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Best Pitches from 2020

Who needs an introduction? This piece is simply about the best pitches from 2020. I looked at a number of factors when making these determinations including run value, whiff%, K%, xwOBA, and hard hit%. I’ll cover the four main pitch types: fourseam fastballs, changeups, sliders, and curveballs. Let’s start with the heater!

Best Fourseam Fastball from 2020 (Minimum 300 thrown) – Walker Buehler 

This one was extremely close between Walker Buehler and Freddy Peralta. So close in fact, that I deferred to run value per 100 pitches thrown. Here is the pertinent data.

Fourseam Fastball - Buehler vs Peralta

Pitcherrun_valuePitchesPitch%Whiff%K%xBAxSLGxwOBA
Buehler-1132353.826.134.30.1370.2160.218
Peralta-1032965.938.639.10.1690.2730.238



While Freddy generated more strikeouts via a better whiff%, Buehler induced more weak contact with a crazy-low xBA and xSLG. The tie-breaker for me was the run value. While extremely close, Buehler just edged out Peralta in this one. Buehler averaged 96.8 mph on his heater and didn’t give up a single home run and allowed just one barrel all season. Peralta on the other hand averaged just 93.0 mph which is insane considering how successful it’s been. He did allow one homer and three barrels, so that information justifies the choice of Buehler over Peralta.

Best Fourseam Fastball from 2020 (Minimum 500 thrown) – Jacob deGrom

Jacob deGOAT of course finished 2020 with the best fastball among starters with at least 500 thrown. He somehow added velocity (1.7 mph to be exact) from a year ago and this marks the fourth straight year he’s been able to improve his average fastball velocity. deGrom manages an insane 42.9% K-rate with his heater which would be a solid rate for a slider. His .186 batting average allowed was easily the best among starters with over 500 FB thrown, second best was Lucas Giolito with a .201 BA against. deGrom features three plus-plus pitches. His slider might be his third-best pitch and it manages a 45% whiff rate. His change earned a 40% K-rate and a .253 xwOBA. Even if deGrom loses a mph off his heater next year, he’s still my top SP for 2021.

 

Best Changeup from 2020 (Minimum 200 thrown) – Devin Williams

Rookie sensation, Devin Williams provided unquestionably the best changeup in 2020. He threw it 227 times, generating a 61.2% K% with a mind-boggling 61.1% whiff rate. It allowed just an 0.032 batting average and ZERO extra-base hits. The expected metrics backed it up as well with a 0.110 xwOBA on just a 9.5% hard-hit rate. I would have loved to see what he could have done across a full 162. He was on pace for 150 strikeouts which would have ranked 55th among ALL pitchers in 2019. 




Best Changeup among starting pitchers (minimum 200 thrown) – Kenta Maeda

Of course, Luis Castillo and Lucas Giolito earn honorable mention but in my opinion, this award goes to Kenta Maeda

Maeda tossed 291 changeups this year and had the highest whiff% (45.6%) and K% (40.9%) among starting pitchers with at least 200 changeups thrown. Yeah, he was awesome but it makes Williams’ numbers above just seem impossible. Either way, Maeda’s change was great in 2020. It’s so successful because it induces so many swings outside the zone In 2020, batters chased 50.5% of the time, a career-high. When hitters actually made contact with the pitch, it was put on the ground over 2/3rds of the time and allowed just one barrel and zero homers all season. An unlikely champ but well deserving. Good luck getting him outside of the top-20 SPs next year.

 

Best Slider in 2020 (Minimum 200 thrown) – Dinelson Lamet

“Dinelson Lamet and his equal opportunity Slider. This pitch does not discriminate based on batter handedness.”


Dinelson Lamet has this one in a runaway. He easily threw the most sliders in 2020 (559 thrown) which was 53.4% of the time. This pitch is straight nasty.  Hitter’s 47.4% whiff rate (5th) and 51.4% K% (1st) is insane considering Lamet only has two pitches. He’s allowed just three home runs against his slider since the start of 2019 with over 1,100 thrown. In 2020, Lamet allowed an xwOBA of just 0.175. This one was easy.

 

Best Slider other than the GOAT Lamet (Minimum 200 thrown) – Dylan Bundy

The Honorable Mention team includes Max Scherzer, Zach Plesac, and Luis Castillo (yes, my guy LC shows up again as he improved his slider in 2020). But, the award goes to comeback pitcher of the year, Dylan Bundy! In his first season out of Baltimore, Bundy found himself in a much better ballpark and a situation where he started throwing his best pitch more frequently. I’ve been a fan of Bundy for a while now,




The point of the Tweet is that his slider was great in 2018 and even better in 2019 by the metrics but based on Pitch Value, did not produce the same results. Trust the metrics! In 2020, Bundy threw 255 sliders and his K% of 50% matches his whiff rate. As great as his slider has been in the past, it still allowed a barrel% of around 5%. This year, he did not allow a single barrel against his slider. That led to an extremely impressive 0.162 xwOBA against. 

 

Best Curveball in 2020 (Minimum 200 thrown) – Tyler Glasnow and Shane Bieber

Tyler Glasnow and Shane Bieber are essentially a virtual tie for the best curveball in 2020.

Curveball - Glasnow vs Bieber

PitcherPitchesBAWhiff%K%xSLGxwOBAHH%
Glasnow3350.1252.866.70.1980.15220
Bieber3250.09551.556.20.160.15535.3

First, let’s start with Tyler Glasnow. Wow, look at that strikeout rate! While his curve misses a ton of bats, it also induces weak contact when hitters actually make contact. The only reason it’s not the clear cut winner over Bieber’s curve is that Glasnow gave up a .277 SLG compared to a .143 SLG for Bieber. I included the xSLG for each pitch and that clearly shows that Glasnow was just a bit unlucky. He gave up three homers off his curve and while two were crushed, the other was hit at 97 mph and went 332 feet. The difference between Glasnow and Bieber’s curve is when Glasnow makes a mistake, it’s hit. Bieber has a deeper arsenal, so it’s more difficult to guess what’s coming. Glasnow has two pitches. Every once in awhile a hitter is going to guess right when Glasnow makes a mistake. The other advantage to Bieber’s curve is he buries it. See the GIF below. When hitters make contact, the average launch angle against his curve is -13 degrees! Those are worm burners. Glasnow’s while solid, is -4 degrees. Sure, Bieber gives up harder contact but if keeps it on the ground, it doesn’t matter.

via Gfycat

Now, let’s look at Shane Bieber’s breaker.

via Gfycat

I hope you enjoyed the GIFs!


AP Photo/John Bazemore)


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What To Do With 2020 BABIP Overachievers

Typically, at the midway point of the regular season, I cover BABIP outliers to buy and fade for the second half. However, since we only had a 60 game season, I’ll cover buys and fades for 2021. During the 2019 season, I wrote this piece and by in large, regression set in for most of these hitters in the second half.  Let’s apply that same thinking to these hitters for 2021. Keep in mind that the expected BABIP (xBABIP) I calculated below is descriptive, so it doesn’t mean the player’s past performance is what we should expect going forward. That being said, outliers are where there’s a much higher probability regression to set in. There are a number of factors that may not be covered in the xBABIP equation that I’ll touch on in the player blurbs below.

  • Sprint Speed
  • Shift and pull rates
  • Park Factors

Now let’s cover the BABIP overperformers from 2020. I’m going to stay away from fully analyzing Rockies’ hitters as they regularly show up on these overperformers list when discussing BABIP. Coors Field boosts BABIP by 30-35 points on average and xBABIP does not include Park Factors in it’s equation. So, we can somewhat ignore Ramiel Tapia, Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon, and to some extent Nolan Arenado. But, more on him later.



