Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Chris Lubanski, Unplugged

Perhaps the biggest mystery in the minor league system this season is the performance of Chris Lubanski. His season line of .293/.337/.533 is solid but remains questionable given that he plays half of his games way up in the sky in High Desert, and the rest in parks collectively known for their benefits to hitters.

So, since Minor League Baseball doesn't provide anything resembling comprehensive statistics for minor league players, I've taken the painstaking effort of recreating his season statistics through daily lines. Be aware that my calculations of OBP aren't perfect, since I don't have the SF totals, but I think that would make a negligible difference anyway (numbers through August 29th).

Lubanski was terrible in both April and May, home or road:

April: .177/.235/.329
May: .227/.270/.429

Since June, however, Lubanski's line has been quite spectacular if you ignore the Angel Berroa-ish plate discipline:

(290 ABs): .342/.382/.619, 17HR, 20 BBs, 70K

Since June 1st, he hasn't been AWFUL on the road, but he's clearly getting a huge performance bump by spending half of his time in High Desert:

Home (157 ABs): .376/.430/.726, 13 HR, 15BB, 36K
Road (150 ABs): .307/.329/.507, 4 HR, 5BB, 34K

Lubanski also has somewhat better plate discipline at home (using that term loosely), while his BB/K ratios on the road are nothing short of terrible.

It's difficult to know how to assess these numbers. It would be nonsense to dismiss Lubanski's performance as only being a result of the friendly confines of High Desert. Plenty of players still don't hit nearly as well in the same park, and Lubanski is among the league leaders in a hitter's league in general. But at the same time it is difficult to get too excited about Lubanski, given the huge differences between his home and road performances and his poor plate discipline in general, which will not serve him well as the pitchers become more skilled at the higher levels. I certainly feel more positive about Lubanski than I did earlier in the season (when I considered him a non-prospect), and the fact that he's performed very well at such a young age (19) is a feather in his cap. but I still think we should withold judgment until he spends at least half a season in Wichita (another hitter's league, but not nearly in the same way).

Also, looking through the box scores Lubanski spent the better part of April and early May in the leadoff spot, but he struggled so mightily that they dropped him down to #6, which is where he finally put it all together. In the past several weeks, he's been batting #3 or #4. It's pretty obvious that with his plate discipline he's not anything close to an ideal leadoff hitter, and at least the Royals are acknowledging that by dropping him down in the order.


At 7:28 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

Perhaps he can be Jeff Francouer. He seems to have a personal grudge against walks -- but it hardly matters if you can actually hit .351, I guess.

At 11:32 AM, Blogger DL said...

I'm really looking forward to Lubanski's AA season. That should answer the questions about him once and for all.

It has practically become dogma that all good players must take tons of walks. There's certainly a relationship between plate discipline and success, but that doesn't mean that some players can't succeed in spite of it. It's up to the Royals to recognize it.

At 2:42 PM, Blogger Dave said...

Nice work. I don't think it's necessarily the park, but rather the altitude. And while I don't think that the altitude at High Desert adds a whole lot to Lubanski's power numbers, I do believe that there's a big difference in the quality of breaking pitches -- and I think that's the main component to the difference between HD and Wichita.

When Butler arrived in Wichita (and struggled briefly), he said he was having to get used to breaking balls that actually break. Since Butler is a good hitter, he's been able to adjust.

Mitch Maier, on the other hand, hasn't. He's a fastball hitter, but I'd be willing to bet he's having big problems with breaking balls.

So I think Lubanski's performance at Wichita will depend largely upon his ability to hit breaking pitches. And from the scouting report on, it looks like he might run into some problems.

At 3:05 PM, Blogger DL said...

Yes, altitude is what I meant but I didn't state that explicitly.

At 5:24 PM, Anonymous tfn said...

You never said altitude, but you did say "way up in the sky" ... I think that is about as explicit as you need to get, for anyone paying attention.

At 5:31 PM, Blogger Dave said...

I wasn't trying to imply that you missed that.

I was merely trying to say that the thin air probably has more of an effect on the movement of pitches than it does on the distance the ball travels off the bat.

Again, I wasn't arguing with anything...I just worded it poorly.

At 9:37 PM, Blogger SoonerRoyal said...

Like you said, Wichita will tell us a lot about Lubanski. He's not nearly the caliber of player you hope to get with the fifth overall pick, but he might turn out to be a decent player. He seems like he's emerged as more of a power hitter who can steal a few bases. It also seems likely that he'll be playing in LF, not CF.

At 3:08 PM, Anonymous tfn said...

That baseball card picture certainly does make Lubanski appear physically odd.


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