Friday, August 20, 2010

Splitting the difference

Baseball stats always tell us something about what has happened. Using such history to foretell the future — or even to evaluate the present — is tricky.

Remember the gloom and doom earlier this season about the Twins and their lack of success with the bases loaded? Even LaVelle Neal, who really ought to know better, was reading something significant into 65 at-bats.

I thought of that Thursday night when Jason Kubel came up with the bases loaded in the eighth inning. Actually, I thought of a lot of stat splits, because FSN put up a graphic with Kubel's bases-loaded splits, which are impressive. (But they never put up a graphic with his numbers against left-handed pitching, which are considerably less impressive.)


* Twins with the bases loaded this year: 138 plate appearances, 117 official at-bats: .291/.319/.444. That is by far their lowest on-base percentage of any bases occupied split, probably because pitchers really don't want to walk a run in, but it's also one of the highest slugging percentages, probably for the same reason.

(Numbers come from Baseball Reference's team splits page. At the time I was writing this, the page had not been updated with Thursday's results.)

One hundred-seventeen at-bats, 138 plate appearances — these are still small sample sizes. The Twins have been less productive with the bases loaded than when the bases aren't loaded — but not so drastically so that everybody's noticing.

* Jason Kubel with the bases loaded this year: 22 PA, 17 AB, .353/.409/.765, 21 RBIs.

* Kubel, bases loaded, career: 76 PA, 62 AB, .403/.395/.839. Note that his on-base percentage is lower than his batting average — his nine sac flies drive the OPB down. And that's the kind of anomaly one gets with such small sample sizes.

* Kubel versus left-handed pitchers, career: 555 PA, 489 AB, .231/.310/.352. Not quite a full season's worth of chances — in his entire major league career.

* Kubel versus LHP, 2010: 147 PA, 127 AB, .209/.299/.339. Not good. Also not, in and of itself, proof of anything — but combined with his career track record, still suggestive.

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