Offseason Homework Assignments - Josh Donaldson

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

I am traveling this week - hello from Oklahoma - so I picked an easy one - Josh Donaldson.

2013 was Donaldson’s first season as Oakland’s full-time 3rd baseman. Let’s look at his breakout season and project into 2014.

By the numbers

Below are Donaldson’s stats for 2013. If you believe in WAR, Donaldson’s fWAR was 3rd best in MLB.

G

PA

HR

R

RBI

SB

BB%

K%

ISO

BABIP

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

BsR

Off

Def

WAR

158

668

24

89

93

5

11.40%

16.50%

0.199

0.333

0.301

0.384

0.499

0.384

148

1.1

37.3

12.1

7.7

That stat line doesn’t fully describe the awesome awesomeness that was Donaldson’s awesome season. Donaldson hit as well on the road as at home (.385 vs. 383 wOBA), maintained great consistency (his lowest month’s wOBA was July’s .316), and hit RHP and LHP (.359 and .442 wOBA, respectively).

Beyond that, Donaldson was a TV analyst's dream when it comes to his spray chart.

Pull

Center

Opposite

% of PA

40.30%

37.31%

22.39%

wOBA

0.456

0.347

0.484

ISO

0.317

0.166

0.248

That’s pretty impressive.

Donaldson was lethal with men in scoring position, going .336/.448/.478 in 134 AB.

If you are looking for a reason Donaldson excelled at the plate in 2013 vs. 2012, look no further than his ability to hit fastballs. After getting owned on fastballs in 2012, he crushed them in 2013. (I have a theory on how he did this here.)


wFB

2012

-13.5

2013

23.4

Areas for improvement

You have to look pretty hard to find something, but a couple items are worth mentioning.

Hit in the 3-hole. In 109 AB in the 3-hole, Donaldson OPS'ed .662. I am not sure what to make of this. Donaldson excelled batting 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 6th, so I don't see any reason he won't batting third. Just something to watch, I guess.

Timing. Donaldson struggled coming out of the All-Star break and into the Postseason. Maybe he just needs a little more work than the next guy after some time off. Giving his swing (big, rhythmic movements), I think this is probably true.

Swing Analysis

So if you have a seen a single one of my posts you know I like his swing. Instead of breaking down Donaldson's swing (again), I thought I would show a comparison between his swing in 2011 and 2013. (Donaldson used to be #29? I don't remember that.)

 photo 2011vs2013_zps0f1d8ef5.gif

I think the takeaways from this is that players can alter their swings for the better even after reaching the bigs (Jose Bautista is another guy in this category) and that having players "simplify" or "just trust your hands" or "shorten up" isn't always the best course of action.

Looking at Donaldson's swing in 2011, you can see some good pieces, particularly the function of the front shoulder. I would have said his front leg's function is a little lacking, and that is something that is definitely improved (technical info here). The new leg lift sets up his lower body for a better turn, and the bigger rear arm movement brings the rear shoulder into the swing. The result is an improved sequence netting a better swing time and path. I am not going to say these changes alone resulted in Donaldson being a MVP candidate and he would have failed with his old swing. But his swing is definitely improved, and a better swing is obviously beneficial to hitting. I applaud the guts it took to try something new when his old swing had achieved a fair amount of success (he was a big leaguer).

Projection

Most projections for Donaldson's 2014 season have a come-back-to-Earth element. Below are two projections.

Season

Team

G

PA

HR

R

RBI

SB

BB%

K%

ISO

BABIP

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

BsR

Off

Def

WAR

2014

Steamer

146

596

21

72

77

5

9.60%

17.10%

0.184

0.298

0.271

0.346

0.455

0.35

125

0.3

16.9

7.2

4.7

2014

Oliver

143

600

21

74

79

5

9.70%

18.50%

0.185

0.3

0.267

0.343

0.452

0.348

123

0.3

15.7

2.1

4.1

Since I am somewhat of an expert at predicting Donaldson's performance, I see these as rubbish. Well, maybe that is a little strong. I see him as a 10+ defender (granted I have no idea how they compute that, sorry danmerqury) and the bat actually getting a little better. I do agree that he probably won't play 158 games again. I will go with .303/.392/.505 with 25 HR in say 148 games. And Oakland finally gets a position player All-Star.

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