I get fed up with Evan Gattis as much as the next guy (or gal). With runners on, he presses. He swings and misses at low-and-outside pitches Jose Altuve couldn’t handle. He is a defensive liability. His beard is more creepy than cool.
(There, I said what we’ve all been thinking about that beard.)
I’m going to defend Evan Gattis. Burn me in effigy if you must. Pelt me with rocks and garbage. Wish me six more weeks of winter. Call me a homer with rainbow-colored glasses. But I believe we got more value out of Evan Gattis than most of us think. And I believe he’s primed for a pretty good (not great) 2016.
Let’s start with the basics. Last season Gattis slashed .246/.285/.463 (that’s a .748 OPS) with 27 HRs and 88 RBIs. I know, he also had the second-most ABs. But still, that’s a lot of value from a guy.
While his counting stats — HRs, RBIs — were at career highs, his rate stats were a mixed bag. But in a good and promising way.
Over his career, his 162-game average slash line is .250/.296/.476 for an OPS of .772. But every season before that was better. 2015, rate-wise, was really a low-water mark for Gattis.
Contributing to his low OBP in 2015 was his low walk rate of 4.96 percent. The good news, though, was his K-rate. Gattis whiffed at “just” a 21.02 percent clip. And that’s the bad news. Because …
What we’re really looking at is the Tale of Two Gattises. (Gattisi? Gatti? How do you pluralize “Gattis”?) Looking at pre-All Star Break Gattis, we had a slash of .241/.268/.444 for an OPS of .712 with 15 HRs and 54 RBIs in 86 games. His BB-rate was 3.55 percent and his K-rate was 23.46 percent.
Post ASB, (67 games) his slash was .252/.307/.488 for an OPS of .794 with 12 HRs, 34 RBIs, a respectable 6.90 percent walk rate and a very respectable 14.05 percent whiff rate.
The slash numbers for the second half were much more in line with his career numbers. In his first two seasons, his walk rate was more like 5.5 percent, K-rates were even higher than his first half.
One thing to remember about Gattis is his circuitous route to the majors. He’ll be 30 this August. But this is only this 4th year in the majors. He was out of baseball for a few years then had an abbreviated Division II experience in college. Very likely, it’s only just beginning to come together for El Oso Blanco.
I don’t expect him to repeat a 14 percent K-rate all 2016, but a sub-20 percent rate is very possible. And I don’t expect him to become an eagle eye at the plate, but a walk rate above 6.0 is quite possible. Combine that with his power and (despite chasing some low curveballs) an improved contact rate (look it up, it’s what’s all behind that second half), and Gattis may be looking pretty good in 2016. Which shouldn’t be surprising. Because …
In 2015, he was fairly AL Average for a DH. His OPS was right in the middle, tying the No. 8 team OPS of .748. His 88 RBIs were seventh. His 119 Ks were eighth. Of course, his 27 HRs made Houston’s total the fourth best in the AL. And, of course, Houston’s DHs (it’s all Gattis) led the league in triples.
So, here are the questions I have.
1. Am I crazy?
2. If Gattis performs a lot closer to post ASB Gattis, will you join my bandwagon?
3. Against righties, Preston Tucker posted an OPS of .808 with just 52 Ks and all 13 HRs in 235 ABs. Against righties, Gattis posted a .775 OPS (91 Ks, 20 HRs, 368 AB) and a .698 OPS (28 Ks, 7 HRs in 198 ABs) vs. lefties. I won’t mention Tucker against lefties.
Do you want a DH platoon with Tucker and Gatti? Even if that meant Tucker is the fourth OF, and Jake Marisnick is sent to Fresno?
4. Tyler White, Matt Duffy, John Singleton: All and more are potential DH candidates who basically lack MLB experience, meaning they could be breakout stars or, despite AA and AAA success, they could be Brett Wallace. Are you willing to roll those dice?