On Sunday, the Tribe announced that outfielder Aaron Cunningham (somewhat surprisingly) made the 25-man roster and (barring any last-minute trades) will start the season as their fourth outfielder.
To a certain extent, Cunningham is just a newer version of Matt LaPorta. In 2009, he was Baseball America’s 55th-rated prospect, but has failed to perform at the major league level and, at the age of 25, is already with his fifth organization.But there are some reasons to be encouraged by Cunningham’s past performance.
Last week I introduced a new statistic which I labeled Good Eye Rate, which tracks how often a batter makes the right decision on a pitch (swinging at strikes, taking balls). And while his career on-base percentage barely cracks .300, Cunningham has displayed a keen eye at the dish.
In 2011, among those with at least 100 plate appearances, only six players – including Lance Berkman and Joey Votto – posted a higher Good Eye Rate than Cunningham’s .732.
And last year was no fluke either. In 2010, Cunningham’s GER was an impressive .719.
A high GER is no guarantee of success, but it is a starting point. And Cunningham’s career .377 OBP at AAA indicates he does have the ability to use his eye to his advantage.
Given the fact that the Tribe has taken a moneyball-like approach to their recent offensive transactions, targeting patient hitters such as Kosuke Fukudome and (possibly) Bobby Abreu, Cunningham’s approach at the plate is likely one of the aspects of his game that intrigues the Tribe front office.