MLB: Where Has Their Power Gone?

Adam BernacchioAnalyst IIIApril 28, 2011

I was playing around on Fangraphs yesterday and came across the ISO leaders for 2011. ISO, for those of you not familiar, is slugging percentage minus batting average. Removing average from the equation eliminates singles and measures a hitter’s power.

Even though we are just 20 games or so into the regular season and all the stats we have are small sample sizes, we still find some of the usual cast of characters at the top of the ISO leader board. Some of the names you might be familiar with are Jose Bautista (.411), Alex Rodriguez (.350), and Ryan Braun (.349).

While it’s always nice to talk about the people who are doing well, in this case I want to talk about the people at the bottom of the barrel. Here are the 10 batters who are last in baseball in ISO.

There are some guys on this list that you would expect to be at the bottom like Juan Pierre, Will Venable, and Jason Bartlett. However, there are three guys who are on this list that I want to focus on.

Nick Swisher: Swisher has been remarkably consistent since coming over from the Chicago White Sox three years ago. His wOBA in 2009 was .375, and in 2010, it was .377. He hit 29 HR in 2009 and 2010. And his OPS in 2009 was .869, and in 2010, it was .870.

That’s consistency.

However, Swisher is off to a terrible start in 2011. He has two extra-base hits (two doubles) in 89 plate appearances. Even in the season in which Swisher hit .219 with the White Sox, he had 59 extra-base hits, so it’s only a matter of time before he gets it going.

Swisher’s line-drive, groundball, and fly ball Percentage in 2011 is a spitting image of what it was in 2010, but the big difference is in his infield fly ball percentage. It’s jumped from 7.8 percent last year to 18.7 percent this year.

That tells me he is just missing pitches. Sooner or later, Swisher is going to not miss those pitches and drive them for extra bases. Expect Swisher to finish with a .230 ISO.

Carlos Pena: Scott Boras’ grand plan for Pena really isn’t working out so far. I’ll assume the plan for Pena was to sign a one-year deal with the Chicago Cubs, re-establish his value, and then hopefully get a multi-year deal next winter.

With the way Pena’s performing, that’s not going to happen.

Pena is off to a .169/.306/.186 start with no HR and just one double. In all fairness to Pena, he has been battling a thumb injury, which would slow any hitter down. This, however, would be less concerning if Pena didn’t stink it up last season.

He had a .211 ISO last season with the Tampa Bay Rays, so the reality is, Pena just might be toast. I think a lot of people forget he was a nobody for years and is 33 years old. Due to his age, it’s no surprise he is on the decline.

Pena’s ISO will obviously increase because every now and then he will walk into a HR. But don’t expect him to finish with a better than a .210 ISO.

Derek Jeter: I guess New York Yankees’ hitting coach, Kevin Long, couldn’t work his magic with Jeter like he did Curtis Granderson last season. Much was made of Jeter’s new approach at the plate this spring, and no matter what Jeter has tried during the first 20 games of the season, it hasn’t worked.

Like his teammate above, Jeter has just two extra-base hits (two doubles) in 2011, but unlike Swisher, Jeter’s peripherals are down right scary. Seventy-five percent of Jeter’s AB have ended in a ground ball. That’s almost comical. That’s also worst in the Majors.

I would be very concerned about Jeter. It seems his 2009 season was his last hurrah. His ISO has declined in two straight seasons (.131 to .100), and it wouldn’t shock me if Jeter’s ISO was around .100 once again. He’s shown no ability to drive the ball this season.

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