## Is Derrek Lee really declining?

Written by Joe Aiello, Posted in General

Many people, especially here at VFTB, do not like Derrek Lee. They think that he is declining, they think that he isn’t as good as Micah Hoffpauir (or even Jake Fox), they think he should he traded, they think he should just be released, etc.

But the overall trend in the posts and comments here are that Derrek Lee is on a downward spiral, so I decided to take a look.

I looked at the following numbers, after taking out any season where he didn’t see 500 plate appearances, including this season.

Year | wOBA | EQA | WARP | RC/G | OPS+ |
---|---|---|---|---|---|

1998 | 0.323 | 0.292 | 2.3 | 4.4 | 96 |

2000 | 0.372 | 0.291 | 4.1 | 6.4 | 124 |

2001 | 0.351 | 0.284 | 4.7 | 5.6 | 112 |

2002 | 0.375 | 0.306 | 5 | 6.6 | 131 |

2003 | 0.381 | 0.308 | 6.54 | 7.1 | 131 |

2004 | 0.367 | 0.285 | 4.3 | 6.3 | 117 |

2005 | 0.446 | 0.344 | 7.4 | 10.7 | 174 |

2007 | 0.391 | 0.299 | 4.9 | 7.6 | 131 |

2008 | 0.360 | 0.279 | 5.2 | 5.6 | 110 |

And here is the above data in graph form so that we can easily look at what kind of trends exists in Lee’s performance:

Interesting… what I see is a huge outlier in 2005, and other than a pretty steady performance trend. So lets take out the 2005 season, and see what we get:

Now the picture becomes a little more clear. As we take out his injured years and partial seasons, and his obvious outlier year of 2005, we see a fairly consistent and obvious trend of similar performances each year.

Now I already know that people will complain that I left out his numbers this year. And Derrek Lee has obviously struggled this year, so much so that his numbers this year look like as much of an outlier as his numbers in 2005 did, but in the opposite direction. Derrek Lee currently has 103 plate appearances this season, so the first obvious caveat when looking at his 2009 numbers is that we are still looking at a small sample size. The second obvious caveat is that he is and has been battling a back injury. The back injury, to me, is much more concerning than any alleged “downward trend.” But if Derrek Lee can get and stay healthy, I expect him to continue to produce at a similar level as has in the rest of his career.

Of course, there is one more thing to look at concerning Lee’s 2009 season so far. He currently is sporting a .263 BABIP (batting average on balls in play). This is low, and is almost assuredly not sustainable when you look at the rest of his career. The average BABIP in baseball hovers around .300, but Lee’s career BABIP is .325. Basically this means that has been significantly less “lucky” than he has been over his career, and that you can expect this number to regress (or in this case… progress) to the mean. When it does, we can also expect Lee’s overall number to “progress” to the mean.