Taking a look at Emilio BonifacioBy
In a year that has been one part disaster and two parts mediocrity for the Marlins, Emilio Bonifacio has produced offense and provided speed on the base paths all season long. The author of a 3.0 fWAR, the young utility player has been one of the most productive and valuable players to the team. Let’s take a closer look at how he has done just that.
While he has been getting on base with some proficiency, no one has accused Emilio Bonifacio of being a power hitter. He has accumulated just four home runs in his career, three of which have come this season. However, this is only his fourth year in the Majors (fifth, if you want to count his eleven game stint with the Diamondbacks in 2007). This season, his through-Sunday slash line reads as:
The batting average is decent, so to is the on-base percentage, but the slugging is sub-par. For more proof about Bonifacio’s power (or lack thereof), he has a Isolated Power of but .090. At the moment, that is the 13th lowest of all qualified hitters. For reference, the ML average is .145 (Joey Bautista’s ISO is a whopping .322).
The low ISO (power) can be attributed to a high ground ball rate. Bonifacio puts it on the ground more than 52% of the time. Emilio also has one of the highest line drive rates this season. He checks in at 24.8%, among elite players such as Joey Votto, Andre Ethier, and Michael Young. This is most likely fueling Bonifacio’s astronomical .367 BABIP. To put that in perspective, the league average this year is about .290, and only Adrian Gonzalez, Michael Bourn, Alex Avila and Matt Kemp have higher a higher BABIP.
Over the course of a season, generally, players outperforming the .290-.310 benchmark generally regress towards the average, while players under performing that will usually see an improvement in their BABIP. This is the part about Bonifacio’s numbers that amaze me most. Through the first half of the season, he had a very high .360 BABIP. Then, instead of seeing that number take a sharp decline, Bonifacio’s batting average on balls in play actually improved, the result of a .374 second half BABIP. However, this is not unfamiliar territory for the 3rd baseman/outfielder. Throughout his career, Bonifacio’s batting average on balls in play has been rather inflationary; his career BABIP is .336.
However, his above average numbers in this statistic are not simply a case of favorable luck throughout his time in playing in the majors. Along with the LD%, a skill such as speed would allow players (such as Bonifacio) to beat out slow ground balls or even bunt for a hit, and thus resulting in a better-than-average BABIP. And speed is certainly not something Emilio Bonifacio is lacking.
As of Sunday, the speedy utility player has stolen thirty-six bases, and if he can continue at this pace for the remainder of the year, he could finish with upwards of forty against only 9 caught stealing. His talent for swiping bases is not a new development, in 2009 he stole twenty-one, and to put his speed into context, he also stole sixty-one bases his first year of professional ball. While he isn’t the second coming of Rickey Henderson, his base running has been valuable to the Marlins. According to Baseball-Refrence’s Rbaser stat, Bonifacio’s presence on the base paths has given the Marlins four more runs than an average player over the course of the season.
Emilio’s defense has also provided value to the Marlins this season. He doesn’t have the best range, or the strongest arm, but his versatility has turned out to be crucial this season. With Hanley and other players spending time on the disabled list during the 2011 campaign, Bonifacio’s ability to step in and play various positions around the diamond (and play them well) has certainly been appreciated by the manager throughout the past few years. This season alone, Emilio has seen considerable playing time in six 0f the nine positions, the three where he has yet to play being 1st base, pitcher, and catcher.
Overall, you get a solid everyday player who can help your team win games. Yes, his power is below average, but he also has shown he can hit for a decent average, get on base and make the most of his opportunities from there by stealing bases. His defense isn’t spectacular, but is above average, and his versatility in the field has made him a key part of the Marlins defense and especially valuable to the organization.