2020 BABIP Overachievers

last_namefirst_namePlate ApperancesxBABIPBABIPxBABIP-BABIP
MullinsCedric1530.2580.350-0.092
TapiaRaimel2060.3050.392-0.087
VerdugoAlex2210.2940.371-0.077
MondesiAdalberto2330.2810.350-0.069
Bradley Jr.Jackie2170.2780.343-0.065
BohmAlec1800.3470.410-0.063
VazquezChristian1890.2830.341-0.058
SolanoDonovan2030.3430.396-0.053
PeraltaDavid2180.3190.361-0.042
ConfortoMichael2330.3710.412-0.041
CruzNelson2140.3190.360-0.041
AlbertoHanser2310.2760.314-0.038
AdamesWilly2050.3500.388-0.038
YastrzemskiMike2250.3330.370-0.037
BogaertsXander2250.2930.329-0.036
StoryTrevor2590.3210.354-0.033
WendleJoey1840.3050.338-0.033
ReyesFranmil2410.3230.355-0.032
SchoopJonathan1770.2850.316-0.031
WongKolten2080.2810.311-0.030
BlackmonCharlie2470.3170.347-0.030
McNeilJeff2090.3050.335-0.030
BrantleyMichael1870.3060.336-0.030

Cedric Mullins (OF – BAL)

Baltimore churned out some value especially late in the season with the addition of Ryan Mountacaste and to a lesser extent, Austin Hayes. Meanwhile, Cedric Mullins managed to quietly produce three homers and seven steals while hitting .270 in 153 plate appearances. However, he somehow managed a .350 BABIP with just a 31.7% hard-hit rate and an atrocious popup rate that was nearly double the league-average. Weak contact and popups appear to be Mullins’ MO early in his career. His defense could buy him some playing time, but I’m staying away from him as a sleeper in 2021.

Alex Verdugo (OF – BOS)

Verdugo has always been a high-contact hitter capable of carrying high batting averages. It was true in the minors and so far he has a .290 BA in 709 career plate appearances in the bigs. However, his xBABIP from 2020 was frighteningly low. His hard hit% declined from a year ago and his strikeout rate jumped by 7%. Typically, that combination doesn’t provide a higher batting average but for Verdugo, it did. Now, he does have one thing going for him, Fenway Park. Outside of Coors Field, Fenway allows the highest BABIP for hitters. Over the last three seasons, Fenway Park has allowed a BABIP of .327! I think it fair to say Verdugo is a strong candidate to outperform his xBABIP once again in 2021. I just wouldn’t expect a .300+ BA unless he cuts his K% below 15%.

Adalberto Mondesi (SS – KCR)

Mondesi went from an early-round bust to league winner in just two months. He’s certainly a flawed hitter but can provide fantasy gold in an era where steals are at a premium. I’d be lying if I told you I could predict where Mondesi’s BABIP will fall in 2021 but I can try! I have an issue with the .281 xBABIP spits out for him. His speed alone is an outlier that messes with the equation. In any season with over 200 PA, he hasn’t posted a BABIP below .335. He’s also improved his HH% and hit more grounders. Unfortunately, that came at the expense of line drives. In other words, his xBABIP docked him for a poor line drive rate. Line drive rates take forever to stabilize, so I’m not trusting the low mark from 2020. It’s, something to monitor but Mondesi seems safe for another .335ish BABIP in 2021.

Alec Bohm (3B – PHI)

Bohm’s rookie campaign went a bit under the radar. It’s probably because he only hit four homers and played in a Phillies team that really struggled. Obviously, a .410 BABIP is not sustainable (unless your TA), so that’s coming down. However, in the small sample, he still managed a very solid .347 xBABIP. I’ll be honest, I really like Bohm’s approach. He does everything well and he profiles as a high-BABIP hitter. If he can improve his launch angle, we are looking at a .280-.300 hitter with 25-30 HR pop. 

David Peralta (OF – ARI)

I think some people may look at Peralta’s .300 BA in 2020 and expect him to provide value there in 2021. It makes sense, he’s always been a solid BA source. But, I don’t see it that way. He’ll turn 34 next year and his quality of contact has faded the last two seasons. There’s no real upside here and he’s only attempted one steal over the last two seasons. A .270 BA with 12-15  HR and no speed feels like waiver wire fodder to me.


Michael Conforto (OF – NYM)

Did Conforto take a step forward in 2020? The simple answer is no. His barrel rate remained unchanged and his hard hit% dipped a little. He lowered his launch angle hitting more line drives and had a more all-fields approach but, come on. A .412 BABIP! Those pointing to his career sub-.300 BABIP is a bit lazy though. He dropped his pull% by 13%. That doesn’t seem like an accident. Of course, fewer pulled balls will result in fewer home runs. As a lefty though, fewer pulled pull balls with result in a higher BABIP as he’ll be able to beat the shifts. OK, so he wasn’t the same hitter in 2020. But, will he revert back, keep his changes, or fall somewhere in the middle? The latter is the most likely result. So, maybe we cant bank on 30 homers but I don’t think he’ll be a BA liability either. So, let’s say he goes .275 with 25 homers and 5-8 steals? Meh, his early ADP is around 70 so I think he’ll be over-drafted in 2021.

Nelson Cruz (OF – MIN)

Cruz goes against everything we know about aging curves. Expecting regression from a 40-year old seems obvious but we can’t simply just do that with Cruz. He’s a machine with an insane 57 homers over his last 173 games. He can’t do this forever, right? Well, there were some signs of decline. A slight dip in hard hit% and his K% increased for the second straight season. He’s always struggled against breaking balls and he took a step back against offspeed pitches as well. However, he still feasts on fastballs. His struggles against non-fastballs shows up in xBA which was his lowest in the Statcast era. There’s a real chance he strikes out 30% of the time and hits .250 with 25-30 homers next year. There’s also the possibility of hitting .300-40. For me, I’ll project .265-32.

Willy Adames (SS – TBR)

I was into Adames coming into 2020 as he was dirt-cheap in drafts. Given the depth at the shortstop position, it made sense. Adames doesn’t have great power or elite speed but coming into 2020 he was just 24 years old, showed progress in his quality of contact, and was locked in as SS for the Rays. Not much to lose at pick 300. While he did improve his barrel rate and hard-hit rate in 2020, his strikeouts went through the roof (36.1%). Strikeout rates seemed to be wonky for a lot of players in this shortened season, so I’m inclined to lean on the larger sample from 2019 in terms of K%.


However, his SwStr% and zone contact rates were atrocious. I think projecting him around his career mark of 29% seems reasonable for 2021. He’s been able to sustain moderate success despite elevated strikeout rates due to a .348 BABIP. We are talking about over 1100 plate appearances, so that’s a large enough sample to believe in his elevated BABIP profile. His Sweet spot% is very good as is his line drive rate. I do worry about his heavy-pull approach change this year but think that regresses some. If Adames isn’t going to use his 83rd percentile sprint speed to swipe bags, I think he’s just going to be a .240-.250 hitter with 20-25 homer pop. If he chips in 6-8 steals, he’s solid value. Early ADPs, per @SmadaPlaysFantasy has him going after pick 250 once again. This was a long-winded way of saying, Adames may once again be a nice value as your MI in 15 team formats.

Jeff McNeil (2B/3B/OF – NYM)

I’ve never been a believer in McNeil’s power. He was being drafted right near D.J. LeMahieu coming into 2020 and while similar players, I didn’t get it. Here’s what I said after the 2019 season.

