Is He Done?

During the last few days, I’ve been asked the “Is Frank Thomas done?” question several times, as Mariner fans wonder if he is the right fit to take Jose Vidro’s spot at DH. During these conversations, I’ve mentioned that the main indicator of whether a player has really fallen off The Cliff is his power level. If he has lost his ability to drive the ball, then yes, he’s probably done. Mariners fans have seen a lot of players fall of The Cliff (Bret Boone, Edgar Martinez, John Olerud, and Carl Everett to name a few), and in all of their collapses, you can see that their Isolated Slugging % and Home Run Per Fly Ball % take precipitous nosedives. If a player is actually finished as a major league hitter, those two numbers are the first place to look.

With regards to Thomas, that is part of why my conclusion is that he still has more to contribute as a major league hitter. However, the situation got me thinking – is there a major league hitter right now that is a current example of a player just falling off a cliff? I think there is. Take a look at these graphs.

Isolated Slugging

BABIP

The first graph shows a huge decline in power – you can see a line almost straight down from the ’06 season to now. What used to be well above average power has deteriorated to an ISO of below .100. The second chart shows that the batting average on balls in play is actually not that different than the career average. In other words, it doesn’t appear that this hitter is hitting the ball hard and just having it find a fielders glove. We can’t build much regression to the mean back into his batting average, which means that since he’s not hitting for power, if he’s also not hitting for average, he’s probably done.

Who is this guy who is currently plunging off The Cilff? Mets fans could probably already guess, but it’s Carlos Delgado. Once a powerful slugger, injuries and age have caught up with him, and he just doesn’t look to be much of a productive major league player anymore.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Jason Tucker
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Jason Tucker
8 years 3 months ago

So, I’ll ask this question here since I’m not sure when/if it’ll come up at home (USSM). WIth Thomas available who becomes the best option for the M’s now should they choose to sign a ‘DH-type’, Bonds or Frank? Money issues and moral issues (real or imagined) aside I still believe that Bonds is a much better option but am always open to being convinced other-wise. Reading through the comments in your previous post about Thomas do we want the M’s signing him for 2 seasons?

Anyways, all your work here is awesome. Cheers to fangraphs for bringing you on with a lot of other fantastic writers.

michael
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michael
8 years 3 months ago

The problem with this analysis is that Carlos Delgado had several years of solid production before 2007, and we’re only a few weeks into 2008. You really can’t compare Delgado’s early slump with his production in 2007 in a meaningful way.

I mean, if Derrek Lee had happened to slump in the first few weeks, you could’ve put together a similar analysis of his power drain. (Lucky for him, he’s hitting like it’s 2006 again.) That isn’t to say that Delgado isn’t finished, or that the 2008 sample isn’t representative of his current skill level (who can say for sure), but let’s give both Thomas and Delgado a little benefit of the doubt before we send them out to sea.

RollingWave
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RollingWave
8 years 3 months ago

so what about Jason Giambi? he’s still hitting dingers with K/BB looking fine but the line drive rate is in the single digits…

rrolek
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8 years 3 months ago

Since “The Cliff” was capitalized, I thought you were leading up to Cliff Floyd: http://www.fangraphs.com/graphs.aspx?playerid=518&position=DH&page=6&type=full

Looks like there was a trampoline at the bottom of his cliff, w/that first week he had.

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