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Gabe Gross needs another home run

That would boost his slugging percentage over .400 and put him in the not particularly prestigious but at least interesting .200/.300/.400 club with Longoria, Pena, and Gomes. The requirements for this club are of course having a batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage at or above those numbers but not much higher. They stand at this after today's game:

Pena: .209/.313/.403
Longoria: .211/.311/.400
Gomes: .209/.316/.418
Gross: .205/.319/.385

This isn't just statistical trivia though, it's a good jumping off point for analysis. Setting aside the low batting averages for a moment all four of these players have two important things you want from a hitter: around 100 points difference between his BA and OBP (IsoD) and around 200 points between BA and SLG (IsoP). With Pena, a slugging first baseman, you'd like to see more like .250 or higher in IsoP but .200 is a good start at least and along with the high IsoD provides a good platform for valuable production even if the power didn't go up (I'm positive it will but that's not relevant at the moment). That means that all four of these players have an obvious ability to contribute to the team more if only those BAs would stop hanging out with Mario Mendoza.

So now the question is why are they that low and will they go up? Since it's still very early in the season and we're working with small sample sizes it's obvious that all four players could easily shoot up the rankings at any time, we just want to know now how likely it is.

The first thing to look at is BABIP. League average tends to be somewhere around .300, though it can vary greatly for hitters based on a variety of factors, so if it's well below .300 there's the possibility of it merely being bad luck so far, balls just not falling in for hits like they should. Once you have those numbers you should look at LD%, it has been established that in the majority of cases you can figure out about what a hitter's BABIP is by adding .11-.12 to his LD% (when expressed in decimal form instead of percentage). I'll take the middle and add .115 to get xBABIP and then xBA for each hitter (X is for expected). These numbers are through yesterday's game so they don't match up precisely with the ones above but it's close enough for me to make the points.

Pena .240 14.5 .260 .225
Longoria .254 22.2 .337 .290
Gomes .212 10.9 .224 .221
Gross .227 12.5 .240 .211

Obviously Longoria is just getting screwed so far, he may not keep hitting 22% of his balls for line drives but that average is bound to come up even without accounting for natural improvement as he adapts to the majors. He's fine.

Pena's LD% is down some (18% last year) but the main cause for his problems has been a strikeout rate worse than he had even with the Tigers outside of 2005. I suspect it's a swing issue related to the combination of the earlier slump and hamstring problem, over time the chances are pretty good that he'll iron it out and reduce it to around 30% or so; hopefully that will also produce more line drives and he can get up to the .260-.270 mark at least.

Gomes and Gross just aren't hitting line drives. Gomes has actually significantly reduced his strikeout rate so far but the lack of line drives is killing him. The good news is that he has a history of much higher LD% numbers so that's in favor of him getting better, unless he's striking out less because he's just making contact but not good enough contact. No way for us to know that without extensive study of film of all his plate appearances this season. Gross also has always had good LD% numbers so there's hope for him improving that as well but with his inconsistency in the majors so far in his career it's hard to say what he'll do.

Only time will tell which of those three will make it out of the .200/.300/.400 club but the nice thing about being in that club is that you're still decently productive even with the low BA, all four players entered today with EqAs of .260 (league average) or better.