On Monday evening, as happens so often during any edition of the Boers and Bernstein Show, there was a caller on the line with a stupid question. Well, actually, the question itself wasn’t entirely stupid, but the voice and delivery of the man asking it made it seem stupid.
The man wanted to know, with Paul Konerko retiring after this season, if the White Sox should move Conor Gillaspie to first base to allow Matt Davidson to take over at third. It was at this point that Dan Bernstein said something that caught my attention, because as often as I disagree with Bernstein on many different topics, he’s normally much smarter when it comes to baseball.
He said Gillaspie doesn’t have the power to be an every day first baseman, which I guess is probably right, if the only thing you consider for power is home runs. But then he called Gillaspie a “slap-hitter” and my ears had to do a double take.
I’m not sure what qualifies as a slap-hitter to Bernstein, but the image that immediately comes to my mind is a guy like Juan Pierre. You know, the little grinder that doesn’t have a lot of pop in his bat, and generally relies on his ability to put the ball in play and use his speed to get on base.
Does that sound like Gillaspie to you?
He certainly doesn’t have the speed part, and while Gillaspie hasn’t hit a lot of homers this year, I hesitate to say he doesn’t have any pop in his bat. Sure, he doesn’t have 20+ homer power, but the man had a .474 slugging percentage going into Monday night’s game against the Royals. He also had an OPS of .846. That’s worth an OPS+ of 134, or 34% higher than league average.
And how impressive is the .474 slugging percentage? Well, the league average is only .399, but if that doesn’t give you an indication of how high that is, here’s just a sampling of players that had a slugging percentage lower than .474 going into Tuesday night: Josh Donaldson, Melky Cabrera, Hanley Ramirez, Ian Kinsler, Yoenis Cespedes and Buster Posey. Just to name a few.
The only White Sox hitter with a higher slugging percentage than Gillaspie is Jose Abreu. The only Cub is Anthony Rizzo.
Gillaspie may not be a home run hitter, but he’s a line drive hitter, and those line drives have led to a BABIP of .366 this year, as well as an extra base hit rate of 10.1%. Yes, that means that Gillaspie hits at least a double in 10% of his plate appearances.
He’s not just slapping them over the third baseman’s head, either. Here’s a spray chart of all the balls Gillaspie has put in play this season.
Now, I’m not here to tell you that Conor Gillaspie is going to hit like this for the rest of his career. That .366 BABIP is incredibly hard to maintain no matter who you are, and it’s going to come back down to Earth at some point. But even when his numbers begin to drop across the board, to call Gillaspie a slap-hitter is just stupid.
In fact, it’s so stupid that Bernstein should probably have called in to his own show to say it.
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