Tuesday, January 13, 2004


I was in a bit of a rush to post earlier, so here's more "proof" that Sledge's power spike is an otherwise unexplained anomoly:

'03 .66
'02 .78
'01 .71
'00 1.47
'99 .77

'03 .11
'02 .12
'01 .10
'00 .16
'99 .10

*PA was guestimated using AB+BB

Sledge's 2000 season is the one that sticks out in terms of patience (which as we saw earlier was also the only other year where he had a power spike above his career norm), whereas '03 otherwise seems perfectly in keeping with his career tendencies.

Sledge's power this year definitely doesn't seem the result of being more selective at the plate, or any real benefit of being older than the competition (the rest of his skill stats don't show any improvement). Given the slight increase in strikeouts we might wonder whether he was simply swinging harder, but it's not a dramatic rise. It seems he somehow merely got a heck of a lot stronger.


Ah, crap. Vazquez gone, Guerrero gone, and now this?

26-year-old Terrmel Sledge had a break-out year in AAA, and was the source of a minor controversy when MLB wouldn't allow the Wild Card contending Expos to promote him to the big show as a September call-up. (Although it's hard to pity Minaya since Sledge should have been called up for a look at least by August as it apparent that rookie CF Chavez wasn't ready for the big leagues.)

Sledge did pretty well in '04: .324/.397/.545, good enough for a .270 MjEQA according to BP. That's about in the same category as AL Rookie of the Year, Angel Berroa.

The problem, of course, is that nothing in Sledge's previous minor league career suggested he'd be that kind of hitter.

Sledge has always shown good on-base skills (despite Brad Wilkerson, still a rare skill in the Expos system), but never this much power.

Here are his Isolated Power (SLG-AVG) numbers for the last five years:

'03 .221
'02 .143
'01 .136
'00 .179
'99 .124

Going from a .140ish IsoPwr hitter one year to a .220ish IsoPwr hitter the next is a bit like going from Randy Winn to Brian Giles. In other words, it's a huge leap.

Let's see his GPA over that same stretch:

'03 .315
'02 .264
'01 .277
'00 .336
'99 .293

(By the way, Randy Winn had a .262 GPA last year and Brian Giles a .321 GPA.)

I'm not saying Sledge would have been the next Brian Giles. A .315 GPA in AAA is quite a different matter than a .315 GPA against MLB pitching. (Especially a 26-year-old in AAA.)

And looking at his entire minor league career, it appears that Sledge had two good years in the low minors, where his high batting average masked his modest power. When his batting average dropped against better pitching, so did the rest of his performance... until this year.

Now, in the sake of full disclosure, I've ignored Sledge's few games in AAA in '02, and crudely took his performance in A and AA in '01 as roughly equal. If anything, however, my estimations only make those previous years look better than how he really performed. (His full minor league numbers can be found here.)

While these sort of power spikes sometimes happen spontaneously as a player ages (witness Vernon Wells' development this year--.233 IsoPwr in '03, .182 in '02), sadly, it now seems in the case of Terrmel Sledge there's another explaination. I don't want to jump the gun, but don't necessarily expect too much from Sledge in '04. Boy, you hate to jump on a guy before all the facts are in, but if he was using steroids last year that sure would explain a lot.


Niles, I understand your skepticism regarding park factors, but looking at scale drawings of both Minute Maid Park and Yankee Stadium suggests that Houston really is a bad, bad place for pitchers.

Here's Houston:

And here's New York:

Neither park has much foul territory, but after the "short porch" Yankee Stadium gets pretty deep pretty quickly. Compare that to Houston's nearly triangular outfield, which doesn't look like it would take much for a pull hitter from either side of the plate to rocket the ball out of the Juice Box.

A groundball pitcher like Pettitte will probably benefit considerably from the much better Houston defence behind him, but I expect that not even facing the pitcher every 9th at bat will prevent flyball Clemens' ERA from going up.

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