With an over 6-1 career strikeout to walk rate – including an over 8-1 rate in 2013 – Boston Red Sox 3B Will Middlebrooks makes his quest for a respectable on base percentage even more difficult. Walking just around or under 4% of his plate appearances, Middlebrooks is fighting that difficult battle – similar to Starlin Castro – where he must sustain a high batting average to create an average on-base percentage. While Middlebrooks’ batting average is just .199 in 192 plate appearances in 2013, there is reason to believe it could rebound.
Middlebrooks’ 2013 BABIP is a full 100 points lower than that of 2012. This is at least partially due to poor luck, indicating that some positive regression will inevitably occur on his batting average. Some of Middlebrooks’ unfortunate breaks on balls in play are, however, of his own doing. With his fly ball percentage up from 35% to nearly 40%, he is swinging for more homeruns and fewer base hits. Fly balls hitters should have slightly lower BABIPs, because they are not subjecting themselves to the variance of groundballs sneaking through infields.
Though some in fantasy baseball were bullish on his 2013 propositions, those in the statistical analysis community saw the near-fatal flaws in Middlebrooks’ game. With such a poor strikeout-walk rate and a more reasonable HR/FB rate – as his 21.4% in 2012 was unsustainable – Middlebrooks was doomed to fit a low-average and marginal-power mold. Many players with those qualities add a 10+% walk rate, leading to an acceptable on-base percentage. With Middlebrooks’ poor plate discipline and inability to consistently make hard contact, progression beyond the relative current expectations will be difficult.
Gabe Isaacson is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter: @gabeisaacson.