McNeil took a step back in terms of barrel% and average exit velocity in 2020 yet still hit .311. What’s odd is that his career xBA is .286 but his career BA is a fantastic .318. Maybe there’s something that isn’t captured in the xBA or xBABIP equation that McNeil excels at. While his metrics are poor, the one thing he does well is put the bat in the ball. He has a sub-20% whiff% against all pitch types. So, while I think he’ll maintain a solid BA, I’ll take the under on .311.

Now, to the power. He has more home runs than barrels since the start of 2019. Anyone projecting him for 20-25 homers in 2021 may be disappointed. 23 of his 27 homers over the last two years have come from the pull side. His pull% declined in 2020 and maybe there’s a rebound in 2021 but what will the ball look like? Without the juiced ball, McNeil profiles as a 12-15 homer hitter. Speed? Don’t count on it. He’s managed Just five steals in his last 185 games. Fortunately, his early ADP in is between 100-110. That seems about right. If his ADP creeps up inside of 90 overall as it was in 2020, i’ll be out.

I mentioned Nolan Arenado earlier and found it interesting that his that he didn’t show up on the underachievers list despite a lowly .241 BABIP. In fact, his xBABIP was slightly lower at .236, second lowest among qualified hitters! He was awful in 2020 but the shoulder likely had something to do with it. I’m expecting a bounce back but to 100%. There’s also the real possibility he’s moved at some point in 2021.


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2020 BABIP Outliers – What to Expect in 2021

Typically, at the midway point of the regular season, I cover BABIP outliers to buy and fade for the second half. However, since we only had a 60 game season, I’ll cover buys and fades for 2021. During the 2019 season, I wrote this piece and by in large, regression set in for most of these hitters in the second half.  Let’s apply that same thinking to the hitters below for 2021. Keep in mind that the expected BABIP (xBABIP) I calculated below is descriptive, so it doesn’t mean that’s what we should expect going forward. That being said, she’s outliers are where I expect regression sets in closer to the hitter’s actual skillset. There are a number of factors that may not be covered in the xBABIP equation that I’ll touch on in the player blurbs below including

  • Sprint Speed
  • Shift and pull rates
  • Park Factors





The table below includes a list of the largest underachievers in terms of BABIP aka the biggest gap between xBABIP minus BABIP. The minimum qualifications are 150 at-bats. You’ll notice a bunch of slow-footed left-handed batters with high pull rates. I wrote a piece last offseason covering the hitters who have been shifted on over 50% of the time and in many cases these players underperformed their xBA. Many of them you’ll see on this list below which can explain at least a portion of the difference between xBABIP and BABIP. In the cases of Matt Carpenter, Kole Calhoun, Kyle Schwarber, Matt Olson, and Max Kepler, they all qualify as pull-happy lefties with average to below-average speed. These hitters regularly show up on underperforming outlier lists so I wouldn’t necessarily expect much of a BABIP rebound as some of the others on this list. 

First I’ll touch on some elite hitters who showed up on the underachievers list. While not outliers, it’s encouraging to know that their production is very likely something they can maintain over the course of a full season. Fernando Tatis Jr., Corey Seager, Luke Voit, Ronald Acuna Jr., and Mookie Betts all underperformed their xBABIP by at least 0.030. Acuna, Betts, and Tatis are all top-5 picks next year, nothing changes for them. For Seager and Voit, I’ll be ranking both inside the top-50. Seager has a chance to hit .330 with 30 homers if healhy and Voit is a legit threat to hit 45+ homers whle hitting .275+. A few others to note include Alex Bregman, Franscisco Lindor, and George Springer. All were very unlucky in 2020. Bregman and Lindor were first round picks in 2020 but will both fall into the second round. I think both will be great values in 2021. I’ll be all over Springer in 2021. He’ll be 31 next year and has kind of been labeled as a boring veteran. I could see his ADP settle around 50 overall with some sexier options jumping him. His metrics look great and his strikeout rate has settled in below 20%. I’d peg him for a .280 BA with 35 homers.




BABIP Underachievers - 2020

PlayerPAxBABIPBABIPxBABIP-BABIP
Gregory Polanco1740.3290.1930.136
Christian Yelich2470.3650.2590.106
Nick Castellanos2420.3600.2570.103
Gary Sanchez1780.2610.1590.102
Kole Calhoun2280.3070.2110.096
Anthony Rizzo2430.3070.2180.089
Shohei Ohtani1750.3140.2290.085
Max Muncy2480.2850.2030.082
Cody Bellinger2430.3250.2450.080
Carlos Santana2550.2910.2120.079
Kyle Schwarber2240.2960.2190.077
Bryan Reynolds2080.3070.2310.076
Miguel Cabrera2310.3580.2830.075
Matt Olson2450.3000.2270.073
Joey Votto2230.3060.2350.071
Bryce Harper2440.3480.2790.069
Eduardo Escobar2220.3120.2440.068
Anthony Santander1650.3140.2480.066
Justin Upton1660.2830.2190.064
Matt Carpenter1690.3130.2500.063
Max Kepler1960.2980.2360.062

Gregory Polanco (OF – PIT)

What the hell happened to Polanco this year? He was mostly healthy but hit a dreadful .153 with a career-high 37.4% strikeout rate. He’s been riddled with injuries over the last four years missing over 200 games since the start 2017. Most recently, he dealt with offseason shoulder surgery before the 2020 season. Typically, a hitter will show poor quality of contact upon return from a shoulder injury, but not Polanco. He ended up with a career-best barrel rate and a hard-hit rate. He even managed a strong 30% line drive rate and cut his previously ugly popup%. He sold out for power, there’s no doubt but he clearly deserved better. I don’t know what to make of GP for 2021 because he’ll still be just 29 years old. He’s a lefty who was a victim of the shift and the strikeout rate concerns are real. If he cuts it below 30%, he could be a hit .250 with 25-30 homers. If he can’t fix his contact issues, he’ll see the bench or worse as he’ll be in the last year of his deal (club options in 22-23).

Chrsitian Yelich (OF – MIL)

You’re probably not surprised to see Yelich on this list. He still absolutely crushed the ball finishing in the top two percent in HH% and exit velocity. Let’s take a look at his exit velocity histogram.

The majority of his batted balls were hit over 95 mph with the two largest groups being between 100-105 and 105-110. That’s where an elite hitter wants to be. His issues were solely related to the strikeout rate. He finished with a 30.8% strikeout rate which was more than 10% worse than a year ago. He became extremely patient, to a fault. That boosted his walk rate but really got him into deep counts elevating his K%. He also struggled early in the season with a zone contact% under 75% but bounced back in September with a Z-Con% around 85-86%. I have virtually zero concerns with Yelich going into 2021 even if his strikeout rate settles in around 25%. Pep this, if Yelich would have had neutral luck with his BABIP given his expected stats, he would have hit .265. That’s w/ the ugly K% which I think comes down quite a bit. Easy buyback here.

Nick Castellanos (OF – CIN)

I made no reservations about my love for Castellanos going into 2020 especially given the move to Cincinnati. He got a massive park boost for power which came to fruition hitting 14 bombs in 60 games. That’s a 38 homer pace across 162 games or 11 more than his previous career-high. What I failed to consider is the BABIP drop he may see with a less expansive home outfield. His 2020 BABIP fell over 70 points below his career average. xBABIP still believes he’s a beast pegging him for a .360 xBABIP. I’m a little skeptical about him holding that mark and an elevated K% looms. That being said, I had him right around 50 overall in 2020 and nothing’s changed. He should still hit .275 with 35 homers and 100 RBI in 2021. 

