Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Flash In the Pan or Potential Rebound? A Look at Pat Burrell with the Giants

After being called up on June 6th from Fresno (which sent down John Bowker to the Grizzlies in the process), Pat Burrell has made quite the splash in the Bay Area.

In 10 games and 31 plate appearances so far, Burrell is hitting .407 with two home runs, five RBI and has a wOBA of .497 and a wRAA of 4.3. That is a vast improvement from his tenure in Tampa this season, where he hit only two home runs and posted a batting average of .202 and a wOBA of .283 in 96 plate appearances.

However, how real is this start from Burrell? Is it real like Brad Penny's arrival last season with the Giants? Or is Burrell most likely going to hit a skid, and fall back to the numbers he put up in 146 games with the Rays? And, what does Burrell in the lineup mean for the rest of this Giants roster?

First off, I'm really not sure about Burrell's start. First off, you have to look at the BB and K numbers in Tampa and in San Francisco this season.

Tampa: 10.4 percent (BB percentage), 33.3 percent (K percentage), 0.36 (BB/K ratio) in 96 plate appearances.

San Francisco: 9.7 percent (BB percentage), 14.8 percent (K percentage), 0.75 (BB/K ratio) in 31 plate appearances.

Burrell's career strikeout percentage is 28.2 percent, so for Giants fans to think the 14.8 percent strikeout percentage is going to hover around that number for this rest of the season is foolish thinking. That being said, he does have a 0.60 career BB/K ratio, and his 9.7 percent BB percentage is comforting. Giants fans should definitely get used to seeing Burrell strikeout a little more often as he gets more playing time (another indicator: his 88.9 percent contact rate so far; Burrell has a career contact rate of 77.9), but if he can keep his walk percentage high (which he even did in Tampa), he is totally capable of putting up respectable BB/K numbers, which would make him tolerable in the lineup at the very least.

Some other numbers that are interesting to look in terms of Burrell's arrival to San Francisco are his batted ball numbers. Burrell has a 20.8 percent line drive percentage and a 28.6 percent HR/FB ratio. To put those percentages in perspective, Burrell had sub-20 line drive rates in Tampa (17.3 percent in 2009 and 15.8 percent in 2010) and sub-10 HR/FB rates as well (9.8 percent last year, 7.4 percent this year in Tampa).

The line drive percentage is a good indicator of things to come, since it is close to his career average which is 20.7 percent. As for the HR/FB ratio, it's definitely impossible in terms of being sustained, but I do believe he can at the very least, post a HR/FB ratio over 10 percent for the remainder of the season with the Giants. After all, he never had a HR/FB ratio under 12.6 percent prior to his arrival in Tampa, and his career HR/FB percentage is 16 percent. Granted, you have to remember that was in Philadelphia at a hitter-friendly ballpark, but even so, his career HR/FB numbers prior to Tampa are impressive regardless of team and ballpark.

Of course, while I'm happy with Burrell's start, I'm not totally on the Bandwagon yet. Since coming to San Francisco, the Giants have played Burrell in games against Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Oakland, and Baltimore. With the exception of the Reds all those teams are pretty poor (only the Reds have a winning record entering today), and with the exception of Oakland, the pitching staffs are mediocre (only the A's ranked higher than 22nd in MLB in terms of team ERA).

I am interested to see how Burrell will perform against the tougher pitching staffs in the NL West (San Diego, Colorado and Los Angeles rank 1st, 5th and 14th respectively in terms of team ERA). It's one thing for Burrell to feast on the Orioles and Reds. However, if Burrell can come up big against the NL West, than he certainly will prove that he was a worthwhile pickup.

In terms of Burrell's effect on the roster, it may not be as bad as it seems. After tweaking his wrist in a rehab game in Fresno, it looks like Mark Derosa may require surgery and may be done for the season. Furthermore, the Giants may be more apt to bench the struggling Aaron Rowand more often, which will give more center field opportunities to Andres Torres, who will definitely make up for Burrell's defensive shortcomings (career minus-44.6 UZR in the outfield for Burrell).

Granted, the increase in playing time does hurt a few players. John Bowker is probably destined for Fresno the rest of the season (though if he can regain his confidence, he may be able to bounce back...he's off to a good start so far) and Nate Schierholtz may be regulated to the bench duty he received last year, which is unfortunate because Schierholtz is good defensively (career 20.9 UZR) and is much better at the plate this year in comparison to last season (.301 wOBA last year; .323 wOBA this season).

