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Doubled Up 2010: The Worst

Few things are more frustrating than watching your team ground into a double play. This is FanGraphs, so you know what’s next: quantification. Who has hurt their team the most by grounding into double plays so far this season?*

*Although wOBA doesn’t include this, stats like RE24 and WPA/LI do (along with many other things). This posts isolates the run value of just the GiDPs.

John Walsh and others have written on this before, and I don’t have anything to add methodologically — I’m going with my own simple method using the Baseball-Reference table found here. To get the runs above and below average, we need to take into account not just rate, but opportunities (runner on first with less than two outs).

The rankings are based on runs above and below average. The linear weight run value of a GiDP varies from source to source, but for simplicity I’ll use .35, as listed in The Book (p 141), which is close to other values I’ve seen (for other issues, see this discussion). The 2010 league GiDP rate is 11% (as it is most seasons). To get the number of double plays above or below average, I’ve used a simple formula tweaked so that minus is “bad,” which is intuitive: player opportunities times league rate [11%] minus player GiDPs. I round this to a whole number, then multiply times 0.35 to see about how many runs a player has cost/gained his team below/above average. Enough boring methodology, let’s check out the hitters who have hurt their teams the most with the GiDP so far in 2010, ranked by runs below/above average.

[The numbers are GiDPS-opps, percentage grounded into, rounded number of GiDPS below average, and runs below average]

Three-way tie for third worst:

Wilson Valdez, 8-25, 32%, 5 below average, -1.75 runs
Carlos Lee, 9-38, 24%, 5 below average, -1.75 runs
Michael Cuddyer, 12-64, 19%, 5 below average, -1.75 runs

Valdez is a replacement-level scrub, so that isn’t that interesting, other than to see his amazing efforts in so little playing time. El Caballo has found yet another way to kill the Astros this season, even for him. Michael Cuddyer has been below average for his career, although 19% is his worst season in a while. He gets so far down the list because he hits fifth on the Twins batting order most nights, right behind two players currently sporting near-.400 and .500 on-base percentages (Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, respectively), so he gets plenty of chances.

There is also a three-way tie for second worst:

Pablo Sandoval, 12-54, 22%, 6 below average, -2.1 runs
Ivan Rodriguez, 10-32, 31%, 6 below average, -2.1 runs
Joe Mauer, 12-53, 23%, 6 below average, -2.1 runs

Kung Fu Panda isn’t hitting up to his usual standard so far this season, and that’s also true of his double play rate, as, perhaps a bit surprisingly, he hasn’t been that bad in previous seasons. We’ll have to see how things develop. Pudge Rodriguez, on the other hand, was a GiDP machine even in his pre-Zombie seasons. Fellow catcher Joe Mauer has a bit of a reputation for grounding into double plays, and while he has been slightly worse than average for his career, in 2009 he was actually a bit better than average. It is probably magnified because because he primarily hits third for the Twins, and as discussed in The Book, the third spot in the order sees the most double play situations, on average. Mauer is also interesting because, despite being a lefty (who tend to be better at avoiding the DP, more discussion of this on Friday), he might be more suspectible because he likes to go the other way, and also hits the ball on the ground at an above average rate. He’s still a great hitter, of course.

The worst so far in 2010:

Billy Butler, 13-53, 25%, 7 below average, -2.45 runs

After beginning to fulfill expectations at the plate in 2009 with a .369 wOBA, Butler is hitting even better in 2010: .337/.391/.483, .382 wOBA. But the double play has been an issue for Butler in the major leagues. Being a right-handed hitter has something to do with it, as does his, um, “speed.” Like Mauer, he also hits a lot of balls on the ground. Hitting third for the first part of the season and now fourth (in both cases usually behind David DeJesus‘ .374 OBP) probably has something to do with it.

In the case of good hitters like Mauer, Butler, and others who have a problem with the DP, is it worth moving them out of the middle of the order? This is one thing I’ll briefly discuss in Friday’s post, which will also list 2010’s best at avoiding the GiDP as well as some other trends.