Is J.P. Arencibia a Changed Hitter In 2013?

Has J.P. Arencibia turned the corner?

First I have to say that I love Twitter (@ALEastbound) and Blue Jays nation definitely has a presence on the social media platform (#lovethisteam).  So far this season it would seem that the Jays are rolling out Mike Piazza to the plate with the way people have been talking up J.P. Arencibia.  Even I got caught up in it for a while as he has been stroking homerun after homerun.

Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler seem to think that Blue Jays hitting coach Chad Mattola will be a big difference maker for JPA this season as he had his biggest minor league season when Mattola was the coach.  The common perception is that Aaron Cibia is a brand new hitter and more complete player early in the season.

So with that I wanted to see if that was indeed the case.

Let’s compare his career numbers with his early season numbers and take a closer look.

JPA AVG  OBP  SLG  wOBA  BB%  K% FB% HR/FB BABIP
Career Stats        .224 .275 .445 .309 5.9% 28.7% 48.9% 16.2% .263
2013 Season .254 .266 .603 .366 1.6% 35.9% 60.0% 25.0% .294

Thus far JPA is slashing 254/266/603 with 6 HRs and 4 doubles.  The power is of course welcomed with our weakened lineup but after the homeruns things quickly turn sour.  He has taken exactly one walk all season – which explains his ridiculously poor 1.6 BB% and .266 OBP.  He is also striking out at an alarming pace, even for his standard at 35.9%.

More fly balls (60.0%) and an unsustainable HR/FB (25.0%) account for his early season power surge.  Even his BABIP is above his career levels and has helped his AVG/OBP numbers.  However you simply cannot have such a hack-tastic approach at the plate and expect amazing results unless you are a contact freak (think Pedroia, Dustin).  Looking at his contact rates for the season he is actually making a career low in overall contact (69.7% compared to career 73.5%) and in-zone contact (78.8% compared to career 81.4%).

Small sample size caveats apply (duh) but I don’t see any reason to believe that JPA is a new hitter.  If anything he is an even more aggressive, less effective version of his old self but with the same terrible defense.  It appears a lot of the Blue Jays hitters have an even more all-or-nothing approach at the plate (Bautista, Edwin, Rasmus, Arencibia) under Chad Mattola.

I hate that this has come off as a bash piece as Arencibia has been one of our more productive players (in terms of power) but when John Gibbons pencils him in the number three spot of the line-up it is disconcerting.  I realize injuries have reduced the Blue Jays options but in a perfect world JPA needs to be batting no higher than seventh or eighth.

If JPA doesn’t drastically alter his approach at the plate he could be in for an extremely rough patch at the plate when his FB%, BABIP and HR/FB rate inevitably starts to normalize.

OTHER LINKS:

The Potential Legend of RA Dickey – Can Dickey take his place amongst Clark, Gilmour, Joe Carter?

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  1. 1 J.P. Arencibia, Carlos Zambrano and the Dubious One Percent | AL Eastbound & Down Trackback on May 23, 2013 at 4:04 pm

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