Apr 1, 2013; Bronx, NY, USA; Boston Red Sox shortstop Jose Iglesias (10) reaches on an infield single allowing a runner to score during the second inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The Jose Iglesias Illusion

Jose Iglesias has always fit the all-glove, no-bat stereotype.  That is, until this year. Iglesias has reached new heights in his offensive game, evidenced by his torrid .434 batting average in sixteen games. Heck, he even hit a home run on one of baseball’s biggest stages just last night (against a pretty darn good pitcher in Kuroda at that). Some will be quick to believe in the progress at the plate made by the young Cuban. And trust me, I want to believe in that tangible improvement as much as anyone else. Iglesias has absolutely brought a spark to a team that had a virtual black hole at third for the first two months of the season. Furthermore, watching him field grounders is worth the price of admission alone, and any improvement with the bat could make him a legit all-star threat. But, if you take a closer at the numbers, you will realize that Iglesias’ offensive outburst is more ephemeral than sustainable.

Last year, Pedro Ciriaco took Red Sox Nation by storm, hitting over .300 for the bulk of his 2012 campaign (finished at .293) and produced a myriad of memorable moments against the Yankees (a near automatic assurance that he won’t have to buy a drink in Boston for any time soon). Today, Ciriaco stands as a shell of last year’s offensive hero, hitting just .239 (although he is posting a much higher walk rate this season). What changed? It may seem like a copout, but it really just boils down to Ciriaco’s loss of good fortune. Ciriaco’s BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) last year: 352. This year: .278. Despite Ciriaco’s peripherals remaining relatively constant from previous seasons, Ciriaco suddenly became a much better player just because some extra balls graciously falling in.

What does Ciriaco have to do with Iglesias? Simple. After observing both of their numbers, it becomes more and more apparent that Iglesias resembles Ciriaco 2.0 rather than any sort of realistically improved hitter. Yes, Iglesias has produced thus far and that cannot be taken away from him. But when one hovers around the Mendoza line in Triple-A for twice as many games as he has played in a Sox uniform, it is extremely difficult to honestly trust the bat.  Then, when one sees the completely unsustainable .512 average on balls in play and the well below average line-drive percentage of 14.3% (league average at 20%), common sense begins to show that Iglesias as a hitter hasn’t changed; only his luck.

May 27, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox short stop Jose Iglesias (10) rounds second base during the second inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Could Iglesias have had an experience that allowed everything to “click” once he made it to the majors? Sure, it’s possible. But for now, the numbers show that Iglesias has hit .244/.296/.292 in over 900 PAs at Triple-A, numbers that speak far louder than any sixteen game sample size in the Majors should.

I have my opinion on Iglesias’ stick. What about you?

Is Jose Iglesias' bat for real?

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Tags: Jose Iglesias

  • Conor Duffy

    Obviously, Iglesias’s .434 batting average is largely produced off luck. However, there are tangible improvements with his plate approach. He has shortened up his swing, not swinging at breaking balls in the dirt as much, and he has noticeably added strength with some more bulk to his frame. He isn’t going to keep hitting over .434, that’s ridiculous. At this rate, I can certainly see him hitting near .300 (because of his hot start) over the course of the season.

    • Aidan Flynn

      Conor, I still think improvement is minimal at most. I have seen quite a few of Iglesias’ hits being infield dribblers, bloops, and balls just out of fielder’s reach. Additionally, he is striking out more, walking less, and has seen his LD% drop in just the last year. Could he still hit over .300 by season’s end? Sure, but the point of this was to inform that Iglesias’ .434 average was more mirage than true talent.

  • John Fahrer

    Almost certain he’ll eventually return to being what he was. Still might be worth to keep him on as the starting 3B and send Middlebrooks down and ride the hot streak while it lasts. Wouldn’t surprise me if the Sox have already determined that he’s more likely to be a backup in the long term. Chances are it’ll at least be his job to lose at the start of 2014. Just depends where Bogaerts is by then. There’s many who believe he can hold down the starting SS role for at least a couple of seasons before a move to 3B or LF.

    • Aidan Flynn

      John, I’d probably also keep him up for now given Middlebrooks’ current issues at the plate. The glove is undoubtedly special, and in my opinion, is good enough that could merit a starting job on that alone. Based on what I have heard, Bogaerts will eventually shift to a new home (although he could spend a couple of seasons early on holding his own at SS), meaning Iglesias is still likely the long-term guy (either him or Marrero).

  • Rick M

    It’s luck? Hope he buys a lottery ticket. You ride that pony as long as you can and if he ends up around .250 with that glove you have a SS.

    • Aidan Flynn

      Rick, I hope he’s more than serviceable as a hitter too. He would be an annual all-star talent if he could just be average.My point is, the gains assumed with his .430+ average are likely overblown considering all the supporting evidence (.244 average in AAA, still well below-average LD%, unsustainable average on balls in play) suggesting he’s basically the same hitter.

      • Rick M

        Did you catch Eck last night? Essentially said the same thing I did as have many others. You hit .250 you stay at SS on a regular basis. If he fades let’s just see if he stays at that .250 level. He sinks then you make a decision. Right now he is doing smart in his AB’s.

        What is important now is the confidence factor. What the next important step will be is the adversity factor. What happens when he does an 0-21?

        • Aidan Flynn

          Yeah and I agree that you ride the hot hand for now (not like Middlebrooks was producing anyhow). I just think his current rate of production (or even a level of a .300 BA) is unsustainable over the long run. Also, I agree that when he does hit that slump, his personal reaction will be pivotal. Not only that, but also his management by team personnel. I live in PA and Domonic Brown was jerked around so much that I firmly believe it cratered his potential for many years. It’s a delicate situation that hopefully, this year’s staff will be able to handle when the time comes. Thanks for the comments!

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