Friday, February 27, 2009

Analyst's View of Ishikawa

Baseball HQ has been offering people limited free content for a limited time, and one of them regarded Ishikawa, after his two homer day, and it pretty much captures what I've been saying, he has potential, but potential blocks as well:

Ishikawa puts on power display in SF opener

Travis Ishikawa (1B, SF) put on a power display in San Francisco's spring opener, as he hit two homers in a 3-3 performance. Ishikawa opened some eyes in the second half last season as he blasted 13 home runs, including three in 95 AB after being called up to San Francisco, and posted a 189 2nd half PX. If he plays well this spring, he could begin the season as the left-handed hitting half of a 1B platoon for the Giants.

Period/Level == AB BA xBA bb% ct% eye PX G/ L/ F
=========== === ==== ==== === === ==== === ========
2008 AA/AAA 405 .260 NA 9% 82% 0.54 142 38/20/41*
2008 SF === 95 .274 .259 9% 72% 0.33 119 56/18/26
*MLE's

Ishikawa's indicators show potential but also reveal some problem areas. His contact rate dropped in the majors, and he needs to prevent any further deterioration or his BA could be at risk. And while he hit for above average power, major league pitchers had him beating a lot of balls into the ground. His fly ball rate in the minors shows promise, but he'll have to get back to that level to continue hitting with power.

One other problem stands in the way of full-time play for Ishikawa. Last season he hit only .206 against left-handers between AA Connecticut and AAA Fresno. That represented only 107 AB, but it obviously made an impression on Giants' management, as Ishikawa was given only two AB against southpaws in the majors. He's done better against lefties in the past, hitting .288 against them at AA Connecticut in 2007. It's a problem he'll need to solve in order to get a full-time job.
There are lots of ifs and maybes here, as Ishikawa has a lot to prove. His power potential makes him worth watching as the spring progresses.

Giants Thoughts

The more I think about it, the more I think people are over worrying about his hitting against LHP, as I wrote about in a prior post. Yes, he has had some bad years against LHP. He's also had good years too, it is not like he's consistently bad against LHP, at least relative to his hitting against RHP. In the minors, since 2005, he has hit this:

v.LHP: .256/.341/.435/.776 with 58 AB/HR
v.RHP: .269/.356/.512/.868 with 26 AB/HR

So basically, his hits and walks are about the same, the main difference is that he has a lot more power against RHP.

Of course, that's versus minor league pitchers, so the MLE would be horrible against LHP, so perhaps that is what they mean. But if you look at the leading lefty 1B, many of them were pretty bad against LHP in 2008: Adrian Gonzalez .213/.287/.387/.675; Carlos Pena .190/.302/.352/.654; Prince Fielder .239/.313/420/.733. The key is having an awesome batting line against RHP, which he would have with more homers.

Regarding his high GB% in the majors last year, I'm surprised this analyst didn't take this from their Baseball Forecaster book, but in Ishikawa's description for the 2009 season, they noted this: "Monster 2nd half, but he'll need to hit a lot more FB to sustain the power (41% FB in minors last year suggests he can)." In addition, it was 44% FB in the minors from 2005-2008. If he had hit as many flyballs in the majors, and at the same HR/FB rate, he would have hit 5 HR in 95AB, instead of 3 HR (which is still pretty good, 32 AB/HR is about 20 HR per year rate), but 5 HR in 95 AB is elite, 19 AB/HR, 30+ HR in a season.

So Travis could be a pretty good power hitter if given the chance to show what he got. All this focus by some fans on winning in 2009 is misplaced, I believe we should be focused more on seeing what our young guys can do, while cognizant that unless they improve materially, the paying customers could start leaving in droves. Trying to win in 2009 would set us back in evaluating our young prospects and seeing who are going to be contributors from 2010-2015 and where we need either new prospects or additional free agents. A team can only advance so far in its evolution as it rebuilds, short-circuiting that process by getting free agents that blocks prospects could make the rebuilding period longer.

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