Quick Note on Alex Liddi
Everything at this point is still small sample, so you can’t read too much into any player’s 2012 line to date. However, I did want to point out one somewhat encouraging trend.
Last year, 602 players came to bat at least 40 times. This total includes a bunch of starting pitchers, since I don’t have a quick-and-dirty way to filter them out, and also because their existence here makes the following point funnier. Of those 602 players with 40+ PA, Alex Liddi’s 59.6% contact rate ranked 596th, and four of the six players who posted lower contact rates were pitchers. Among position players, only Chris Carter and Blake Tekotte – both rightfully back in the minor leagues this year – swung and missed more often than Alex Liddi in 2011. For reference, Liddi’s contact rate was significantly worse than the mark posted by Carlos Peguero, who put bat on ball 64.4 percent of the time he swung. Liddi made Peguero look like a good contact hitter. Enough said.
2012, though? Alex Liddi’s contact rate is at 80.0%, slightly higher than the league average of 79.8%. There was a lot of talk in spring about Liddi shortening up his swing and doing a better job of making contact, and the early returns suggest that he’s actually taken a step forward in that area. We’re still dealing with less than 100 career plate appearances, and Liddi’s true talent contact rate was almost certainly better than he showed in the big leagues last year, but contact rate is a thing that stabilizes fairly quickly, and Liddi’s ability to post an 80% contact rate in any kind of sample is encouraging, as that was something he just couldn’t do last year.
Don’t go overboard with Liddi love just yet. After all, his rest-of-season ZIPS projection still calls for just a .301 wOBA, which would make him a below average hitter, but contact has always been Liddi’s fatal flaw, and if he can keep hitting for power while also improving his contact rate, then he could develop into something better than we had hoped for. He’ll need to take several more steps forward before he starts getting penciled in as the future at third base, but hey, baby steps are better than no steps.