Still Appreciating Pat Burrell

In my inaugural post here at Fangraphs, back on April 14th (seems like forever ago), I wrote about Phillies leftfielder Pat Burrell and how he had been extremely consistent in his productivity over the last few years. Despite this, his low batting averages, combined with a disastrous 2003 season have led some fans to value and appreciate his production much less than they should. Two months later, Burrell is still producing at a very high level; in fact, according to some metrics he is producing at a higher level than anyone else in the league.

Based on his win probability statistics, Burrell has a higher WPA (4.48) than anyone in the sport. Additionally, his WPA/LI of 2.94 ranks second and his clutch score of 1.29 deems him the third clutchiest player in the major leagues.

He has 18 home runs this year, putting him in a tie for sixth even though it is the third-highest raw total (ironically, the first and second highest raw total belong to, among others, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard). Last year, 51.4% of his balls in play were of the flyball variety; this year it has dipped to 42.4%. However, his HR/FB has actually risen from 16.2% to 24.0%.

Through 70 games, he has produced a .289/.433/.614 slash line, ultimately resulting in a 1.047 OPS. Compare that to his 2005-2007 numbers:

2005: .389 OBP, .504 SLG, .893 OPS
2006: .388 OBP, .502 SLG, .890 OPS
2007: .400 OBP, .502 SLG, .902 OPS
2008: .433 OBP, .614 SLG, 1.047 OPS

The numbers this year are so high they don’t even align in the above table! Okay, it’s still early and it’s doubtful he has changed his pre-season projection that much but he has definitely showed signs of improvement in recent years. This improvement is not evident anywhere moreso than his BB% and K%:

2004: 14.8 BB%, 29.0 K%
2005: 15.0 BB%, 28.5 K%
2006: 17.5 BB%, 28.4 K%
2007: 19.5 BB%, 25.4 K%
2008: 20.3 BB%, 23.2 K%

This has led to a BB/K increase from 0.51 in 2003 to 1.09 right now. Back on April 14th I called for the Phillies to sign Pat the Bat to a short extension, in large part due to his consistent production, love for the city and willingness to offer a hometown discount sorts; it is not very likely this will happen due to the financial situation/obligations of the team and the fact that Burrell has essentially become an AL-type player. If this is indeed Burrell’s last year with the Phillies, fans really need to appreciate the offense he provides so as to avoid generalizing an entire tenure—a quite productive one, might I add—based on one very poor year and a bad barometer such as batting average.

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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

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