 Gary Sanchez (C – NYY)

What are we going to do about Gary Sanchez next year? He had by far the lowest BABIP of any qualified hitter in 2020 to go with an atrocious 36% strikeout rate. We’ve seen suppressed BABIPs before from Sanchez but not like this. His batted ball distribution was BETTER than in 2019 but he did pull the ball over 50% of the time and was crushed by the shift (.218 wOBA vs the shift). Only one other time in his career has he had a BABIP this low over a 60 game stretch. That being said, he crushes the ball on contact, better than any catcher, by far. Because of his poor speed and results against the shift, he’ll likely never have another BABIP over .250 so he’s probably outside of the top-three catchers for 2021. It’s going to difficult to stomach a batting average at .200 for a full season.


Shohei Ohtani (DH – LAA)

Here’s the first player on this list who may have a massive discount. It also depends on how he’s used, whether or not he pitches, etc. Then there’s still Albert Pujols lingering for one more season. I think Ohtani was hurt this year. Before 2020, his career BABIP was .352. There’s no way that I buy Ohtani as a .200 hitter. His exit velo was down but I think that’s a product of an injury. He’s too good of an athlete in his prime to fall off that quickly. He was also suppressed a little by the shift which I don’t expect to change. He still plays in a great park for home runs to centerfield where he excels. I’ll hold firm that Ohtani is a top-50 hitter if he receives everyday at-bats.

Cody Bellinger (1B/OF – LAD)

I don’t need to say much about Bellinger. His strikeout gains carried over from 2019 but he may have sacrificed some hard contact. There was also some weird stuff going on at the start of the season about him changing his swing. It made no sense and hurt his production early without a full season to recover. He’s also still running, pacing for 16 SBs across a full season which is right in line with his previous two seasons. He’s been healthy, missing only six games between 2017 and 2018. Still just 25 years old, he’ll be a top-12 pick for me in 2021.

Bryan Reynalds (OF – PIT)

Reynolds is going to be a completely forgotten man next year in drafts. He’s boring, plays for an awful team, and completely fell on his face in 2020. However, this is a guy who has never hit below .312 at any level including his rookie season in 2019 where he hit .314. He saw a jump of 6% in strikeout rate without much merit. His plate approach, chase%, and contact rates remained nearly identical from a year ago. He even boosted his barrel rate but also added more weakly hit balls. Overall, it seems like very little has changed from a year ago. The weakly hit balls are reflected in his xBABIP which at .307 is still about 70 points below his career-numbers. I think there’s a little bit of pop here and wouldn’t be surprised to see him come back with a .290 average and 20 homers with a handful of steals. Looks a little like Jeff McNeil just a lot cheaper.

Bryce Harper (OF – PHI)

So xBABIP thinks Harper should have hit .300 in 2020. So, with that being said, the soon to be 28 year old Harper would have hit .300 with 35 homers and 22 steals across a full season. Not so fast though. He’s another victim of the shift. He hasn’t outperformed his xBA since his 2017 season when he was only shifted on 21% of the time. His shift rates have been over 50% since then and continue to climb. Either way, Harper cut his K% significantly in the shortened season and is still in his prime. I’ll lock him in for a .275 BA, 35 HR, and 15+ steals. 

Eduardo Escobar (2B/3B – ARI)

I can’t believe I’m saying this but I might be in on Escobar next year. He was a complete fade for me coming into 2020. He went from being one of the luckiest hitter in terms of power in 2019 to one of the most unfortunate in 2020. Not only did he hit just four homers on nine barrels but his BABIP plummeted. I don’t think he will finish around .312 but something around a BABIP of .280 seems legit. He should once again hit in the middle of the DBacks lineup and provide solid run production. I think he’ll hit .260 with 20+ homers but will be drafted after pick 200.





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Analyzing Hitter’s Hard Hit Percentage With Whiff Rates

There are so many great metrics available at our fingertips when analyzing hitters. Certainly Barrel percentage is the best measure of a player’s power, O-Swing percentage or Chase rate is a measure of a hitter’s plate discipline. I could go on and on but while metrics like xwOBA attempt to be all-encompassing to a hitter’s value, I like to look at certain metrics in conjunction with other metrics to help draw conclusions about players. In this small sample season, not all metrics will stabilize. We cannot simply trust how a player performs this year and assume that’s his new baseline. 


The two metrics I’m looking at today are hard hit percentage and whiff rate. Hard hit% is simple. It’s the number of balls hit at or above 95 mph divided by the total number of batted balls. The league average is 34.8% this year. By itself, the metric is powerful. Just, take a look.

At under 95 mph, wOBA hovers around .200. Nothing special about that but also the harder or softer the ball is hit below 95 mph doesn’t really matter. So, obviously, we want players with a high hard hit%. The next metric I want to include is whiff rate (Whiff%). It’s simply the number of swings and misses divided by the number of swings. The league average is around 24.5%. While each of these metrics has a different denominator, together, they can tell an interesting story about a player. These metrics require approximately 80 batted balls for HH% and 100 PA for whiff% to stabilize. The league-average HH%-Whiff% in 2020 is 10.3%. Here’s the top-10 from 2019.


Hard Hit% Minus Whiff% - Top 10 2019

NameTeamHH%-Whiff%
Anthony RendonNationals34.50%
Mookie BettsRed Sox33.90%
DJ LeMahieuYankees33.50%
Justin TurnerDodgers26.90%
Michael BrantleyAstros26.70%
Rafael DeversRed Sox26.30%
Matt ChapmanAthletics26.20%
Mike TroutAngels26.10%
Tommy PhamRays25.80%
Francisco LindorIndians25.80%

Pretty good list, no? Of course, it includes Mike Trout and Mookie Betts, so that’s great. It also includes breakouts D.J. LeMahieu, Rafael Devers, and Matt Chapman. Let’s take a look at the largest surgers in 2020 among qualified hitters.

Hard Hit Minus Whiff% - Surgers

NameTeamHH-Wf% (2020)20192020-2019
Corey SeagerDodgers32.10%14.20%17.90%
Luke VoitYankees20.70%8.70%12.00%
Juan SotoNationals37.30%25.50%11.80%
Eloy JimenezWhite Sox28.50%17.30%11.20%
Mike TroutAngels35.10%26.10%9.00%
Freddie FreemanBraves28.50%19.80%8.70%
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.Blue Jays23.90%15.40%8.50%
Adam EatonNationals26.30%17.90%8.40%
Randal GrichukBlue Jays20.30%12.90%7.40%
Cesar HernandezIndians18.60%12.80%5.80%



Unsurprisingly, Corey Seager tops the surgers list. He’s very likely going to be a top contender for comeback player of the year. His hard hit% is an impressive 56.1% while carrying a league-average whiff rate. He currently leads the Majors in Barrel% and the only reason he’s not leading the league in homers is his launch angle. He hits a few too many ground balls, but I’m not going to complain if he continues to mash like he’s doing now.

An abdominal injury that occurred in late-July last year really hurt Luke Voit’s production down the stretch in 2019. Well, he’s healthy again and absolutely mashing. His Whiff% isn’t as bad as you’d think for a guy with a 25%+ strikeout rate at just 25.9%. If we remove his injury-riddled final two months of 2019, Voit has a .386 OBP and 47 homers across 712 plate appearances as a Yankee. This is what a healthy Voit looks like. That’ll do.

Juan Soto is tied with Fernando Tatis Jr. for the best HH-Whiff% in 2020. They are both just 21 years old! Along with Acuna, these are going to be the faces of MLB for the next decade-plus. As impressive as Soto was at age-20, he’s even better this year. At the plate, he’s the best comp to Mike Trout I’ve seen, in my lifetime. I wouldn’t be surprised if he outperforms Trout next season and should be drafted as a top-5 hitter in fantasy leagues in 2021.

