Chris Coghlan’s Glove-Finding Grounders

It is has not been a pretty year for last year’s NL Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan. In 2009 he had a 130 wRC+ and was worth nearly three wins in just 128 games. But 152 PAs into 2010, his wRC+ sits at a horrid 56, and he has been below replacement level. That’s pretty much the definition of sophomore slump.

Although the problems start with his plate discipline numbers — a big jump in O-Swing% has lead to fewer walks and more strikeouts — I am going to look at what goes wrong when he puts the ball in play. His ground-ball rate has risen from 47% last year to 57% so far this year. As a result, he has just four extra-base hits and an ISO of 0.058. But additionally problematic is that his BABIP on grounders has fallen from 0.280 to 0.183. So not only is he hitting tons of grounders, but very few of them are getting through for hits. This was the part that interested me most: Has he been unlucky with those grounders, hitting them right at fielders? Or are they not hit as sharply? The data we have can not answer the question completely, but can provide a first step.

Here I display Coghlan’s grounders in the way Sal Paradise suggested I do for Jeter back in January. I broke the field into nine slices and show what percentage of Coghlan’s grounders were in each slice (as shown by the size of the slice) and then his BABIP on grounders to each slice (as shown by the color of the slice, with darker having a higher BABIP).

To my eye the profile of where the grounders are going has not changed greatly. If anything he looks to have slightly more grounders up the middle, where you would expect some to get by the pitcher for hits, and slightly fewer straight to the second baseman. The big difference is that almost every 2010 slice has a lower BABIP than the corresponding 2009 slice (lighter in color). So grounders hit at about the same angle in play are going for hits less often in 2010 than 2009. Whether this is luck (good luck on those hits in 2010 and bad in 2009) or because he is not hitting those grounders as sharply, I am not sure. Maybe people who have watched a number of Marlins games this year can weigh in on what it looks like to them.

Dave Allen's other baseball work can be found at Baseball Analysts.

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It’s a combination of both from what I’ve seen. He hits some pretty hard and they just get deflected or wind up in someone’s hands, or he hits them a bit too softly and they go way too slow to make it away from them.