Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Community Projections: Melvin Mora

Melvin Mora started out horribly in 2008, fueling some speculation as to whether he was done as an effective player. His first-half line of .233/.301/.387 was a huge drag on the offense. In the second half it was a completely new Melvin; he hit .376/.417/.656 with 12 HR and 56 RBI in just 48 games.

That finish might indicate that Mora will be able to carry some of that success over into 2009, but Heath over at Dempsey's Army has some contrary evidence:
"This is probably Melvin Mora's final season in Baltimore and it will probably be time for him to go. Since the end of 2004, Mora has been in decline. You shouldn't really expect much out of a 37-year old third baseman. I mean, he had a nice year in 2008 but that's just a lat hurrah for an old vet. Surely he'll regress back to his normal declining self in 2009. 2008 was a fluke. Right?

Since 1954, third basemen age 37 or over whose OPS+ was greater than 100:
             OPS+    Age
Schmidt 142 37
T. Fernandez 124 37
Nettles 120 40
Boggs 119 37
Nettles 119 38
Rose 119 37
B. Robinson 113 37
G. Gaetti 108 37"
Melvin's .364 wOBA was his highest since 2005 (also .364, but his wOBA+ was a point lower last year 108 to 107). I think there's almost no chance he can repeat that, but he did change his approach some.

Mora's contact rate increased from 2005 to 2007 (80.9%, 81.2%, 84.1%) and stayed higher in 2008 (83.6%). The % of pitches he swung at though, went from 44.5% to 44.7% to 43.2%. Last year, Melvin obviously went over to Fangraphs and noticed his increasing contact rate, because he increased his swing rate too, to 46.6%. Maybe pitchers saw Mora's declining stats and decided to challenge him more (the proportion of fastballs he saw has gone up four straight years from 59.7% of pitches to 61.9%, 62.2%, and 63% last year). I guess Mel-Mo thought "Hey, if they're going to throw me more fastball I'll start swinging more." And boy did he, spraying line-drives all over the place (21.2% LD-rate - his highest since 2004).

Mora's BABIP was only .289 last year, and (from HitTracker) while he had 10 "Just Enough" HR, only 2 of them were categorized as "Lucky". He had a legitimately good offensive season.

All that said, I still think we'll see quite a bit of regression in 2009. Given the preceding info, I wouldn't be terribly surprised if I low-ball him a little, but for now I've got Melvin projected at:

550 136 24 1 16 46 .271 .333 .418 .334

That's about a league-average bat, which should be passable even with Mora's below average defense. I really like Melvin, so I hope he's able to be productive for a little while longer. The economy's in rough shape and he has a lot of mouths to feed.

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