Speaking of young talent, enter Eloy Jimenez! He already has 42 home runs in 162 career games. The only thing he hasn’t shown yet is patience. AKA, the ability to take a walk. That seems to be a philosophy with the White Sox, especially with their young hitters. His improvements this year are solely with his hard hit% but his batted ball quality is elite. He’ll be another exciting young player to watch this decade.

The only thing keeping Mike Trout over Juan Soto is the fact that Trout is still getting better! It’s insane. He’s 29 years old, so at some point, he’s going to plateau/decline. But, 2020 is not that year. Trout is still the King.

Freddie Freeman may be having the best season of his career. He’s walking more, striking out less, and has a career-best OPS (1.016) this season. Unfortunately, we won’t get to see him perform for 162 games this year. I’d like to see a little more loft to boost those power numbers but I don’t think owners are complaining.


You may want to check in on impatient Vlad Gurrero Jr. owners to see if they are willing to part ways with him. Not every top-tier prospect becomes a star immediately despite the recent success of several phenoms mentioned in this article. He’s only seen slight improvements in ISO and wRC+ but a closer look into his underlying metrics shows major skills growth HH%, exit velocity, and BRL% despite hitting the ball on the ground more frequently. He’s also walking at a higher clip which is a good sign. He’s so close to breaking out. If he works this offseason to adjust his launch angle, I think we’ll see the .300-35 HR player we’ve all envisioned.

Adam Eaton is an odd name to this list. He’s hitting the ball surprisingly hard but they are all on the ground. He’s actually improved his HR/FB% which reflects his gains in terms of this metric but again, a 10% jump in ground ball rate kills any power gains he might have. He’s hitting a measly .215 but I think he’s extremely unlucky in terms of BABIP that sits a .252 (career-.332). I’m not buying Eaton and he’ll be 32 years old without ever really showing much power in the past.

Randal Grichuk’s gains this year are less related to quality of contact and more about making more contact. During his Cardinals career, he struck out 30% of the time. Since joining the Blue Jays, it dropped to a more respectable 26%. This year, however, he’s sitting at 21.5%. On the surface, it looks good. But, he’s still chasing pitches outside the zone at a similar clip and making the same amount of contact on pitches in the zone. That means he’s able to make contact on more ball outside the zone. So, he’s figured out a way to increase his plate coverage which explains his decrease in strikeout rate. Typically, contact on pitches outside the zone isn’t great for a hitter. That’s why I think his BABIP will regress. I think this is a positive sign for Grichuk but not sure how much I will trust him going into 2021.

Cesar Hernadez is definitely hitting the ball harder this year but it hasn’t shown up in his results. He’s pounding the ball into the ground. Even with his improved HH%, he still falls below league average. At age 30, I don’t think there’s much to see here.

Hard Hit% Minus Whiff% - Fallers

NameTeamHH-Wf% (2020)20192020-2019
Shin-Soo ChooRangers1.00%20.70%-19.70%
Yoan MoncadaWhite Sox1.10%18.50%-17.40%
Josh BellPirates6.70%22.90%-16.20%
Rafael DeversRed Sox10.30%26.30%-16.00%
Ryan McMahonRockies2.70%17.50%-14.80%
Anthony RendonAngels20.30%34.50%-14.20%
Marcus SemienAthletics8.20%20.50%-12.30%
Charlie BlackmonRockies9.00%21.20%-12.20%
Xander BogaertsRed Sox13.00%25.10%-12.10%
Starling Marte- - -3.70%14.60%-10.90%



Noooo, my beloved Shin-Soo Choo. At age-37 least year, Choo was a monster with a HH% in the 95th percentile. Despite his advancing age, he had improved his HH% for three straight seasons prior to 2020. He was due for regression, but, it’s not just HH%. He’s also whiffing about 4% more often. I hate to say it about one of the most underrated fantasy assets over the last decade, but it may be time to move on from the Choo Choo Train.

I’m disappointed to see my Dark Horse AL MVP Yoan Moncada on the decliners list. He’s never had a HH% or average exit velocities this low in his career. Personally, I think he’s hurt. Prior to August 12th, his HH% was over 40%. He then missed a game on 8/12 due to “nagging body aches.” Since then, his production has suffered. I can’t say for sure but I know a healthy Moncada would not be hitting the ball so poorly. I’ll be buying back in next season at a discount.

Josh Bell is having a miserable season after his 2019 breakout. His HH% is down a bit from last year but it’s still strong. It’s not the main culprit for his plummeting numbers. He’s simply struggling to make contact. It’s not just one pitch type either. His whiff% is up over 10% against all pitch types (fastballs, offspeed, and breaking balls) from a year ago. This will end up being a lost season for Bell. He’s still in his prime and hitting the ball with authority, so I could see him as a bounceback depending on the price in 2021.

Not even the backdrop of Coors Field can salvage Ryan McMahon’s batting average. He’s hitting just .214 with an xBA one point below the Mendoza Line. He’s been completely useless against breaking balls (0.183 xwOBA) with an insane 53.7% whiff% against the bendy pitches. His quality of contact is simply not good enough to maintain a 36% K-rate. I’m out on McMahon until he improves his contact.

Anthony Rendon showing up on the fallers list just shows how amazing he was last year. After topping the HH%-Whiff% list last season, he’s fallen some, but still in the top 80th percentile. We witnessed his best season in 2019 and now he’s just back to his baseline performance, which is still great. I don’t have any concerns here.


Speaking of one’s best season, Marcus Semien had his in 2019. He showed steady progress over the last several years only to fall back to a 2017 version of himself this year. He’s at a league-average whiff% but was 6% better than league average last year. It’s led to a jump in K% by nearly 8%. It’s not just the strikeouts either. He’s not hitting the ball hard. It doesn’t help that his surrounding cast isn’t playing like they did in 2019. I’m beginning to think 2019 will be the outlier in Semien’s career.

Charlie Blackmon is 34 years old. At this stage of his career, his power metrics are pedestrian at best. The only thing keeping him from being Jeff McNeil is Coors Field. (Psst, I’m not a believer in McNeil’s power despite the recent outburst). He hasn’t stolen bases since 2018 and now his power appears to be declining. He’s dangerously close to being an average/runs play in fantasy. I’ll be fading him next year.

Like many Red Sox hitters, Xander Bogaerts has struggled to match his success from 2019. However, his numbers are still very good. Other than a slight dip in HH% and a small increase to his K%, he’s essentially the same hitter as he was in 2019. Much like Devers, I’m not concerned at all.

After back to back 20 homer seasons, Starling Marte‘s power metrics look more like 2017 than the previous two seasons. I was really impressed with how he improved his exit velocity on fly balls last season but it’s just not there this year. With an average exit velocity of 90.6 mph, he’s in the bottom 25% of all qualified hitters. His number one asset is his speed but he’ll be 32 years old next month his value could slip significantly if he’s unable to provide a rebound in the power department next season.


(Getty Images)

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Staring Pitchers to Stream Week 6 (8/24-8/30) – Fantasy Baseball

Ok, weekly FreezeStats starting pitcher streamers are back! After a two week hiatus, let’s dive into my top streamers for each day next week (8/24-8/30). All options below are rostered in 25% or fewer of FantasyPros leagues. Without wasting anymore time, let’s get to it!



