Vidro Vidro Vidro
As much as I’d prefer to let this run to the end of the season, let’s get review this as he’s hitting .319/.384/.388 and ON FIRE! (and so forth)
Right now, Vidro’s beating up on his projections in one way: he’s hitting for a lot more average. His walk rate’s a little up, the strikeout rate a little lower, but not hugely. Almost no power at all (of players in the AL with 350+ PA, he’s the 8th-worst player in Isolated Slugging as I write this). His HR/FB rate is an absurd 3.5%. Everyone who tried to tell you he was going to turn into some kind of Edgar clone was entirely wrong, but you knew that at the time.
He has no speed at all – he hasn’t even tried to steal a base this year. Whatever the Mariners thought they were going to be able to do to rehab his legs, it didn’t work. He’s been healthy enough to be in the lineup, but that’s it. He’s not running out doubles. We should probably be grateful for that, though.
There’s a lot to be wary of. For someone with no speed, he’s getting a lot of infield hits (7.1% right now) and his batting average when he puts the ball in play is a ridiculous .346. Now, speedy hitters get good rates, because they’re hitting the ball hard, or they can leg them out. The players around Vidro’s infield hit percentage are generally speedsters, guys like Vernon Wells, or Orlando Cabrera (he is, to spite me, just behind Jack Wilson and ahead of Troy Tulowitzki in the majors in IFH%.
And the same thing with batting average on balls in play: Ichiro’s at .376, for instance (his career BABIP is .356)(worst in the majors right now? Richie Sexson, .219). And there are other players who put up really good BABIP numbers for different reasons — but generally speaking, if you’re putting up a really good BABIP rate, you’re Willy Taveras more than Pujols (career .312 BABIP).
Moreover, these are anomalous even in Vidro’s career. Even in his best year, he didn’t manage to get to a .346 BABIP, and his career batting average on balls in play is .319, a significant dropoff from what he’s running right now.
Those hits are in the books, though, in the same way it doesn’t matter what your run differential is if you end the season 90-72. However, it’s worth examining this in an attempt to look at how big a swing that is. If Vidro got hits at his career rate, and his infield hit rate was a little more reasonable, here’s his line:
Moreover, you can look at his hit chart, there’s really been no change from early in the year, when we pointed out almost all his fly balls were dropping in the shallow outfield. I think he’s been putting a few more deeper flies to left, I don’t have the data for that.
Unless there’s a really good reason that those dribblers and bloop flies are going to continue to fall in for the rest of the season, that line is also a reasonable guess at how he’ll produce from here out. If you know a good explanation of why Vidro’s enjoyed such amazing, unexpected success in those areas this year, and can explain why you think it’s sustainable, we’d love to hear it.
I hope you see why I’m skeptical, though.
I’m a long-time defender of Ichiro, who played a different game than other right fielders, and there’s no reason not to apply that to the DH. I don’t particularly care that he’s not hitting for power if he’s contributing in a different way. And if Vidro can continue, the salary’s not an issue: $6m a year isn’t that outrageous, especially compared to some of the other botched signings (hellloooo, Mike Piazza, who didn’t see that coming?)
But it was still a bad acquisition. Discard Snelling/Fruto entirely: there were more-productive DH candidates available for less. Putting Vidro at DH has created team construction problems that have kept the team from putting the best lineup on the field. Who knows what it’s going to mean for them going into next year.
And say that those hits were luck — would you pay six million to get .286/.351/.355 from a DH? What about next year, when he’s another year older? Where does that 2009 option vest?
Signing Vidro to a 2-year, $12m deal with a vesting option would have been a bad idea, even if the team hadn’t given anything up for them. Our objection to this trade has always been about the ease of finding a DH, not about who they gave up for him.
On the trade, yes, Fruto’s in AAA Columbus, trying to become a starter and having a bad time of it, not contributing to a major league team, and Snelling’s on the DL. And I freely (and have, repeatedly) admit that I’m unable to discuss Snelling with any degree of impartiality, so I’ll only say yes, he’s on the 60-day DL with the knee contusion, but it could have happened to anyone, and also yes, it’d be nice if he could get or stay healthy but he doesn’t, and I know the chances he’s going to have a major league career are basically gone, so if everyone could please stop sticking me about it, that’d be nice.
Or, to get back to my point: I haven’t found any good reason besides good fortune that explains Vidro’s recent performance in finding holes, and a lot of good reasons to think he owes those extra dozen or so hits to chance. And if that’s the case, that’s the performance of a replacement-level bat rubbing a lucky rabbit’s foot bare.
Yes, Vidro’s hitting .400 since the all-star break, and like everyone else alive, he’s a great player who is helping the team if he can hit .400. But there are all kinds of reasons to think he can’t, and there’s nothing less indicative of a hitter’s skill then the ability to hit a bunch of singles. Vidro was a horrible player the first half of the year and has been an amazing one since, but the underlying skills suggest that we should expect something a lot closer to this first half performance than his second half performance going forward. And this team can’t afford to have another hitter go cold.