Carlos Quentin crushed the ball during his first season with the White Sox, batting .288/.394/.571 with a .414 wOBA in 2008. Though The Cell is a power-friendly venue (increasing runs by nine percent and homers by 25 percent from 2007-2009, per the Bill James Handbook), Quentin’s wRC+ was still stellar at 154.
Since then, Quentin has stumbled. Over the 2009-2010 seasons, the former Diamondbacks prospect has a .331 wOBA. His park-and-league-adjusted wOBA is one percent worse than the league average (99 wRC+). Considering his stationary defense, he has been a serious drag on Chicago’s playoff chances — he was worth -0.4 Wins Above Replacement in 2009, and has already racked up a full win below what one would expect from a freely available Triple-A talent in 2010.
Injuries have been a serious problem throughout his career. Prior to reaching the South Side in exchange for DH/1B/OF/3B/? Chris Carter in December of 2007, the Stanford product’s pro debut was delayed by Tommy John surgery in 2003, and he suffered a left shoulder injury that required surgery in ’07. Quentin fractured his right wrist in early September of 2008 after slamming his bat in frustration, and he missed a sizeable chunk of the 2009 season with Plantar Fasciitis in his left foot. A tight hamstring bothered him in late April and early May of this year.
A banged-up Quentin isn’t hitting with the same authority. His ISO was .283 in ’08, .219 last season and .190 in 2010. Not surprisingly, his performance when pulling the ball has taken a big hit, as have his numbers when hitting the ball up the middle:
An otherworldly pull and mid-field hitter in 2008, Quentin has been decidedly below-average since. As is the case with most batters, nothing much happens when Quentin hits to the opposite field. And he’s hitting to the right side more than ever in 2010: 28.3 percent, compared to 17.8% in 2009 and 22.6% in 2008.
It’s true that Quentin had a .221 BABIP in ’09 and currently has a .199 BABIP in 2010, fourth-worst among qualified batters. But his career BABIP in the majors is .248, and his rest-of-season ZiPS projection has a .257 BABIP. The odds of Quentin continuing to post a sub-.200 BABIP are very slim, but there are several reasons why he gets fewer hits on balls put in play than most:
He hits few line drives
Line drives hit in the American League this season have a .726 BABIP — they fall for hits far more than any other batted ball type. While line drive rate isn’t the most stable metric from year-to-year, Quentin has a career 15.8 LD%. His LD% over the past three seasons (15.7) is one of the twenty lowest marks among MLB hitters with at least 500 plate appearances.
He pops the ball up often
Quentin has a 15.1 infield/fly ball percentage in 2010, and his career rate is 12.5%. Pop ups are the closest thing to a gimme out on a ball in play, and he hits far more than most batters. The average IF/FB% is between seven and eight percent.
Along with line drive rate, batter’s eye and pitches seen per PA, Speed Score is one of the variables that has a positive effect on BABIP. With an aching foot, the 6-1, 230 pound Quentin has become increasingly sluggish — his Speed Score was 4.0 in ’08, 3.1 in ’09 and is 2.1 this season (the MLB average is five).
While Quentin’s monstrous 2008 season was probably at the upper bounds of what anyone could have expected from him, his work over the 2009-2010 seasons has undeniably been disappointing. Many owners have cut ties — the 27-year-old’s Yahoo ownership rate is down to 47 percent. Quentin can’t seem to stay healthy, and his power numbers have declined. He’s worth a flyer if available, but that ’08 production doesn’t appear to be coming back any time soon.
Injury info from the Baseball Injury Tool.
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