Alec Mills (CHC) – 25% rostered @DET: Monday, August 24th

The soft throwing lefty got punished his last time outing but still has allowed some of the weakest contact among starting pitchers this year. He’s allowed hard contact (BBE 95+ mph) just 25% of the time and an average exit velocity of only 82.9 mph! Over the last two weeks, the Tigers rank in the bottom third in K%, BB%, and wRC+. With a 51% ground ball rate and all that weak contact induced from Mills, I don’t expect he’ll get into much trouble against a weak Tigers offense. He likely won’t strike out more 3-4 batters but our options are slim on Monday.

 

Jose Quintana (CHC) – 24% rostered @DET: Tuesday – August 25th

The streaming field isn’t deep on Tuesday either. Guys like Adam Wainwright and Sandy Alcantara are good options but are over 25% rostered. I don’t have extremely high hopes for Quintana in his first start off the IL but the matchup is juicy. He’s no longer the pitcher he was a few years ago but I think he can provide positive value in this one with a good shot at a win. Going six innings this week isn’t likely but I’d expect a line similar to this: 5 IP, 5-6 baserunners, 2 ER, 4-5 K. Good enough given the options.

Danny Duffy (KCR) – 19% rostered @STL: Wednesday – August 26th

Duffy is quietly having a very solid 2020 season. He’s struck out nearly 10.5 batters per nine innings and has a career-best 20.8% K-BB%. There are only 20 qualified starters that currently have a WHIP below 1.00 and Duffy in one of them (0.99). I don’t expect his strikeout rate to continue at this pace but could see him settling in around a K per inning. This matchup could not be better for Duffy. The Cardinals offense is ranked 25th in wRC+ (89) over the last two weeks and they have struggled in limited at-bats against left-handed pitching this season. Duffy is my lock of the week.

Chad Kuhl (PIT) – 6% rostered @STL: Thursday – August 27th

I finally get to bring back my 2018 sleeper post with the awful title “Kuhl Story, Bro.” Kuhl’s been stretched out as a starter and has really impressed through 19 innings this year. His 2.84 ERA and 1.00 WHIP are amazing but likely won’t last thanks to an elevated strand rate and low BABIP. That being said, he has a solid repertoire firing 95 mph on his fastball and hurls an 88 mph slider. I don’t like his sinker (he needs to ditch it) but his slider is awesome. He’s allowed just a 34 wRC+ and earned a SwStr% of 21.1% with the pitch. Unfortunately, he’s not a lefty like Duffy but should be able to handle a weak Cardinals lineup next week.

Triston McKenzie (CLE) – 20% rostered @STL: Friday – August 28th

I also looked at Sixto Sánchez but after his debut, he’s rostered in over 25% of leagues. McKenzie was on fire in his debut allowing just two hits, walking one, and striking out 10! I know, I know, it was the Tigers but i was impressed with his command. That was my biggest concern given the lack of innings over the last couple seasons. While I don’t think we can expect similar performances going forward, it’s encouraging that he induced swings outside the zone nearly 40% of the time with a 16.3% SwStr% and a 40% CSW. I’ve already beat up on the Cardinals offense and without having seen McKenzie, I’ll give another edge to the lanky right-hander next week.


Tyler Mahle (CIN) – 5% rostered vs CHC: Saturday – August 29th

Streaming against the Cubs in a hitters park is risky, no doubt! But, the Cubs have cooled off a bit in August with a 98 wRC+ over the last two weeks. Additionally, as a team they have struck out 28.7% of the time over that stretch, highest in the Majors. Mahle’s strikeout rate this year is 28.6% backed by a 12.2% SwStr%, nearly three percent higher than in 2019. He’s been pounding his fastball up in the zone, so home runs could be an issue, but he’s suppressed them so far with just one homer across 13.1 IP. He’s allowed weak contact with an average EV of under 88 mph. This one could blow up in my face but on the flip side, he could also strikeout nine batters across six innings as well.

Alex Young (ARI) – 3% rostered vs SFG: Sunday – August 30th

OK, so the Giants are not who we thought they were at the beginning of the season. They don’t strike out much, they are hitting for power, and have won more games than we’ve expected. That being said, the Giants are actually worse on the road this year in terms of offensive production. As a team, the Giants have just an 80 wRC+ on the road this year. Alex Young has an interesting line this year. His 4.50 ERA is fine and his 1.17 WHIP is great. But, he’s given up three homers per nine innings, a 35% HR/FB rate! That’s not good but also likely to regress. He hasn’t gone 5 innings yet as a starter but has gone four-plus in both starts. Quality Start leagues should look elsewhere, but I’m betting he makes it through five in this one to qualify for the win. He’s not walking guys, so his line is going to come down to homers. If he gives up one or zero, we are golden, otherwise…




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Hitter Rankings Update – Rest of Season (Fantasy Baseball)

Believe it or not, we are over 30% through the 2020 Major League Baseball season! Most teams have played about 20 games and sample sizes have started to stabilize. It’s not the end-all, be-all but at least we can identify players that have made adjustments. The stabilization point just shows us that any skill changes can be sustainable. There’s less noise. I’ve updated my hitter rankings for the rest of the season. These rankings are based on standard 5×5 roto scoring.


Some of the biggest climbers include Jesse Winker, Alec Bohm, Dylan Carlson, Teoscar Hernandez, Pedro Severino, Wil Myers, Brandon Lowe, Colin Moran, Ian Happ, Garrett Hampson, Dylan Moore, Jake Cronenworth, Yordan Alvarez, Trent Grisham (although I was already high on him), Mike Yastrzemski, Kyle Lewis, Anthony Santander, Mike Tauchman, and Clint Frazier.

Some Fallers include Yasiel Puig, Scott Kingery, Oscar Mercado, Andrew Benintendi, Justin Upton, Giancarlo Stanton, Paul DeJong, Gavin Lux, Josh Donaldson, Vlad Guerrero, Yandy Diaz, Ozzie Albies, Danny Santana, Josh Bell, Edwin Encarnacion, C.J. Cron, and Yadier Molina. Keep in mind, the +/- under the ECR column is how my rankings differ from the Expert Consensus Rankings. 







Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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How Concerned Should We Be About Struggling Superstars?

This piece was inspired by a poll I held over the weekend on Twitter. I asked the question on Twitter regarding the slow starts for both Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger to get a feel for how fantasy owners were handling the stress of the extremely slow starts from their first-round picks.



Both players were no-doubt first-rounders with Yelich a consensus top-three while Bellinger fell somewhere between fourth and seventh overall. While just over half of the respondents aren’t worried at all, 35% are starting to get frustrated. Now, to be fair, we are just 21 days into the season and most teams have played between 17 and 19 games thus far. That’s like performing a full assessment of a player or your team in mid-April. It just doesn’t make sense. That being said, we are nearly 30% of the way through the season (for most teams)! Decisions must be made on the fly and adjustments need to happen now!

In this piece, I want to cover hitters off to slow starts who were top-end talents, AKA first or second-round selections. Before diving into the analysis, I wanted to cite a couple of pieces for two reasons. First off, the articles provide a ton of great information but also can help determine what we should be doing with players off to slow starts. The first is Rob Arthur’s piece which studied the drag on the 2020 ball. Conclusions are in! The ball has less drag than it did in 2019 and 2017.

It’s much closer to the ball we saw in 2018. I ran some numbers as well, looking at barrels per home run (BRL/HR%) and Blast Zone Barrels per Home Run (BZB/HR%), both were down significantly. We are currently well below the 2017 and 2019 levels and sitting between 2016 and 2018 levels. The crazy part is, we started in the dead of summer when balls fly farther, so our 2020 sample hasn’t factored in cold weather. 

