Revisiting the ’09 Mavericks Hitters

Jay Yencich · May 21, 2010 at 8:30 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Since the Mariners signed on with the affiliate in ’07, we’ve talked a lot about the High Desert effect and what exactly that means to the development of prospects within the organization. It’s common to see the Mavericks at the top of the leaderboard in runs scored per game, and last year was no exception, as they lead by 0.40 runs and were first in most offensive categories, save doubles, base stealing, walks and strikeouts. To start the season, three prominent hitters from that ’09 lineup were promoted to the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx, Joe Dunigan, Alex Liddi, and Carlos Peguero. So how have they fared thus far and what lessons can be taken from it? Let’s take a numbers-heavy look at what each of the three have been doing, starting out with Dunigan.

After knocking fourteen out of the park in Wisconsin in 2008, Dunigan hit out thirty in the Cal League in 2009, on his way to a .294/.355/.570 season. Equally impressive was that he seemed to improve his eye while moving up, going from a 142/30 K/BB to a 129/43 K/BB. By the end of the year, he wound up on a number of all-star teams for both the league and the level.

This season, he was battling to get a .189/.259/.339 after Thursday night’s game and running a 51/10 K/BB through 137 plate appearances coming into it. So, what happened? It’s not just that he hit .337/.380/.687 at home and only .253/.318/.443 on the road. He actually had a higher line drive rate in away games, and adjusting for luck, the OPS difference is probably closer to .200 than .300.

No, it was more a general inconsistency that did him in. After spiking to fifteen in June, Dunigan’s walks tapered off to seven in July and then two in both August and September. Adding to that, his strikeouts similarly spiked in July, with four every ten at-bats, and were a little under one every three for the remainder of the season. What we’re seeing to open 2010 seems to be a continuation of this. Dunigan hadn’t yet “put everything together”, so to speak, and was doing only a few select things well at any given time. Now that tougher pitchers are exploiting him, he’s struggling to do anything at all.

Next up is Liddi. The numbers Liddi put up in High Desert were a bit more of a drastic break from what we were accustomed to seeing out of him in the Midwest League. He didn’t even post a .700 OPS there and in some respects got worse in his second season. High Desert, however, proved to be no issue, and he ended the season with a .345/.411/.594 line, knocking out twenty-three home runs when he had never topped ten before, and forty-four doubles when he had never exceeded thirty. His eye improved a bit, going from a 115/42 K/BB to a 122/53 K/BB in seventy more plate appearances, but the success seemed to be more in him reducing his strikeouts than walking significantly more.

This season, Liddi is running a .289/.344/.472 line, which, while not as his previous levels, isn’t bad by any stretch. What’s different in how he approached hitting while calling Mavericks Stadium his home? A curious number that stands out in Liddi’s season is that of those twenty-three home runs, nineteen were from April to June. From July on, he only knocked four out.

It’s something that might be more troubling if not for the fact that his line drive rate those final three months nearly doubled and he walked thirty times while striking out just fifty-three. Right now, we’re seeing the same kind of developments out of him, with a 21/4 K/BB for April and a 14/6 for May. When Liddi wasn’t hitting the ball out nearly as often, he was actually improving his overall approach. The spray charts would support the idea that he’s a more complete hitter as well. Of his home runs that weren’t “inside-the-park” jobs, nine went to left, but six went to dead center and six went to right.

That brings us to Peguero, who is probably one of the biggest surprises in the system right now with his twelve home runs. Peguero’s case is a little different because he had a bit of a slow start to his career, with an elbow strain and a wrist injury keeping him off the field and a bit limited at the plate. The 2009 season was his first completely healthy season in a while, and he hit .271/.335/.560, which included fourteen triples and thirty-one home runs. As eye numbers went, he was running a 172/42 K/BB, chasing Halman for the strikeout lead, but also improving on a walk total that had never exceeded sixteen.

A glance at the stat line has him hitting .331/.411/.610 currently, the home run totals tying him for fourth in all of minor league baseball. So what’s the deal? Peguero is genuinely baffling in a lot of respects, because you look at his home line last year, .304/.344/.671, and compare it to a road average of .233/.280/.439, with fewer line drives to boot, you’d expect him to be having pretty much the same issues as Dunigan has been having.

