KC Royals: Is Paulo Orlando Really This Good?
By John Viril
Can Orlando Really Finish The Season With a .412 BABIP?
But, can Paulo Orlando sustain a .412 BABIP for the rest of this season? A quick look at Fangraphs.com suggests that it is indeed possible. Setting the parameters to single seasons since 1920 with more than 500 plate appearances, you see that Babe Ruth (.423 in 1923), George Sisler (.422 in 1922), Rogers Hornsby (.422 in 1924), Ty Cobb (.416 in 1922), and Harry Heilmann (.414 in 1923) all enjoyed single seasons with a higher BABIP than Orlando.
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Notice, however, that every member of that top five occurred before 1925. Glove technology and fielding skill have improved greatly over the last 90-plus years. Yet, more recent players like Jose Hernandez (.404 BABIP in 2002), Manny Ramirez (.403 in 2000), and Ichiro Suzuki (.399 in 2004) show BABIPs pushing .400 aren’t impossible in today’s game.
So, yeah, Paulo Orlando could actually finish out the season with a similar slash line to his current .334/.358/.449. However, his BABIP is likely to decline by close to .70 points over the long term. By taking Orlando’s current stats and adjusting them for a BABIP of .350, we see that we can expect him to sustain a batting average around .287 with an OBP of .311. Those appear to be playable numbers, if his defensive metrics are sound.
Orlando’s defense is another question. Last season, Orlando was a strong defender both by the eye test and his Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) of 6.1 (6.1 runs better than an average outfielder). This season, Orlando’s defensive numbers in right field are slightly negative (UZR -0.8), but his strong recent play in center field (2.0 UZR in 181.2 innngs) has pushed his overall UZR to 1.2 for 2016.
The eye test corroborates these numbers in that he appears to take much better routes to the ball while playing in center than in right. At this point, I think the KC Royals field a stronger defense playing Orlando in center and Lorenzo Cain in right than the other way around. What was a temporary measure intended to reduce pressure on Lorenzo Cain’s recovering hamstring injury, should become the norm going forward into next season.
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The bottom line is that while Paulo Orlando is unlikely to hit in the high .300’s over the long term, he should be a playable outfield regular the next couple of seasons.