“Batting average, unfortunately for a lot people, and it’s only been really noted in the last five or 10 years, that it is somewhat of an overrated stat. There are so many other numbers that are more important to a team winning a ballgame – that’s all that matters.” – Eric Wedge, Manager, Cleveland Indians
Thank you, Eric Wedge, for this response to the question of whether or not Grady Sizemore‘s declining batting average over the last few seasons set off alarm bells. Sizemore hit .289-.290 in 2005-06, his first two full seasons, before dropping to .277 in 2007 and .268 last season. His wOBAs in that span: .359, .386, .376, .384. Grady’s proportion of hits to at-bats may have dropped a bit, but his overall offensive productivity is extremely high. His batting average may have been .268, but Sizemore hit 33 HR, 39 2B, stole 38 bases, and earned 98 free passes.
Oh, and Grady plays a mean centerfield, as well. His UZR marks since 2005: +3.7, +14.3, +2.6, +6.1. Averaged together, Sizemore has been a +6.7 runs/season fielder. He is also the model of durability, amassing 157+ games in each of his full big league seasons. As evidenced by his four consecutive 20/20+ seasons, Grady also runs the baseball very well. Our wOBA includes stolen bases, but if you subtract the EQSBR from the EQBRR at Baseball Prospectus, Grady looks worthy of an additional two or three runs per season on the basepaths.
Add everything together and we have win values of +5.3, +7.7, +6.0, +7.0 (his posted win values plus a couple additional baserunning runs). That is a grand sum of +26 wins in four big league seasons, and Sizemore is still just 26 yrs old, suggesting that continued improvement is not out of the question. Grady has made $4.2 mil in his young major league career while producing at levels valued around $102 mil, a mind-boggling number. Has anyone who previously did, stopped caring that he posted a .268 batting average last season?
I’m not here to bash the batting average statistic. I think it has uses, and it works well in a slash line, but it is not the barometer many make it out to be. In the case of Grady Sizemore, who adds to a team from so many different areas, batting average falls even further down the list of metrics of interest. I’m very glad that his manager understands this fact and realizes he has a very special player on his squad, not one who needs to fix his mechanics to hit for a higher batting average.