Peguero doesn’t have so dramatic a first half and second half split as you see with others, he hit eighteen out before July, and thirteen out after, twenty-three walks before July, twenty- two after. What’s striking though is that his strikeouts jumped from eighty-six to ninety-nine in the second half, in part due to a July where he K’d in nearly half his at-bats. It’s part of the reason I’m a little bit leery of him at present, even if he wasn’t ever as pull happy as Dunigan was (Dunigan had one opposite field dinger all of last season, Peguero had three and a greater concentration to center).

Both Peguero and Liddi are walking more in May than they did in April, however, which is a testament to some level of adaptation in both. I’d hone in on that because it’s quite difficult to explain Peguero, other than he’s healthy and likely succeeding where Dunigan is not because he can go the other way on a pitch. There’s not much to go on as far as the strikeout stuff because Peguero has twenty-four Ks in sixty-eight at-bats for May, compared to eighteen in eighty-two at-bats for April.

A month and a half isn’t enough data to make any conclusive judgments on, but it does give support to the notion that Liddi is the superior prospect of the bunch and troubles Peguero’s recent success. Will Liddi get around to hitting for power again? Will Peguero’s strikeout rates be more in line with ’08 (1 per 4 PA) or ’09 (1 per 3.2 PA)? Can Dunigan figure out how to hit? We can’t easily answer any of these questions yet, but the signposts look good for Liddi, at least positive for Peguero, and bad for Dunigan at the moment.


16 Responses to “Revisiting the ’09 Mavericks Hitters”

  1. sass on May 21st, 2010 8:41 am

    So does Peguero seem to be profiling as a three true outcomes type? It seems like you can still have success with a lot of strikeouts if you have the power to back it up, and it’s starting to look like Peguero does. Thoughts?

  2. JH on May 21st, 2010 9:11 am

    If he makes it to the bigs, that’s his profile. He’s also extremely limited defensively, though. Peguero just needs to show a lot more of this if he wants to work his way into the team’s future plans. He’s more of a 1B/DH type than an outfielder on a team that cares about defense.

  3. littlelinny6 on May 21st, 2010 10:10 am

    Is Peguero falling apart lately? His last 10 games he has a 3:18 BB:K ratio with very little power. Last year in HD he looked like total crap so I wonder if he is just pulling a nice little start to the season. Another disconcerting this is his platoon split, unable to hit LHPs. Jay, is that just a trend this year in 50 PAs or has he had trouble with that throughout his career? To me Peguero has a ceiling of a platoon DH/1B at the big league level until his contact rates go up, he walks more, and learns to hit LHP.

  4. Jay Yencich on May 21st, 2010 10:37 am

    As I’ve said before to others, it’s an adjustment period. He was new to the league and started taking pitchers deep, scouting information got around, and now he’s struggling and it’s on him to respond to it.

    Against left-handers, Peguero actually did a great deal better with them than with right-handers while he was playing for Wisconsin, but it’s gone in the other direction since. Even so, his platoon split was better than Dunigans’ and the difference between the two OPS never exceeded .200 points. Looking at it, I’d guess that he’s running afoul of the more experienced lefties in the league who have seen his type before and are just pulling the string on him. In double-A, you start to see a lot of older/veteran players as the roster construction rules allow for them. It’s a considered a big jump for a good reason.

  5. Gomez on May 21st, 2010 10:53 am

    Liddi’s line drive rate entering yesterday was a mere 10.3% (that may change once this is posted). He’s striking out a little less, but his West Tenn numbers have a lot of good luck in them.

    Liddi is mashing lefthanded pitching and does come with some power, so he’s by no means a total fluke or not by any means a valuable hitter as it stands. But barring an adjustment or two, don’t be surprised to see his OPS drop by 50-100 points over the next month.

  6. TomG on May 21st, 2010 11:21 am

    How much stock can we really into minor LD rates? From what I can gather, the general consensus is that it’s an incredibly subjective (more so than MLB LD rates) and nearly-useless measurement. Has this changed to your knowledge, Jay?

  7. Gomez on May 21st, 2010 11:47 am

    Who drew that conclusion, Tom? Link(s)?

  8. Jay Yencich on May 21st, 2010 12:12 pm

    Tom might be referring to the fact that what’s read in the box score is often the decision of whoever’s filling it out in the booth and they’re not held to the same kind of standard that you might see in the MLB on that stuff.

