October steals our hearts. After six long months we finally get to see the best from each league battle each other in three rounds of pure bliss. Every moment in October is amplified. What was routine in June becomes exceptional in October.
While October remains my favorite month of the year, April doesn’t lag far behind. Not just because it’s my birth month, but also because it is something of a mystical time for baseball. Every team has a chance. Players post ridiculous numbers, making us wonder if a strong start is really the year, or if it’s just another statistical fluke. We saw no shortage of that in April 2010.
Plenty of players jumped off to hot starts. I noted two in particular earlier in the season. Both have dropped off in the past few weeks, so let’s check in on them.
When I wrote about Jackson in late April, the point wasn’t to predict a regression. Nearly all of his stats made it clear that such a correction was coming. Rather, the point was that Jackson could avoid completely dropping off if he made a few adjustments. Again, nothing groundbreaking — young players have to make adjustments all the time as the league gets a better read on them. With Jackson I mainly dealt with his walk and strikeout rates.
As expected his BABIP has come down from the .520 mark he was sporting in April. His current .418 BABIP will likely come down a bit, too. But, as before, he can make adjustments so that the regression doesn’t kill his overall production. For instance, he shouldn’t see his BABIP dip too far if he keeps hitting line drives at the high clip he has achieved. He was at 31.9 percent in late April, and stands at 29.2 percent right now, which remains impressive.
Jackson has made the biggest adjustment in his strikeout rate. In late April he was striking out at a ridiculous clip, 32.9 percent of his PA — 32 in 86 PA, just to keep things in perspective. Since then he has been to the plate 181 times and has struck out just 35 times, or 19 percent of his PA. It looks like he won’t be breaking Mark Reynolds’s single-season strikeout record, after all.
In terms of power, though, Jackson hasn’t replicated his early-season success. Through those first 86 PA he had an ISO of .145 on the power of five doubles, two triples, and a homer. In the following 181 PA he has plenty of doubles, 12, but just one triple and no homers, dragging his ISO down to .104 on the season. One of the biggest concerns the Yankees had with Jackson was his ability to hit for power. It seems that his other tools compensated, but the lack of power has been real in his debut season.
As it was back in April, if the season ended today Jackson would still likely be among the AL Rookie of the Year candidates. His biggest competition to date: teammate Brennan Boesch, who is at 1.6 WAR to Jackson’s 1.9, despite having 103 fewer plate appearances.
In mid-May I saw something peculiar. Andruw Jones had basically the same numbers as last year at the same point. In 2009 his wOBA through 111 PA was .424, and was at .427 in 2010 through the exact same number of plate appearances. The rest of 2009 didn’t go so well for Jones, as he tumbled and ended up with a .338 wOBA, most of which came from the DH spot. Would Jones, I wondered, find the same fate this year?
In his last 63 PA Jones is just 6 for 51. He’s keeping his walks up, which is a plus, and three of those six hits have been for extra bases. Still, six hits in 63 PA just won’t cut it. His triple slash in that span: .118/.270/.216. His triple slash in the 62 PA after his first 111 in 2009: .193/.242/.491. There isn’t much similarity in that, as Jones hit five homers during that span last year. Yet we saw his crash continue. From PA 174 through the end of the season Jones hit .179/.297/.388.
In his defense, Jones has been battling a few injuries which has probably left him worse off at the plate. Still, it’s hard to ignore the similarities between the two seasons even if they don’t look identical right now. He started the season strong, which encouraged talk that he was back to the Andruw we all knew in Atlanta. Yet after a hot start his production began to fall. He still has time this season to get back on track. Given his record, however, I wouldn’t put money on that.