Outfielder Jose Tabata has appeared in 40 games since being optioned to AAA Indianapolis. What has he been doing at the plate? Has he been doing well enough to be brought back up to Pittsburgh?
When Tabata first joined the Indians in July, he was clearly not pleased to be in AAA. He seemed to be making at best a half-hearted effort, and his play in the outfield made it look as if he just didn’t care. Clearly that kind of behavior is not good for Tabata, and it would not go over well with Indianapolis Indians’ manager Dean Treanor. To his credit, Tabata does seem to have snapped out of that mind-set. He has returned to the form that we remember from when Tabata was with the Indians in 2010.
Tabata spent 9 games with the Indians in 2011, but that was a 9-game rehab assignment. A better comparison would be his time with the Indians in 2009 and 2010, as he was on the rise in the Pirates’ minor league organization. Tabata spent most of 2009 with AA Altoona, but was promoted in the later part of the season, when he played in 32 games with the Indians. In 2010, Tabata began the season in Indianapolis, and played in 53 games before being promoted to Pittsburgh.
In 32 games in 2009, Tabata hit a solid .276 — not bad for a late-season promotion to AAA. His 2010 stint with the Indians had him hitting .308 in 53 games before being promoted. In his 40 games so far this season, Tabata has hit .301. It’s not all that simple, though. Of 37 hits in 2009, Tabata smacked 7 doubles, one triple, and 3 homers, with 10 RBI. That improved in 2010, to 69 hits and 13 doubles, 2 triples, and 3 homers, with 19 RBI. This year, Tabata has had 46 hits with the Indians, including 9 doubles, but no triples or home runs, and 15 RBI.
The other batting numbers are also telling. In 2009, Tabata had a SLG of .410, and that rose to .424 in 2010. This season with the Indians, Tabata has a SLG of just .359. Interestingly, it was even lower in his 72 games with the Pirates this season — a .230 batting average and a .341 SLG. His OPS has a similar trend: .744 as a AAA rookie in 2009, and .797 in 2001. This season with the Indians, Tabata’s OPS is .717, and it was .636 in his time with the Pirates.
Tabata’s walk rate has also dropped. In 2010, Tabata had a 9.1% walk rate and a 13.9% strikeout rate while in Indianapolis. In the past 40 games with the Indians, his walk rate has dropped to 5.5%, though he has also dropped his strikeout rate a bit, to 12.2%.
Here’s another way of looking at the difference: I pulled out my scorebooks from 2010, when Tabata was playing with the Indians. I make notations in my scorebook telling where hits went and some idea of how hard the ball was hit. Many of Tabata’s hits in 2010 are accompanied by notes saying “to the base of the wall”, and “off the top of the wall”, and “rocketed into left field”, and “sharp liner”. This year, though, there are very few of those notations. More of Tabata’s hits have “soft grounder” or “bloopy hit” written in. There are very few hits that I’ve noted because they have hit the outfield wall, either high up or at the base, and few that have been rocketed anywhere.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing to hit for average but not do a lot of power hitting. The confusing part is that Tabata has hit for power as well as average over the past few years, and now that power seems to be missing, and without any obvious reason. The Pirates may still recall Tabata after September 1st or after the Indians finish the playoffs, but without his previously shown power, he is not likely to see as much action.