    I would be more cautious when using it in smaller samples, but two stabilizing effects are, one, the home park you’re probably going to get the same guy doing it for half the games, and two, any variance on the road probably evens out over the course of few months with all the parks they’d be visiting in. You’re not going to see every team every month, but seeing a bunch of different teams over the course of a few months probably gives enough datapoints in the sample to be closer to reality if in fact everything else seems to line up. It was one of the reasons I was trying to use three month samples there rather than talk about what was happening in any one.

  9. fiftyone on May 21st, 2010 12:21 pm

    Thank you Jay. I enjoy these updates. When I want to do some more research on Ackley and his progress, where should I begin? (I mean besides the team’s website.)

  10. dnc on May 21st, 2010 12:23 pm

    Yes, Jay, but if there’s a large variance between the scorer at HD and the scorer at WTN, that can account for a ton of variance from level to level.

    Now, I imagine this would be relatively easy to verify by comparing the difference in home LD rates of the trio at High A to their different at Double A, but I’m not sure how you could separate the scorer factor from the park factor.

  11. Gomez on May 21st, 2010 1:04 pm

    Well, Liddi’s home LD rate is 8.3% and his road rate is 12.7%. So if we were to assume West Tenn’s scorer has a bias that produces a significant deviation, even in taking the amalgated road split at face value his LD rate isn’t that high, unless the entire Southern League has a systemic aversion to scoring line drives as line drives (and I admit I’d have to do some deeper research to confirm or deny such a trend).

  12. TomG on May 21st, 2010 1:06 pm

    Who drew that conclusion, Tom? Link(s)?

    Jay pretty much answered answered the question though, if you would like to read more about it, I believe a Baseball America guy discussed it once in a chat. (I’d link it but Websense apparently doesn’t like ESPN chats).

    Jay, I know MLBAM is being used in a few parks but how prevalent is it across all minor league baseball?

  13. Jay Yencich on May 21st, 2010 1:21 pm

    This is turning into more of a methodology post than anything else, but if that’s what the people want, so be it. I’ll try to convince you it isn’t all madness.

    So people are talking about the West Tenn data right now and I’ll remind everyone of something I’m on the record about here and at my own site. I absolutely hate using month-to-month splits for the Southern League.

    Because they play five-game sets almost exclusively, you don’t have to worry about things like whether a pitcher is doing better because they’re pitching more at home or stop and consider whether or not your team sneaked by the league juggernaut without facing their ace a few times. What you do have to worry about is the strength of schedule in any individual month.

    Are x and y player striking out less because they’re learning or because they played ten games that month against a team with a junkball pitching staff? Issues like that come up constantly. What I can do in these instances is look at two players and say “okay, Peguero and Liddi are both walking more, but Liddi cut his strikeouts by a third while Peguero is corkscrewing himself into the ground.” As you could surmise, comparing players to each other is fraught with its own issues as well, but it’s what you can do with the available tools.

    As to the West Tenn vs. High Desert scoring factor, that’s not a matter that I’d even want to mess with or consider until we’re well into the season, at which time we’ll probably have something more interesting to talk about.

  14. Jay Yencich on May 21st, 2010 2:24 pm

    Other stuff!

    Thank you Jay. I enjoy these updates. When I want to do some more research on Ackley and his progress, where should I begin? (I mean besides the team’s website.)

    You mean the Mariners site or the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx site? Because you can access the latter via For splits stuff, I lean heavily on StatCorner has minor league wOBA and tRA updating daily too. Go nuts.

    Jay, I know MLBAM is being used in a few parks but how prevalent is it across all minor league baseball?

    If it’s being used only in a few MLB parks right now, then it’s probably close to zero at the minor league level. Gameday at the minor league level is a fairly recent venture, new this year for double-A, where it’s been around for I think two or three at the triple-A level. Even then, you don’t get any pitch f/x type data or even radar gun readings or pitch types, just approximate locations and whether they were balls, called strikes, swinging strikes, or fouls.

  15. Badbadger on May 21st, 2010 2:56 pm

    Is there going to be an update of the Future Forty list soon? The old one is a year old now, and I think it’s a cool thing.

  16. Jay Yencich on May 21st, 2010 3:08 pm

    It’s probably going to come post-draft. Not a whole lot of sense in doing a new one right now.

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