We're all well aware of the many players the Rays "lost" this off season. Players like Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Rafael Soriano, and Joaquin Benoit left without any in house replacements. However, one everyday player, Jason Bartlett, did leave with someone ready to step in. Reid Brignac was given the job before spring training even started, with no real competition on the roster.
Before people criticize the Rays for not pursuing better options, one thing needs to be made clear: the market for shortstops wasn't exactly booming. The biggest shortstop acquisition involved J.J. Hardy being traded to Baltimore. While Hardy is a good player, he's not exactly a world beater. So the Rays set on ahead with their young shortstop, with no time to look back. Brignac hasn't exactly lit up the box scores this season, and while many players on the team have struggled, it seems like he's getting the most heat among everyday players.
Looking at his 2011 numbers, one thing comes to mind: IT'S EARLY. Is he ever going to put up an All-Star level season? Not likely. Can he be an average offensive shortstop with an above average glove? Yes. Before we start comparing Brignac's 2011 to his 2010 season, let's review when offensive statistics become relilable:
- 50 PA: Swing%
- 100 PA: Contact Rate
- 150 PA: Strikeout Rate, Line Drive Rate, Pitches/PA
- 200 PA: Walk Rate, Ground Ball Rate, GB/FB
- 250 PA: Fly Ball Rate
- 300 PA: Home Run Rate, HR/FB
- 500 PA: OBP, SLG, OPS, 1B Rate, Popup Rate
- 550 PA: ISO
Got that? Ok, lets compare some important numbers over the past two seasons:
K%: 2010: 25.6%, 2011: 22.7%
BB%: 2010: 6.1%, 2011: 4.2%
LD%: 2010: 19.5%, 2011: 20.4%
GB%: 2010: 38.5%, 2011: 34.7%
FB%: 2010: 42.1%, 2011: 44.9%
Plate Dicipline Statistics: There are too many to list, but I'll link to them here. These include the percentage of pitches he swings at in and out of the zone, his contact percentage, etc. Suffice it to say that the numbers this season are in line with 2010.
The biggest difference in his statistics? The 2010 stats are based on 326 PA while he only has 71 in 2011 -- which goes back to the note about when the statistics become reliable. The only number that's off so much that it becomes noticeable is Brignac's BABIP. So far it's sitting at .275, down from .317 in 2010 and .312 for his career. I put his numbers in an xBABIP calculator, and it showed me that we should expect his BABIP to be around .303. That's a good sign, but not a hugely telling one. Brignac may have better numbers -- maybe even an extra base hit! -- but they wouldn't be gangbusters either. It's far too early to tell anything signifigant.
Last season the average OPS of MLB shortstops was .668. Brignac was at .692. Unless his strikeout rate increases exponentially, I don't see a scenario where he doesn't surpass the .668 mark. That's not a mark he should be shooting for, mind you, but we're long past the point of thinking Brignac can be an above average bat. Despite what his numbers currently suggest, he is average. And as we've said on this site many times, being average isn't a bad thing at all.