Monday, March 15, 2010

On Overbay, and why I want him to go away.

Following up on a mini argument that I had on Twitter last week with fellow BJwaMG author JW, I feel that I must no justify exactly why I feel that Lyle Overbay is not useful.

When the Jays traded for Overbay in December of 2005 it was widely believed that they had acquired a player capable of hitting .300, belting 20 home-runs, driving in 100 runs and leading the American League in doubles.

Instantly, fans were rewarded. In 2006, although he didn't lead the AL in double and he didn't quite get to 100 rbi's, Overbay hit a solid .312 batting average, and a career high 22 home-runs. Pair that with his above average defense and Jays fans had all the reason they needed to believe in Overbay. With the solid tools that he possesses it seemed like there was even some room for improvement.

Since then, though, and partially due to injury shortened seasons, Overbay has never been able to regain his form. Although I believe that he still has the ability to be a high impact player, I've lost faith in Overbay, and I don't believe that he will ever again come close to reaching his potential.

The main point in the argument that Overbay is a useful player is his consistently high on-base-percentage. Although I would normally support this argument, it has never amounted to either runs scored or RBI's for Overbay, who declared shortly after being traded to the Jays that, “If I'm scoring runs or driving in runs, that's all that matters.”

Last year, he ended up seventh on the team in RBI's per plate appearance. That just doesn't cut it for a guy who should be hitting in the middle of the batting order.

More telling though, since OBP is supposed to be his saving grace, is his number of runs scored per plate appearance. Of Blue Jays who had more than 100 plate appearances last year only Chavez, Millar, Rios, and Barajas had lower runs scored per plate appearance averages.

You could argue that Overbay would score more runs if he hit higher in the order. I would tell you that you can't bat him higher in the order because he strikes out too much. Only Ruiz, Snider, and Bautista had a higher strike out per plate appearance ratio last season.

What this tells me is that Overbay isn't achieving his potential because he simply isn't putting the ball in play often enough. Being among the team leaders in OBP is great, but being among the team strike-out leaders, without driving in or scoring runs, isn't. Only Hill and Lind had more total strikeouts last season, and I don't think there's any need to point out their runs scored and RBI totals.

Ultimately, it's easy for Overbay to get walks. We all know the kind of power that he is capable of, and so does every pitcher he faces. He has no threat behind him so there's no harm in letting him on base. For Overbay to be useful on this team he has to find a way to turn a few more of his walks, and many more of his strikeouts, into balls in play. His walks won't turn into RBI's any time soon.

I also did a quick check against some of the greatest hitters of our time, and the greatest hitter of all time, to see how Overbay has stacked up over his career when he has put the ball in play. I looked up the career batting average on balls in play for Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds, Ichiro Suzuki, and the great Pete Rose. Overbay's career BAbip was higher than every player on the list except Ichiro.

Get the bat off you're shoulder, Lyle. You're role on this team isn't to sit back and take walks.


  1. He'll be gone in a year. Like Cito. Something to look forward to, right?

  2. Thank You. Thank You . Thank You

    Everytime I say this stuff the ROTO heads start squealing about OPS

    A SLOW First Baseman with no power that gets on base a bit is USELESS.

  3. Have you thought that perhaps his BABIP is so high because he's so selective and ONLY swings at the best pitches? If he were to start swinging more then he would swing at less hittable pitches, in turn lowering his BABIP.

    I also don't see what the problem is with him striking out. It's no different then any other out. Overbay is a good player, he's not great, and he's not on par with Youk, Tex or Pena. He's an above average player though, and he's an asset to the Jays.

  4. Is he not on par with Pena? He provides better defense and doesn't make nearly as many outs. I'd say they're very close to par, despite the different styles of production.

  5. Nick, there's no way to know for sure what would happen to his BABIP if he started swinging at more pitches. I would argue, though, that it probably wouldn't change that much. I found myself scratching my head on an almost nightly basis last year when I watched Overbay taking an absolutely crushable first strike in the name of being patient. A great strategy for a leadoff hitter with no power, but not for a guy hitting seventh who's expected to drive in some runs.

    Anon, you rock. Keep on fighting the good fight.

    eyebleaf, yes.

    Drew, obviously their styles are different. The problem is that one amounts to a lot of production and the other doesn't seem to. Pena had 48 more AB's and 5 fewer hits than Overbay last year, yet he still drove in 100 RBI and scored 91 runs. Compared to Overbay's 64 and 57. While it's all well and good that Overbay produces less outs, it doesn't really matter when he's producing so many fewer runs. Ultimately, Pena fills the role that's been provided for him. Overbay doesn't.