Hall Returns to Relevance

After seeing Bill Hall fall from grace in Milwaukee and fail considerably in Seattle, I thought there was a good chance that Hall wouldn’t receive another MLB contract after his four year, $24 million dollar deal expired after the 2010 season. From 2007 to 2009, Hall completely lost his power. He dropped from a 5 win season in 2006 to only 1.6 WAR in 2007. His slide continued until he was below replacement level in 2009, forcing the Brewers to trade him to Seattle for minimal salary relief. Hall presented one of the worst possible fits for Safeco Field, as a right handed hitter with much of his value coming from power. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Hall was a complete failure in his short time in the Pacific Northwest.

The Red Sox were willing to take a chance on the versatile Hall, sending out Casey Kotchman in exchange prior to the 2010 season. Fenway Park is a great place for righties to hit – it has a 106 park factor for wOBA – and particularly for those like Hall who live and die with pull power. The Green Monster allowed Hall to slug homers over the Green Monster and doubles off of it. Hall hit 6 2B and 8 HR in only 191 PAs at Fenway this season, compiling a .346 wOBA and 114 wRC+, well above any mark he posted after 2007.

Hall’s performance wasn’t merely the work of Fenway, as he performed nearly equally as well on the road. He posted a .338 wOBA with even more power (10 2B and 10 HR) but an inferior BABIP in the same number of PAs away from Boston. Hall, however, still struggled with the strikeout, ending 30% of his at-bats with that result for the third straight season.¬†Hall’s inability to make contact severely limits¬†his batting average and on-base percentage, and there’s no reason to expect that to change. Even with solid power, Hall is only projected to hit .236/.298/.401 by CHONE for that exact reason.

In those projections, Hall is a 0.1 WAR player – hardly relevant. Those projections consider Hall to be a -1 run corner outfielder, though. Hall has struggled in the corners since moving there with Seattle last season, and is much more likely to be productive at either third or second base. Every system we carry here finds Hall above average for his career at 3B (2003 innings) and within four runs of average at 2B (1120 innings). He even rated near average at SS in 2169 innings. A shift from the corner outfield to an infield position adds about a win to Hall’s value, making him a roughly 1.0 WAR player even if his bat returns to the putrid 2007-2009 state projected by CHONE.

If a team believes that Hall’s resurgence with the bat is real – and I think there is reason to believe so – then they could find a roughly league average player in Hall. I think he deserves a starting position on a second-division team, but he’s probably best served as a super-sub. The Red Sox have interest in bringing him back, and according to Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees have interest in Hall as well. Any team with an opening in the infield should at least think about Hall as an option. Thanks to a solid 2010 with Boston, Hall’s career has been resurrected, and he should receive a respectable contract in free agency this year.

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19 Responses to “Hall Returns to Relevance”

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  1. twoseamer says:

    As much as I take pride in being a “stat” guy, in the case of a player like Hall it’s also worth noting that his swing is fairly complicated with quite a few timing mechanisms. I’d say that swings such as his are at least somewhat more prone to peaks and valleys as opposed to a swing like Billy Butler.

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    • John says:

      I’d have to agree with this. The more complicated you make it, the more time you’ll take trying to figure it out.

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      • this guy says:

        It’s just a long swing. All long swing guys are streaky.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Please define “long swing”?

        Hands too far back, long duration timing mechanism, etc?

        A lot of guys say “long swing” and have no real idea what they are talking about.

        The interesting thing about major league swings is, that no matter what happens before the swing begins, or independent of the follow through, almost ALL of the batter have their hands in the same position when the front foot lands.

        I’d be interested in hearing how Bill Hall is different, mechanically, from most others in regards to his “long swing”.

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  2. this guy says:

    Great utility guy. It’s too bad he was developed this way, as there is talent there to be more than he is. He’s one of those guys that’s more valuable than his numbers show. It looks like he’s a Yankee, which I would like to see.

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    • Steve says:

      How does it “look like he’s a Yankee”? Did I miss something?

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      • this guy says:

        They are in talks and they need a super utility guy. He’s still considered one of the top utility guys out there.

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      • Steve says:

        I agree that he’d be a good fit, I am not so sure I agree with your assumption of inevitability. I don’t think they are “in talks” so much as the Yankees may have called his agent. Not trying to nitpick, I just think Hall might find a starting role somewhere for an amount of money that even the Yankees aren’t going to pay for a utility guy.

