This has been a familiar scene in 2013 for Elvis Andrus
The Texas Rangers signed shortstop Elvis Andrus to an eight year $120 million contract extension this past off-season that will begin when his current deal ends in 2015. Elvis will make $15 million a year once his new deal begin and some consider it a good deal while others, not so much for Texas. Why would some consider it a bad deal when he is widely regarding as one of the top two or three shortstops in the game today? While Andrus has great range and can play a gold glove caliber shortstop, his bat is what some people question.
Much was made this off-season about Elvis bulking up and showing some good power to the gaps early in the season. It started off well but has since fallen off. Andrus is coming off a year in which he set career highs with a .286 batting average and a .349 on base percentage and that is coming off career highs in 2011 with .279/.347. Elvis also set career highs last year in games, plate appearances, RBI and slugging percentage. The Rangers are coming off three straight playoff appearances for just the second time in franchise history and Andrus was coming off two of his best years as a pro and is a big part of the Rangers success.
So what’s the fuss over the extension?
So far in 2013, Andrus is having arguably the worst year of his career. Thru 89 games in 2013, he’s hitting just .246 with a .304 OBP but the most troubling stat has to be his dismal .285 slugging percentage. He has just 11 extra base hits this season after career highs last year in doubles (31) and triples (9). Miguel Cabrera has that many in one game. Ok, that’s not entirely true, unless you watch ESPN, then it is true. Anyways, he is on pace to have one of the worst slugging percentages in a single season and by far the worst of his career.
So what gives? Is he falling victim to having his contract and now he’s become comfortable? Is he taking his money and running? Or are pitchers simply pitching him differently? It can’t be that he is hitting second in the lineup because he did that all of 2012 when he set all those career highs. I won’t bore you with a ton of stats, but let’s take a quick look at what I believe to be contributing to his struggles.
Andrus’ numbers are going in the wrong direction. He is striking out at a career high 14.5% and walking at a rate of 7.5% which is the lowest since his rookie season. His BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is a career worst .290. Now that stat would suggest he’s running into some dumb luck. That was the case early on in the season and a little bit here more recently. He’s been hitting the ball on the nose and hard, just right at someone. I attended a game in early April where Elvis went 0-4 but hit four line drives that were just rockets right at people. That happens. Elvis is at his best when he can drive the ball for base hits and force the defense to not play up and expect a bunt.
It’s not all bad luck for Elvis though. Pitchers are even pitching him differently. He is seeing fewer fastballs and more off-speed pitches. His ground ball percentage is the highest of his career so far and his fly ball percentage is the lowest of his career so far. Give credit to opposing pitchers though. They are getting him to chase pitches out of the strike zone (also known as O-Swing %) at a career high 24.3% of the time and he’s is making contact (O-Contact %) at about his career norm so he’s chasing and missing more which would explain the higher strikeout rate. Now check this out, he is swinging at a career high 56.6% of pitches in the strike zone (Z-Swing %) but his 92.6% contact rate (Z-Contact %) is the lowest of his career. As a whole, he is seeing fewer pitches in the zone and swinging at more pitches outside the zone. That’s a bad combination for a hitter.
One could argue that Ian Kinsler is the catalyst that drives this offense. While that notion holds a lot of truth, chew on this: When the Rangers win Andrus’ numbers look like this:
.298/.354/.349/.703 with eight extra base hits, 27 RBI and 13 stolen bases
When the Rangers lose, his numbers look like this:
.168/.226/.189/.415 with three extra base hits, four RBI and five stolen bases
As Elvis goes, so do the Rangers? Make your own conclusions.
I’m not a scout and I’m probably wrong more than I’m right, but I do know that whatever is wrong with Elvis, I hope he figures it out soon. The Rangers need him to be 2012 Elvis Andrus. The Rangers have $15 million reason to hope that he returns to that form too.
Oh want some good news? Andrus is hitting .308 in innings 7-9. At least he isn’t giving up.
Will the real Elvis Andrus please stand up?
Until then, critique me and my opinions all you want, I’m going to the beach. See y’all after the All Star Break.
Billy is a wannabe contributor to BaseballDo that pretends to know what he’s talking about. Jasen regrets giving him a site password every day.
Follow us on twitter @baseballdo and follow me @bcasey55