Lombardozzi and his stats, particularly strikeouts

Note: Stats current as of the afternoon of 6/6/12. Also, first fanpost! Sorry if it's long, brevity isn't really my thing...

Lombardozzi is one of those fun players to write/talk about because no one really knows how good a player he is going to be. Franchise leadoff man? Acceptable player who can also leadoff? Swing man that should really be on the bench but can start in a pinch? AAAA? I can't really answer that question in this post, but I find some of his stats to be interesting, so I figured I'd go through them and try to parse out what they mean for the future.

First, his strikeouts, or rather lack thereof. Why are strikeouts so important? When I was younger, I never saw what the big deal was, since a SO was the same as a groundout in most situations. Now I feel differently. I view batting average as babip - SO + sac + HR (not sure if that's 100% accurate but I think I got it). Since babip can vary so widely, that makes the amount of SO you have so important in determining batting average.

Anyway, onto Lombardozzi's strikeout rate. In 129 plate appearances, Lombardozzi only has SEVEN strikeouts. And nine walks. That's good for a mere 5.5% strikeout percentage per plate appearance. To give you further context, if Lombardozzi kept this SO% up for long enough to be eligible for the league leaderboard, it would be 2nd best in the National League! Ok, I know 129 plate appearances isn't a very big sample size, so let's look at his minor league stats. In 2010, he had 60 SO in 507 PA in A+, good for 11.8%, and 15/118 in AA, good for 12.7%. In 2011, he had 38/291 in AA, good for 13.1%, and 40/325 in AAA, good for 12.3%. I know SO%'s tend to go up when a player reaches the majors, but since Lombardozzi's has only gone down so far, let's just assume he'll top off at a healthy 12.5% in a typical MLB season. That would make him 16th best in the NL both this year and last year. Pretty good.

Now his babip. It's a little early to tell what Lombardozzi's average babip is going to be. It's .314 now, down from .330 two days ago when I got the idea to write the post. I'm not going to calculate his minor league babip, but considering his batting averages were around .300 and his SO total was higher than his HR+Sac total, it's safe to say it was higher than .300.

What does this all mean? With a low SO total and a healthy babip, Lombardozzi should have a good batting average. .280s sounds about right. Adding 8 SO to this year for around a 12.5% SO rate, which means taking away 3 hits, that lowers his BA from .301 to around .280 (loooooose math, but you get the idea). .280/.360/.390 is not a bad leadoff hitter, particularly one that can play above average 2B.

Finally, his speed, which is important in the leadoff position. Lombardozzi had 24 SB and 12 CS in 2010, and 30 SB and 8 CS in 2011. He does does not yet have a SB in 2012. Why? I don't know. But I would hope with some experience he can get at least 20/year playing a full year.

Moving forward

Lombardozzi can play LF and 2B. He can play in the left side of the infield in a pinch, but to be honest I don't really think he's suited for everyday SS. As Harper and Werth are locks, in order to play LF next year, he would need both either Morse or LaRoche to not come back AND for the Nats not to get a CF in the offseason. Unlikely. In order to play 2B, he would have to beat out either Desmond or Espinosa, and ward off Anthony Rendon (who's still hurt, so that might not be an issue until 2014). It will be difficult to give up Desmond or Espinosa's power and defense. But neither have the leadoff tools that Lombardozzi has (well, they would if they stopped striking out all the time, particularly Espinosa because of his walk rate), and there's power everywhere else in the lineup when people are healthy. So I'll leave that up to all of you in the comment section! Does Lombardozzi start next year?

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