Season in Review: John BuckBy
Just an off-season ago, John Buck inked a contract that would net the backstop $18 million over three years. Buck brought with him high expectations to the Marlins following his All-Star 2010 campaign. Those expectations have not been completely fulfilled, but he’s still been valuable to the team, posting a 2.2 fWAR as of Wednesday. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you John Buck.
While the drop in batting average and power are not what Marlins fans were hoping for this year, expectations based off last season were probably unfair to begin with. Built on a .335 BABIP, 2010 was a breakout (and very lucky) year for Buck. His slash line of .281/.314/.489 were all career highs entering this season. 2011 has not been as kind to Buck, and his (more luck-neutral) .271 BABIP is shown in his season’s line-
Compare the two sets of numbers, and you see a significant drop in both his slugging percentage and batting average. On the other hand, the on-base percentage actually increased. This can be attributed to a much-improved approach at the plate. In short, he is swinging less often and at better pitches when he does take his hacks. Furthermore, below are Buck’s swing % and o-swing % from 2010 as well as 2011. Swing % shows the total percentage of pitches a batter swings at, while o-swing % will tell you what percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside of the strike zone.
Year Swing % O-Swing %
2010 56.8% 40.2%
2011 49.9% 31.3%
For Buck, this has lead to a high OBP even while his other numbers have declined from last season. Micheal Jong also posted a nice article at Marlin Maniac going more in depth about the emergence of Buck’s newfound skill for getting on base.
Defensively, Buck is a bit below league average. Which, is to be expected from a 31-year-old playing the most taxing defensive position. He has allowed seventy-eight stolen bases, against seventeen baserunners caught stealing, which works out to 17.9% of runners thrown out. Looking at advanced defensive ratings, he fares not much better. According to FanGraphs’ defensive runs saved, Buck has cost the Marlins two runs more than league average.
Overall, you could call Buck’s season a disappointment, but that would just be ignorant. Rather, you’re better off calling his 2010 offensive statistics an aberration, built on the not-so-sturdy foundation of a .335 BABIP, and also the reward of playing within the hitter-friendly confines of the Rogers Centre in Toronto.
His significant improvement in terms of patience and plate approach has made him a valuable player, even when luck (BABIP) is not as friendly to him. Instead of disappointment, recognize that the John Buck of this season (and future seasons) is still a pretty decent player.