Reflecting on Coghlan's sophomore effort

With Chris Coghlan scheduled to have the surgery repairing his torn meniscus today, I figured it would be a good a time as any to take a look at the disappointing sophomore effort. No one expected going into the season that Coghlan would play as well as his 2009 Rookie of the Year performance. Clearly, the signs pointed towards simple regression to the mean. Of course, none of us thought he would suffer such a precipitous fall early in the season.

The Expectations

Here are the expectations by three of the major projection systems:

ZiPS 616 .287 .358 .413 0.345
CHONE 544 .296 .371 .434 0.357
PECOTA* 538 .287 .355 .433 0.346

In addition to that data, here are what the projections had for Coghlan’s “Four Factors,” a concept FanGraphs author and friend of the Maniac Jack Moore introduced a few weeks back. The Four Factors he used were: BB%, K% (both with PA as the denominator), POWH (extra bases/hit, discussed yesterday), and BABIP.

ZiPS 9.1% 14.6% 0.44 .330
CHONE 9.7% 13.8% 0.47 .336
PECOTA* 9.7% 13.2% 0.52 .312

All of the projection systems seem similarly optimistic about Coghlan’s 2010 campaign, with CHONE and its high AVG/OBP leading to the best wOBA amongst the group. The Fans in FanGraphs (44 total ballots) agreed with CHONE, putting Coghlan at a wOBA in the mid .350’s.

The Season

Here are Coghlan’s season-ending numbers.

400 .268 .335 .383 0.322
8.3% 21.0% 0.43 .336

Of course, this line is a culmination of almost two diferent seasons. In the early part of the year, Coghlan could not buy a hit. He hit a meager .194/.241/.195 and didn’t get his first extra-base knock until mid-May. But after a mediocre May (.300 wOBA), he hit a switch, culminating in a monstrous .472 wOBA June akin to the second half performance we saw last season. This month was the savior for an otherwise ugly season, as Coghlan posted a .238 wOBA in July in his 76 PA that month.

However, we do not want to read into trends, so let’s take this entire season as a whole. Oddly enough, his season wasn’t terribly far removed from the projections from earlier this season. Of course, the slash line and wOBA were pretty far off, but the underlying power and BABIP were surprisingly close to the projected values by ZiPS, in particular. That month of June supercharged Coghlan’s previously poor power numbers and brought them to about what most people expected. I was surprised to see that even Coghlan’s BABIP was brought right up to around the projected .330 total.

The primary difference between the .340-.350 projected wOBA and the observed .322 (league average according to this season’s reduced run environment) were the strikeout and walk numbers. I mentioned some of this previously, but it bears repeating: at least early in the season, Coghlan was swinging at over 30% of pitches outside the zone. Combine that with an overall decreased contact rate (down to 81.6% from 84.9% last season) and you get the reasoning behind his increased strikeouts and decreased walks. Because he fished for more pitches and made contact on fewer of those swings, the strikeouts bumped up, decreasing the batting average and corresponding slash line.

The Marlins need to hope that Coghlan returns to a more patient approach that he displayed at the beginning of the 2009 season, when he was otherwise struggling but at least getting on base. For a player like Coghlan, his ability to get on base is critical to his value. He will never really develop more power than he has shown in both of his professional seasons so far. The projections and performance were pretty indicative of the type of power he is going to display. What will be the advantage for Coghlan is selectivity at the plate and the ability to make decent contact and get on base. Expectations will likely be a bit lower going into the 2011 season because of this year, so hopefully Coghlan can bounce back and put up a good year at the plate.

Tags: Chris Coghlan Miami Marlins

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