.338 On Base Percentage
.446 Slugging Percentage
0.85 Walk to Strikeout ratio
.198 Isolated Power
Do those sound like desirable skills that you would want on the Rays’ roster to help this offense?
Guess what – they are already on the roster. Those are Gabe Kapler’s splits against left-handed pitching as a member of the Rays these past two seasons. His struggles this year have many calling for him to be removed from the roster and something will have to be done once Carlos Pena is ready to come back in a few days but should Kapler be the one to go?
Everyone is guilty of small sample size error in judgments. I recall an interleague game earlier this year when the Yankees were playing the Dodgers and Robinson Cano was coming to the plate. The commentators made a point of saying that Joe Torre absolutely had to bring George Sherrill to face Cano because Cano was 0-12 career against Sherrill with four strikeouts. Torre did just that, and Cano promptly sent the second pitch of the at bat about 425 feet the opposite way for the go-ahead home run in extra innings. I will fully admit I have grown quite frustrated with watching Kapler play this year because he has two jobs on the field: defensive specialist and “lefty masher”. His defense has not been terribly impressive this season, particularly on his throws, and his .206/.271/.289 slash line against left-handed pitching is not any better than what Matt Joyce would do against lefties if given those at bats. On paper, the decision to keep Kapler on the roster to start the season was absolutely the right move. He was coming off a 2009 season in which he hit .276/.379/.552 against lefties in 145 at bats and since 2004, has hit .286/.345/.485 against lefties.
I do not care how good of a prognosticator you think you are, nobody can predict a batter’s OPS going from .931 to .560 in a single season unless it is injury related. Kapler has had one stint on the disabled list this season but to see an OPS drop nearly .400 points from one season to the next is almost unheard of. Even Pat Burrell’s fell less than 200 points from 2008 to 2009. Kapler’s line drive rate is right is not out of line at 18% against lefties this season but a .218 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) against lefties is well out of line with his career track record. Since 2002, Kapler had never had a BABIP lower than .274 against lefties and had only been below .300 in that metric three times since the 2002 season.
- 2002: .294
- 2003: .380
- 2004: .356
- 2005: .323
- 2006: .283
- 2008: .373
- 2009: .274
- 2010: .218
What is also not helping Kapler is the fact he is not showing much power with what he does make contact with. Only five percent of his flyballs have gone over the fence and his .084 Isolated Power (slugging percentage minus batting average) is his lowest effort since 2006 which was the season in which Kapler retired at season’s end. In 2008, his IsoP was .268 and in 2009 it was .276 so the loss in his ability to hit the ball with authority has definitely been a problem. His .218 BABIP is not unlucky in as much as Kapler has not been able to hit the ball with any kind of authority as he did last year and his 15% walk rate vs LHP in 2009 is down to 7% in 2010. When nothing is going right for a guy, do you just cut him? If your answer is yes, what were your feelings when this same situation played out with Pat Burrell back in May?
If you still want Kapler gone and want to give those at bats to Desmond Jennings, think again. If you want to dismiss Kapler based on the small sample size issues of 2010, then you must also accept the fact that Jennings is hitting just .225/.345/.338 against lefties in 2010 despite the fact he owns a .303/.388/.457 line against lefties for his career. You are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts. If you are going to punish Kapler for a rough 2010 against lefties despite a very established track record of success, then you must follow the same path with his potential replacement.
If I were making the decisions with this club, Kapler stays for the rest of the month and Sean Rodriguez gets sent down and recalled when rosters expand on September 1st. Kapler is still one of the best character guys on the team and has a very bright future as a manager or a media personality awaiting him once he decides to hang it up which could happen at the end of this season given his age and the skill decline that comes with it. Skills are supposed to decline at age 36, but not free-fall off a cliff as Kapler’s has so far this season. Joe Maddon needs to ensure Kapler is only used against lefties moving forward and let the 40 man roster candidates play it out in September to see who makes the post-season roster if the Rays are fortunate enough to get to that point.