Thanks to the great performances by the rotation and the new faces in the lineup, Brian Robert’s contributions to the offense have largely gone unnoticed. Not until the Yankees start struggling to put up runs will the attention focus on players’ poor numbers. While Roberts has manned second base admirably, and he’s had some quality at bats where he’s worked the count, the switch-hitter is batting just .220/.319/.271 in his first 70 plate appearances.
Over the last few years, the 36-year-old had a difficult time staying healthy. His lack of time on the field made him the bargain free agent that he was. The combination of injuries and aging have many fans wondering if Roberts’ talent is spent, and whether his days in baseball are numbered.
His early numbers have his BABIP sitting at .271, where his career BABIP is .310. His strikeout rate is slightly higher than normal, but as is his walk rate. Roberts’ patience at the plate has been one of the few highlights of his Yankee career thus far. Contact-wise, Roberts is hitting balls at exactly the same rate he did over his career, he owns a 23.4 LD% (career 23.1%), 38.3 GB% (career 38.0%), and 38.3 FB% (career 38.9%). While the batted ball rates are remarkably close, all line drives, ground balls, and fly balls are not created equally. His batting average on ground balls fall within the realm of his career numbers, .278 average in 2014 versus .254 in his career, and his fly balls also match his career stats, .176 average in 2014 versus a .175 average over his career. Roberts’ line drives have given him the most trouble, and he’s batting just .455 in 2014 versus his .702 career average.
We’re obviously working with a very small sample size of only 11 at bats where he hit line drives, but if they were falling in at his normal career rate, Roberts would have 3 more hits and his batting average would be a much more respectable .271. Of course, line drive averages can decline as injuries and age regress talent, and for players like Roberts, his line drives may not be as hard hit as they once were. Still, a .455 average on these hits is far too low to continue, and if he continues to play the way he is, a .260 batting average with about a .320 on base percentage isn’t out of the question.
The only way for Roberts to hit any better than this would be to hit for more power. While this can happen in Yankee Stadium, I wouldn’t count on a 36-year-old showing a considerable amount of increased power production simply by changing stadiums. Roberts has just two extra base hits this season, and that should be a much bigger factor to watch as we get to the month of May.