With this information, we can reference Connor Kurcon’s piece from Six Man Rotation “Beneficiaries of the 2019 Dragless Baseball.” Save for Nick Castellanos, Kyle Seager, and Mike Yastrzemski, many of the players who benefited the most from the 2019 ball are struggling to start 2020. Now, since this is descriptive from 2019 data, changes in approach, exit velocity, and home park can attribute to how a player is performing relative to the information provided in Conor’s piece. Oh, and then there’s the sample size thing. Most statistics and metrics have not yet stabilized but metrics such as swing%, K%, exit velocity, and launch angle have. So, for this piece, let’s focus on those metrics.


All ADPs are from NFBC from 4/1/20 – 7/24/20

Christian Yelich (OF – MIL) – 2.05 ADP
.164 BA – 9 R – 4 HR – 9 RBI – 0 SB

Typically, the first round is about the floor but these players also have the highest ceilings. You’re not expecting this type of production from a player taken in the top three of nearly every draft. The first thing that jumps out to me is the ZERO in the stolen base category. The knee is a concern and it appears running may not be something Yelich will be doing this year. Bummer. The second thing that jumps out at me is his strikeout rate. He’s currently struck out 32.8% of the time. His career-worst K% in a full season is 20.7% in 2018. It’s odd because his chase rate as career-best 17.2% which backs his 14.1% walk rate. Yelich might be a little too passive to start 2020. He’s swinging at 10% fewer pitches but also seeing fewer pitches in the zone. That will happen to MVP-caliber players. 

His extreme passiveness doesn’t explain why his zone contact rate has dipped a whopping 20%! That’s my concern. I don’t think it’s an injury because his hard hit% and xwOBACON are very strong. Let’s take to the rolling average graph!

There’s some good news and some bad news here. In 2018, when Yelich won the MVP, he had three separate 15-game rolling averages where his wOBA was as low or lower than his current stretch. The good news is, they didn’t last long and he snapped out of it quickly. He’s also had two other stretches where his reach rates (O-Swing%) were as low as they currently are. The bad news is, those stretches coincided with fantastic results (spikes in wOBA). I’m concerned about Yelich but not a whole lot since his quality of contact is still great and his plate discipline is as good as ever. I think he’s a small tweak from busting out. I’d look to acquire him at 85 cents on the dollar.
Level of concern: 10% due to the lack of stolen base attempts

 

Cody Bellinger (1B, OF – LAD) – 4.08 ADP
.167 BA – 11 R – 2 HR – 6 RBI – 1 SB

Bellinger’s Roto line looks similar to Yelich’s but for different reasons. Bellinger made huge strides in terms of lowering his K% last year and he’s kept those gains this year. In fact, his strikeout rate is actually lower (14.3%) than it was last year./ That’s on top of cutting 7.5% from his K% between 2018 and 2019. He’s actually doing a great job of recognizing pitches in the zone. His swing% has gone up nearly five percent while his chase% is nearly identical to last season. Bellinger’s issues are not with zone recognition but with exit velocity.

His exit velocity and hard hit% are in the 18th and 14th percentile, respectively. Not good. His launch angle is the same as last year but that can be deceiving. Average launch angle does not tell the whole story. Let’s take a look at his 50 PA rolling average Sweet Spot% (balls hit between 8 and 32 degrees). 

He’s only been down this far once before and it was in his rookie year back in 2017. Limiting the percentage of balls hit in the Sweet spot range is going to limit his production on batted balls. Not surprisingly, his popup% is up over 5% this year as well. But, his ground ball% is also on the rise this year. That explains why his launch angle remains unchanged from a year ago. It’s difficult to hit the ball hard when your hitting popups and grounder at low launch angle but the lack of hard contact is concerning. Typically, it relates to an injury. But, his max exit velocity is decent at just under 110 mph which is right near where he’s been in the past. It’s possible he’s sacrificing hard contact for just plain contact which is why he’s hitting so many poorly hit balls. Either way, my concern for Bellinger is slightly higher than with Yelich because he could be masking a minor injury here.
Level of Concern: 25%



 

Rafael Devers (3B – BOS) – 23.09 ADP
.175 BA – 8 R – 2 HR – 3 RBI – 0 SB

Devers has missed the last couple of games with an ankle injury. Maybe that’s to blame for his slow start but I’m not buying it. He tweaked it on Sunday, so it doesn’t explain his poor performance to date. He’s nearly doubled his K%and is walking less compared to 2019. We have to remember, Devers is still just 23 years old and went from a league-average bat in 2018 to an MVP candidate in 2019. Regression back down a little should be expected. But, let’s try to figure out what’s wrong with the young third baseman. 

His hard hit% is down a massive 15% and he’s really been struggling against fastballs slugging just .259 against heaters. Contrast that with 2019 where he had a SLG of .545 against fastballs. Let’s check the two charts below. 

The first shows his in-zone swing and miss% by year. It’s not often you see a player with higher whiff rates on fastballs compared to offspeed or breaking balls, but that’s Devers. While his whiff% in the zone against offspeed pitches has increased by 10%, it’s up 14% against heaters! The second chart shows his average launch angle by pitch type. He’s pounding fastballs into the ground. So, not only is he making less contact against fastballs but he’s also been unsuccessful in elevating them. He’s not being pitched differently either. Most of the fastballs he’s seen are up in the zone or up and out of the zone. 

This looks like one of two things. Either he’s hiding a potential injury or he played a bit over his head last year. Either way, I’m concerned. The loss of Mookie Betts hurts this team’s productivity and word just got out that a humidor was installed at Fenway Park. Fenway was already one of the worst parks for home runs over the last three seasons. Devers and other Red Sox could see a power dip as a result. Additionally, he’s not running and now has a bum ankle. He’s known to go on some heaters but providing second-round value this year seems unlikely.
Level of Concern: 25% 

J.D. Martinez (OF – BOS) – 23.76 ADP
.222-7-1-4-0 (BA-R-HR-RBI-SB)

Martinez hasn’t changed his approach or batted ball distribution all that much. He’s essentially the same guy he’s been over the last several years but without much to show through the first three weeks. The difference is his hard contact. His barrel% is right in line where it’s been the last few seasons but his average exit velocity is way down. Like, bottom 35% down. This is a guy who has finished inside the top 10% in hard hit% each of the last five seasons. He’s also been in the top 10% in terms of exit velocity in four of the last five years. The only year he fell short was last season.


I wrote him up as a faller on my Blast Zone Barrels (BZB) article when looking at three-year trends. As average exit velocities have increased league-wide, Martinez is slipping. There are several reasons for this. First, his age. He’s 32 years old and while not a dinosaur, we don’t typically see players improve their exit velocity in their 30s. Second, his ground balls have been hit weakly (76.6 mph). That’s fine because he can’t do damage with grounders. His AVG EV on FB/LD is 93 mph is in the top half but not quite the JDM we are used to. Lastly, that damn humidor news. It’s going to suppress exit velocity and power.

I think he’ll bust out but not to the 2017 and 2018 levels we are used to seeing. The humidor scares me as well. I’m not buying JDM unless I can get him for 80 cents on the dollar.
Level of Concern: 20%

Anthony Rendon (3B – WSH) – 31.82 ADP
.174 BA – 10 R – 3 HR – 7 RBI – 0 SB

Rendon seems to be pressing. A star player in a new home off to a slow start. Sound familiar Bryce Harper? First, let’s focus on the positives. He’s walking more than he’s struck out (17 BB: 12 K). That’s nothing new for Rendon who has nearly as many strikeouts as walks since the start of 2018. However, he’s swinging less often this year. His chase% is at a career-low 12.6%, so that’s great but he’s dropped over 6% on his zone contact rate. Additionally, he’s hitting everything in the air but not necessarily in a good way. His launch angle is dangerously high at 28.6 degrees. His popup rate has almost doubled since 2019.

