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Brad Wilkerson: Better Than Advertised?

February 1, 2008

By Brett

I originally created a diary at Lookout Landing about this, but figured it applied here as well.

As we all know now, the Mariners signed OF/1B Brad Wilkerson to a 1-year, $3 million deal with $2 million in performance incentives on Thursday. Many Mariner fans have groaned about this signing, saying we’ve downgraded Right Field from 2007. I don’t think this is the case. Brad Wilkerson has a good chance to both out-hit Guillen, and is just short of a lock to out-produce him defensively. Wilkerson is a good player and that shouldn’t go overlooked.

Now let me first set the record straight here. I like this deal, and I like Wilkerson the player. What I don’t like is that this deal essentially means Adam Jones HAS been traded to the Orioles for Erik Bedard. We didn’t downgrade right field from how it was in 2007, but we did downgrade it from how it was going to be in 2008. That being said, Brad Wilkerson is still an overall improvement over Jose Guillen.

Think Wilkerson’s .234/.319/.467 line is disappointing? Well, it is–despite it adding up to an above average OPS+–but let’s take some time to research how Wilkerson got to that final line.

What does the research reveal? Why nothing but good news, friends! I looked at his splits by month and found that in June he hit an abysmal .179/.286/.373 which is good for a terrible .659 OPS. Why is this seemingly awful piece of information considered good news? Because his BABIP was an extremely unlucky .200. His BABIP was only over .300 one month out of this year. The league average is around .300 for hitters with an average Line-drive percentage. Wilkerson’s was 17% last year which is average, or maybe just a touch below. So you could infer that his expected BABIP should be about .290

I took the liberty of removing his .659 OPS month from his overall stats (basically to regularize for the unsually fluky bad luck he suffered that month–I’ll admit that not smart enough to do an actual mathematical regression) and found a very encouraging stat line. .247/.331/.491….good for an .822 OPS. Now, despite him being a pull hitter you’ve gotta regress for Safeco Field effecting some of his power, but I now believe it’s entirely within the realm of possiblity that Wilkerson manages to put up an .800 OPS, or at least something close to it.

Also, he had 46.2% of his hits go for extra bases (taking out the fluky June month).

So I’m not saying he’s absolutely incredible, but it’s likely he’s a lot better than we’re giving him credit for.

(Thanks to Baseball-Referece.com , Graham MacAree, and FanGraphs.com for the information used in my research)

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