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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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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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Blast Zone Launch Angle – Climbers and Fallers

In the introduction to Blast Zone Barrels (BZB), I determined the parameters for the metric based on barreled balls that result in home runs at the highest frequency. I ran correlations and concluded that while it certainly (and quite obviously) has a strong correlation to power, it also has a moderate correlation year over year. I also took a look at outliers over the last three seasons. While Part one covered the genesis of the metric, part two will expand the metric by looking at all batted balls hit within the Blast Zone launch angle band (23-35 degrees). It’s a similar concept to what my colleague, Dan Richards wrote over at Pitcher List last season. Give the article a read, it’s very intriguing. 

Part Two of this series will hopefully provide a little more value for the upcoming fantasy baseball season. First, a quick reminder of the parameters of a BZB. It’s a barreled ball hit between 23 degrees and 35 degrees of launch angle. But, what it ignores is the balls hit at those launch angles that do not qualify as a barrel. In other words, balls that are hit at ideal launch angles for home runs without the extremely high exit velocity. The table below displays the league-wide average exit velocity of all batted balls between 23 degrees and 35 degrees.



AVERAGE EXIT VELOCITY ON BALLS HIT WITHIN BLAST ZONE BARREL LAUNCH ANGLE (23 -25 DEGREES)

2017 (AVG EV) 2018 (AVG EV)

2019 (AVG EV)

90.6 MPH 90.9 MPH

91.3 MPH

As a whole, balls are being hit harder at ideal launch angles over the last three seasons. Part of that can be attributed to the juiced ball. It’s also likely that players are “swinging for the fences” more often which has increased power production but has attributed to the league-wide elevated strikeout rate. Knowing this, let’s look at some three-year trends. I set the parameters for at least 40 batted balls hit within the launch angle band of 23 and 35 degrees for each of the last three seasons. To be fair, I relaxed the qualifying threshold to 25 BBEs for a single season if a player qualified with 40+ BBE in the other two seasons. 

What trends would we expect in regards to average exit velocity on balls hit in this range based on age? Well, naturally, we would expect the trend for aging veterans to be declining, right? You also might expect younger hitters to improve their exit velocity. If that’s what you assumed, then you’d be correct. Shocker! Of the sample I conducted, the list featuring the largest fallers had an average age of 34.7. The List featuring the largest climbers were a hair younger than 30 at 29.7 years to be exact. Below is the list of climbers with over the last three seasons and their current age.

Average Exit Velocity of Balls Hit at Launch Angles Between 23 - 35 Degrees - Climbers

PlayerAge2017 (MPH)2018 (MPH)2019 (MPH)Diff (19-17)
Yoan Moncada2594.890.995.91.1
Starling Marte3187.092.796.89.8
Shin Soo Choo3791.394.995.84.5
Nick Castellanos2892.693.194.01.4
Nelson Cruz4096.397.399.93.6
Mike Trout2893.894.095.31.5
Kyle Seager3290.691.495.14.5
Kole Calhoun3290.891.993.42.6
Josh Bell2791.094.294.53.5
Eugenio Suarez2889.992.093.63.7
Anthony Rendon3091.992.094.72.8
Alex Bregman2690.692.694.13.5
Christian Yelich2890.793.996.45.7
Didi Gregorius3087.288.892.45.2
D.J. LeMahieu3187.59295.58.0
Jason Jeyward3086.987.690.33.4
Kris Bryant2890.991.293.82.9
Matt Chapman2794.493.998.84.4
Xander Bogaerts2785.193.7948.9



A couple of quick points. Mike Trout continues to be the best player and baseball AND is still getting better! There isn’t much he can’t do. Nick Castellanos is my boy! I covered him extensively in Part 1 and love his new landing spot. He’s going to ball out in Cincy and is essentially a J.D. Martinez clone. I included Yoan Moncada because of his huge boost in exit velocity from 2018 to 2019. Was he hiding an injury in 2018? He smoked the ball in his debut back in 2017 but fell way back in 2018. Either way, he absolutely crushed the ball at all launch angles last year and is still just 25 years old. He’s my dark horse to win the AL MVP.

