a result, his walk-to-strikeout ratio remained within 0.02 points. The question – the key if you wish to tie the series name into the post – is Zobrist’s power, or rather: how much will show up?

In 2008-2009 roughly 10.4% of Zobrist’s plate appearances ended in extra base hits (43% of his hits overall) while nearly 5% of his plate appearances ended in home runs. Only 6.1% ended in extra base hits last season (31% of his total hits) while 1.5% resulted in home runs. A medium would place Zobrist around or above the league average mark at each stop (2.7% is league average for HR%; 7.9% for extra base hits; and 34% of hits). Perhaps that is too ambitious, or maybe not ambitious enough, but a league average power production from Zobrist would add an unexpected, but nonetheless welcome flavor to the fold for a lineup which should produce plenty of base runners.

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