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?
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:
|27||Wily Mo Pena||133|
[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%.
2. Some power hitters also consistently hit line drives for singles and non-HR extra-base hits. Is Cruz one of those?
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.]
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:
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.
3. Some power hitters have “plate skills” to draw walks and avoid strikeouts. Is Cruz one of those?
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.
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.