Since he’s ultra-passive, he’s getting fewer opportunities to do damage. Most of the time he’s miss-hitting the ball getting under it a little bit. He made an approach change in 2016 to get more loft and it’s done wonders to his production. I think he’s just working through early-season timing issues. Most pitchers have been ahead of the hitters with the lack of spring/summer training. Hitters haven’t quite had the reps they are used to seeing before the season starts. I’d look to acquire Rendon on the cheap but he did blast back to back homers this week, so you may not get much of a discount.
Level of Concern: 5%

Gleyber Torres (SS – NYY) – 28.66 ADP
.154 BA – 4 R – 1 HR – 2 RBI – 0 SB

To get Torres in a 15-team format, you needed to get him right at the end of the second round or at the turn in the third. So far, his hard hit% and K% are better than a year ago but he’s been unable to barrel many baseballs. Just one to date, in fact. His batted ball profile looks identical to a year ago, so what’s the problem? Well, he’s being fed a ton of breaking balls, nearly 10% more than in 2019. He’s done absolutely nothing with them slugging a scant .043 against the bendy pitches. While he was passable against breaking balls in 2019, the expected metrics painted a different picture. His xSLG was 70 points lower versus breaking balls and his xwOBA was .282.


I think this is the league adjusting to Torres. The book is out and he needs to adjust back. He’s only 23 years old and in a similar boat to Devers. There’s plenty of time for him to figure it out and I think he’ll be a star but in a 60-game season, we don’t have time to wait for changes to take shape. On the plus side, he’s chasing less often, so he’s not far from making the necessary adjustment. Like Devers, I certainly love him longterm but feel like he’s going fail on turning any type of profit in 2020.
Level of Concern: 20%


Photo by: Stacy Revere/Getty Images)



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Starting Pitcher Streamers – Week 2 (7/27 – 8/2): Fantasy Baseball

Welcome back to my weekly streaming article. This year I’m doing things a little differently. I’ll pick one streamer for each day that is 25% owned or under based on FantasyPros combined Yahoo!/ESPN ownership rates. In previous seasons, I more or less handpicked the best streaming options for the week and therefore didn’t necessarily choose an option each day. Here’s how last year went and the Google sheet where I tracked the results.

IP ERA WHIP K W QS
Season Totals 654 3.91 1.22 643 52 51

2019 wrapup article. Considering the juiced ball environment, that wasn’t too bad. The degree of difficulty is higher this year now that I don’t have the ability to choose more than one option each day. I will also list a backup option to stream but only if the primary option is skipped or does not pitch for some reason. Here, we go!

 

Monday – July 27th

Pablo Lopez (SP – MIA) Home vs BAL, 9% owned
Lopez at home against a terrible Orioles club is my lock of the week. In 2019 at home, Lopez managed 3.39 ERA with a 1.08 WHIP. His strikeout rate wasn’t great last year but he’s added a cutter to go with his nasty changeup. Hopefully, the Marlins can give Lopez some run support, but I fully expect Lopez to net a strikeout per inning with great ratios on Monday. You may want to hold Lopez after this start because I have a feeling his ownership and popularity may begin to rise.

Backup option: Griffin Canning (SP – LAA), @ OAK – 24% owned 


 

Tuesday – July 28th

Kyle Gibson (SP – TEX) Home vs ARI, 6% owned
I went back in forth between Josh Lindblom and Kyle Gibson. Lindblom has an easier matchup against the Pirates but I just haven’t seen him pitch much. Gibson is a bit underrated. He was somewhat unlucky with a .330 BABIP and a 67.5% strand rate last year. However, he struck out a batter per inning and cut down on his walks. Now, he’s in Texas in the new stadium. By all accounts, it should play more like a pitcher’s park compared to the old Globe Life Stadium. Did you know Gibson managed a 36% O-Swing% and a 13% SwStr rate in 2019? Those rank seventh and 16th respectively among pitchers with at least 150 innings last year. Long story, long, stream Gibson. Backup option: Josh Lindblom (SP – MIL) @PIT – 7% owned

 

Wednesday – July 29th

Danny Duffy (SP – KCR) @DET, 8% owned
Last year, the Tigers were the worst offensive club in the Majors based on wRC+. They also struck out 26.4% of the time, worst in the league. They added C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop this offseason but still have one of the weakest teams in 2020. Duffy was OK in his first outing giving up two earned runs in 4.1 IP. That was against the Indians and I fully expect him to reach 5-6 inning against the Tigers. He won’t WOW you but he’s a decent pick on Wednesday. Backup Option: Patrick Sandoval (SP – LAA) Home vs SEA, 0% owned

 

Thursday – July 30th

John Means (SP -BAL) Home vs MIA – 12% owned
Means is currently on IL as he was slotted to pitch opening day for the Orioles. Obviously, that didn’t happen. By all accounts, he should be back for the start next Thursday and the matchup is juicy. He’s hoping to follow up an impressive 2019 where he finished with a 3.60 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. He won’t strike a ton of guys out but doesn’t get beat by walking batters. He’s also better at home. In 2019, he had a steller 2.74 ERA in Camden Yards. His fastball isn’t all that great but he wields a good change (of course, I love changeups) and a solid slider. That should be enough to beat the Marlins.
Backup Option: Brady Singer (SP – KCR) Home @DET, 17% owned



 

Friday – July 31st

Vince Velasquez (SP – PHI) @TOR – 9% owned
There aren’t many great options next Friday so I’m rolling the dice with VV. He’s featured a new changeup and it looks like it could be a PutAway pitch. He’s been extremely inconsistent over his career, so this stream is not without risk. The Blue Jays are young and not familiar with Velasquez. I give the edge to VV there. I don’t expect him to go more than five innings but given the fact that the Blue Jays strike out quite a bit, he could pile up the Ks. I’m streaming here but like other options next week better.
Backup option: Spencer Turnbull (SP – DET) home vs CIN, 7% owned

 

Saturday – August 1st

Wade Miley (SP – CIN) @DET – 5% owned
Looks like we are picking on the Tigers and that’s OK. Miley doesn’t have the ceiling of some other options next week but has a great chance to post a quality start with good ratios. You might be surprised to know that Miley has had an ERA under 4.00 each of the last two seasons. He focuses on his cutter and changeup to minimize damage. His ground ball rate has been right near 50% the last three seasons. That should play well in Comerica next week and let’s not forget, the Tigers strike out more than any team, so there’s a small amount of K upside here as well.
Backup option: Reynadlo Lopez (SP – CHW) @KCR – 25% owned

 

Sunday – August 2nd

Austin Voth (SP – WSH) @MIA – 5% owned
I’m curious to see what Voth looks like in his first go around this year but I’ve been a fan of his all offseason. Here’s what I said about him way back in January.


“At age-27, he’s not a highly rated prospect but showed impressive skills in 2019 with a 17.8% K-BB% and a 3.30 ERA in 43.2 innings. His fastball wasn’t bad, but it’s his secondaries that get me going. All three of his secondaries, CU, CT, CH generated swinging strike rates north of 16.5%. The curve is the best of the bunch with a 38.9% strikeout rate. We are dealing with limited samples but hell, it’s after pick 250 and there is a top-150 ceiling here.”

He draws the Marlins in Miami and while they moved the fences in (a little), I’m not convinced it’ll change the results all that much. I’m rolling with Both and holding him in deep formats.

So many options next Sunday but many things can change in one week (especially in 2020), so here are the top 2 backup options. Tyler Mahle @DET – 2% owned, Yonny Chirinos @BAL



Photo Credit: Jasen Vinlove / USA Today