Juan Uribe, Paragon of Plate Discipline

uribe_atbat_2013-04-09 We make fun of Juan Uribe around here a lot. No, seriously. A lot. Just check his category tag if you don’t believe me. We laughed at how he was basically banished to the moon last year, being nailed to the bench for most of the last two months and stuck in limbo between “you’re too bad to play” and “there’s too many injuries and you’re making too much money to simply cut”. We thought for sure he’d be gone over the offseason, but somehow, some way, he kept on surviving.

Now here we are in the early days of May and not only does Uribe exist, he’s starting. Luis Cruz has flopped badly, and Nick Punto has been needed to help cover for Mark Ellis at second. Uribe has started 12 of 27 games at third, more than anyone, but even that’s gone up as time has gone by — in six of the last seven games, it’s been Uribe’s name in the lineup.

And somehow… he hasn’t been awful. I’m not going to say he’s been good, because he’s still hitting just .200, but by the standards of the atrocities he’s provided over the last two seasons, he’s… actually been pretty good. His wRC+ is 119 — 100 is average — and when his solid defense is factored in, he’s been slightly above replacement level this year.

That’s wonderful, but the funny thing is, it’s not that he’s fixed a hitch in his swing that resulted in better performance. It seems to be simply that he now understands how awful he is. For example, here’s a chart:

uribe_bb_may2-2013Uribe is walking an astounding 23.9% of the time. (This includes two intentional passes, which should probably be eliminated for data purposes but remains because the idea of actually giving him a free pass would be laughably dismissed at this time last year.) That’s from a man who had never once in his life walked in more than 7.8% of his plate appearances, and it stands today as the highest walk rate of anyone in baseball with at least 40 plate appearances.

The. Highest. Walk. Rate. In. Baseball. For Juan Uribe. If you wanted to tell me that the magnetic poles of the earth would switch position tomorrow, and that we’d all be flung off into space, I’m not sure I could reasonably refute you at this point.

So how is that happening? Because the man is simply not swinging at as much garbage as he used to. Per FanGraphs, here’s Uribe’s swing rates — Swing% is obviously the total amount of pitches he swings at, while Z- is inside the zone and O- is outside the zone.

uribe_swingrate_may2-2013And there you have it. Look at that O-Swing%! Juan Uribe isn’t exactly “better”, because he still has just seven hits on the season (granted, two are homers). He’s just doing fewer of the things that make him atrocious. It’s a small difference, but there we are, and it’s just beyond wonderful to me that Uribe’s performance was so bad that simply saying, “hey, dingus, whatever you do, don’t swing when you get up there” seems to be the plan and that’s actually been enough to make him more effective.

I said on Twitter a few weeks ago that the character arc Uribe seems to be taking, from the most hated villain on the team to good-natured redemption story, would be phenomenally interesting. We’re not quite there yet, and I’ll nearly guarantee that he’s not going to remain the starting third baseman all season, but it’s on the right path.

Juan Uribe, doing more by simply doing less.

1233 comments
Dang88
Dang88

Just got off of work, what are we talking about

Lobo
Lobo

Mike what are your thoughts on the debate John and I just had about AJ vs. MEllis batting second.  I know you'd prefer AJ in the two hole but do you really think it would make that much of a difference?

Lobo
Lobo

http://www.truebluela.com/2013/5/2/4294900/duck-talk-tbla

Big takeaway point in this article (for me at least).  AJ Ellis, he of the .367 OBP, has scored TWICE this season in almost 100 plate appearances.  One of those two times was due to his own home run.  So despite getting on base at a .367 clip, AJ's teammates (and in this case the guys batting behind him have mainly been Luis Cruz, Justin Sellers, and the pitchers spot so there you go) have driven him in ONCE IN ALMOST A HUNDRED PLATE APPEARANCES.

DeucesWild
DeucesWild

This place is boring in the early hours lately. We usually have at least a couple people posting random gifs and pics 

I shall leave you with this http://imgur.com/LmMgvRJ

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

goodnight, and GodSpeed

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

good fucking God i wake up in 4 hours. 

Purple Drank
Purple Drank

Barry Zito hasn't given up an earned run at home this year. Really, Matt Kemp probably should find his power stroke back tomorrow.

