Evaluating Jason Bartlett's 2009 Improvement and Splits


It's been noted that Jason Bartlett is at the head of the class of the DRB Whipping Boy Society. This post is not an attempt to tear down Jason Bartlett in any way. I am a Bartlett fan and the more of 2009's improved performance that Bartlett can hold onto, the better the Rays chances of success this season. Having said that, it's our job as analysts to try to capture how much of 2009 was likely improved skill versus luck. Hopefully, this isn't beating a dead horse but the spirited debate reared it's head again this week.

You'd have to be a frozen caveman to have not taken notice of Bartlett's 2009 campaign. From 2004-2008 Bartlett was an above-average defensive shortstop with a slightly below-average bat. All things considered, he did make a dramatic impact on the 2008 American League championship team when the baseball writers named him Team MVP. However, at the plate he put up a slash line of .276/.337/.362. A quick exercise in subtraction tells us his career ISO was .086.

Enter 2009. Jason Bartlett exploded to the tune of .320/.389/.490. His ISO essentially doubled to .170 as he hit 14 of his 25 career home runs last season. This certainly is a big enough to difference to dismiss 2009 as being luck. But hey, that's why  a quick easy Marcels calculation weights the most recent season the heaviest. If we weight Barty's wOBA from the previous four seasons 5-4-3-2, we get the following for his quick and dirty Marcels projection for 2010:

2009

0.389

5

2008

0.311

4

2007

0.319

3

2006

0.335

2

Projection

0.344

 

Have there been any process changes in Bartlett's approach at the plate? As I've discussed in previous threads, Bartlett was both more patient at the plate and swinging through pitches at a greater rate.

 

Season

O-Swing%

Z-Swing%

Contact%

2005

15.3%

63.5%

87.1%

2006

24.8%

63.5%

87.3%

2007

22.2%

62.9%

84.7%

2008

26.3%

67.0%

85.5%

2009

20.9%

63.7%

82.4%

Bartlett cut way down on chasing outside the zone, yet he still saw a career low contact rate. This is not all that different from the changes made by Ben Zobrist. It's silly to saw they began to attempt to swing harder, but it appears that's precisely what happened. They were swinging harder at better pitches. As R.J. Anderson notes, that still is almost certainly  not enough to put up a second consecutive season with a line drive % north of 26, a feat done only by Michael Young.

With about sixty games left in the 2009 season, Bartlett replaced B.J. Upton in the lead-off spot of the lineup. Apparently Bartlett took his lead-off responsibilities to see pitches and get on base seriously as his walk rate improved. However, all three components of his slash line deteriorated. This is not to say Bartlett could not handle the lead-off position. The point is, by the time the Rays made the switch, Bartlett's "hot hand" had cooled off back towards what a realistic projection might look like. Please note his lead-off numbers are still well above his career averages pre-2009.

 

PA

BB%

BA

OBP

SLG

Leadoff

256

12.5%

0.275

0.351

0.392

Non-leadoff

244

9.0%

0.333

0.373

0.511

 

On to the issue of handedness: Jason Bartlett makes a solid lead-off hitter versus left-handed pitching. Bartlett is an impressive line drive % north of 24% against LHP and a wOBA of .372 for his career.  When he has faced righties his wOBA drops to .311 with a line drive % around 20%.  Bartlett had a career year vs. RHP in 2009. Let's take that into consideration and run a 5-4-3-2 Marcels on his splits:

 

wOBA

LHP

RHP

2006

0.325

0.341

2007

0.378

0.29

2008

0.408

0.271

2009

0.404

0.372

Marcels

0.388

0.321

Career

0.372

0.311

 

Marcel's is pretty skeptical of his 2009 performance against RHP based on the strong body of evidence to the contrary.  Steve Slowinski took another sabermetric angle by estimating Bartlett's platoon skill. The results returned a wOBA vs. LHP of .364 and .333 vs. RHP.  This paints a rosier picture for Bartlett, but still well below what one would prefer from a lead-off hitter. It seems like a reasonable move to have Carl Crawford or Bartlett bat lead-off depending on the handedness of the opposing pitcher with the other moving into the ninth spot. Another alternative would be to move the switch-hitting Ben Zobrist full time into the lead-off spot.

To offer these suggestions based on the evidence provided is not indicative of hating on Jason Bartlett. He is a very useful player with an improved bat. The 2009 season should be more heavily considered in projecting Bartlett than any other year. However it should not be taken into consideration more than the rest of his career. The only example of analytical dishonesty here is to look solely at 2009, and make the case that Jason Bartlett is the DRB whipping boy.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join DRaysBay

You must be a member of DRaysBay to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at DRaysBay. You should read them.

Join DRaysBay

You must be a member of DRaysBay to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at DRaysBay. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker