How did he get here? (flickr/Keith Allison)

As much as sabermetricians and the “old-school” like to see their work in the starkness of black and white, they’re both wrong. Everything is gray.

My task today is to write about Chris Getz. I can’t think of any player more polarizing than Getzie. Some fans (and managers) love the guy because he plays the game the right way. Other’s loathe him because the numbers paint the picture of a player who is well below league average.

It’s funny to listen to the self-proclaimed “Old Schoolers” insist that what makes Getz so great doesn’t show up in the numbers. I’m going to put on my wizard hat, warm up a Hot Pocket and prove that there are numbers out there that support the theory that there are things that Getzie does does well.

– He avoids the double play.

This seems strange for a guy who puts the ball on the ground 51% of the time in his career, but last summer Getz came to the plate 71 times with a runner on first and less than two outs. He grounded into exactly five double plays. That’s an average of just 7%. For perspective, the league average is around 11%. So Getzie is better than average by quite a bit.

But there’s probably a reason he hit into so few twin killings last year. It’s probably because there’s something else he does well…

– He can get a bunt down.

According to Baseball Reference, Getz attemted to sacrifice 16 times last year and was successful in 14 of those attempts. (To clarify, BR defines an unsuccessful attempt as bunting for a sacrifice and getting youself out. Attempting early in a plate appearance and then swinging away doesn’t count as a sac attempt. So it’s likely he attempted to sacrifice more than 16 times.) That puts Getz at an 88% success rate. Again, way above league average, which in this case was 69%.

– He can put the bat on the ball.

Believe me, this is huge. Getzie makes contact when he swings 90% of the time. It’s probably because he’s what I would call a patient hitter. While he doesn’t take a ton of walks, he doesn’t go up there hacking at the first pitch he sees, either. Last year, Getz swung at the first pitch just 15% of the time. To me, that’s an astonishing rate. Had he received enough playing time to qualify for the batting title, he would have had the seventh lowest rate in the American League for swinging at the first pitch. (JJ Hardy swung at the first pitch only 8% of the time last year. If you are a pitcher and throw him a ball out of the zone with your first pitch, you deserve the worst.)

I could be completely wrong here, but Getz seems like a cerbral guy. He approaches each plate appearance with a plan. Part of that plan includes getting as good a look as possible at the opposing pitcher. I’m guessing he’s looking at release point. Once he has that little tidbit, he’s ready to go to work. Of course, he’s hardly ever successful, but at least it’s a plan.

Fun fact: Chris Getz has been at the plate 54 times with the count in his favor 3-0. He has never once swung at the fourth pitch.

OK… I’ve written close to 600 words on Chris Getz and it’s all been praise. (You may bookmark this page for future reference. There is no guarantee this will be up past lunch. I am putting my blogger ID card in serious jeopardy.) It is possible to use numbers to show that Getz does have his strong points as a batter.

But fair is fair…

– He can’t get on base.

For a guy who supposedly can run fast and hit balls on the ground, Getz just can’t buy a hit. His BABIP last year was .288 which was up from the previous season’s .270. We say that a .300 BABIP is “average” but that’s painting with too broad a stroke. Everyone is different. And Getzie, who is a banjo-hitting, ground ball machine who doesn’t move as fast as everyone thinks, will never have a BABIP over .300.

I know there are those who are skeptical of the numbers, but in this case, you don’t need to read anything into the formula – Getz’s career .315 on base percentage sucks. Sucks. And in his two seasons with the Royals, it’s at .309 which sucks even more. It’s because he’s making contact (good) but he’s doing it with a spaghetti noodle for a bat (bad). I happen to fall into the category of those who feel that OBP is life. (If you didn’t realize this after all these years I can’t help you.) Getz simply cannot be a contributor to this team if he keeps his OBP that far beneath the league average. I don’t care how many sac bunts he lays down.

And for his “plan” at the plate, that doesn’t include taking a walk which is too bad. He reaches via the base on balls around 7% of all plate appearances. He doesn’t strike out a ton and doesn’t chase an obscene number of balls out of the zone, but this is a case where his skill – making contact – actually hurts. That leads me to a second negative…

– He can’t make decent contact.

Last year, Getzie’s percentage of plate appearances that went for extra bases checked in at 2.3%. Words can’t describe how abysmal that is. You want perspective? Juan Pierre hit for extra bases 3.2% of the time.

In the words of the immortal David St. Hubbins, that’s too much f***ing perspective.

I’ve also discussed this before, but it bears repeating… Even his line drives fail to impress. The conventional wisdom (and data) suggests the average major league hitter, bats around .750 when he puts the ball in play via the line drive. Last year, as a team the Royals hit .751 collectively when hitting a line drive. Of all the players on the team with at least 300 plate appearances, Getz’s .673 batting average on line drives was the worst rate by far. That simply shows his even his line drives are weak. There’s no other rational explanation for why his average for this type of contact is so low. Which leads to…

– Power? HA!

This isn’t exactly a newsflash. Getz doesn’t have any. Not even doubles. (I’m thinking Joey Gathright without the car jumping ability.) So if you believe that getting on base and hitting for a little pop every now and then (or at least finding the gap) is key to a decent offensive performer you’re going to have to find someone other than Getz to support. Among those with more than 400 plate appearances, his .032 ISO was dead last. His OPS+ of 68 speaks for itself. Again, we’re in Juan Pierre territory here. If you’re in a situation where you wish Chris Getz was as good at the plate as Juan Pierre… I can’t think of many worse things to have happen to a ball player.

Brutal.

And finally, just to throw something along the lines of common ground into the mix…

– He’s decidedly average with the glove.

Defensively, Getz grades out as average. His three year UZR/150 is 2.9, which isn’t spectacular, but it puts him solidly in the middle of the pack. Tango’s Fan Scouting report agrees with the average rating as well, giving Getzie a 49 score on a 80 to 20 range. My unscientific eye test has him as a reliable defender, who doesn’t make the spectacular plays, lacks plus range, but can get the outs on the balls hit within his area of influence. Last year, 93% of all balls in play that Getz fielded resulted in at least one out. Again, for second baseman, that’s right at the league average.

Look, Getz is what he is… the 25th man. I understand why managers and baseball personnel adore the guy. He does do the “little” things… If you think making outs are little things. But in this age of specialization, where teams have eight man bullpens, five man rotations and a limited bench, do you really want to make a place for a guy who’s biggest contribution is making an out on a sac bunt?

There’s no place to hide Getz in the lineup. Putting him in the lineup is making a statement that you’re playing for the single run and eschewing the big inning. Because if you have a rally going, the most you can expect from Getz is a “productive out.” Don’t get me wrong… There are rare times where a productive out can be a good thing. However, when you’re down by two in the fifth inning, that’s not one of those times. Jeff Parker at Royally Speaking plugged Getzie’s numbers since joining the Royals into Baseball Musings lineup tool to see how well a lineup of nine second base heroes would do. The answer… Ugh. They’d score less than three runs per game. But I suspect they’d lead the universe in sac bunts.

The Royals seem to be leaning toward Johnny Giavotella to open the season at second. That’s a good thing. I read on another blog that the choice the Royals will have to make is do they try to win now (Getz) or build for the future (Giavotella). If the Royals brain trust is even taking two seconds to figure this one out, may the ghost of Mr. Kauffman have mercy on our tormented baseball souls.