Oh, Wells. I wrote this on April 6 2011 in a Halos Heaven postgame thread: "Wells will be fine..." fully in anticipation of a second half turnaround. And guess what! He really wasn't bad last year, in the end. He was horrific! Plate appearance after plate appearance I would hope and ever so slightly wince in anticipation of Vernon giving us something... anything... But he hit like he was visibly wearing his 20+ million dollars contractually owed in a suitcase chained to his wrists. At the ripe old age of 32, Vernon hit 25 homers but batted .218 with a .248 OBP. By nearly all measurements, it was the worst offensive season of his career. Wells is under contract for 3 more years at a cost of over 60 million dollars. I could go on, but writing these sentences is stressing me out.So, what can we* expect out of Vernon Wells for 2012? Allow me to put on my optimist hat (I'm seeing a bowler/derby type) and skip down gumdrop avenue for a brief moment. Vernon Wells was the 'unluckiest' hitter in the majors last year. Since 2000, there has only been ONE qualified player with a BABIP lower than the .214 Wells posted in 2011. That dubious honor falls to Aaron Hill with a ridiculous .194 BABIP posted in 2010 with the Blue Jays. Basically, every time Vernon Wells made contact the ball would ricochet off the third base bag, off the home plate umpires face mask and into the pitchers mitt.** That's the kind of luck we're talking about!
*We know what Vernon Wells expects out of Vernon Wells... the simple matter of a .300/30/100 AVG/HR/RBI line. Easy!
**May, or may not have actually happened.
Now, at this juncture you might be all like, "hey, what about his peripheral stats... have you seen his declining walk rate and increasing strikeout rate??!!" And my response would be something like, "well, um, yeah..." There's no sugar coating (even on gumdrop avenue) such a sharp drop in plate discipline. It doesn't bode well for any meaningful recovery when coupled with his age 33-season (the notorious downslide of a professional's career). How much of his insanely low BABIP was down to luck or aging/skill decline/injury is a difficult question and I am unfortunately in no way qualified to answer it. However, we do know that Vernon started pressing when he couldn't find his mojo early on in 2011. And when you press and try to change your fortunes and get a streak going, it's very easy to forget to make the kind of adjustments you used to make... and consequently spiral. Spiral into a hitting hell. And have twitter reflect it.
So, a respectable projection ignoring terminal skill decline and mostly being injury free? There are a number of xBABIP calculators out there in the baseball blogosphere that can be found here, here and here. I played around with the Fangraphs one and got a number I would be happy with, based purely on the comparison of career stats and what Wells 'achieved' in 2011. A wRC+ of 112. Hooray! Wait, what does that actually mean... it means Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles. With similar profiles (low BB-rate, mediocre K-rate), in 2011 Jones posted a slash line of .280/.319/.466 with 25HR and 83RBI to get a wRC+ of 110. Ladies and gentlemen, that could be our 2012 Vernon Wells!
It's a new dawn in Halo Land. Because, Pujols! He should take some of the pressure off Wells. Hopefully Vernon Wells will take some of the pressure off Vernon Wells too (this is a good start). I'll still probably slightly wince during his first 100 AB's until we get the all-clear signal that he's going to be alright (or conversely sirens indicating he will not). But it's ok. Because, Pujols! And Trout! Angel fans can breathe a sigh of relief that the front office that got us into the contractual mess of Vernon Wells is not a part of the decision making process anymore. Hallelujah! The Angels should be fine. Wells will be fine in my opinion if he can put up numbers similar to 2011 Adam Jones. I'm too blessed to be stressed. I think. That is, until I quote myself quoting myself next year on why Wells will be fine again... Oh dear... I believe I have fallen into a Juan Rivera Wormhole...