Padres Editorials: Derek Norris has Disappointed

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During the winter, GM A.J. Preller traded away a promising young starter and a hard-throwing reliever to the Oakland A’s for the catcher who has played 126 games this year for the Padres. Derek Norris was one of the seemingly best players Preller picked up during the offseason. Despite being below average behind he plate, at it he had decent power and not only good but improving on-base ability. Yet Derek Norris has proven to be one of the biggest disappointments out of a very lackluster team. 

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In 2014 for Oakland, Norris was an All-Star who finished the year with a .361 on-base, .403 slugging, and a quite good 119 OPS+. (For reference, Justin Upton currently leads the Padres with a 121 OPS+). In every year, Norris improved upon his offensive output. Entering 2015, it seemed like the 26 year-old would be just now entering his prime few years.

Yet, Norris has regressed offensively. After finishing last season with an on-base percentage 45 points above the Major League average, he sits at .292 – 24 points below average. Granted, his pure power numbers are as good they have ever been, but Norris’s greatest strength was his ability to make fewer outs.

His strike outs have gone up from last year (86 to 117) in thus far as many games as he played last year. And his walks have gone down significantly (54 to 26). He went from a well above average walk rate to a noticeably below average one.

Now, one of the reasons Norris hasn’t been a total bust is his defense as he has become a solid defensive player. Not only is he throwing out 36-percent of runners (27-percent league average), but his pitch framing is one of the best in the National League. He currently ranks eighth in the bigs with 8.4 runs added by framing, according to Baseball Perspectus.

As big of a disappointment as Matt Kemp was in the first half, as frustrating as Wil Myers‘ injuries have been, and as bad as James Shields and Andrew Cashner have been, a list of Padres who have fallen short of expectations would be incomplete without Derek Norris. Perhaps Norris was overplayed in the first half and has been fatigued. Perhaps his .320 on-base and .393 slugging in the second half are signs that he was just in a funk for a couple months that have brought him down statistically this season. Hopefully, the 2015 regression will not leak into 2016 or beyond.

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