It’s now late April, and baseball season has been well underway, although with a small sample data set. Joey Votto still doesn’t have a home run. Logan Morrison has a solid -19 wRC+. It’s the most autonomous time of year to be a baseball blogger because you have an excuse to write about why David Peralta (and his 177 wRC+) is here to stay. I get to try and explain Jake Marisnick’s 53.3% K%! I am in baseball nerd heaven. It’s the time when fans look at Jose Ramirez’s sub-Mendoza line batting average and start to draw conclusions as to why he has suddenly fallen off the cliff. Too many strikeouts? Nope, he has a 5.4% K%. Too many pop-outs? His IFFB% this season is lower than his career rate, so no. Bad luck? As with most of these guys who are being debated on the premature “Panic Meter” segment of SportsNation or whatever podcast you listen to, that’s probably the reason. Ramirez’s BABIP is .151 with lots of room to regress. However, there are some stats that have some legs to stand on. Maybe not Quadzilla size, but a solid Mitch Moreland calf muscle is fair. Baseball Savant just released the 2018 Statcast leaderboards for things such as sprint speed, outs above average, and expected outcomes. I am currently tingling with excitement. Here are a few numbers that are worth dissecting, and maybe say something about the player we didn’t know in January.
Bryce Harper may not be a 5 tool player, after all. Last year, in 187 opportunities he had an average sprint speed of 27.8 feet/second. Although not blazing, of the 42 right fielders who had at least 75 opportunities, Harper ranked 19th. This year, he is 33rd out of 35 right fielders (25.5) with at least 10 chances on the base paths. Only Kole (not Cole) Calhoun and the out of position Jay Bruce trail him. The lack of speed is showing in the field, with -3 Outs Above Average so far and a -11% catch percentage added. I am starting to think he would be a better fit at DH next year with Giancarlo playing left. You know since he will be a Yankee.
Outs Above Average
Corey Dickerson had 0 outs above average and a -1% expected catch percentage last year. He isn’t exactly the breathtaking athlete that succeeds in a major league outfield. He looked like a good fit for the rebuilding Pirates, who are trying to give off the impression that they give a damn. “Pirates acquire All-Star Dickerson from Rays!” The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette played that headline up, huh? This year, though, he has 3 OAA and an added catch percentage of 8%. Of the 67 outfilders with at least 25 opportunites, he ranks 3rd in catch % added. Sustainable? Probably not at this rate. He has, however, registered one win on Fangraphs in only a tenth of the games he played in last year. Dickerson may be a valuable trade piece come July for the Buccos. Oh, and check out this dope catch from last year.
This one is stumping me a bit. Joe Panik has a .429 xwOBA so far this season. xwOBA is calculated through the quality of contact (Exit Velocity/Launch Angle) and BB+K numbers. Panik’s plate discipline numbers are fairly similar to last year, so his dramatic increase in xwOBA must have to do with his quality of contact, right? Not necessarily. His exit velocity and launch angle are essentially the same as last year. So what could it be? Well, he is pulling the ball more, and his xwOBA on balls in play is .433, so he must be producing the perfect combination of exit velocity and launch angle on his batted balls. On balls to the pull side, Panik has a 231 wRC+.Pulling the ball in the air is usually a recipe for success (see Betts, Mookie). He also has 19 balls hit 95+ MPH, 78th out of 253 qualified hitters.
Data courtesy of ESPN, Baseball Reference, Baseball Outsiders, and Fangraphs. Thanks for reading!
Article written by Cameron Levy
Cover photo credits: The Mercury News