Who Is The Real Ben Zobrist?

ST PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 01: Outfielder Ben Zobrist #18 of the Tampa Bay Rays fouls off a pitch against the Kansas City Royals during the game at Tropicana Field on May 1, 2010 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Since the beginning of the 2009 season Ben Zobrist has put up some numbers that put him in elite company in the American League. Entering Tuesday's action in New York:

  • He has drawn 296 walks which ranks him second behind only Jose Bautista and if we strip out the intentional walks they both have drawn 289 walks.
  • Ranks 2nd in fWAR with 20.3 (minimum 1500 PAs) behind only Evan Longoria's 22.3.
  • Ranks 14th with a .364 on-base percentage is 14th (min 1500 PAs).
  • Ranks 16th with a OPS+ of 124 (minimum of 1500 PAs)
  • Ranks 15th with a 126 wRC+ (minimum of 1500 PAs)
  • Ranks 15th wih 193 extra base hits (minimum of 1500 PAs).
  • He is a very capable multi-position player. In his career he has played 277 games in the outfield, 305 at 2nd, 130 at SS, and 17 at 1b, and 4 at 3b.
  • In his 277 games in the outfield he has only been charged with 1 error.
With the exception of a rather poor 2010 season Zobrist has delivered for the Rays posting a wRC+ of 125 in 2008, 153 in 2009, 103 in 2010, and 131 in 2011. He provides the Rays with a switch hitter that can hit anywhere in the lineup, he's played the 4th most games in the majors since 2009, plays multiple positions, can move on the bases as indicated by his 77% career stolen base success rate (72 SB/22CS), gets on base, collects extra base hits, and since 2009 has posted a 126 wRC+.

Additionally, He has had an extremely team friendly contract that paid him a league minimum salary from 2008 through 2010, 4.5 million in 2011, and 4.5 million in 2012. His current contract has him scheduled to make 5.5 million in 2013 and a club option of 7.0 million in 2014 (2 million buyout), and 7.5 million in 2015 (0.5 million buyout).

Unfortunately, we live in a what have you done for me lately world. A time when a poor month by players like Luke Scott and Carlos Pena brings up the discussion of poor contract, age, worry, and other negative connotations and the stats proving the negatives flow freely.

So, who is Ben Zobrist and will he rebound from a poor start this year and if so to what level?

He had a monster 2009 posting a 153 wRC+, a .408 wOBA, and a absurd 8.7 fWAR, a less impressive 2010 when he had a 103 wRC+, a .323 wOBA, and a 3.9 fWAR, and in 2011 he responded to post a 131 wRC+, a .360 wOBA, and a 6.6 fWAR. He is struggling thus far in 2012 and entering Thursday evenings game, which covers 231 plate appearances, he has a sluggish slash line of .199/.329/.377, an OPS of .706, a wOBA of .305, and a wRC+ of 96.

According to the DRB Stats Guide 2.0, in order to increase validity of statistics (R = .5) such as BA/OBP/SLG% we need to examine 500 PAs. Looking at his past 510 PAs, which covers from July 17, 2011 through June 5, 2012 he has a much better slash line of .240/.338/.425, an OPS of .763, and a wOBA of .343.

Based on the numbers presented between 2009 through this year Zobrist is certainly an above average major leaguer, his versatility makes him a valuable asset, and his contract makes him an extremely affordable asset.WIth that said some still feel Zobrist is in decline and hasn't been the same since getting off to a good start of 2011 - so for those who like to note trends and not necessarily the 500 PA metric established above I will present the month by month data below.

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Zobrist Month By Month wOBA

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Zobrist wRC+

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Zobrist BA/OBP/SLG and ISO

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