If there’s one player I never thought I’d be writing a waiver wire post about, it’s Brent Lillibridge. When you have a .194/.253/.298 triple slash line in 298 PA’s coming into this season there’s little reason to. Even his Triple-A numbers aren’t very good. Yet, somehow, here we are.
The general ineffectiveness of Gordon Beckham, Juan Pierre and Alex Rios has given way to more playing time for Lillibridge at second base and all three outfield positions. Used mostly as a defensive replacement early on – you may remember him from his back to back gave saving catches in right field at Yankee Stadium – Lillbridge has emerged as the best White Sox hitter not named Paul Konerko thus far. His .308/.387/.662 line is obviously unsustainable over a larger sample, especially that slugging percentage, but let’s take a look at how he’s done it so far.
My first thought was to check his BABiP. Currently it’s sitting at .333, which seems slightly high, but he had the exact same number in 2010 in 101 PA and finished with an OPS of .625. He’s striking out ~9% less this season and has increased his walk rate by 3.5%, so those obviously help. Pitchers are throwing him ~7% less pitches inside the strike zone so far, which would seem an odd strategy given his perpetual weak bat. But he’s not taking advantage of that, swinging at pitches inside the zone ~9% less than last season. Actually, he’s taking hacks at more pitches outside the zone, which goes against what pitchers are giving him. He’s a tricky one, that Brent Lillibridge.
The real reason he’s hitting so well is a giant uptick in his fly ball rate. Currently 60.4% of all balls he puts into play are going in the air. That’s 20% more than last year. All of those fly balls have caused his HR/FB% to take a huge jump as well, climbing to 20.7% which ranks 11th among players with 70+ PA. That’s ahead of Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson and Ryan Braun to name a few. Somehow I don’t see that continuing for the 5’11, 185lb infielder. Once the fly balls decrease, and they will, Lillibridge will stop hitting home runs at his current rate. I just don’t know when that will be. He’s currently owned in just 2% of Yahoo! leagues and has second base and outfield eligibility. With the White Sox offense struggling Lillibridge will likely continue seeing playing time. He’s very much worth a roster spot in deep leagues until the power begins to fade.
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