Analyzing Kevin Millar Thus Far, Sox Thump Jays

First, a quick note. I forgot to put up the videos from the game I went to Friday! These videos, Hideo Nomo pitching to Johnny Damon to lead the game off, and Curt Schilling’s first pitch resulting in an out are now up for your enjoyment. And now …
Yesterday was my fourth game in one week. I’m lucky if I make it to four a year, so I was really excited to take in my fourth game. It was a pretty good game as well, a 12-7 shellacking of the Blue Jays. The final score of a five-run differential isn’t that hot, but the Jays were never really in the game. Shea Hillenbrand was a man on a mission, having four singles and one HBP that got a bit of glaring from him to Schilling. Speaking of Schilling, (SCHILLING WARMING UP | SCHILLING WALKING TO THE BULLPEN) kind of a strange (THE SCOREBOARD AFTER SCHILLING IS DONE) outing he had tonight. He had five innings with ten hits and ten strikeouts. That’s kind of odd – all hit or miss, eh? He certainly threw a lot of pitchers. One might argue that Manny’s two errors (once since changed to a hit) would have been able to get him through the sixth, but he was spotty all game long and I think he would have been out anyways.
When I found my seats, I was surprised to see that I was sitting right near the red seat – the one where Ted Williams hit his 502-footer, longest at Fenway Park . (THE RED SEAT | THE VIEW FROM THE RED SEAT). I had never seen Fenway from this vantage point, so it was neat to watch the game out in the bleachers. Unfortunately, I’m a bit sunburned. (VIEW DURING THE GAME | THE AMERICAN AND WORLD SERIES FLAG FLIES PROUD) Quite a bit of relievers played a part in the game, so both teams are going to be hoping that tomorrow’s starters (Bronson Arroyo and Roy Halladay) can go the distance. (ARROYO PRIOR TO THE GAME | JOHN HALAMA PRIOR TO THE GAME | MATT MANTEI BEFORE THE GAME | TIMLIN KEEPING IT COOL | DAVE WALLACE HAD A WORKOUT TODAY).
We also saw Manny hit his second straight game with two home-runs, this game sending a skyshot into the distance before following up with a scraper that got John Gibbons (Blue Jays GM) thrown out when he argued the reversing of the call, making it a home-run. (MANNY SAYS IT’S A HOME-RUN! | MANNY TROTS HOME | SPEAKING OF TROT, HE STOLE A HOMERUN FROM ALEX RIOS. HERE HE IS AFTER THE PLAY)
The piece de resistance is the warming up of Curt Schilling prior to the game! (Video, 31 seconds long, in Quicktime format.)
And now, something I wanted to look at. Frank Catalanotto made an error today, allowing Kevin Millar to cruise into second base on a pop fly that turned into a double thanks to the sun. The play was scored a double, so Millar had his first extra base hit of the season. Of the season! Millar is now hitting .275/.423/.300 on the season, and he entered with an average of .243 and SLG of .243. He has now gotten to bat 40 times, 10 singles, one double, five runs, six RBI, five Ks and 10 walks. The slugging percentage is a little worrisome because … well, let me show you.

1999 .285 .362 .433 0.77 .148 0.60
2000 .259 .364 .498 1.05 .239 0.80
2001 .314 .374 .557 0.60 .243 0.60
2002 .306 .366 .509 0.60 .203 0.50
2003 .276 .348 .472 0.72 .196 0.60
2004 .297 .383 .474 0.86 .177 0.60

* Slugging percentage is a statistical measure of a batter’s effectiveness in making extra-base hits. A single is worth one base; a double, two; a triple, three; and a home run, four. Slugging percentage is total bases divided by at-bats.
** OBP-Differential is the OBP minus the AVG. The general rule of thumb is any OBP under 0.60 is not one with a good eye, while over is a good OBP person to have.
*** SLG-Differential is more commonly known as Isolated Power, which is Total bases minus hits, divided by at-bats; in other words, Slugging Average minus Batting Average. Appears to have been created by Allan Roth and Branch Rickey in the 1950s.
**** BB/K is the ratio of walks to strikeouts. The higher the better, meaning you walk a lot more than you strikeout.

A couple of patterns I see here: except for some fluctuation early, Millar has settled out to a 0.60 BB/K but has increased his OBP-Differential from 0.60 to .086 last year after a rather consistent career of the mid to high-0.60s. His average keeps dipping up and down but is usually 20 to 30 points from each other, but other than 2000 and 2001, he hasn’t really had any consistency there. His IsoP has dropped three straight years after being consistent. However, his SLG rose two points last year, but we all remember how bad his power suffered the first half of the season.
So what am I taking away from this?
Well, consider this year his O-D is (admittedly, it’s early in the season) .148 and his IsoP is .025. While his slugging percentage will never remain that low, it’s nonetheless a disturbing trend. It seems he dipped slightly his last year as a Marlin which was in 2002, and then came to the Red Sox where he felt more comfortable being his “true self’ as he was in 1999 and 2000. What’s his true self? Waiting on his pitch, finding it, and driving it through the gaps to get on-base. But when a team philosophy drives you to do more (the Marlins apparently straightened him out by 2001, so they gave him ABs over 400) then he changed his approach and started attacking pitchers more, driving up his average and his power. He returned to Boston, where he settled to what he was usually, and would have posted a career low SLG had the media and fans not lit a fire under him and he started hitting profusely. Here he is pre-All Star Break 2004 and post-break.

2004 Pre .280 .361 .401 0.81 .121 0.53
2004 Post .319 .408 .566 0.89 .247 0.75

While his OBP-Differential stays the same, his average goes way up, meaning that he’s still going after more balls (if we’re to believe his previous career trends and what we’ve seen in person – I remember him attacking a lot more post-All Star break in 2004) and his slugging percentage skyrockets. It’s no accident, I think, reviewing this to show that the higher the average, the higher the Isolated Power. Now, obviously, no matter what, the higher the average the higher the IsoP will be (example: your average, if it’s all singles, is your SLG as well) but there’s a big IsoP difference when his average is over .300.
What’s he doing this year? Well, he’s hitting with an O-D of .148 and a IsoP of .025. The last time he had an O-D of anything over .100 was 2000 when he had an O-D of .105. His average that season? .259. His SLG? .498. So what’s the reason for cause here if his SLG was .498 because that’s better than he’s ever had with us? Well, because not only is he older, presumably losing more power, but he’s adopted a different method of hitting since being with the Red Sox. And his SLG is a (lucky) .300. I just see a disturbing trend here, something that could finish him with a .420 SLG. I’m certainly not going to complain with someone who ends the season with a line of .275/.423/.300 (okay, I’d complain about the .300, but if he keeps up that O-D, that’s great!) but the issue with this line is this makes a great leadoff hitter. Wait, he can’t run, but he can’t hit for power either, so why are we batting him fifth? I’m not advocating taking him out of the five-hole (yet) but it’s certainly something to keep in mind as the season progresses. If this trend continues, we should make him seventh (ahead of Bill Mueller) and jump Jason Varitek to the five-hole – Jason is hitting .333/.350/.641 thus far this year.
In any case, perhaps Millar should stop trying to work walks so much and go after pitches more which he did as a Marlin and post-All Star break 2004. Millar already has great O-D that won’t suffer greatly if he starts hacking more, and the dropoff would be worth it if his AVG and SLG rise.

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