The numbers haven't been pretty for Carlos Quentin this season.
Even when he's been healthy, his production hasn't come close to his MVP form from last season. On the season, he's only hitting .223 with a .758 OPS.
The numbers aren't any better since he came off the DL. Since his return on July 20th, he's 12-57, good for a .210 average.
We're well past the point of believing that he will replicate his monstrous 2008 season on paper. The question at this point is what kind of impact can he have on the race for the division title?
I'm still optimistic that he can be a highly productive hitter down the stretch and give the offense a major boost.
I realize that it doesn't look like it on paper, but in my opinion he's starting to get back on track. If you watch the games, you can see that he's starting to hit the ball hard again with few results.
In the last two weeks he's had three or four Willie Mays Hayes shots that died just short of the wall. He's also hit numerous line drives that were caught, the most memorable being a rocket to left center in the Twins series that resulted in a leaping snag by Denard Span.
The statistics seem to support that observation. I'm not a math geek, but I went to fangraphs.com to look at the breakdown of his batted balls in play from both this season and last season. Here's the breakdown:
2008- 15.4 percent line drive, 41.4 percent ground ball, 43.2 percent fly ball, 20.7 percent HR/fly ball
2009- 19 percent line drive, 37.4 percent ground ball, 43.6 percent fly ball, 15.5 percent HR/fly ball
That looks fairly comparable, doesn't it? His home run rate isn't as good and he's hitting more pop-outs, but everything else is roughly in line.
I know some of you are probably thinking "who cares if he's not getting results?"
To some extent you're right. However, those numbers suggest that his batting average is well under what the percentages would suggest. To word it another way, he's been extremely unlucky.
I'm not going to go into an in-depth discussion of expected batting average, but the basic idea is that you can expect a player to hit a certain percentage on a particular type of ball in play over the long haul. Batters hit about .720 on line drives, .260 on groundballs and .015 on popups.
If you add up all of Carlos Quentin's percentages, you would expect a batting average on balls in play somewhere in the .290 to .310 range (I'm adding a lot of grey area because of my "math skills").
Quentin's current batting average on balls in play is .228.
So what does that little math tangent mean?
If he can maintain those rates, there's a good chance that he'll eventually start posting the kind of numbers that we expect from our starting left fielder.
I don't think I have to write a long analysis about what that would mean to our lineup. It's pretty simple: if Quentin is anywhere close to as good as he was last season, the Sox have a sizeable edge in the division race.
We just have to hope that Quentin can get a little luckier when he laces a line drive to the outfield.