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Everybody and his brother has an opinion on what Eric Hinske's deal is. It seems pretty clear that the promise he showed as a rookie is never going to develop into the star we all hoped the Jays were signing after his great 2002. (Incidentally, it also looks as though Wells might never develop into the superstar we thought he'd be after 2003 — but you'll recall that we on Batter's Box (and just about everybody else, actually) thought the Wells and Hinske long-term signings were good deals. Anyone who starts saying J.P. is an idiot for signing Hinske can be pointed to the past to say "What were you saying then?" That is the dual blessing and curse of the Internet.)

I do not aim to determine whether Hinske will ever be a good player. He is certainly a useful player, even now — except in June, of course. Instead, I want to figure out just when he becomes useful, and maybe a bit of why too.

As I discovered on Sunday, #11 has produced ≥ 22 strikeouts every month this year except for August. Not coincidentally, August was also by far his most productive month: he hit .348/.413/.500 in 66 at-bats.

The problem with the splits available is that they arbitrarily show the numbers from specific months. You wouldn't expect a player to change his production level only on month boundaries, so we have to dig a little bit deeper into what actually happened to discover when Eric's production changed.

Here is what I discovered: Eric Hinske's Walks, for each game of the season:

Eric Hinske's Doubles, for each game of the season:

Eric Hinske's Strikeouts, for each game of the season:

That is a bit to digest. First, note that Eric strikes out a lot, especially when he's going poorly (as he did in June). He even has a platinum sombrero mixed in among all those hat-tricks. And yes, his June was awful, but it all started about May 21, since on May 20th he hit a double, and then on June 20th he hit another. Seriously. A month between doubles.

Most interesting is the union of those graphs, though, which for technical reasons I am going to allow you to imagine. At the depths of his awful June, Eric was drawing more walks (and more strikeouts) than at any other time. Then, and here I am supposing a bit, on June 20 he started seeing the ball better; alternately, the league started figuring that he'd lost it, and threw him a bunch of fastballs right down the middle. Either way, he started seeing balls he could hit, and hit them he did — forgetting almost entirely the walk (but not the strikeout).

Since August 2, though, he's been in another month-long doubles drought. To compensate, it seems that he started taking more pitches and getting more walks. The league may have wisened up a bit; alternately, Eric might have stopped seeing the ball as well as he had been. Or maybe it's a combination of the two.

I'll leave it in your capable hands, Bauxites. What have you seen Eric doing differently?

Sox 5, Jays 3: Eric Hinske, What Have You Been Up To? | 10 comments | Create New Account
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Dr. Zarco - Thursday, September 15 2005 @ 09:58 AM EDT (#128027) #
Interesting stuff, Joe. I think there's likely something to this, and a good chunk of it is likely mental with Hinske. At times (June, perhaps), Hinske looks too selective, as if he, like the rest of us, doesn't think he'll get a hit, so looks for walks, resulting in 2 strike counts. And he certainly appears to be a bad 2 strike hitter:

His #'s from this year are .180 avg and .311 slg with 0-2, 1-2, or 2-2. He is quite a good 3-2 hitter though, with a .410/.582/.667 line (sample size!). If you fall 3-0 to Hinske, you're in trouble, he's 6-8 this year after a 3-0 count (and .373/.765/.882 career).

So maybe Hinske goes up there looking for walks, in which case he gets to his 2 strike hell. He might be one player who would benefit from being MORE aggressive, abandoning the organizational (and likely his) philosophy of seeing lots of pitches. Go after that 1st or 2nd pitch-he's .327avg .461slg when he actually hits the 1st or 2nd pitch.

For comparison, I took Russ Adams, who has similar overall #'s, to see what his 2 strike #'s were, because it appears he does a better job of hitting with 2 strikes (to me at least). Perhaps I'm wrong, as Russ is at .179avg .271slg. Vernon is .170avg .284slg. Wow, perhaps my whole theory is shot. Eh, it seemed like a nice thought.

In the Captain Obvious Deptarment, Vernon has 110 AB's with a 0-0 count, next closest is 1-2 with 72. That's a lot of first pitch swinging! Maybe Vernon's the one that needs a mental tune up, as he's at .087/.690/.130 after a 3-0 count. It's as if he's totally demoralized if the pitcher throws a strike or two, weird. has an amazing stat page, under splits, more splits. It shows absolutely everything, including great situational stuff.
Jobu - Thursday, September 15 2005 @ 10:27 AM EDT (#128029) # has an amazing stat page, under splits, more splits. It shows absolutely everything, including great situational stuff.

Including the fact that our friend The Dude is leading the team in OBP, SLG and OPS in close and late situations. Fix that man a white russian.

Heraclitus - Thursday, September 15 2005 @ 11:25 AM EDT (#128030) #
An unusual situation came up last night -- or at least one that I’ve never seen, when Kapler fell down and hurt himself on Graffanino’s home run. He was a good distance past second, not quite halfway to third.

I was at the Dome, and, while I was keeping my eyes on the play, I can’t say they were on the field for every second, so I might have missed it, but, where, officially, did Machado enter the game?

ESPN, afterwards, said he entered as a pinch runner at second, but as far as I saw, he never actually went to the base. In fact, Graffanino was patiently standing on second, waiting, for the whole time, because, obviously, he could not overtake the baserunner ahead of him. Machado, as far as I saw, basically just went over to where Kapler was and started to third, and then home.

