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.

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

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?