It's been a while since I talked about Ben Zobrist, and in that time instead of regressing or disappearing like some people thought he would, Zobrist has actually improved. How much? Like almost Evan Longoria good. If you don't believe me just look at the Fangraphs leaderboard for WAR among AL players with at least 170 plate appearances. Of course Mr. Everything, the Keeper Evan Longoria is atop the list with a 3.2 WAR, but right under him is the late inning lightning. The second most valuable player in terms of WAR is Ben Zobrist at 3.1.
The former slap hitting shortstop, who met with the swing mechanic, now leads the Rays in OBP, SLG (of course that means OPS as well), ISO, wOBA. He is second in home runs and third in RBI. He is also showing a nifty batting eye with nearly as many walks (29) as strike outs (30) which is something I wish we could say for Longoria. With 177 plate appearances under his belt, Benzo's BABIP is at a normal range of .311. His career BABIP of .256 is a tad low below average so this may be a better indication. His line drive, groundball and flyball percentages are within five percent of career normals. Of course with improved power he's hitting slighly more flyballs and less groundballs, but the line drives are static. His flyball to HR rate is still high at 23.5%, but that's within the realm of a lot of other power hitters. Hate it or love it ZoRilla continues to prove that he is not a fluke.
Defensively, while he doesn't have much time at any one position, he's ranking above average at several. He has a 3.9 UZR in the outfield (4.5 in RF) and a 2.8 UZR at second base albeit just 13 games. Again UZR is great to show how a player has done, but is not a crystal ball into the future.
There are many who still question Zobrist's ability, but as the sample size grows from last year to this year (404 plate appearances) he continues to not only remain steady, but actually improve at the plate and in the field. A few weeks ago I thought talk of Ben Zobrist going to St. Louis as an All Star was a bit premature. Now about a month away it looks like if Zobrist is left off the team it would be quite a snub