Minor League Analysis: Pitcher's and Hitter's leagues

Last night, Drew Hutchison struck out eight hitters and didn't walk anybody in 6 innings, giving up 2 runs. After two unimpressive starts, that was certainly a good sign from the promising right-hander, who scouts have now picked up on and who will probably be on a lot of top 100 prospect lists. The reason is I thought he might continue to struggle despite being dominant in the Midwest League is that Hutchison is still young at 20, and the Florida State League is a comparatively good league for hitters to hit in this season. But "hang on", you'll say, "wasn't the Florida State League very much a pitcher's league"? Well, it does indeed have that reputation, but there seem to be significantly fewer FSL pitchers who are dominant this year than there are dominant MWL pitchers. I know, why not look at how different leagues' environments have changed over the years. Let's start with the total numbers for hitters in the Pacific Coast League, a known hitters' league:

Year AVG OBP SLG BB% K%
2011 .285 .358 .451 9.5 17.6
2010 .277 .348 .432 8.9 17.4
2009 .272 .341 .418 8.7 17.3
2008 .277 .348 .444 9.1 18.0

 

2011 has been a very good season for PCL hitters and a very bad one for PCL pitchers. One thing of note is that in 2011 the Portland Beavers are now the Tucson Padres. While the Padres play in what Statcorner sees as a fairly neutral PCL environment, the Portland stadium (one of the few at low altitude) was a pitcher's park relative to the PCL. Still, that's unlikely to be the only reason for the significant rise in production by PCL hitters. It's likely due to a good crop of hitters, a bad crop of pitchers or a little bit of both. Of note is also that while people always tend to think their grandmothers could hit .300 in the PCL, this doesn't actually seem to be true, unless a lot of people have grandmothers that would hit better than the average PCL hitter. Quick comparison with the other AAA league, the International League: IL hitters are hitting .260/.329/.402 this year. They hit .263/.330/.410 last year.

On to the Eastern League, home of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats:

Year
AVG
OBP
SLG
BB%
K%
2011
.259
.330
.394
8.6
19.7
2010
.259
.332
.397
8.8
18.8
2009
.258
.332
.385
9.1
18.2
2008
.264
.338
.403
9.3
17.9

 

While the Eastern League seems to be pretty consistent in terms of hitter's production levels, it has seen an accelerating rise in K%, while the BB% has steadily been going down. This does mean that Henderson Alvarez', Zach Stewart's and Chad Jenkins' K% are not only not very impressive, they are well below average. Of course, all the more credit to Travis d'Arnaud for being an offensive standout in a difficult league to hit in. And to Anthony Gose, Mike McDade and Moises Sierra for having career best years in a tough league this year.

Then there's the Florida State League, where the Dunedin Blue Jays play:

Year
AVG
OBP
SLG
BB%
K%
2011
.261
.333
.382
8.4
19.0
2010
.255
.324
.364
8.1
19.9
2009
.252
.322
.363
8.2
19.0
2008
.256
.329
.376
8.7
17.9

 

Looks like the Florida State League is more of a pitcher's league than the Eastern League, just look at how low those slugging percentages have been over the past few years. This year has been a relatively good year for hitters in the FSL, but they're still struggling to put up big power numbers. Good news for A.J. Jimenez: he's not the only one who isn't hitting for power much.

Over to Lansing's environment, the Midwest League:

Year
AVG
OBP
SLG
BB%
K%
2011
.249
.323
.370
8.7
21.0
2010
.257
.333
.384
9.0
20.5
2009
.256
.329
.373
8.7
20.1
2008
.252
.322
.371
8.2
20.3

 

Unlike in the Florida State League, hitters are having a pretty bad season in the Midwest League, although it's not extreme in any way. It's certainly not enough to dismiss Drew Hutchison's stellar performance back when he was in Lansing, or Sean Nolin's pretty impressive season (K% of 25.2). I found it interesting that Lansing has had the lowest average hitter's age in the league for three of those past four seasons (2010 being the exception). Jake Marisnick's level of performance is met by very few hitters of the same age (although if they do even better than Jake, they're probably promoted quickly).

In general, I think the idea of any one league being a consistent hitter's or pitcher's league is a bit flawed, because the quality of hitters and pitchers will differ significantly by year, and the Eastern, Midwest and Florida State Leagues aren't all that different hitting environments. As both hitters and pitchers grow older, the pitchers seem to lose a bit of their advantage. There is, of course, a large distinction between "altitude leagues" (PCL and CAL) and non-altitude leagues (the rest) and we should definitely keep that distinction in mind. But if someone's hitting as poorly as Hechavarria, or as well as d'Arnaud, they'd very probably hit poorly or great in other environments (facing the same age category) as well. In other words: "there's no excuse Adeiny, start hitting!"

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Bluebird Banter

You must be a member of Bluebird Banter to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Bluebird Banter. You should read them.

Join Bluebird Banter

You must be a member of Bluebird Banter to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Bluebird Banter. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker