He’s a Lamborghini. He’s got all the skills in the world. You look at his skill set and every person on this field and every person in this league would look at him and go, ‘Yeah, I want that.' -- John Mabry
With those words to Derrick Goold during Spring Training, the Cardinals hitting coach anointed Randal Grichuk with a nickname: The Lamborghini. (Then later, he apparently changed his comparison to a Ferrari. WTF Mabry? Pick an Italian sports car and stick with it.)
Some have bristled at the nickname (which can be shortened to "Lambo" on second reference, per AP style), but I think it's just about perfect. A Lambo is sexy, fast and powerful. It's also extremely impractical, not something you'd want to rely on day in and day out. That's Randal Grichuk.
His skills are all or nothing. The power, the speed, the defense - all excellent. The strikeout and walk rates? Horrendous. During spring training, I asked "is Randall Grichuk getting better?" At the time, there was some reason to believe he was improving those areas of weakness. His strikeout rate was down a tick. His walk rate was up a tick.
Instead, Randal has gone Full Grichuk (Ful Grichuk?). His strikeout rate has ballooned over 30%. He has as many triples as walks. But his isolated power is Top 10 in the league. The average exit velocity of his batted balls is second to only Giancarlo Stanton. (And this recent article at 538 found each MPH of velocity equated to 18 points of OPS, so that's not for nothing.) He makes the occasional double play from center field.
He even seemed to acknowledge in a few reports that he was consciously changing his approach from a more conservative focus on getting on base to what Ben called on the podcast more of a "grip it and rip it" style.
So here the Cardinals - and we as fans - find ourselves. A team that has long managed a pretty conservative roster, like the lot of an Enterprise Rent-A-Car, now finds itself with a f---ing Lamborghini. And it's become a pretty divisive topic.
Partly, that's because the divide in Grichuk's skill set also somehow sparks the dying embers of the stats vs. scouts, nerds vs. meathead debates. Where he excels are more the traditional baseball card stats - AVG (for now), home runs. And let's not discount that Grichuk LOOKS really good when he's making diving catches and jacking dingers. And while any mouth-breather should be able to grasp that the dude strikes out a lot, the underlying problem areas are just a bit more in the wonk camp - rate stats, BABIP and the like.
So as someone who is generally more statistically-minded, it grates on me when I hear the FSMW team OVERsell Grichuk's talents. But I'm sure there's quite a few fans who are enjoying his surge that are tired of the tsk, tsking about his coming regression.
On some level, it boils down to aesthetics. It's not hard to imagine a 2nd half where Grichuk slumps and Jon Jay surges, and they wind up posting fairly similar offensive value. But they would do so in strikingly different ways. Would you rather have a Lambo in the driveway or a Toyota Yaris? There are arguments to be made either way.
I'm not entirely comfortable with a Lamborghini. Sure, there might be a supermodel stepping out of the gull-wing doors, but in the back of my mind I'm always wondering where I can safely park it downtown. But for now, I'm going to try to enjoy the ride, even though I'm pretty sure any day now somebody's gonna key it.