Monday, December 05, 2005

Iguchi Down In Lineup?

One of Ozzie Guillen's most often repeated wishes this offseason has been to move second baseman Tadahito Iguchi down in the lineup from the #2 hole. Ozzie says:

"Hopefully we can get somebody who can run. I want a second hitter so we can put Iguchi down in the sixth or seventh spot to get more (run production) out of him."

The premise of moving Iguchi down is that he has sacrificed some of his power in hitting second, and that, if allowed to swing away, he would hit for a higher average and have more power, instead of sacrificing at bats for outs in the 2-hole behind Scott Podsednik. At one time, Guillen estimated that Iguchi had given up 50 at bats to move runners over or sacrifice.

Luckily for Ozzie, we can test his hypothesis with Iguchi's own performance. There are two circumstances in which we (as a matter of logic) know that Iguchi was not trying to move runners over or sacrifice: (1) with no one on base; and (2) with two outs. By comparing Iguchi's overall performance with his performance in those situations, we might get an estimate of how much more we could expect (if at all) out of Iguchi when he isn't trying to move runners over or sacrifice all the time.

Here is Iguchi's total performance this season:

511 AB, 142 H, 25 2B, 6 3B, 15 HR, 71 RBI, 47 BB, 114 K, .278 AVG, .342 OBP, .438 SLG (.780 OPS)

Now what Iguchi has done with the bases empty:

288 AB, 78 H, 11 2B, 4 3B, 8 HR, 8 RBI, 34 BB, 62 K, .271 AVG, .354 OBP, .420 SLG. (.774 OPS)

Hmmm. His batting average and slugging were about the same with the bases empty as his overall average.

Now what Iguchi has done with men on and two outs:

81 AB, 24 H, 6 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 32 RBI, 4 BB, 17 K, .296 AVG., .337 OBP, .617 SLG (.954 OPS).

Here, his batting average and slugging percentage are better (although he is less likely to walk), even if the sample size is small.

Put them both together, and you get:

369 AB, 102 H, 17 2B, 5 3B, 14 HR, 40 RBI, 38 BB, 79 K, .276 AVG., .350 OBP, .463 SLG (.813 OPS).

Now, here are Iguchi's stats in all other situations:

142 AB, 40 H, 8 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 31 RBI, 9 BB, 35 K, .282 AVG., .325 OBP, .373 SLG (.698 OPS).

I have to admit, going into this analysis, I had expected to find that Iguchi was pretty much the same hitting in situations where he could give himself up vs. situations where he could swing away. I had kind of eyeballed his numbers and thought that he was about the same hitter. In fact, it's not true at all; Iguchi is a much better hitter in spots where he can definitely swing away. If moving Iguchi down in the order gets him up to a .350 OBP and a .463 SLG, then it is well worth it. I doubt his improvement will be that dramatic, but it is interesting nonetheless.

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