Applying Our New Tools to Nelson Cruz (1st of 3)

nc461px-20090406-DSC_1571_Nelson_CruzI keep dinking and fussing around with my “new toolbox” — and I’ll publish the whole set of explanatory material eventually, but events now dictate that it be actually employed in the field.

So off we go, and we’ll explain what we need to along the way.

Nelson Cruz “Flowchart Profile”

1. Does he consistently hit the ball hard in the air?

Oh, yes.

In fact, in our index of “non-random” power — which we dub “authoritative launch index” or “ALI” — he’s 28th in the era for which we have batted-ball data (2002-14).  This is based on batted-ball data only, and does not include the impact of strikeouts.  It is only a measure of “authoritative launch.”

Here’s the top 30:

Name ALI+
1 Barry Bonds 168
2 Jim Thome 164
3 Russell Branyan 157
4 Adam Dunn 156
5 Giancarlo Stanton 156
6 Ryan Howard 154
7 Mark Reynolds 149
8 Sammy Sosa 149
9 Chris Davis 148
10 Alex Rodriguez 144
11 Jason Giambi 144
12 Marcus Thames 143
13 Jim Edmonds 143
14 Mike Napoli 142
15 Carlos Pena 141
16 Frank Thomas 141
17 Carlos Delgado 140
18 Manny Ramirez 140
19 David Ortiz 140
20 Richie Sexson 139
21 Jack Cust 139
22 Andruw Jones 138
23 Tony Clark 137
24 Pedro Alvarez 134
25 Pat Burrell 134
26 Troy Glaus 134
27 Wily Mo Pena 133
28 Nelson Cruz 133
29 Jose Bautista 133
30 Mark Teixeira 132

[Query: How far down on that list must one go to find the next Mariner?

A: Down to No. 175, which is Kyle Seager at 110.  You would go past recent ex-M’s Corey Hart (117), Mike Morse (117), Kendrys Morales (113) and yesindeedy Justin Smoak at 112 before getting to Seager.  There’ve been a lot of auditions for this role, haven’t there?  Robinson Cano and Michael Saunders both check in at 102.]

By the way, that’s 28th out of 537 qualifying hitters.  In other words, in the top 5%.

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2. Some power hitters also consistently hit line drives for singles and non-HR extra-base hits.  Is Cruz one of those?

No.

We came up with a “hits-in-play index” — which we dub “HIPI+” — which measures non-random factors contributing to reaching base on a (non-HR) hit.  Cruz rates at 79 or well below average.  That indicates he’s not likely to contribute to offense by consistently reaching base on batted balls other than homers.

Let’s look at Cruz’ batted-ball profile and compare it to a couple of other well-known hitters.

  • NHLF = “non-HR launched flies” or balls hit in the air that are neither homers nor popups

Each category is as a percentage of batted balls, and they will add up to 100%.  [All the data is from the period in which we have batted-ball stats, or 2002-14.]

Name HR% NHLF% LD% GB% PU%
Nelson Cruz 7.44% 31.17% 16.80% 40.30% 4.29%
David Ortiz 8.12% 32.45% 20.10% 35.80% 3.43%
Robinson Cano 4.19% 23.93% 21.30% 48.20% 2.38%

Note how Ortiz smashes the ball hard in the air even more than Cruz, but also hits line drives almost as often as Cano.

Cruz pops up more, and also beats the ball into the ground more often than the much-more-polished Ortiz.

Since I know that percentages don’t always mean much, let’s look at these batted-ball profiles over 450 batted-balls, which is about the average season for the average every-day player:

Name HR NHLF LD GB PU
Nelson Cruz              33            140              76            181              19
David Ortiz              37            146              90            161              15
Robinson Cano              19            108              96            217              11

In a typical year, Cruz will have 14 fewer line drives than Ortiz and 20 fewer than Cano.

So, when the ball comes off of Cruz’ bat, it’s a mixed bag.  Strong in the highly important power category, but not matched with all-around hitting skills.

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3. Some power hitters have “plate skills” to draw walks and avoid strikeouts.  Is Cruz one of those?

No.

Cruz rates at 92 for walk-rate (compared to the 2002-14 average among relatively successful hitters), and at 70 for strikeout rate.

That gives him a “plate skills composite” (PSC) of 81.

Cruz’ walk rate (which has hovered around 8% of plate appearances) is not abysmal, but not what you’d like to see in a slugger.

His strikeout rate (which has been generally over 20%), isn’t really all that bad for a power guy.

In other words, his plate-skills negatives are easily within the range that can be overcome by power … and they have been.

But they are not contributing to his game as a “plus” either.

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So here’s our Nelson Cruz “Flowchart Profile”:

  • Consistently launch the ball hard in the air (non-random power)?  Yes.
  • Consistently reach base on batted balls (non-random hits-in-play)?  No.
  • Consistently draw walks and avoid strikeouts (non-random plate skills)?  No.

Part 2 here.

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2 thoughts on “Applying Our New Tools to Nelson Cruz (1st of 3)

  1. I have an article about it, but I jumped right to the Cruz analysis before I got that one published. It’s:

    (Line Drives + non-HR Launched Flies (excluding pop-ups) + 4 times HR) / Total Batted Balls

    So it’s the percentage of batted balls that are launched in the air, with HR weighted more.

    Thanks for asking!

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