Yasmani Grandal, “Why Not Batting Average” Matters

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Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Pay close attention and you’ll sense a narrative afoot. “The Dodgers are getting zero production from their catching”. “The Dodgers lost the Kemp trade”. “Yasmani Grandal hasn’t shown anything”

I mean heck, even Bill Shakin bought into this

So Grandal is hitting .176, A.J. Ellis hasn’t got a hit, and hit .191 last season, people are panicking because for a great franchise having historically great catching, not getting production from the catching spot is a bit of a rarity. However, while Batting Average is important (mostly for scouting purposes), a lot of on base percentage is derived from batting averaged, it isn’t a good reflective tool on how a player is doing.

In addition to the season being so early that we can’t make any definitive declarations on the performance of some players, basing early season performance on batting average is a risky proposition to make, the fact is, Yasmani Grandal has been an above average hitter this far.

Getting acquainted with saber metrics brings us to probably the most popular statistic nowadays, other than Wins Above Replacement, in weighted Runs Created+. What this stat does is takes the offensive contributions of a player (singles, doubles, triples, home runs, etc, etc) and weight them on a scale, then they take the figure a player gets and normalizes it to the average of the league. For example, a 100 wRC+ player is roughly a league average talent, anything below is worse than league average, anything above is better than the league average.

Looking at this statistic, Yasmani Grandal owns a 109 wRC+ with only 3 hits in only 21 plate appearances. How could this be? It’s pretty easy, because dingers and walks matter. Grandal hit a home run in Arizona, and has gotten on base 7 total times (4 walks, 3 strikeouts) this season. This means that his on base percentage sits at .333, and his slugging sits at .353. Neither are particularly impressive, and a .686 OPS is not anything to be overly proud of, but considering the fact that offense is down throughout the league, catchers around the league are pretty putrid on average, and the fact that the season is so young that numbers are skewed, Grandal is an above average hitter!

Grandal might never take that step forward and hit .270 (i’d bet that he does), but just because he isn’t smashing base hits over 21 plate appearances doesn’t mean the Dodgers aren’t getting good production from the catching spot, Grandal has seen a lot of pitches when he’s been up to the plate this season and he’s hit the ball hard, if he continues that, the results will show in the batting average, but he’s certainly contributed even if his batting average seems awful.

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