The Tigers added Prince Fielder this offseason to team with Miguel Cabrera as the most dynamic lefty-righty duo in baseball. With those two aces in the third and fourth holes in the lineup, whomever hits at the top of the order should not only see a major increase in their runs scored total, they should also see plenty of pitches to hit given that pitchers will not want to face Cabrera or Fielder with the bases full of runners. The leadoff man figures to be Austin Jackson, who I profiled in Fowler vs. Jackson, while the #2 man in the order very well could be Brennan Boesch who is the subject of today’s piece.
Boesch hit .256 with 14 homers and 67 RBI as a rookie, and in year two the third round draft choice followed up those numbers with a .286 average, 16 homers and 54 RBI in 26 fewer at-bats. Clearly those aren’t numbers anyone is going to get too excited about (that may be part of the reason that over at Fleaflicker Boesch really hasn’t been added in that many leagues). Still, his spot in the batting order, if he does indeed hold on to the two hole, has some folks pretty darn excited about Boesch. Is that excitement warranted? Let’s take a look.
The most obvious issue with Boesch through two seasons is the Houdini act he’s pulled off in the second half of both seasons. I’m not talking about him pulling a rabbit out of his hat either. I’m talking about making himself vanish into thin air. Check out his two year pre/post All-Star break totals. It’s enough to make even someone with a strong constitution vomit.
2010 1st half: .342/.397/.593 with 12 homers and 49 RBI
2010 2nd half: .163/.237/.222 with two homers and 18 RBI
2011 1st half: .306/.360/.490 with 12 homers and 44 RBI
2011 2nd half: .219/.288/.368 with four homers and 10 RBI
Maybe we’ll look back on those numbers 10 years from now and get a good laugh, but for now those numbers scare the bejezus out of me. Here are the combined numbers.
1st half: .321-24-93-91-56 with a .911 OPS
2ns half: .182-6-28-33-6 with a .526 OPS
In the first half he’s Matt Holliday but in the second half he is Ramon Santiago. You have to be concerned with those two sets of numbers, at least until he goes out and does something in the second half of the season. Again, it might be a sample size issue – he could hit .300 with 15 homers in the second half this season – but for now the numbers are scarier than a Wes Craven flick.
Boesch is a player that struggles against right-handed pitching. Oh he’s not awful with a .254/.315/.425 slash line, but oddly, he is stronger against left-handed pitching (since he’s a left-handed batter) with a .319/.380/.471 slash line. Think of it like this. Versus righties he is Johnny Damon while he’s Dustin Pedroia versus lefties. Given that most hurlers are obviously right-handed, that’s another level of concern.
Some other facts.
Boesch doesn’t strike out very often, but since he also doesn’t walk a lot his career 0.41 BB/K ratio is just a teenie bit below the league average. Moreover, his OBP of .330 in his two seasons is only four points better than the league average during that time. It should also be noted that though he is looked at as a potential power bat in some circles that his .436 slugging percentage is only .010 points better than the league average for outfielders. In addition, Boesch doesn’t hit too many balls in the air, his GB/FB ratio of 1.12 is smack dab on the league average, while his 10.7 percent HR/F rate is only about a percentage point high. Boesch also has shown little stolen base speed with 12 steals in two seasons, an if he does indeed hit second in the Tigers’ order you can’t think he is going to be getting the green light very often with the two thumpers coming up. As for his ability to help in the batting average category he did show a .027 point improvement in year two, but through 892 at-bats he has hit just .269. Moreover, his .306 BABIP mark is just about league average, and so far he hasn’t been anywhere near the league average in the line drive category with a career mark of just 16.6 percent (the league average is 19-20 percent).
To summarize, Boesch has roughly league average ability in his BB/K rate, GB/FB ratio and HR/F ratio. He’s also produced, roughly, a league average batting mark, OBP and SLG. He also doesn’t steal many bases or hit that many line drives. In short, through two seasons, Boesch hasn’t shown himself to be anything other than a guy that’s going to need 550 at-bats to be a mixed league option because nothing he does stands out. If he can spend the entire year hitting second in the Tigers order that could all change. It could also change if he doesn’t turn into an absolute weakling in the second half of the season. However, pay close attention to the fact that, up until now, Boesch hasn’t shown himself to possesses on outstanding skill. Be careful of expecting too much from the third year player.
By Ray Flowers