Advanced statistics can be a bit of a dividing line with baseball fans. Purists are painted as stodgy old guys who think "nerds with spreadsheets" are ruining the game. Some stat-heads think that advanced numbers are the only measure needed to determine the worth of a ballplayer. I try to fall somewhere in the middle. To me, the best use for advanced statistics is to gather the most information you can in order to help you make informed decisions and arguments. That's why I started keeping track of Auburn's numbers a few years ago. The trick is that the numbers are much too volatile early in the season. I think we have enough data at least make relevant observations.
Team-wise, there's one number that jumps out this year more than any other. Through 17 games and 742 plate appearances, Auburn has TWO sacrifice bunts. After Golloway's fascination with giving the defense one-third of his most precious resource, Thompson's strategy nearly causes a whiplash effect. Auburn has also been a bit "hit-lucky" so far this season with a .364 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), but some of that is due to the Tigers having a strong team batting average, .313, to this point. Their strikeout (16%) and walk (10%) rates are right in-line with the "Above Average" lines specified by FanGraphs. What about individual players?
Who is Auburn's best offensive player?
Okay sure. Go ahead and mock me and tell me you already knew that. Grier leads the team in traditional stats like hits, (70), batting average (.429), On-Base Percentage (.545), and stolen bases (11), but he's also great at avoiding strikeouts (0.1 K/PA), does more than just hit singles (.614 secondary average, a stat that takes into account walks, extra base hits, and a successful base-stealing rate), and he creates runs (18.5 per 25 outs, meaning that a lineup full of Anfernee Griers would be expected to plate about 18 runs per game). Those numbers make Grier a near perfect leadoff hitter. Whether you think your leadoff guy should be a burner who can steal bases or an OBP machine, Grier is your guy.
If there is a red flag for Grier, it's that his BABIP is .456. He also doesn't walk much (0.17 BB/PA), so if the hits stop falling, Grier's production could really suffer. That said, I expect a player like Grier to have a higher BABIP than usual simply based on his speed and willingness to bunt for a base-hit if the defense gives it to him.
Who isn't washing his underwear?
Ebert appears to be the luckiest Tiger to this point in the season, his BABIP is 61 points higher than his actual batting average (.446 and .385 respectively). His secondary average is just .154, which means that most of his batting average comes from singles. He's walking in just 4% of his plate appearances, which is downright bad. If Ebert's numbers drop off later in the season, this might be why.
Who needs to sacrifice a live chicken?
Poor Damon Haecker. He strikes out less than the rest of the team (15%), but his BABIP is a depressing .158. He should have more hits by accident than that. Haecker could help himself by walking more (just twice in 48 plate appearances), but it's hard to argue with contact. The coaching staff appeared to be trying to let Haecker hit his way out of it, but they could only wait so long. To me, this would seem to indicate that Haecker has something wrong with his swing that is sapping his power. Hopefully he can get that squared away.
Auburn's offense seems better than the results have indicated. Hopefully that means the Tigers will hit their stride in conference play. Next week we'll look at what numbers have drastically changed, how valuable Joshua Palacios has been this season, and the advanced pitching numbers (they're still a little volatile with the changes in the starting rotation). Be sure to hit up the comments and tell us what else you would like to see, or if you have any questions about how the numbers are calculated!