By The Numbers: Matt Watson, OF

Split statistics can often tell the most compelling picture of how well a ballplayer really played. If his splits are outstanding in one area, they can often overshadow areas of weakness. From time to time, we will take a look at the split statistics of various Oakland A's minor leaguers to get a better handle on how they did in certain situations. In this article, we examine Matt Watson's splits from 2005 to see what kind of a hitter he might be if he makes the big league squad this season.

At the start of last season, Matt Watson appeared to be very much a forgotten man. After an outstanding 2004 season with Sacramento, Watson was given little chance to win a spot on the A's roster in 2005 and he appeared stuck behind a wave of A's outfielders on the depth chart. However, an outstanding start to his 2005 campaign coincided with injuries to the A's outfield depth chart, giving Watson a chance to play a little at the major league level in 2005. Although he didn't get a long look, Watson established himself as arguably the A's first option in AAA should they again have injuries to their outfielders.

Watson only had 48 very scattered at-bats with the A's in 2005, so it is hard to judge what kind of a ballplayer he would be based on his major league numbers. However, he logged more than 400 at-bats with AAA-Sacramento last season, more than enough for us to judge Watson's hitting abilities. We'll make a profile of Watson as an offensive player based on his splits from 2005:

Matt Watson, 2005 AAA Statistics

Year

Team

Lg

Age

AVG

OBP

SLG

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

BB

K

XBH

2005

SAC

PCL

26

.315

.404

.516

419

132

27

3

17

67

57

47



Consistency

Watson was a model of consistency for the Rivercats in 2005. With the exception of the month of June, Watson never hit below .295 in any month and was over .300 in three separate months. This level of consistency matches with his career path, which has shown him post remarkably similar numbers throughout his minor league career. Watson has been below .300 only three times in his career and has never hit lower than .279 in any full season of play. His career minor league batting average in seven seasons in .307.

In the month that Watson posted his lowest batting average (June), he was at his best in terms of power and run-production. Watson clubbed seven homeruns in June (three more than in any other month) and drove in 22 (second best total for any month). It appears that he changed his approach slightly during June to increase his power at the detriment of his batting average and plate patience. In every month except for June, Watson walked more frequently than he struck out. However, in June, Watson walked nine times and struck out 12 times.

His home-road splits are equally consistent. At home, Watson hit .310 with 10 of his 17 homeruns in 210 at-bats. On the road, Watson's average rose to .321 and he collected a few more extra-base hits (25 on the road versus 22 at home). The increase in batting average on the road isn't surprising, as the PCL has a few road ballparks that are extremely favorable to hitters (Las Vegas and Salt Lake being two).

Solid Against Lefties

Despite being a left-handed hitter, Watson was remarkably effective against left-handers in AAA last season. Against lefties, Watson hit .349 with seven homeruns in only 106 at-bats. He also walked 20 times and struck out only 11 times. Conversely, Watson hit .304 with 10 homeruns in 313 at-bats versus right-handers.

This split is particularly compelling because Watson has had few opportunities to face left-handed pitching during his short time in the big leagues. In 2003 when Watson was with the Mets, he had only two of his 21 at-bats versus lefties and he didn't record a hit. With the A's last season, Watson had only seven of his 48 at-bats against lefties and he didn't record a hit, although he had several good swings against left-handers. Perhaps in his next time up in the big leagues, Watson will get more chances against southpaws.

Surprising Speed

Despite his stocky build, Watson has surprising footspeed for a man his size. Although he will never be confused with Rickey Henderson, Watson does appear able to take a base when it is available to him. He stole 12 bases in 13 chances with Sacramento last season. Watson wisely took his base-stealing chances only against right-handers. He also showed the ability to get out of the box quickly, grounding into only seven double-plays all season.

Good In Pressure Situations

As the A's learned in mid-May when Watson drove in the game-winning runs versus the Boston Red Sox in the eighth inning, Watson has a knack for delivering in pressure situations. For the Rivercats, Watson became a better hitter with men on base. With the bases empty, Watson hit .299 for the year. However, with runners on, he hit .335. With runners in scoring position and two outs, Watson hit .352 with 30 RBI in 54 at-bats. Watson was at his most patient with runners in scoring position, walking 24 times against 16 strike outs.

Second Spot Ideal?

Although Watson spent most of his time with Sacramento in the third slot in the order, his ideal hitting position might be the two-hole. Not only do his skills match-up well for that slot (he makes a lot of contact, sees a lot of pitches, gets on-base and runs decently well), his numbers seem to indicate that he has a good level of comfort in the second place position. Last season, Watson had 62 at-bats as a number two hitter and he hit .403 with nine extra-base hits. He also showed remarkable patience, walking 14 times and striking out only four times in those at-bats.

Watson received most of his playing time in the third slot, where he hit .298 with seven homeruns in 235 at-bats. As we saw with his month-to-month splits, Watson appears to lose some of his plate patience and contact-hitting abilities when he is trying to hit for power. Although still solid, Watson's walk to strike out ratio falls from better than 3:1 down to just over 1:1 when he is in a power hitting position of the line-up like third or fourth.

Conclusion

Watson has reached that stage in his career where he is probably too good to be playing in AAA, but he hasn't had that opportunity to grab significant playing time at the major league level. Although he is likely to start the 2006 season in AAA (barring injuries), there is a decent chance that the A's will move one of their two back-up outfielders (Bobby Kielty or Jay Payton) at some point during the season. Watson can make the A's decision to trade one of those two back-ups even easier if he continues to post numbers similar to what he posted with Sacramento last season.

He has all of the makings of an excellent fourth outfielder for a number of major league teams, so if he doesn't get the chance to play for Oakland in 2006, he could very well get that chance with another team in 2007.


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