Lewis Launches in San Fran

Giants outfielder Fred Lewis got his first chance at everyday playing time in 2008, but he traveled a long, winding road to get that shot. Originally drafted by the Montreal Expos out of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in 2000, Lewis opted not to sign and instead attended Southern University. The Giants came calling in 2002, popping Lewis in the second round (66th overall).

Matt Lawton‘s cousin showed excellent on-base skills in the minors (career .381 OBP, 15.1 BB%). He also ranked among Baseball America’s top 10 organizational prospects from 2003-2007 in what was then a rather barren Giants farm system. Still, some felt that Lewis was more fourth outfielder than future regular. BA noted that Lewis was “still more about potential than production”, as he was prone to strikeouts and didn’t harness his raw speed on the base paths or in the outfield.

In 2007, Lewis’ official position on the Giants was “Barry Bonds‘ legs.” As a late-inning defensive replacement who snuck in the occasional at-bat, Lewis compiled a .287/.374/.408 line in 180 PA, drawing walks at a 10.8% rate and striking out 20.4% of the time. “Bonds’ Legs” also managed to become one of the more anonymous players to hit for the cycle, accomplishing the feat on May 13th at Coors Field.

Once that Bonds guy not-so-willingly retired, Lewis inherited plenty of playing time and made the most of it. A first-time regular at the age of 27, Lewis batted .282/.351/.440 in 521 PA. He continued to show a pretty sharp eye, drawing walks at a 9.8% clip while rarely straying from the strike zone. Lewis’ Outside Swing Percentage (O-Swing%) was just 18.9%, ranking as the 19th-lowest total among all qualified hitters. Lewis also swiped 21 bags and took full advantage of AT&T Park’s “Triples Alley”, collecting nine three-baggers on the season (fun fact: AT&T increased triples production by 32% between 2006-2008, per The Bill James Handbook).

The 6-2, 198 pounder batted .282 this past season, but that number seems likely to regress somewhat. Lewis often swung and missed at the minor league level (24.5 K%), and that tendency continued in 2008 (26.5 K%). His BABIP was also pretty high at .367. While that total figures to drop somewhat too, Lewis might have the sort of speedy profile to sustain a BABIP higher than what his LD% alone would indicate. In addition to the 20+ steals, Lewis was a +13 base runner overall, per Bill James’ Base Running Net Gain statistic (discussed in more detail here). Lewis likely has the wheels to make those worm killers (career 54.4 GB%) count.

It took him a while to get an opportunity, but Fred Lewis looks like a solid major league player. With a patient approach, the ability to swipe some bags and moderate pop (.158 ISO), Lewis could be an asset to both the Giants and fantasy owners over the next few seasons.




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A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at david.golebiewski@gmail.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.


8 Responses to “Lewis Launches in San Fran”

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  1. Aaron B. says:

    Interesting piece.

    I was wondering if you knew the conversion from BJO’s Base Running Net Gain to runs. Does the .22 run value (I think that’s the stolen base run value) apply to the other ways of gaining bases?

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  2. David Golebiewski says:

    Aaron,

    That’s a great question. While I’m not certain of the conversion, I do know that Baseball Prospectus has a similar system, Equivalent Base Runs, which accounts for essentially the same things and is park-adjusted as well:

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/glossary/index.php?search=EQBRR

    According to BP’s Equivalent Base Runs, Lewis added about 5 runs (or half a win) on the base paths. That seems about right.

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  3. Aaron B. says:

    Alright, thanks for your help!

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  4. NBH says:

    I know this isn’t a statistics oriented post, but Lewis played almost all of last year w/ a painful foot (and had surgery in the offseason). He took days off here and there in 2008, but still managed 21 steals (75% success rate) with a busted “wheel.” I anticipate 25+ steals next year, especially if he stays in the leadoff spot.

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  5. Jim says:

    I am looking for a steals guy in LF who won’t kill the other categories completely. How many bases do you think Lewis is capable of stealing? Is it likely that he will stay around 20, or is a total of 25-30 possible?

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  6. Jim says:

    btw, for some context, it’s a 20 team league with LF/CF/RF, and I have the 16th pick to start out with in our draft (200 players already off the board because of keepers).

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  7. Jeremiah says:

    Lewis has been identified as the #3 hitter in SF for this season. He’s going to have more RBI opportunities than last year, and a green light more often. He averaged 4.23 pitches per plate appearance last year (fourth in the NL), but that also led to him hitting with two strikes quite a bit (124 K’s). I think he’s likely to cut down on that K rate since he can now go after his pitch.

    His spring stats so far suggest he’s capable of, assuming he continues to improve health wise – still isn’t playing on consecutive days, a season that most would be very happy with.

    His HR total probably won’t ever get above 15 or so since he plays half his games at AT&T, but it also helps his other power numbers. His steals total might not increase by much since he’ll have Renteria in front of him part of the time. That being said his bunion was on his right foot and that is the foot you drive off of when taking off to steal. Not to mention, it also affected his ability to really drive the ball towards the end of last year. I would expect a season of .280-30-12-15-90-75-25 given 500-550 at bats.

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  8. Wilma Demps says:

    Howdy, I found your great site on Yahoo. Bunion problems are close to my heart.

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