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      • this guy says:

        I think it’s going to happen because “utlity on the yankees > starting for most teams” in terms of enjoyment (imho). The Yankees won’t be outbid for someone like Hall if they think he fits well. He fits in culturally too. It’s a nice marriage on paper and the typically make those happen.

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      • phoenix says:

        they have called his agent, nothing more. they do need a good bat off the bench, but with montero, romine, laird and eduardo nunez, i think they have a few to choose from if they want to promote from the farm for league minimum. while i would like him as a utility guy with a nice bat, i think he can find a starting job somewhere and should/will take it.

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      • Tom B says:

        I don’t think the Yankee’s need to pay someone to hit .250 and play piss poor defense.

        Any of the rookies mentioned should be able to produce the same essentially for free. With better defense no less.

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  3. Jeff Wise says:

    Oh, thank you!

    Thank you for another reminder of a Mariners trade or transaction gone bad.

    Casey Kotchman for Hall? Ouch!

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    • this guy says:

      As a guy who has argued many times how overrated Kotchman since his days as a prospect, I’d like to never see his name associated with baseball again.

      He has no value in this sport. He’s a terrible player that is only in the league because of his dad’s connection. The roster spot is better spent on a total wild card prospect. The fact that he makes millions playing this game is a reflection of all that is wrong with capitalism.

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    • Joof says:

      Bill Hall was worth 1 win this year, coming off a year of negative value. Who cares?

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  4. Mike Green says:

    When I saw the title “Hall returns to relevance”, I figured that somehow Tim Raines, Bert Blyleven, Lou Whitaker, Ron Santo, Bill Dahlen…had all found their way into Cooperstown by magic.

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  5. CircleChange11 says:

    Bill Hall has always seemed, to me, to be a “Tony LaRussa Wet Dream”. Hall works really hard, full effort, can play ANY position, and hacks. He could be this generation’s Jose Oquendo or Shawon Dunston (as a Cardinal) .. except he’s better than those guys.

    Heck, I’d take him just as StL’s starting 2B, let alone a guy that can play 2B/3B/OF.

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  6. twoseamer says:

    CircleChange, I’d say that long swings are mostly a matter of what the eye sees. Just off the top of my head I think Strawberry, Eric Davis, Will Clark (crazy long swing) Troy Glaus, Preston Wilson usually guys that strike out alot but also generate alot of power. Hall has a swing with alot of moving parts, the only guy that could pull that off on a consistnet basis off the top of my head was Sheffield. A few guys have tried to emulate Sheff’s cocking actions (Renteria when they were teammates in FLA comes to mind mostly) but hitches and such require an earlier commitment to the pitch than a guy who goes almost straight at the ball like Butler, maybe Mike Piazza, Pujols of course. Bonds had a hitch or timing mechanism but was crazy quick to the ball and had a short swing. Kind of a fun subject.

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  7. CircleChange11 says:

    So “long swing” basically equates to “locked, single-arm follow through”, because the distance the bat travels through the zone is the same as most other players.

    Follow through has NOTHING to do with contact or swing length. It’s like when guys talk about “getting extended”, and then there’s tons of pictures of guys mashing the ball with bent arms, as long as their elbows make the “power triangle”.

    I will say that guys like Utley and Bonds do have a short swing in the literal sense that their hands do not go back as far as other batters, and the barrel does actually travel a shorter distance. Of course, we are talking two of the freakiest athletes around.

    But, the other stuff being discussed is pre-swing timing mechanisms …. ala Extremes Julio Franco, Ruben Sierra, Edgar Renteria, Jose Cruz, Sheffield, etc.

    But the actual committment, swing path, swing length, etc of hitters with little/no movement Pujols, Moises Alou, Tettleton, etc is the same.

    Pujols is a bit different with swing path/length because his “swing path” is flatish on the bottom instead of the traditional C-shaped path.

    Jeff Bagwell stepped backward with his front foot, Jim Edmonds just rolled on his front toe, Will Clark swayed back, George Brett leaned.

    The things that I would count as a LONG swing are things like Eric Davis’s hitch, because when he lowered his hands, they had to come back up before the swing could start, so the bat literally had to travel a greater distance. Renteria’s bat waggle is different because his hands stay essentially in the same zone, and when the pitch is being delivered, the bat has stopped moving. It’s almost all pre-swing stuff.

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