Jose Pirela is Meh

I should spell out why I am not all that excited about how Pirela is hitting so far this season.
Jose Pirela is a decent hitter who plays below average defense at every position he has tried. So many fans are all gaga about Pirela because he is hitting well in his 1st 17 games this season. Well, small sample size theatre is in effect here.  Let’s take a look at what he did last year vs. what he has done this year, what others projected he would do, and why they expected him to do that with a full season of plate appearances.
I’ll start with what he hit last season and what he has done so far this season.
 
Last Season

  • In 2017 through 17 games – .319/.382/.551/.932 with .396 BABIP
  • Where he finished 2017 – .288/.347/.490/.837 in 344 PA with .343 BABIP
  • (NL League Average was a .302 BABIP)

This season

  • 2018 through 17 games – .324/.351/.473/.824 with .407 BABIP
  • Where will he finish 2018? – ??? for 600 PA but the numbers he hit last season are optimistic projections for 2018.
  • (NL League Average is a .290 BABIP so far this year)
Why? 
He hit .263/.294/.442/.736 with a .318 BABIP over his last 30 games/100 PA last season.
As his BABIP dropped 53 points over the season his BA dropped 31 points. His % of balls in play was 60%.  53 points * 60% = 31 points.
I think that the more he plays the more in line with his career averages he will be. His current .407 BABIP dropping to his career average .308  BABIP over the season with a 60% balls in play rate is a 59 point drop in batting average. .324 – .059 = .265  That number is in line with all of the projections for his production.
His last month’s stats were more in line with the stats to that point in his career. From 2013 through 2017 his slash line in both the AAA and MLB combined was .289/.322/.427/.748 with a .308 BABIP. 


My projections to start the season was .270/.315/.452/.767 with a .322 wOBA, 98 wRC+ and 98 OPS+  in 600 PA
That is just a bit above average BA and OPS and a bit below average wOBA, wRC+ and OPS+.

Everyone else had very similar projections for him. These 4 are from Fangraphs

  • A slash line of .270/.316/.434/.752 with a 320 wOBA, 99 wRC+ and 94 OPS+ in 495 PA was the 2018 ZIPS projections
  • A slash line of .264/.313/.411/.724 with a .311 wOBA, 93 wRC+ and 92 OPS+ in 431 PA was the 2018 Steamer projections.
  • A slash line of .267/.315/.423/.738 with a .315 wOBA, 96 wRC+ and 93 OPS+ in 458 PA was the 2018 Depth Charts projections.
  • A slash line of .262/.316/.413/.729 with a .314 w OBA, 94 wRC+ and 92 OPS+ in 480 PA was the 2018 The Bat projections

What is the best case scenario?My hope is that he is still hitting over .300 with a BABIP in the .350 range through the end of June, about 300 PA, and we can use him to headline a deal for a frontline starter, someone to anchor our staff like Lester has done in Chicago, without the Padres having to give up a top prospect. That the acquiring team will see him as a Zobrist type player that can DH, and play LF RF, and 2B.

Hoping also that one of the guys that are on the Padres staff now will break out like Arrieta did for the Cubs. In spring training I would have put my money on Lamet being that guy. Now maybe Ross or Lucchesi will be that guy.  

What Front-Line starters may be available?
  • The Royals are expected to make Duffy available closer to the trade deadline.
  • The Rays are expected to make Archer available if they are not progressing as a team & they are 10 games out today.
  • The Indians may make Carrasco available if they are not leading the Central come the break.
What do those stats mean?

  • wOBA is Weighted On-Base Average  – (Created by Tom Tango – Not all hits are created equal )
  • wRC+ is Weighted Runs Created adjusted by ballpark where 100 is league average
  • OPS+ is OPS adjusted by ballpark where 100 is league average

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is last season Pirela regressed towards his career numbers and towards league average BABIP as the season progressed. The most regression was in his last 30 games. If he had received 600 PA instead of 344, how much more would his BABIP have regressed towards his career average and the NL average?

This season it is completely reasonable to expect that his BA and OBP will regress with his BABIP towards those averages. The only question is how far will they both regress.

The Moral of the Story

Don’t be enamored over 17 games stats for any player.

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