Can we talk about Nelson Cruz and Shin-Soo Choo for a second who appear to be defying the aging curve? Without these two old heads, the average age of the climbers falls to 28.7 which sounds more reasonable. Now, we all know Cruz is a monster and lights up the Statcast page but how has he gotten even better from age 37 to age 39? Averaging a tick under 100 mph within the blast zone launch angle puts him third behind only Joey Gallo and Miguel Sano (both averaged over 100 mph). If you’re expecting a decline from him this year, don’t. Only an injury or God forbid COVID could stop him from crushing in the shortened season. I bet you didn’t expect to see Choo here. On average, he actually hits the ball harder at ideal launch angles than Mike Trout! Think about that for a second. Given the short season, maybe move him up a few spots. He’s certainly is not finished just yet.


Let’s touch on a couple of other veterans who could be sleepers in 2020. Kyle Seager and Kole Calhoun have both steadily increased their exit velocity on ideal launch angles. Calhoun’s playing time could be spotty and news recently came out that he tested positive for COVID. At this point, he’s slight fade until we have more information. However, Seager should hit third or fourth in Seattle, albeit in an awful lineup. Even still, he should provide pop with decent run production. Did you notice Jason Heyward in the mix here? I almost fell asleep writing his name. His metrics aren’t great but he’s shown steady improvement over the last three years. He improved his walk rate and ISO last year and his defense should keep him in the lineup most days. Maybe he can put it together for two months in 2020?

Christian Yelich is just ridiculous. At age-28, he should continue to be an MVP candidate for the next three to five years. He’s my top pick going into the abbreviated 2020 season. Would you look at Alex Bregman? His barrel rate may be brutal and he scored poorly on my Blast Zone Barrels metric, but here we are. The reason he’s been so good in addition to his unbelievable plate discipline is this. He has improved on consistently hitting batted balls at ideal launch angles with authority. He doesn’t need to hit the ball 105 mph to hit a home run. I’m fading him less as a result of this research. 

The steady growth from Eugenio Suarez over the last four seasons has been fun to watch. He’s been successful in a similar manner to Bregman but without elite plate skills. Still, given his home park and this metric, I’d expect another great season from him. Josh Bell has arrived! He didn’t quite put it all together in 2019 but had an MVP-like first half. I’m a believer that he’s closer to the first half Bell than the 2018/second half Bell we saw. I’m buying and might jump him over an aging first baseman I’ll cover below.

Finally, can we talk about the elephant in the room? Starling Marte, WTF!?! His average exit velocity on balls hit between 23 and 35 degrees jumped nearly 10 mph from 2017! That was the year he was busted for PEDs. Hmmm? Unfortunately, his ground ball rate continues to hover around 50%. But, his career-best 18.5% HR/FB rate in 2019 was certainly justified. Even with some negative regression, Marte could still provide plenty of pop. Will Marte transform into a power hitter late into his career? It would require a launch angle adjustment but could certainly prolong his career as his speed declines. Xander Bogaerts’ presence on this list is largely due to a wrist injury in 2017 that sapped his power. He’s essentially been the same guy the last two seasons and at age-27, it doesn’t appear anything is going to change. Oh, hello there D.J. LeMahieu! The research I’ve done on D.J. points his results from 2019 being mostly sustainable. Bet against him if you will but he hits the ball as hard as Trout at ideal launch angles and has the short porch in right field.

Below is a graphical representation of the largest risers covered above.

Average Exit Velocity of Balls Hit at Launch Angles Between 23 - 35 Degrees - Fallers

PlayerAge2017 (MPH)2018 (MPH)2019 (MPH)Diff (19-17)
Daniel Murphy3591.088.485.9-5.1
Yuli Gurriel3689.689.788.4-1.2
Yadier Molina3793.391.290.3-3.0
Whit Merrifield3191.790.687.8-3.9
Paul Goldschmidt3297.393.493.3-4.0
Justin Smoak3394.894.093.0-1.8
Josh Reddick3388.589.286.9-1.6
Joey Votto3691.393.490.1-1.2
J.D. Martinez3296.396.094.3-2.0
Albert Pujols4092.493.690.3-2.1
Kurt Suzuki3693.891.186.7-7.1

