Gary Roberts Wednesday – Eric Hinske

Title: Gary Roberts Wednesday – Eric Hinske
Date: May 7, 2008
Original Source: The On Deck Circle
Synopsis: ODC writer Stu had a weekly feature spotlighting an under-appreciated player, and when he couldn’t turn one in for this week, I stepped to the plate to lend support to Stu and, of course, my man Eric Hinske.

Stu is without internet right now, so I’m pinch hitting for Gary Roberts Wednesday this week. And it couldn’t be better timing – Eric Hinske is in town, and he mashed up the Blue Jays again last night. We all know of my affinity for Hinske, and how I saw all of this coming.

Hinske’s place has been solidified in the GRW annals because he is the victim of a quick start to his career. Yes, Hinske is a former American League Rookie of the Year. He won the award in 2000 with the Jays when he put up 24 HR and 84 RBI. Hinske quickly became a pseudo-fan favorite in Toronto, with ladies loving him (see his commercial from a few years back), casual baseball fans liking him for winning the award, and serious baseball fans writing it off as a lucky win in a bad rookie class.

Hinske would never match the aggregate numbers he put up in 2000. His rate numbers and skill indicators, however, hardly changed. The evidence is there – though I refuse to look at anything negative about my boy – that Hinske’s skills are right where they were in his rookie season.
 More after the jump!
The knocks against Eric have been his mediocre fielding, his high strikeout rate, and the fact that even I could strike him out with a 2-strike count. To those criticisms, I say he plays five positions (1B, 3B, LF, RF, DH), he has a decent OBP and OPS each year, and I’m not a Major League pitcher.

This article isn’t going to take the tone of my previous Hinske pieces. Everyone knows by now that GRW is to be taken very seriously, so I won’t talk about Hinske’s future exploits in hyperbole.
No, I won’t do it because the statistics speak for themselves.

So far this season, Hinske is batting .289 with 7 homers and 16 RBI. He also has 7 doubles, a triple, and 3 stolen bases. All of this comes in just 90 at bats, too. As for his downfall? Well, he has struck out 15 times, yes, but this is a much slower pace than his entire career and would have him on pace for well under the 100 K benchmark at season’s end. He’s also walked 16 times, giving him a positive BB:K ratio and leaving his OBP at a very respectable .396. His OPS, to elaborate even more, is 1.018, and his OPS+ (a statistic used to measure his worth compared to league averages) is 182, meaning he is performing 82% better than the average similar player.

Obviously, Hinske is going to cool off. His average has dropped from .327 the last time he played the Jays (late April), his contact rate is unusually high, and his HR/Fly Ball rate is above average. His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is also above his career averages. All of this suggests that his average, OBP, and OPS will probably all slow down.

They won’t slow down, however, to a level that makes him a valueless player. Looking at Hinske’s career numbers when given adequate playing time makes one think maybe Hinske’s talent is for real. After all, he was a hot-shot prospect early in this decade. Hinske is definitely capable of .270-20-75 in that Tampa Bay lineup, and he has added value in his 10 SB potential and his ability to play all over the field.

If, at season’s end, you look at the .270/.365/.475 that Hinske puts up and you tell me you wouldn’t want him in your lineup as an everyday utility player, I will call you a liar. Eric Hinske himself may also punch you in the face, scream at you (post-strikeout only), and break a bat over his knee and stab you with the remains. These are all intangibles Hinske brings to a club.

It is both a mystery and a shame that Hinske is written off as a bad player unworthy of playing time. He really shouldn’t be getting his own GRW column. Instead, he should be getting Eric Hinske Blog Day (coming soon, hosted by The ODC, of course). Eric Hinske deserves your respect.

And when he’s in New York later this year for the All-Star Game…you’re going to give it to him, or he’s going to kill you.

Inside the Numbers
2000 – Rookie of the Year
1 – Big Fan
40 – Cost of his jersey while still a Jay
36 – Current home run pace
1 – 5th place AL MVP vote if the season ended today
1 – his rank on the Jays in HR, extra base hits, and OPS

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