Aki's Slow Start

Akinori Iwamura is batting .187/.290/.271 with a .258wOBA through his first 128 plate appearances. He’s managed two home runs though, which tops his total from 2009 in less than half the playing time. It would be easy to write Iwamura’s slow start off as bad luck and nothing more, but it’s just really hard to find anything wrong with his numbers. Drawing a walk in 13% of his plate appearances is better than his career ratio and he’s actually striking out a little less often than normal. Even his .082 ISO isn’t too far off pre-established expectations.

Iwamura is hitting more groundballs than ever – about 55% in fact – and yet, his batting average on balls in play is a measly .207. The previous American low for Iwamura’s BABIP is .337 in 2008. About 4% of Iwamura’s hits have been of the infield variety. Again, that’s just not too far off from his norms. Everything just seems to come together and suggest that Iwamura is the victim of chance rather than the victim of a decaying – or perhaps deceased – skill set.

More interestingly is Iwamura’s defense. The sample size is ridiculously small – a little over 230 innings to date – but Iwamura has been worth -8.2 UZR and -9 DRS. That’s bad. Like, Yuniesky Betancourt looks good by comparison bad. It’s just so easy to take data like that and completely ignore granularity issues while trying to connect the dots. For instance, Iwamura did suffer a horrific knee injury roughly a year ago … maybe it affected his already pedestrian range?

The odds that Iwamura continues to be one of the league’s worst hitters and fielders are staggeringly low. Breathe easy, Pittsburgh.