The Fish and Blalock

Matt Klaasen has written the most about Hank Blalock this year. In January he wrote:

Hank Blalock: -3 hitting, -2 fielding = 0.3 WAR. Do you really think Blalock’s going to play 150? Six years ago, it seemed like he and Mark Teixeira would be torching the AL West for years to come. Tex is a superstar in pinstripes, while Blalock looks like he’s done. I’d say he’ll be lucky to get a major-league deal, but you never know.

And in February:

Hank Blalock
Career Split: 21.8% (1060 PA v LHP)
Regressed: 15.4%
CHONE projected wOBA: .328
Estimated wOBA vs. RHP: .342
Estimated wOBA vs. LHP: .291

It may seem like Hank Blalock was good just a couple years ago, but it’s really been six. He has even a bigger split than Delgado, but he’s also not as good of a hitter in general. A .342 wOBA part-time DH can be useful, but not often.

With that in mind, here’s the book on Blalock: He’s an above average hitter against right-handed pitching and a sub-par fielder at either corner base with a history of injuries who figures to come pretty darn cheap*. Naturally, the Marlins and Rays are reportedly interested. Since the Marlins still play in the National League, Blalock figures to be under consideration as a first baseman. The Fish’s first base depth chart looks like this:

Gaby Sanchez
Jorge Cantu
Wes Helms
Logan Morrison

Cantu figures to start at third and Morrison is probably going to the minors for a little more seasoning, which leaves Sanchez and Helms as the main competition. That means Sanchez is the Marlins’ first baseman. Here’s where it gets interesting though. If the Marlins really want to maximize on the margins, then adding Blalock and placing him in a platoon with Sanchez could make sense. Minor League Splits has Sanchez with a 1.000 OPS against lefties in 469 at-bats and a .824 OPS in 1,288 at-bats versus righties.

Those splits obviously will not translate on a 1:1 basis to the majors and those numbers are unadjusted and spread across various leagues and hitting environments. The question the Marlins have to answer is this: Does Sanchez have any more room for development? It’s a simple cost-benefit analysis. The cost in adding Blalock is (possibly) negatively affecting Sanchez’ development, while the benefit is helping the overall team dynamic.

Given that the Marlins have already offered Blalock a minor league deal, maybe they’re just trying to get the best of both worlds.

*As an aside, Blalock bears resemblance to a certain other left-handed former third baseman. One who I’ve mentioned far too much this week already, but here we go again. Blalock stacks up pretty well to Eric Hinske. Check out how they match up across the WAR components since 2002:

Batting:
Hinske: 15.7
Blalock 14.1

Fielding:
Hinske: -3.4
Blalock: -13.9

Replacement
Hinske: 117.4
Blalock: 128.6

Positional
Hinske: -22.1
Blalock: -7.8

So Hinske played positions of less defensive importance, but played them better. He also played a little less and hit a little better.




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5 Responses to “The Fish and Blalock”

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  1. tdp992 says:

    I don’t think Florida cares at all about disrupting Gaby’s development, last year they frequently called him up from AAA just to be used as a pinch hitter every now and then. If they thought a Blalock/Gaby platoon would work well I don’t think that issue would stand in the way of it.

    And considering we have Dominguez/Morrison waiting to take over the corners, it’s probably the right mindset too.

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    • Michael says:

      Exactly what I’ve thought as well. The Marlins should not be worried about Sanchez’ development, but rather about winning (or at least trying to) this season. To that end, I think Blalock would be a good pickup, but given his injury history, there’s not a very strong chance that he sticks as the big half of a platoon. Rather, I’d imagine he gets about 35-40% of the playing time. Still would be a pretty decent move for a minor league deal.

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  2. Nny says:

    While the Marlins haven’t shown much in regards to Gaby, I don’t believe they would plan on Blalock uprooting Gaby. It’d be a back up plan, but not the initial plan. The Marlins are currently looking for a left handed bat for the bench to replace Ross Gload; currently, that player is Jorge Jimenez. Needless to say, Hank Blalock is a massive improvement over that.

    I’m also not sold Blalock would be better than Gaby against RHP. He’d certainly have more power, but a lot less OBP. I don’t think Gaby’s split in the minors is an indication of a big split in the majors. A lot of Gaby’s split down there has to do with BABIP and power. The power could certainly continue but it’s also a small sample size, and I don’t need to go into BABIP. Meanwhile, his BB/K are similar (1.18 v.s 0.96).

    Going by The Book’s way of projecting a split posted on her earlier about Granderson (And using Gaby’s MILB data), we get a projected split of 8.3%, not much off the average. Applying this to Gaby’s projected .350 wOBA, we get a wOBA against RHP of .341. The Blalock estimation posted above is .342 v.s. RHP.

    Therefore, I don’t believe it’d be better to start Blalock over Gaby.

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  3. Nny says:

    I also meant to add, I don’t believe that if Blalock is starting that Gaby will be platoon with him. It’d likely be Wes Helms. Here is the current bench contruction v.s. RHP:

    Ronny Paulino (RHB)
    Brett Carroll (RHB)
    Wes Helms (RHB)
    Emilio Bonifacio (SHB, better against RHP)

    Should the 5th spot go to Gaby Sanchez, the bench construction would be really bad. A left handed bat is NEEDED for the bench. If Blalock wins the starting gig, Gaby would be in NOLA. And while Wes Helms used to be good against LHP, his numbers have been depressing since 2007 (.292 wOBA, .322 against LHP).

    I think this further illustrates that Blalock is only meant to be a bench bat.

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  4. Thanks for the useful info. I’m bookmarking your site so I can come back often.

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