Vernon Wells has been a common target of some Jays’ followers – I refuse to call them fans – for few years now. It seems that there is an expectation that he should put up the type of numbers he did in 2003 every year.
Now I am not about to suggest that this year, so far, has not been bad for V-Dub. It has been. But let’s look at the whole record.
After reading a blog entry about David Ortiz, http://www.baseball-reference.com/blog/archives/1857, I decided to see if there was a similar trend with Vernon Wells. Here’s my graph for VW, although without the convenient year references:
The red line is the moving average of home runs per 162 games, while the blue line is the number of plate appearances per homer over a 162 span. Higher is better on the red line; lower is better on the blue. The first peak on the red line, corresponds to the 2003 season, while the plateau in the middle is 2005-2006. Since bottoming out near in May 2008, his HR production has been steadily returning closer to his career average of 26 HR/162 games.
How about Total Bases? The graph below of the total bases per 162 games tells a similar story: A peak near the end of 2003, with some lower value in 2004 followed by a pick up in 2005-06, followed by a sub-par performance in 2007, Since, the start of 2008, he’s been improving, where he is near his career average of 204 TB/162 games.
Another criticism of Wells is his RBI production. Below is a graph of his production since his first full season. The green line is his RBIs per plate appearance with runners in scoring position, while the orange line is RBIs per plate appearance with runners on base. The blue line is RBIs per runner on base while the red line is RBIs per runner on base weighted by the base runners’ location: 3 for third, 2 for second and 1 for first. The latter assumes that a base runner on third is three times more likely to score than a runner on first, which is not quite the case, but is a decent approximation.
All the lines tell a similar story: 2004 was a slump and 2007 was less of a slump, but otherwise, Wells has been quite consistent. How bad is 2009? Each of the three measures is 30% below his 2002-09 career average.
Except for 2004 and this year, Wells has been above the major league average for RBIs per plate appearance:
To all you Wells-bashers over the past few years, 2008 was his best season relative to the league at 47% more RBIs per plate appearance above the major league average!
However, while doing that, in 2008 he did increase his rate of grounding into double plays:
The red line is his rate of GIDP with runners on first, while the blue line is the rate with any runners on base. His current values are only marginally above his career numbers. Compared to other Jays with 50 or more GIDP opportunities, Wells rate of 14% is lower that both Lind and Scutaro and only slightly higher than Hill.
Yes, Wells has been having a poor year, but we shouldn’t be writing him off for a two-month slump.