What could be the saving grace for Schierholtz? The Giants designate Bengie Molina for assignment, put Buster Posey behind the plate, move Aubrey Huff back to his natural position of first base, and put Torres in Center and Schierholtz in right, with Burrell in left, which won't be so bad because the Giants will have two plus defenders in left and right (Torres and Schierholtz's combined OF UZR this season is 16.2). The Giants will have a solid defense, without sacrificing any of the offense.

Pat "The Bat" (God I hate that nickname) is hitting well so far in San Francisco, and while I don't think he'll put up the incredible numbers he put up from 2005-2008, I think he can provide similar production to Huff at the very least. Additionally, Burrell could make this lineup work if manager Bruce Bochy can tool this lineup the right way (Which would involve Torres and Nate in, and Molina and Rowand out).

Let's hope as Giants fans Bruce Bochy can realize that and make it happen. For the first time since Barry Bonds left, the Giants offense might actually have the opportunity to be pretty decent.


  1. It's crazy to think that the offense may have found a groove.

    I would love to see more Nate but if that is the only thing that I am complaining about it must be because everything else is going pretty good.

    I can't believe that Rowand has been riding the pine as often as it has happened lately. Look what happens when you take out an out machine. Runs start streaming in. It is wonderful.

    As for Burrell I would be happy with .250/.350/.450 line especially if he is going to hit 6 or 7 in the lineup. Anything more is icing and would be a steal at the league minimum.

  2. I know. I thought the Burrell situation would clog things up, but he really has provided a spark. Granted, the Giants have faced poor pitching, but I feel more confident about this team offensively than I did three weeks ago. Once (or more like if unfortunately) Posey replaces Molina behind the plate full time, I think the offense will really start trucking. (Hopeful wishing anyways).

    I agree with the Burrell line. That would be great, especially considering he doesn't cost much at all and it's only one year. I hate to say this, but the Derosa injury may have given Burrell the break he needed.

  3. I think the Pat Burrell signing was a good one. It's a low risk high reward deal. I'm sure he's feeling good to be back in the Bay Area and in the NL. He just needed to find his comfort zone. He's still got some gas left in the tank.

    King of Cali

  4. Posey is now hitting .167/.200/.250/.450 in his last 6 games. .067/.125/.067/192 in the 4 games since his 10 game hitting streak ended, and 12 of 13.

    Matt Weiter's OPS has been under 700 OPS for most of the past year plus of playing. He had a hot 2 weeks period like Posey too, the last two weeks of 2009 season, but otherwise has been mostly disappointing.

    That's why you keep Molina the starter for a long while more, people just assumes "ooo, top prospect" but prospects don't always keep hitting (Sandoval being one of the exceptions until recently), there will always be struggles, and that's when you need the vets around to keep things going.

    Something like what happened with Rowand is ideal for the Molina/Posey dynamic: whoever is hitting gets the call, until he's not hitting again and you put both into play. Molina has been hitting better recently, particularly since the cortisone shot, and better than Posey.

    Luckily we have so many players who can move around, so if the Giants give each starter at least one start rests each per week, you can still fit in Renteria and Burrell, and not take that many starts away from the other starters, with the colder hitters taking the bench more often.

  5. King of Cali: I think so. At the very least, I think it prevents Sabean from dishing a high end prospect at the deadline. With so many players on the roster right now, I don't think there's any room for a deadline deal, which is a plus in my mind.

    OGC: Posey is going to regress. It's natural, it's his first year. We might as well let him go through his bumps now and let him learn. I think his approach has been very good this year for a rookie. I think as he gets more at-bats, he'll swing less outside the strike zone and draw more walks, but already he's better at that than Molina.

    My biggest thing with Molina is his lack of speed and lackluster defense. He simply isn't a good defensive catcher anymore. Beyond the Box Score ranked him as the 74th best catcher on May 25th. That's terrible and Posey at the very least would be better than that.

    As far as Wieters, you also forget how good defensively he is. Yes, offensively his numbers don't look that great, but his BABIP is low at .280 (in comparison to .356 last year)and he is making better contact (80.7 percent in comparison to 77 percent last year). Wieters will turn it around, but his defensive value is what keeps him in the lineup. You can't say Molina's defense touches Wieters, and Posey has gotten raves for his defense in the minors.

  6. OGC: On the third paragraph I mean he swings less outside the strike zone better than Molina. Molina does have a better walk percentage than Posey this year, so I'll give Molina that.

    Also, to further prove Wieters is good defensively, BTB ranked him as No. 2 on their rankings, behind only Yadier Molina.