Can a pinch runner start from anywhere? What is the status of the game after a home run is hit but before the run(s) have scored? Is the field “in play”? Obviously, at that point, no one can be tagged out. I flipped through the rules briefly, but I couldn’t find the section on pinch running.

This is all lawyerball, I realize, and merely an interesting thought-experiment. But what if this was a tie game in Game 7 of the World series? Could the opposing manager argue that the pinch runner can’t enter at that point? Or is this something not covered in the rules, but just considered basic good sportmanship?

(Meanwhile, I hope Kapler is okay -- I saw the term “ruptured achilles” in the wire story on last night, and that doesn’t sound good. I'm a well-wisher inasmuch as I don't wish him that specific harm.)
Joe - Thursday, September 15 2005 @ 11:52 AM EDT (#128032) #
But what if this was a tie game in Game 7 of the World series? Could the opposing manager argue that the pinch runner can’t enter at that point?

In that situation, Gabe Kapler drags himself with his arms to score the run. (Thereby securing his legendary status for eternity.)

Tyler - Thursday, September 15 2005 @ 12:20 PM EDT (#128033) #
The rule you're looking for is rule 5.10 (c). I'll admit that I did not know that prior to last night-there was a discussion in the Game Chatter at Primer about this.

5.10 The ball becomes dead when an umpire calls "Time." The umpire in chief shall call "Time"-

c) When an accident incapacitates a player or an umpire;

(1) If an accident to a runner is such as to prevent him from proceeding to a base to which he is entitled, as on a home run hit out of the playing field, or an award of one or more bases, a substitute runner shall be permitted to complete the play.

My reading of that is that Kapler was entitled to third and to home, he'd already taken second. Machado was permitted to be substituted to take those bases. The opposite of this is something like Moises Alou a few years back who broke his ankle on a single or something, and was tagged out as he lay on the ground.

BCMike - Thursday, September 15 2005 @ 12:38 PM EDT (#128034) #
Thanks Tyler, during the play I was wondering if this was even addressed in the rules. I also wondered if the umpiring crew would be aware of such a rule considering that type of play is extremely rare.
James W - Thursday, September 15 2005 @ 02:17 PM EDT (#128042) #
I believe that Gibbons made sure to get this type of situation cleared up after Hudson's injury on the home run trot a few weeks back.
hugh - Thursday, September 15 2005 @ 03:04 PM EDT (#128043) #
On the subject of first pitch swinging and Vernon Wells:
This has bothered me for a long time, and the espn web site helped me figure out why it makes me nuts when Vernon swings at the first pitch. When he makes contact, his line is .345/.336/.545. Looks pretty good, right? And it is. Sort of.

But look at his numbers in 0-1 and 1-0 counts (assuming he takes the first pitch, or whiffs on it)

0-1 count (60AB): .333/.333/.583 -- pretty much the same

1-0 count (57AB): .421/.414/.772 -- !!

I'm no statistical whiz, but this seems to indicate that taking the first pitch will have little to no detrimental effect at all.
Does this make sense or am I missing something here?
Dr. Zarco - Thursday, September 15 2005 @ 04:46 PM EDT (#128045) #
Hugh, I think it's more reliable to use 3 year stats of '02-'04. And on top of that, after and 0-1 should be used instead of what he does on an 0-1 count. That makes it look like this:

after 0-1 .261/.294/.434

after 1-0 .295/.375/.523

That's an OPS difference of .170, fairly significant. But again, the problem is more pitch selection than straight up aggressiveness with Vernon. If he actually gets his pitch-perhaps a fat fastball on the inner half-by all means, rip it. Don't take the first pitch just fot the sake of taking the first pitch (I always seem to remember Don Mattingly always taking). The thing that frustrates all of us is when he swings at either a pitcher's pitch, or more likely, a ball, putting him 0-1 instead of 1-0.

Joe - Thursday, September 15 2005 @ 11:11 PM EDT (#128065) #
I wanted to compare Eric's 2005 to his previous results, but I had to wait until I got home with my wonderful Gnumeric spreadsheet.

Eric Hinske, 2002:

Month-by-month OPS: April .869, May .821, June 1.117, July .739, August .795, September .782

2002 BB by game:

2002 SO by game:

2002 2B by game:

Eric Hinske, 2003:

Month-by-month OPS: April .697, May .695, June .527 (on DL), July .851, August .761, September .827

2003 BB by game:

2003 SO by game:

2003 2B by game:

Eric Hinske, 2004:

Month-by-month OPS: April .681, May .584, June .822, July .835, August .617, September .608

2004 BB by game:

2004 SO by game:

2004 2B by game:

I should probably mention that I primarily see Hinske as a doubles hitter, which is why I've focused on his doubles production along with his BB and SO records.

I don't really see a pattern in any year but 2005, which says to me that Mickey Brantley is really trying hard with Eric to change his whole approach at the plate, something which it seems no previous batting coach has done (at least not to the same extent).

What I read from this is that Eric's big season (2002) was a big product of luck and/or cookies being thrown by pitchers: you can see the spikes of SO in his huge June, which suggests he started swinging at everything and connecting, which led to him swinging at more things, et cetera.

I wonder if this hints that Eric is ready to turn a corner the same way pitchers often do ("Don't just throw, pitch."). If he's actually working on strategy this year, that means he's making adjustments. Whether they'll ultimately be successful remains to be seen, of course, but I think there's a light at the end of the tunnel for #11.

Sox 5, Jays 3: Eric Hinske, What Have You Been Up To? | 10 comments | Create New Account
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