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Evan Longoria's Bat Is Not Regression Proof

Over the first month of the season there was no better player in baseball than Evan Longoria. He was hitting for average, hitting with power, playing the best defense of any third basemen, kissing babies, curing cancer and donating his organs. Around the world of baseball people were starting to shed the "young" in the title "best young player in the league," leaving some wondering outloud if Longoria was just the best player in his league period.

Baseball is a game of averages; everyone knows that. Knowing this, it should come as no surprise that most things that go up tend to come down, unless it's Dan Wheeler's home run rate (I kid). Over the past month or so things have been less Longlorious around these parts. Evan Longoria's bat has cooled considerably, he suffered a hamstring injury and he's been striking out a lot. The funny thing is the strikeouts are nothing new, but when your OPS is in the 1.100 range people tend to overlook those type of trivial things. When it's a Gabe Gross oh so average .750 or so strikeouts stick out like a sore thumb.

Here are the splits for Evan Longoria.

5/8-Current 128 0.231 0.359 0.404 0.763 10 20 30
4/7-5/7 125 0.368 0.416 0.754 1.17 24 9 27

Longoria's first 125 plate appearance were pretty much perfect. He was crushing the ball with authority and had an extra base hit once every five at-bats. Fast foward to May 8th and things have gone south. As I mentioned above the K's are pretty similar, however the XBH's are way down. One encouraging sign is his walks are actually up and hopefully once his bat rebounds he maintains the same level of walks. Longo's BABIP is still .354 which is nearly 40 points higher than it was in 2008. The average between the two years puts him at a .330 BABIP. This means there could be even more regression in his future. The good news is nobody really expected Longoria to be a .300+ hitter and if he settles in the .270-.280 area that's fine.

The key for Longoria is recognizing what pitches are out of the zone and swinging less at those. Longoria's O-Swing is slighly higher in 2009 (27.6%) than it was in 2008 (26.5%). The problem in 2009 is he is making less contact on those swings (54.6% in 2009, 58.1% in 2008). In fact he's swinging and missing on 26% of all the pitches he offers at.

I wrote about this topic a few weeks ago, and while Longoria's slide continues, I am no more worried now than I was before. Longoria had a ridiciously good start and we are in the middle of his regression to the mean. The bad news is we could have a little bit of regression to go. The great news is when a player is "slumping" or "regressing" and his OPS is still .975 you have a pretty special player on your hands.