Time is running out for the Indians to decide whether or not to pick up Grady Sizemore’s option. The team has three days after the end of the World Series to choose between paying Sizemore $9 million in 2012 or giving him his $500,000 buyout and letting him test the free agent market. Unconscionable though it once was to think that Cleveland wouldn’t pick up his option, it’s likely (if not probable) that Sizemore will be suiting up for another team next year.
As everyone knows, the biggest question mark about Sizemore is whether or not he can stay healthy. In 2009, he suffered the first of what would turn out to be many injury problems, and the man who had missed just seven games in the preceding four seasons was limited to just 106 games. In 2010-11, he combined for just 104.
Even when he’s been on the field, he hasn’t looked quite like himself. His once-great plate discipline has gone downhill dramatically. Once formidable on the basepaths (he had 71 steals in 2007-8), he didn’t steal a single base this year, and the two-time Gold Glove winner has had three straight years of a negative UZR.
But Sizemore showed this year that he’s as good as he ever was in one aspect of his game: power.
A quick glance at Sizemore’s recent numbers might not suggest that he’s maintained his ability to hit the ball hard—he hit just 10 homers with 45 RBI over his last two (partial) seasons, putting him on pace for just 16 and 70 over a full season, respectively. Even his solid .422 slugging percentage this year was significantly below what he did in his peak.
But those aren’t the best means of judging a player’s raw power; some lesser-known statistics do a better job. For example, isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average, or total bases minus hits divided by at-bats) removes some of the bias toward contact hitters inherent in SLG. Check out Sizemore’s ISO’s by year:
He’s not where he was in his best years (he deserved the MVP in at least one of his 2006 and 2008 seasons) and he definitely wasn’t himself in 2010. But he was right in line with his 2005, 2007, and 2009 seasons, when he did pretty well for himself.
The rate at which a batter hits home runs is also quite telling about a player’s slugging abilities. Try these on for size:
The HR/AB numbers corroborate the ISO story, while HR/FB says 2011 was one of the most powerful seasons he’s ever had. It makes sense that he ranks relatively higher in the latter, as his plate discipline and contact skills have declined. When he manages to get his bat on the ball, it carries.
Along those same lines, we can look at Sizemore’s extra-base hit ratios—i.e., the proportion of hits he gets that are doubles, triples, or home runs. As it looks only at the proportion of hits, XBH/H doesn’t Sizemore for reaching base less frequently than he did earlier in his career like SLG (or, to a lesser extent, ISO).
You read that right—a higher proportion of Sizemore’s hits went for extra bases in 2011 than in any previous season. Don’t take these numbers directly at face value and say he’s actually more powerful than ever before, as XBH/H is actually a little bit biased towards low-contact hitters. But still, it’s clear that he’s still putting a pretty good charge into the ball when he makes contact.
Finally, we get to my personal favorite power statistic: Power Factor (isolated power minus batting average divided batting average, or extra bases per hit). It’s like XBH/H, but it weights each kind of extra-base hit differently. Again, it may be slightly biased towards low-contact hitters, but I think that effect is less than the advantage high-contact hitters have in SLG and ISO.
Again, Sizemore’s 2011 season rises to the top. He may not be hitting the ball as much as he used to, but when he does, he’s still hitting it with authority.
It should be noted that, while I think Sizemore’s 295 PA’s this year are enough to draw some conclusions, we should at least keep the relative smallness of the sample size in mind. I think we have enough information to feel reasonably confident that he’s still hitting the ball hard.
Sizemore isn’t the player he once was, and given his inability to stay on the field it might not be in the Indians’ best interest to keep him around. But whoever his employer is in 2012 should feel confident in knowing that he’s still got his pop.