DINGERS!
DINGERS!

Lots of cool stuff everybody! I've heard good things about Vine(gifs) through Wired today too.

EephusBlue
EephusBlue moderator

This was a fun day MSTI. I enjoyed the random conversations that we have had. Well done everyone.

EephusBlue
EephusBlue moderator

Imagine if Pedro Baez can actually become a legit reliever. That'd be bad ass (bringin it back to baseball for those that want baseball)

Paulstralia
Paulstralia

so maybe a dumb question, but I've always wondered. Do pre-arbitration guys who get bounced between AAA and the show get paid based on their number of days on the 25 man? 

Dang88
Dang88

@Lobo I for one thought you brought up some very interesting points below, so for me wouldn't make much difference 

Lobo
Lobo

32 total times on base and he's been driven in once.  Jesus that's disappointing.

DeucesWild
DeucesWild

@EephusBlue You lied to me about the buttery abs in Gangster Squad. I'm watching it again tonight just to make sure though

Disgruntled Goat
Disgruntled Goat moderator

@Kewldood69 right now? you shut your mouth. is fucking awesome outside right now. just drove back home from dinner with the top down. soooo good. 

capnsparrow
capnsparrow

@the_questionable_authenticity_paul Once they hit the show they get paid the league minimum for the days they are up here if they get optioned they get paid at the rate for guys who've been in the show but got optioned down roughly 80 racks a year for the time they are in AAA

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

Dunno. Helpful comment I know

Lobo
Lobo

@JohnM (Juan Uribe Apologist) @Lobo No kidding.  And it really is an indication of how terrible the bottom of the lineup has been.  I will say though that it's also a testament to how slow AJ is.  I will agree with Mattingly to some extent about him not batting AJ second because with a guy like MEllis, if the number 3 or 4 guy hits a double with him on first, he can probably score.  AJ most likely can't, which means it would take a double and then another hit or sac fly after that to score him.  So it's a give and take.  AJ will get on base more often than other guys but he also won't score on as many hits as they will because he's simply so slow.

Lobo
Lobo

@JohnM (Juan Uribe Apologist) @Lobo Yeah but think of it this way.  Last year AJ had a .373 OBP.  So using MEllis career OBP of .333, that means that for every thousand at bats, AJ will get on base 40 more times than MEllis.  But these guys won't reach 1000 at bats in the season.  They'll get somewhere around 600.  So that's makes it something along the lines of 24 more times that AJ will be on base than MEllis.  So that's a maximum of 24 more times that he can score than MEllis can.  Now we'd have to look at how often they would actually score.  AJ had 20 doubles last year while MEllis had 21 (in about 50 fewer plate appearances).  So they'd be on second for the next hitters the same number of times and AJ would be on first 24 more times than MEllis.  So essentially now, we're looking at how often AJ could score from first base with Kemp, Adrian, and Hanley/Ethier batting behind him compared to MEllis in the same situation.  Home runs are obviously a wash as it would score both of them.  Singles by the guy right behind them generally aren't going to score either one of them.  So it comes down to consecutive singles and doubles.  More often than not, both of them would probably score if 2 of the 3 batters behind them single.  So let's call that a wash.  That leaves us with just doubles.  Now I don't know where to find this data, but I bet we could find out how often those guys score from first on a double.  If we find that rate, we'd be able to determine just how often AJ and MEllis would score relative to each other batting in the 2 hole.

Lobo
Lobo

@JohnM (Juan Uribe Apologist) @Lobo I know but it's a give and take.  AJ is more likely to get on base and thus provide more opportunities to be driven in but given the same number of times on base and the same hits coming behind them, MEllis is going to score more often.  Obviously you want to maximize the number of guys on base for your 3-5 hitters but in this case it's not likely to provide that much of an upgrade, especially since MEllis actually does get on base at a decent rate.  Now compared to Skip, Punto, or anyone else (except maybe Hanley) who has batted second this year, hell yeah I want AJ in there over them.  But between AJ and MEllis batting second, I think the difference is pretty much negligible.

DINGERS!
DINGERS!

Parabola is out :) Got a bottle today.