Look at me, I'm on a Fanpostin' tear! This one will probably be shorter, but I realized after posting the previous one that I hadn't really looked into Daric Barton's batted ball profiles to see if any information could be gleaned there. Turns out, the answer was yes! So much yes, in fact, that it actually felt like a separate post. So here we go.
1. The Dude Was Injured
This should be a given and something we all know, but I've actually seen this disputed, so here you go, a reminder that Barton was indeed hobbled by a torn labrum that made his 2011 a pile of garbage. Aaaaaaaand a reminder that it carried into the 2012 season.
2. It Measurably Impacted His Hitting
Check out how different a hitter he was in 2011-2012 than he ever had been before. First, we'll take a look at 2007-2010 Daric Barton, just to give you an idea of what the career numbers were as he headed into 2011. Then I want to narrow that down to 2009-2010 Barton, as I think it's a more accurate picture of who he was in that moment. Then we'll examine 2011-2012 Barton.
2007-2010 Daric Barton: .300 BABIP, 20.7% line drive rate, 36.3% ground ball rate, 43% fly ball rate, 8.4% infield popup rate, 6.0% HR/FB ratio, .139 ISO, 0.89 BB/K.
2009-2010 Daric Barton: .312 BABIP, 21.2% line drive rate, 37.4% ground ball rate, 41.3% fly ball rate, 8.6% infield popup rate, 5.3% HR/FB ratio, .134 ISO, 1.07 BB/K.
So far, what are the trends? Probably what you would think they would be. As he matures into a solid young hitter, Barton's batted ball profile is flattening ever so slightly. Fewer fly balls, more line drives and ground balls, strong but sustainable BABIP. There's a slight dip in power, but for one thing that's probably just a regression, and for another, he probably wasn't ever going to be a power guy. His power was negligible to begin with, so if the tradeoff there is for an all-around better hitter, I'll take that. We also see his plate discipline, which was already good, getting even better, as he's now walking more than he's striking out and swinging at fewer pitches out of the zone. When he does swing, he's making contact at a high rate and he's making good contact. His line drive and ground ball rates are healthy and you can tell that those aren't weak liners and rollers because the BABIP remains high. Another indicator of good contact is the relatively low popup rate. All in all, Daric Barton at the end of 2010 was who we thought he was. He was not a BABIP-aided mirage; he was not being pitched around; he was the real article. And then winter came.
2011-2012 Daric Barton: .265 BABIP, 19.1% line drive rate, 39% ground ball rate, 41.9% fly ball rate, 18.4% infield popup rate, 0.9% HR/FB ratio, .066 ISO, 0.77 BB/K.
Hell, even his Spd score dropped from the average range to awful, although Spd is basically not that useful. But UBR, Ultimate BaseRunning, is useful, and that dropped too. As in, small sample size aside, Daric Barton's shoulder injury was bothering him so much that he wasn't running the bases as well as he normally would have. It was all the way in his head.
This is a completely different hitter. You might not notice much if you only looked at LD, GB, and FB rates, because while line drives dip slightly and ground balls and fly balls go up a bit, they're still pretty close to what they were before. But it's the other indicators that tell us all the pop has gone out of Barton's bat. His BABIP drops by 47 points. His infield popup rate skyrockets by 10 points, more than doubling. What was a 5.3% HR/FB ratio is now below 1.0%. His ISO has been cut in half. Even his walk-to-strikeout ratio is lower than it has ever been in his career, and of course it is, because his shoulder doesn't work! In 2011 and 2012 he had some of his highest-ever percentages of swinging strikes, eclipsed only by 2008, and again, of course he did. You're not gonna be catching up to pitches when half of your swing isn't functional. As noted in the previous FanPost, this is the period in which he completely loses his ability to hit the fastball, which had up to that point been a pitch he hit significantly better than the average player, 24th-best against it in the league in 2010.
3. His Hitting Went Back to the Way it Used to be in 2013!
This is why I tend to think that the small sample size doesn't have to discredit his 2013: The way Barton was hitting was the way he used to hit. It wasn't just the surface-level numbers were there. It was that the peripherals were back as well.
2013 Daric Barton: .294 BABIP, 21.8% line drive rate, 41.4% ground ball rate, 36.8% fly ball rate, 12.5% infield popup rate, 9.4% HR/FB ratio, .106 ISO, .72 BB/K.
OK, so maybe not exactly the same. In fact, there are some noticeable differences. His batted ball profile has flattened out even more, in that he's hitting fewer fly balls than ever (although more of them are leaving the yard) and generally hitting for less power than he did in 2007-2010. His walk-to-strikeout ratio has also not improved from 2011-2012, which is to be expected since he apparently made a point of being more aggressive. Essentially, what we see here is what we would expect to see from 2011 Daric Barton if he hadn't gotten injured but HAD tried to get more aggressive at the plate. The trend toward a flattening of his batted ball profile had already started and it continues here.
But what's really encouraging is what's SIMILAR about his 2013 when compared with 2009-2010. His BABIP is back in the neighborhood of .300. He's hitting line drives and ground balls the way he should be, and he's not popping up all over the place. And big surprise, his surface-level numbers improved as well!
4. He Has Had Fifteen Plate Appearances in 2014
FIFTEEN, YOU GUYS. That's like four games. What kind of crazy person would judge someone's ability to play baseball on FOUR GAMES? Especially when we have a career to judge him on, and we have detailed data about that career that pretty clearly shows why he had a rough 2011 and 2012 and why his 2013 is more in line with what we should expect from him.
5. He's Probably As Valuable to Us, All Things Considered, As Brandon Moss
A full season of 2013 Daric Barton being used the way I envision him best being used--as a slap-hitting, solid-defending element in the first base platoon--probably ends up being worth 2.5-3.0 WAR. I'm not making that up, I'm extrapolating it (always a risky proposition, to be sure, but I'm actually going conservative), from what he actually was worth to us in 2013, in limited playing time. And based on Moss's figures from 2012-2013, and roughly extrapolating/interpolating based on how I would envision him best being used--as the guy who mashes RHP and can't play defense--he probably ends up being worth about the same.
And there you have it.