Elvis Andrus Is Still The Rangers' #2 Hitter, For Now

I've been at work the last two nights, so I've missed all but one inning (which I happened to catch, luckily, on one of the TVs while no one was gambling at my table) of the Rangers-Angels series that's currently going down in Orange County. To make up for my absence, I'll be at the game in Anaheim tomorrow to see Yu Darvish pitch. Woo hoo!

But this isn't about me. 

The Elvis Andrus Shouldn't Be Hitting Second noise has grown louder since I wrote about him earlier in the week, with one of D-FW's powerhouse beat writers -- Evan Grant -- now beginning to question something that's been in the back of most our minds for quite awhile: That the Rangers would probably be better off with a different #2 hitter. 

Grant writes:

His two strikeouts left him 1-for-23 (.043) with men in scoring position this season and hitless in his last 21 such at-bats dating to April 5. The new twist was the strikeouts. In previous RISP at-bats, he’d at least made contact and moved the occasional runner. To finish things off, he grounded into a game-ending double play as the tying run.

The RISP slump is just part of a larger funk that has grown exponentially over the last 10 days, dating to the Rangers’ trip to Oakland. Andrus is now 4-for-44 (.091) over his last 11 games. He has as many double-play grounders in that stretch as hits.

Elvis has been abysmal of late, but I'm still convinced this is entirely a small sample size issue. Let's first consider the facts:

(1) His 8.5% walk rate is right on par with his career 8.2% walk rate.

(2) His 13.1% strikeout rate is right on par with his career 13.4% strikeout rate.

(3) His line drive percentage (23.2%) is higher than his career LD% (21.6%); Elvis is hitting the ball harder in 2014 than any season of his career; 2011 was essentially the same (23.1%), and that year he ended up hitting .279/.347/.361 (93 wRC+).

So if he's walking and whiffing at the same rates as the rest of his career, and if his contact is more solid now than it's ever been, that can only leave one real reason why it isn't being reflected in the stat sheet: BABIP.

In the most prolific offensive season of Elvis Andrus's career, he batted .286/.349/.378 (97 wRC+). His BABIP that season was .332. And it makes sense, since, you know, Elvis Andrus has plus speed. Guys with good wheels generally always carry higher BABIPs than those without. 

So when I tell you Elvis is hitting .217/.283/.287 (55 wRC+) so far this year, it would be reasonable for me to opine that it's because his batting average on balls in play is a dreadful .245. Isn't that fair? His career BABIP of .314 is nearly 70 points higher than that. That's the type of stat that just screams being unsustainable. 

Evan Grant mentions his poor average with runners in scoring position (a product of a low BABIP), and those damn double plays (sorry, but Elvis is a contact hitter, and contact hitters ground into a lot double plays), and that all sounds really bad and scary. Because we feel the at bats with runners in scoring position more. And there isn't a baseball fan alive who likes when their team is grounding into double plays in those mythical "clutch" situations.

So I get it. Elvis Andrus has been really bad lately.

But if I'm being honest, I have less of an issue with his poor success at the plate than I do that now is the time we're legitimately hypothesizing on a more public level about moving Elvis down in the order. Andrus is not and has never been a threat in the box. Just because he's going through a slump of 50 or so plate appearances shouldn't be his ticket out of the two-hole; he should never have been there in the first place.


Update: Elvis Andrus batted 9th on Sunday, going 1-3 with a walk and a run scored.