Wood, Coghlan Flailing

What do Angels third baseman Brandon Wood and Marlins left fielder Chris Coghlan have in common? They share the sordid distinction of posting the worst weighted on base averages in their respective leagues (minimum 50 plate appearances). Wood, 25, trails all AL hitters with a .197 wOBA in 81 trips to the plate. The 24 year-old Coghlan, last year’s NL Rookie of the Year, brings up the rear in the senior circuit with a .206 wOBA in 96 PA. What’s going on here?

Wood scuffled in a small amount of playing time with the Angels from 2007-2009, batting .192/.222/.313. Pitchers carved him up, as Wood walked just three percent of the time and posted a sub-70 percent contact rate (80-81% MLB average). Still, it seemed premature to write off the Angels’ 2003 first-round pick as a bust. With Chone Figgins Seattle-bound, Wood had a good chance to take over third base. ZiPS, the FANS and CHONE all projected a mild performance for Wood in 2010:

ZiPS: .244/.300/.422, .316 wOBA
FANS: .254/.311/.445, .327 wOBA
CHONE: .246/.309/.453, .330 wOBA

At this point, L.A. and fantasy owners alike would be downright giddy if Wood could come close to those numbers. A .245 BABIP hasn’t helped, but he has been bad by any measure. He’s batting .179/.200/.231, and he’s hacking prodigiously. In posting a 2.5 percent walk rate and whiffing 30.8 percent, Wood has chased 41 percent of pitches thrown outside of the strike zone (27% MLB average). The righty batter is down in the count before you can say “Francoeur”: Wood’s 67.9 first pitch strike percentage is slightly more than 10 percentage points above the big league average. Swinging at junk so often, Wood hasn’t made much loud contact. His Isolated Power is .051.

Coghlan, meanwhile, looks at Wood’s ISO with envy. The lefty batter has yet to post an extra base hit this season. That’s right: you have the same ISO as last year’s Rookie of the Year, .000. While he wasn’t a power hitter in ’09, Coghlan posted a .321/.390/.460 triple-slash (.372 wOBA). The projection systems figured that he would regress somewhat this season (his batting average on balls in play was .365), but his bat looked comfortably above average:

ZiPS: .287/.358/.413, .345 wOBA
CHONE: .296/.371/.434, .357 wOBA
FANS: .300/.379/.422, .359 wOBA

Instead, Coghlan is slashing .182/.242/.182. While he isn’t struggling to control the zone as much as Wood, Coghlan’s plate discipline has also been poor.

During his award-winning season, Florida’s ’06 supplemental first-round pick swung at just 20.9 percent of pitches out of the zone, walking 9.4 percent. This season, his O-Swing is up to 34.8 percent and his walk rate is down to 7.3 percent. Coghlan’s K rate has climbed from 15.3% to 27.3%, and his first pitch strike percentage is 62.5% (57.3% in 2009). Considering Coghlan’s showing in 2009 and his history of controlling the zone in the minors (11.8 BB%, 13.1 K%), it’s surprising that he suddenly resembles a raw rookie.

Lunging at pitches that he normally takes, Coghlan has chopped the ball into the ground 52.4 percent this year, up from 47.6 percent in ’09. His BABIP is just .250, but Coghlan has popped the ball up 21.4 percent in 2010, compared to 7.1 percent the previous season (the MLB average is around 11 percent). Those infield flies are near-automatic outs.

Wood has lost just about all of his supporters in fantasy leagues (owned in four percent of Yahoo leagues), while Coghlan has retained some good will from his 2009 campaign (43 percent). For the rest of the season, ZiPS projects a .237/.291/.400 line from Wood (.305 wOBA) and a .275/.345/.391 (.332 wOBA) performance from Coghlan.

It’s hard to recommend Wood at this point, but Coghlan could be a decent buy-low option in deep mixed leagues and NL-only formats. Given his track record, it seems unlikely that he suddenly, permanently forgot how to tell a ball from a strike.

A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at david.golebiewski@gmail.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.

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