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Tampa Bay Rays' Kelly Shoppach Brings All or Nothing Approach

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In case you haven't noticed, when the Rays acquire a new players we like to analyze, analyze, and then analyze some more. R.J. gave you the overview of Kelly Shoppach trade as well as likely outlook for next season, but for this exercise, I'm going to focus on plate discipline.

Shoppach has no issues when it comes to walks. In 2008, he walked 9.3% of the time and boosted that to nearly 11% in 2010. After watching Dioner Navarro walk just 7.4% of the time in 2008 and barely walk in 2009 (4.6%), it will be nice to see a little more free passes accepted. In fact, despite having 150 less plate appearances over the last two seasons, Shoppach has 17 more walks than Navi. He also has a mastered the ability to get hit by the ball (29 times in the past two seasons), which seems to be a repeatable skill. Those are the good parts of his plate discipline, however, there's some bad, especially for the strikeout haters.

R.J. made mention of his whopping 37.3% K rate. That puts him in the who's who of hackers along side names like: Jack Cust, Mark Reynolds, Russell Branyan, and our own Carlos Pena. The strange part is his O-Swing (27.6%), while high, isn't that terrible. Sure, Reynolds and Branyan were in that territory last season, but so was fellow backstop, Brian McCann. Swinging at pitches outside the zone isn't the big issue, but Shoppach's contact rate on those pitches is.

Among players with at least 300 plate appearances, Shoppach's O-Contact% of 37.5 was good (or bad) enough for dead last for qualified participants. Once again, he is joined by the hacking crew of: Pena, Cust, Howard, Reynolds and Branyan. Contact on pitches out of the zone isn't the problem for Shoppach. His contact rates on pitches in the strike zone are also fairly poor.

Of pitches swung at in the zone, Shoppach makes contact 77.2% of the time. That would be the seventh lowest contact rate for hitters with a minimum of 300 PAs. His overall contact rate of 65.7% is fifth lowest behind the aforementioned Reynolds and Pena as well as Chris Davis and Miguel Olivo. The bulk of Shoppach's issues seem to come off sliders and curveballs in addition to pitches that are middle in and above.I know Derek Shelton is familiar with Shoppach already, but maybe someone could point this fact out to him.  If not, I happen to know a swing mechanic.

In case you haven't noticed it by now, Shoppach is basically Carlos Pena's twin brother but in catcher form and minus smile% and some power. The good news is when he's not swinging and missing, he's either walking, getting hit, or getting extra base hits; somewhat of a three outcome hitter. Some will struggle with all the swinging and missing, but Shoppach's power at his position will be a welcomed sight. In 2008, he led all catchers with a .256 ISO. Taking a step back in 2009, his .185 was still good for seventh best among catchers.

The Shoppach trade is hardly perfect. We do not know who the PTBNL is, and Shoppach isn't exactly the definition of cheap; his value of $7.8 million in 2009, suggests his arb2 number should be in the neighborhood of $3 million. Nonetheless, void of acquiring Joe Mauer or Brian McCann, teams are going to have to deal with the available crop of flawed, mostly average Major League catchers. The good news is the Rays catching situation was so bad that if Shoppach is merely average, that alone will be an upgrade. If would be even better if he can land somewhere between 2008 and 2009 in 2010.