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Two for the Price of One

If you were watching last night's game closely, you may have realized that you were treated to an incredibly rare event coupled with an incredibly common event.  No, it wasn't a Eude Brito sighting coupled with a Tomas Perez pinch hit appearance during a key situation, but rather it was both Bobby Abreu and David Bell grounding into double plays.

Looking at the absolute numbers tells us a little bit about this phenomenon.  Abreu has hit into only 4 double plays this year.  Bell, on the other hand, has hit into a whopping 21 of them.  Considering the 17 extra double plays for Bell equate to an additional 34 outs, that comes to more than a game's worth of extra outs for Bell.  There's no sugarcoating it:  that's terrible.

Advanced baseball metrics bear this out.  Baseball Prospectus keeps track of double play opportunities for every player (DP_OPPS).  A double play opportunity is an at-bat when the hitter could possibly hit into a double play -- less than two outs with runner(s) on first, first and second, or first, second, and third.  They then look at the percent of double play opportunities that actually turned into double plays (DP%).  Finally, using the average across the league for double play percentage, they look to the number of additional double plays a player has hit into compared to what the average player would have done given the same number of opportunities (NETDP).  If this final number is negative, that means a player has hit into fewer double plays than the average.

Here's how David Bell stacks up this year compared to all major leaguers:

#  NAME            TEAM    LG      YEAR    DP_OPPS DP      DP%     NETDP
1.      Sean Casey      CIN     NL      2005    100     25      25.0%   11.82
2.      David Bell      PHI     NL      2005    102     21      20.6%   7.56
3.      Brad Ausmus     HOU     NL      2005    58      15      25.9%   7.36
4.      Tadahito Iguchi CHA     AL      2005    75      17      22.7%   7.29
5.      Miguel Tejada   BAL     AL      2005    99      20      20.2%   7.18

David Bell hits into a double play an incredible 20.6% of the time he comes to the plate in a possible double play situation. He is second only to Sean Casey in net double plays above average. This year?s numbers for Bell are either an aberration or the sign of a major skill decline, as he has not been this bad in the past few years, when he was decidedly middle of the road for the past two years (0.25 extra double plays in 2004 and 0.35 extra in 2003) and just slightly worse in 2002 (4.49 extra).

On the other hand, Bobby Abreu stacks up quite nicely compared to all major leaguers:

#  NAME            TEAM    LG      YEAR    DP_OPPS DP      DP%     NETDP
906.    Bobby Abreu     PHI     NL      2005    113     4       3.5%    -10.89
905.    Jim Edmonds     SLN     NL      2005    79      1       1.3%    -9.41
904.    Adam Dunn       CIN     NL      2005    90      3       3.3%    -8.86
903.    Eric Chavez     OAK     AL      2005    119     8       6.7%    -7.40
902.    Craig Biggio    HOU     NL      2005    100     6       6.0%    -7.18

OK, "quite nicely" was an understatement.  Abreu is having the best year in all of the majors for net double plays, hitting into 10.89 less than the average player would given the number of opportunities Abreu has been presented with.  For Abreu, this is the same spot he was in last year compared to the rest of the league - first, with 11.05 fewer double plays than average.  That is, as we like to say around here, awesome.

What this all tells you is that the next time Abreu comes to the plate with a man on first and less than two outs, you can feel confident that, most likely, the worst that's going to happen is that there will be just one more out when he's done with his at-bat.  With Bell, on the other hand, there's a pretty good chance he'll be doubled up.