Figures don't lie, but liars figure. I guess that makes me a liar, because I figured the hell out of Ben Revere.
When the Phillies traded for Ben Revere in January, you had to figure he would be a centerpiece for the organization for years to come. The potential was sky high. He hit .294 in 2012, stole 74 bases over the last two seasons, was tied for 3rd last season with 9 bunt hits, and played a mean centerfield.
Suffice it to say that the start to Revere's Phillies career won't have anyone printing any Wall of Fame plaques. Revere is hitting .211 with one extra-base-hit and 7 runs scored in 18 games. Odds are he is just in a slump and maybe batting leadoff for a new team in a new league was too much for him. That might be the case, but what he is hitting is not as worrisome as how he is hitting.
Everyone and their grandmother knows that Ben Revere has not hit a big league homer, so it is safe to say Mike Schmidt's home run record is safe. A better comparison is with Juan Pierre, who doesn't work many walks but makes up for it by slapping hits through open spaces. So far, though, Pierre is looking like Babe Ruth compared to Revere.
Not only is Revere not getting extra-base hits, but he is barely getting the ball out of the infield. Out of his 56 balls in play, only 12 of them, 21.4%, have left the infield. That is not too much of a surprise considering his career rate is 31.7%, but this is where the stats can lead you down a bad path if you aren't careful. I took Ben's 68.3% ground ball rate as the sign of a player who understands where his bread is buttered and knows he must utilize his speed. Surely, this would be the season where he started to refine his approach and drive the ball. Right?
Wrong. In the reality of a harsh 2013 season, Revere has an extraordinary ground ball rate of 78.6%. Once again, the problem is not so much that he hits so many grounders, but how he is dong so.
His ground ball rate coincides with his misleadingly high contact percentage. Revere entered the season with a 92.6% contact rate which towered above the league average of 79.7%. Those numbers generally indicate a player with terrific bat control and a great eye. Instead, he might be making consistent contact because his swing is little more than a swinging bunt.
Here is the reason why teams pay these guys called scouts. A scout would have noticed that Revere is making extremely weak contact. A good example is that Revere has grounded out to a drawn-in third baseman on multiple occasions. Not only have third basemen been able to field the balls despite little reaction time, but they do so as routine plays.
The strikeouts have also piled up. Revere ranked 3rd in the AL in 2012 with 9.5 at-bats per strikeout. This year, he has been striking out once every 5.9 at-bats and is on a pace for 108 strikeouts.
Even more alarming is that his approach at the plate is unchanged. Revere talked openly about drawing more walks and seeing more pitches. Well, his walk rate is the same as his already low career rate of 5.4% and his 3.54 pitches per plate appearance is actually lower than his career rate of 3.57. In fact, of the 10 Phillies with at least 30 plate appearances, Revere ranks dead last in pitches per plate appearance.
So what does this all mean?
As Wheels always says, no player looks good when he is making right turns. The possibility exists that Revere is simply in a slump. Maybe it is just a mechanical glitch as Revere seems to think. “I lost my swing for a little bit,” Revere admitted. “I was just struggling. I was seeing the ball good, it’s just that my swing was so messed up.”
Or it could be the transition into a new league. “There was a little adjustment period,” Revere said. “A lot more off-speed I’ve been seeing lately. I can hit the off-speed pitches."
Whether it be a bad swing or a new league, a slump messes up all the numbers. You would like to think that if he isn't getting hits that he would display more patience, but it sometimes can go the other direction. As you can see from the chart, his stats are so bad they must be from a slump.
Ben Revere's 2013 Splits
Of course there is also the fear that Revere cannot, and will not, become the player we envisioned. Sometimes liars figure, or, more appropriately, sometimes fans hope. I know I am not alone in hoping that this would be the year he finally put it all together - the stats provided an indication of what he could be rather than a statement on exactly who he is.
We have reached a fork in the road for Ben Revere. On the first path, Revere continues to hit well, makes good contact, and rarely strikes out. He begins to drive the ball, hits a few more gappers, takes more pitches, and draws more walks. On this path Revere becomes the ideal leadoff hitter and scores 100+ runs every season.
On the other path, Revere never improves from where he was entering the season. He gets his fair share of hits and rarely strikes out, but he continues to have quick at-bats, doesn't walk, and displays no power. On this path Revere bats seventh or eighth and is more or less a defensive player.
We won't know which path to expect until he hits his way out of this "slump." But by the all-star break, the path might already be set in stone.
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