Sox 5, Jays 3: Eric Hinske, What Have You Been Up To?

Thursday, September 15 2005 @ 08:00 AM EDT

Contributed by: Joe

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?