Four Factors: Cody Ross needs power

Yesterday, I discussed the lack of offensive production from Hanley Ramirez, in particular the drop in BABIP and power, in terms of the “Four Factors.” Another player on the Marlins is drastically underproducing based on his preseason projections. Cody Ross is playing significantly worse than he was last season, batting just .261/.313/.388 (.311 wOBA) this year. The primary problem that Ross has faced is clearly a lack of power. Ross is not at all impressive in terms of walk rates, avoiding strikeouts, or BABIP, so it is power that he depends on, and this power has disappeared in his game. This year, he has only a .127 ISO.

How important is power to Ross’ game? Let’s use those four factors to analyze how Ross’ game has been affected.

Four Factors Profile

Ross BB% K% POWH BABIP ffwOBA
2010 6.2% 21.2% 0.487 .317 .308
Career 6.6% 21.4% 0.755 .303 .333
Projected 6.8% 21.2% 0.714 .303 .327

This table makes it immediately obvious that Ross’ game has been mostly unchanged outside his power. Earlier in the season, Ross was boasting a .340+ wOBA, right around his projected values, but mostly due to an anomalous .367 BABIP though June. However, as that BABIP has fallen due to an extended slump (Ross is hitting .186/.238/.271 since the start of July, including a .221 BABIP), it has become painfully clear that without power, he is not an offensive option. That .487 POWH (extra bases per hit) is the lowest power total he has posted since arriving in Florida in 2006.

Power and wOBA

Let’s check out the relationship between Ross’ power game and his wOBA. As I did with Ramirez, I used Jack Moore’s Four Factors spreadsheet and calculated ffwOBA for a range of POWH values, from this season’s low of 0.487 to 0.860. To get a sense of what type of power we are discussing here, I also calculated POWH for each player with at least 400 PA in the last three seasons. a 0.487 POWH is the same sort of power that players like Marlins catcher John Baker, Mark Ellis, and James Loney put up in the past three seasons. Needless to say, not an impressive set of power hitters. An 0.860 POWH hitter is representative of a hitter the likes of Jonny Gomes, Mark Teixeira, and Nick Swisher. In other words, there is a significant difference in power between those two levels.

Here’s the graph of how ffwOBA changed within this range of POWH for Ross’ four factors profile*.

As you can see, the range in wOBA is fairly unimpressive. If you take .330 to be the league average for any given season, Ross would need a POWH of at least 0.714 (the ZiPS-projected rest-of-season total shown in the initial table) in order to reach a league average hitter. A POWH of 0.680 is necessary to reach the league average for the 2010 season. The low value uses his 0.487 rate from 2010 along with projected values and career 2B/HR and 3B/HR rates, yielding a ffwOBA of .300. Basically, going from Loney/Baker power to Teixeira/Swisher power only brings Ross from unacceptable offensive production to 10 runs above average.

Taking it a step further, I plugged in Ross’ career high POWH since he arrived in Florida. In 2007, Ross went berserk in the second half of the season, batting .335/.411/.653 (.446 wOBA) with 19 doubles and 12 home runs in only 197 PA. That resulted in a POWH of 0.967, which is in the territory of players like David Ortiz, Andruw Jones, and Prince Fielder. Using such an outlandish power number (Ross has not approached that number since then) yielded only a .363 ffwOBA. Consider this essentially the ceiling for offensive production by Ross, a performance worth around 15 runs above average in one season.

Consider the whole package

Now put that together with the rest of Ross’ package. This season, he has performed well enough defensively to make up for some of his offensive struggles; Ross has accumulated 1.5 WAR according to FanGraphs so far this season, almost two runs below average by their calculations. If Ross returns next season, there is a good chance he will do so as the starting center fielder. Assuming that he is an average CF defensively (2703 innings played at the position, -0.2 runs defensively according to UZR), you are looking at a guy who is worth about two runs per 150 games on defense, including positional adjustment. Tack on a 0.714 POWH like the projected value shown in the first table and you are looking at an average offensive player as well, worth about 2 WAR per year. However, if you use a deflated POWH value such as 0.600, Ross’ estimated wOBA drops to .314. At .314, he would be worth something along the lines of eight runs below average over the course of the season. That sort of total would drop his value to around 1.5 WAR. Any power performance worse than that and it’s likely Ross would not be worth keeping out in the field in a starting role.

Topics: Cody Ross, Miami Marlins

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