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Carlos Lee and psychology verses statistics

This morning I was reading Alyson Footer's latest blog post, in which she wonders if Carlos Lee playing at first base has had a positive effect on his concentration level.

You also have to wonder if playing first base has helped Lee at the plate. Is playing a position where he is involved in nearly every play, which in turn requires non-stop concentration, helping him focus better at the plate? There seems to be long stretches of nothingness while standing in the outfield, and I can see where it would be easy to become distracted or let your mind wander. Maybe the concentration that's there when Carlos plays first base lingers when he is hitting. It could be the best explanation as to why his bat has come to life after hitting around .240 for the better part of four months.

I absolutely believe Alyson is one of the best writers in baseball. I haven't always agreed with her opinions, but they are always well thought out and level headed.

Clack mentioned, in last nights game thread, that this was an argument one of the radio guys discussed during the game last night. If we're going to use that line of thinking why not make an argument that since he has to run less to get to his position now he must have more energy to hit the ball. Seems kind of silly.

You can in fact statistcally explain why Lee has played better at first base. Brad Mills has gotten into the habit of sitting Wallace against left handed starters in favor of Lee, essentially establishing a platoon at first base. Against lefties Lee is hitting .278/.333/.452, against righties .240/.276/.413, that's a pretty significant split. Playing mostly against lefties at first base will give the illusion that it has helped Carlos Lee.

There is another statistic we use around her that also helps to explain Lee's sudden resurgence. Batting average on balls in play (BABiP) which helps explains the luck factor for a player. Lee on the season, has a .239 BABiP which is significantly lower than his .286 career BABiP. This means he has not been especially lucky on balls that he puts in play. As his BABiP improves towards his career average so will his performance.

I'm not discounting entirely that their is some psychological effect to Lee moving to first base, but statistically Lee was due. And if Lee is having concentration issues in left field, then maybe he needs to sit a few more games than he has been. I'm not saying bench him, but if he's having issues mentally then, giving him a day off here or there would benefit him mentally.

If we're going to use psychology for Lee why not make the same case for Brett Wallace. I understanding having him sit a few games, it is a good strategy, but what effect does this potential move have on him. Sure you can say he'll probably handle it, he should, but look at his past. He's been traded from St. Louis, to Oakland, to Toronto, to Houston, and now he's going to be jerked around between the Major Leagues and Minor Leagues. How is Wallace supposed to gain confidence when every where he ends up the team is shipping him out.

The other thing that bugs me about this potential move is that the Astros say they're finally in rebuilding mode. But they're not. If they were they wouldn't be too concerned with how a young player does in such a small sample size. Why trade for Wallace if you were not going to commit to him and let him work through his struggles? It is a step in the wrong direction, and makes the front office look like they don't have any foresight.

Moving Lee to first base does decrease his impact on the defense, but the Astros do not have a better hitting prospect than Wallace to play in left field. Every game Wallace sits is one more game he isn't going to be able to prove himself. One more game sat is one more game in which you have no evaluation for him, pushing back further a determination of what you have with Wallace. For a team supposedly in rebuilding mode that should be the priority.

Alyson mentioned the silver lining in sending Wallace to Triple-A will at least provide positional depth at first base. If the Astros can't commit to Wallace now that's all he will be.