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Dec
05

By the Numbers: Cut ties with Giambi?

There is no question that Jason Giambi is having a stinker of a season, and yet he is still on 61 percent of rosters on CBSSports.com. He is starting in only 30 percent of all leagues, so most of his owners are savvy enough to bench him. Still, why hang onto a .154 hitter at all? Here's why: his 12 percent H/BIP not only puts him atop of our "Unlucky Hitters" list, but it also implies that a rebound is coming. Skeptics may note that we are five weeks into the season, his rate is actually moving downward, and a low H/BIP is actually normal for Giambi. All of this is true, though Giambi's "low" rates in recent years have still been much higher than this, settling in the mid-20s.

To put the flukiness of Giambi's performance into perspective, let's compare his supporting skill stats against those of another player giving an equally putrid performance. Both Giambi and Matt Diaz play positions where an RC/27 around 6.0 is normal, yet both are currently at 3.9. Diaz has a respectable .289 average, but neither player has an OBP over .320 or a SLG in the neighborhood of .400. Yet despite the similar numbers, Giambi walks more and makes more frequent and stronger contact. With his inferior skill set, you have to wonder what kind of stats Diaz would have if it weren't for the 36 percent of the balls in play that have become base hits for him. This is a normal rate for Diaz, but if his H/BIP were cut in half, like Giambi's has been, he would have much worse stats than Giambi.

Player Batting Average On Base % Slugging % Walk Rate Whiff Rate Iso Power
Jason Giambi 0.154 0.320 0.385 18% 15% 0.231
Matt Diaz 0.289 0.301 0.378 2% 24% 0.089

So, yes, Giambi owners, there is good reason to keep him on reserves and wait for the turnaround. We know Matt Diaz, and Jason Giambi is no Matt Diaz.

Gregor Blanco, with his .317 average, looks like he could be an eventual replacement for Diaz. If he does take over in left field, you will see a player who steals and walks more than his predecessor. However, Blanco's 43 percent H/BIP lets us know that his average will fall below .300, and his minor league numbers tell us not to count on him for homers.

Paul Byrd, Jeremy Bonderman, Tim Wakefield and Carlos Silva have been the Gregor Blancos of the mound. Perhaps Chad Billingsley and Javier Vazquez can send them some of their bad luck to even things out. Also, it looks like the just-demoted Anthony Reyes may have gotten a raw deal from the Cards, because H/BIP and ERC say he should be given another chance.

All statistics are for season-to-date performances through Saturday, May 3.

'Lucky' Hitters H/BIP RC/27 'Lucky' Pitchers H/BIP ERC
Dioner Navarro, C, Tampa Bay 46% 5.3 Justin Speier, RP, L.A. Angels 19% 4.13
Matt Kemp, OF, L.A. Dodgers 44% 6.1 Logan Kensing, RP, Florida 20% 3.63
Gregor Blanco, OF, Atlanta 43% 7.3 Manny Acosta, RP, Atlanta 22% 4.72
Justin Upton, OF, Arizona 43% 9.6 Paul Byrd, SP, Cleveland 25% 4.23
Aaron Rowand, OF, San Francisco 42% 7.9 Geoff Geary, RP, Houston 26% 3.68
Chris Iannetta, C, Colorado 42% 9.1 Brian Bass, RP, Minnesota 26% 4.94
Chipper Jones, 3B, Atlanta 42% 14.3 Chan Ho Park, SP, L.A. Dodgers 26% 6.43
Kosuke Fukudome, OF, Chicago Cubs 41% 9.1 Jeremy Bonderman, SP, Detroit 26% 4.96
Manny Ramirez, OF, Boston 41% 9.1 Tim Wakefield, SP, Boston 27% 4.93
Rafael Furcal, SS, L.A. Dodgers 41% 12.3 Carlos Silva, SP, Seattle 27% 3.22
'Unlucky' Hitters H/BIP RC/27 'Unlucky' Pitchers H/BIP ERC
Jason Giambi, DH, N.Y. Yankees 12% 3.9 Chad Billingsley, SP, L.A. Dodgers 39% 4.88
Robinson Cano, 2B, N.Y. Yankees 16% 1.4 Joel Peralta, RP, Kansas City 35% 4.25
Cody Ross, OF, Florida 16% 1.3 Glendon Rusch, RP, San Diego 35% 4.81
Alfonso Soriano, OF, Chicago Cubs 17% 2.6 Randy Johnson, SP, Arizona 33% 4.50
Ben Broussard, 1B, Texas 17% 1.8 Anthony Reyes, SP, St. Louis 33% 4.71
J.R. Towles, C, Houston 17% 4.2 Javier Vazquez, SP, Chicago White Sox 32% 2.99
Ramon Hernandez, C, Baltimore 18% 2.6 Jonathan Papelbon, RP, Boston 32% 1.41
Juan Uribe, 2B, Chicago White Sox 18% 2.1
Corey Patterson, OF, Cincinnati 18% 3.9
Pedro Feliz, 3B, Philadelphia 20% 2.4
Good stats, good skills - hitters H/BIP RC/27 Good stats, good skills - pitchers H/BIP ERC
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Boston 30% 8.7 Santiago Casilla, RP, Oakland 29% 0.94
Jason Bay, OF, Pittsburgh 30% 7.7 Tim Hudson, SP, Atlanta 28% 2.09
Casey Kotchman, 1B, L.A. Angels 31% 7.2 Edinson Volquez, SP, Cincinnati 29% 2.47
Adrian Beltre, 3B, Seattle 31% 7.1 Randy Wolf, SP, San Diego 30% 2.75
Josh Hamilton, OF, Texas 32% 7.1 Shawn Hill, SP, Washington 31% 2.86
Poor stats, poor skills - hitters H/BIP RC/27 Poor stats, poor skills - pitchers H/BIP ERC
Wily Mo Pena, OF, Washington 30% 1.6 Steve Trachsel, SP, Baltimore 30% 6.44
Morgan Ensberg, 3B, N.Y. Yankees 28% 2.1 Brandon Backe, SP, Houston 30% 6.23
Jason Bartlett, SS, Tampa Bay 28% 2.1 Eric Gagne, RP, Milwaukee 29% 5.96
Luis Hernandez, SS, Baltimore 28% 3.0 Carlos Villanueva, SP, Milwaukee 30% 5.91
Eugenio Velez, 2B, San Francisco 28% 3.2 Ricky Nolasco, SP, Florida 30% 5.85

Glossary
Runs Created per 27 Outs (RC/27) -- An estimate of how many runs a lineup would produce per 27 outs if a particular player occupied each spot in the order; ex. the RC/27 for Miguel Cabrera would predict the productivity of a lineup where Cabrera (or his statistical equal) batted in all nine spots; created by Bill James
Component ERA (ERC) -- An estimate of a what a pitcher's ERA would be if it were based solely on actual pitching performance; created by Bill James
Base Hits per Balls in Play (H/BIP) -- The percentage of balls in play (at bats minus strikeouts and home runs) that are base hits; research by Voros McCracken and others has established that this rate is largely random and has a norm of approximately 30%
Isolated Power -- The difference between slugging percentage and batting average; created by Branch Rickey and Allan Roth
Walk Rate -- Walks / (at bats + walks)
Whiff Rate -- Strikeouts / at bats

Al Melchior was recently a Fantasy columnist and data analyst for Baseball HQ and will be providing advice columns for CBSSports.com. Click here to send him a question. Please put "Melchior" in the subject field.

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