11 February 2012

Forecasting Casper

Casper Wells is a subject of much interest to me. I knew practically nothing about him when the Mariners acquired him at the trade deadline, so of course I did what any reasonable analyst would do; I looked up the numbers. It started off pretty well, ISO over .200 in the minors, oh that's pretty good. Impressive minor league wOBA, yep I'll take that. Now wait what's this? 28% strike out rate, okay well it is what it is. 10% walk rate, well hey now, we've got a Mariner on our hands.

We are familiar with Wells now. He dominated the batters box almost immediately after being acquired until he dropped off the cliff with a bout of Vertigo.  I know a bit more about the disorder than most I've spoken to, as my mother struggled with it in her late 30's. The world is never right side up, and physical balance is nonexistent. Up is sideways, left is down...it's taxing, especially for an athlete. We never really saw a  medium for Wells. Fans either saw a version of Wells that was killing the ball or the variant that couldn't hit a beach ball. It makes it that much harder to predict what sort of production we should expect from Wells this year. 

Depending on who you talk to, there is a bit of a debate on what role Wells will play on the team in 2012. The most common viewpoint seems to be some sort of LF platoon with Carp with a few games in the DH slot, so let's play with that scenario. In order to truly forecast the upcoming season for Casper we have to make a few assumptions. First, he has defeated vertigo. So far, reports are encouraging. Second, Wells will reflect the kind of player he was in the minors in the majors. I touched on it a little bit; Casper had good power in the minors coupled with below average plate discipline which would give you the impression that Wells has some contact issues. So I went ahead and compared him to Carp, with whom he figures to split time, and I was surprised at what I found.

Carp Contact %: 72.5
Wells Contact %: 73.7

Almost identical. But that even isn't the interesting part. Take a look at this...

O-Swing/ Contact %: 35.7/ 61.2
Z-Swing/ Contact %: 60.8/ 79.4

O-Swing/ Contact %: 26.5/ 54.5
Z-Swing/ Contact %: 67.3/ 80.9

Carp and Wells are nearly indistinguishable players with similar problems. It's encouraging and discouraging news all at once. On the one hand Carp showed fans last year what a player with contact issues and poor plate discipline can do, and on the other there are doubts that a player with contact issues can withstand fluctuating year-to-year. What does this mean for Wells? As the player he is today, Wells is a probably a secondary piece with the ceiling of a starter. It's intriguing, I would like to see more of Wells, because the sample we have now simply isn't enough. We've seen the red hot, and we've seen the ice cold, but I'd like to see a the medium. Given enough at-bats, it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to expect a 260/325/470 slash line with 20 HRs out of Casper this season.

The dynamic of this team still has so many questions. As it stands right now, this is going to be a very large, crazy cycle between 1B, DH, LF, and C, and the majority of the juggling will be to get Montero and Carp into the line-up. But the team shouldn't forget Wells. They have to be wondering what they have as much as I am.

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