Placido Polanco started off the 2011 season in a great way. He was the best Phillies hitter in the month of April, even earning the MVP for that first month by many bloggers and reporters. He hit .398/.447/.524 in his first 26 games, and drove in 19 runs while striking out just five times.
But we all know what happened next. It was as though he simply fell off a cliff with no warning, as he quickly became one of the Phillies worst hitters in the month of May. He hit .248/.289/.294 in 28 May games, and struck out more (11) than he had RBIs (10).
He was bound to bounce back, right? Wrong. Things didn’t get any better for Polanco for the rest of the year, as from June to September, he posted a .241/.310/.284 slash line, again having more strikeouts (28) than RBIs (21).
He was even demoted in the batting order at times, as he recorded 93 plate appearances in the bottom of the order by the time the season was over.
The big question is why? How could he have such outstanding numbers in the first month only to have terrible numbers for the rest of the year? What could cause such pendulum swing?
One answer, my friends, lies within the numbers–but not ones that you are used to. As I stated above, back in April he hit .398/.447/.524. But those numbers are deceptive. In the same month, his BABIP was very high at .402, which could be explained by his high line drive percent, which was 26.3%, nearly 4% higher than his career average. What this means is that he was on a hot streak, as he was seeing the ball well and making good contact.
Surely he was “due”, as baseball guys like to say, to have a drop off in numbers in the coming months. As his BABIP numbers decrease, so do his batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage numbers.
Obviously BABIP is not the only factor, so I dug a little deeper. In April, he was seeing 49.25% fastballs. Pitchers seemed to adjust, as he saw 47.75% in May, and 42.55% for the rest of the year, excluding his handful of games in July where he almost saw only fastballs.
Another factor, that cannot be concretely proven by numbers, is a possible injury. He spent time on the DL with a back injury. As a person who’s dealt with a back injury from playing baseball, I can tell you that every baseball move you make–whether it be swinging a bat, fielding a ground ball, or making a throw–is affected greatly by the injury, making it nearly impossible to do them at one hundred, or even ninety or eighty percent. We’ll never know how much his injury really affected him.
And that’s the story of 2011 for Polanco, how he and his potato-shaped head ended up hurting the Phillies more than any of us expected. His early hot streak–that turned into to a season-long slump caused by seeing different pitches along with an injury that probably held him back–gave Phillies fans a false hope that he would be the best pure hitter in the lineup.
All in all, I give Polanco a D. It wasn’t quite a failure, but he didn’t perform up to expectations and dragged the Phillies offense down. You could even make a case that he was the LVP over Raul Ibanez, but that’s unfair. Raul is proud of that award.
Here’s to hoping Polanco comes back next year and makes 2012 a helluva lot better than 2011, because the Phillies are, after all, stuck with him. And as evidenced with Ibanez last year, he will indeed be the starter, regardless of his play. Maybe.
And with that, I ask you guys: What grade would you give Placido Polanco’s 2011 season?