This is a shorter list. I won’t spend too much time on these guys because many of them aren’t fantasy relevant outside of deeper formats. Kurt Suzuki had a nice run in his mid-30s, but he may just be cooked. Yadier Molina isn’t far behind. He may be able to contribute with moderate power this year but after 2020, I think his career is just about over. Same for Albert Pujols and potentially Joey Votto. Everyone knows about Pujols but the metrics on Votto are just as ugly. Even in the favorable home park, I will not be betting on bounceback. FREE KYLE TUCKER! It’s getting embarrassing with Josh Reddick and the Astros. He’s hardly a plus defender anymore and can’t hit with a 94 wRC+ and a .134 ISO last season. Come on Astros.

Daniel Murphy’s 2019 can be attributed to a finger injury, but even the metrics from 2018 are pretty scary. Coors Field could help but I’m not betting on a power resurgence. Then again, if health is on his side for the short season, I could envision Murphy putting together a fortunate .350 BA – 7 HR type season. Yuli Gurriel’s Statcast metrics have never been great and at age-36, his exit velocity is declining. He was unbelievably fortunate in 2019 and I’d be surprised if he hit more than seven homers in 2020. Justin Smoak is interesting. He’s 33 years old and has shown natural regression in terms of BZ launch angle exit velo. However, 93.0 mph is still well-above the league average. He’ll get a boost with the DH and with his new home park, so I wouldn’t give up on him just yet, just don’t expect much in 2021.


Now to the fantasy-relevant players. J.D. Martinez went from being elite to very good. Should we be concerned? He’s 32 years old and there’s some evidence of player’s declining at that age. The Red Sox are still stacked even without Mookie Betts, but that means fewer RBI opportunities. Remember how I mentioned earlier that Nick Castellanos was J.D. part two? Well, if the trend continues, Nicky C could outperform JDM in 2020. Bold or not? Paul Goldschmidt falls into a similar category as JDM. They are the same age and have shown signs of declining. Not only has Goldy’s BZ EV fallen quite significantly since 2017, but he’s also a full mile per hour lower on average than JDM. I absolutely hate Busch Stadium for home runs and will very likely dock him given this information. I mentioned Josh Bell earlier and could see Bell outpacing Goldy in 2020. To Bell’s dismay, his surrounding lineup is awful, so I think Goldy bests him in run production. That being said, I’ll take Bell in batting average and home runs.

Finally, there’s Whit Merrifield. The late bloomer who helped players win championships in 2017 and 2018. He came out of nowhere in his late twenties to hit 19 homers and steal 34 bags back in 2017. Then as an encore, hit 12 bombs and stole 45 bags with a .304 BA in 2018. In 2019, the average stayed and the power returned (somewhat to 16 HR) but his steals were cut in half. The trend in the table above is extremely worrisome. He was saved by the juiced ball last year but now at age-31, I don’t think his power will play. His sprint speed is still in the top 15 percentile but is clearly falling. Over a full 162, I’d be hard-pressed to project more than 10 homers and 20 steals. What does that mean over 60 games? How about 4 homers and 8 steals. Yikes. He’s teetering very close to contributing an empty batting average. I’ll go out on a limb and say he’s nearly undraftable in 2021.




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Revisiting xBABIP Outliers: 1st Half 2019 (Fantasy Baseball)

Today marks the much anticipated Opening Day for Major League Baseball. Unfortunately, there is no baseball. This is a sad day, BUT, it has allowed for more time to go back and research topics I otherwise would not have had time to revisit. Let’s first go back to the original piece I wrote at the midpoint of 2019 covering BABIP outliers.

Using xBABIP to Find Outliers – Players to Buy/Sell for the 2nd Half




In that piece, I covered both over and under-performers. I’ll cover the under-performers next week, but first, let’s recap the players with the largest discrepancy between xBABIP and BABIP through the first half of 2019.

2019 1st Half xBABIP Outliers - Over-performers

PlayerBABIP 1HxBABIP 1HxBABIP-BABIP
Rhys Hoskins0.3080.242-0.066
Omar Narvaez0.3240.249-0.075
Charlie Blackmon0.3490.285-0.064
Brandon Lowe0.3970.314-0.083
Nolan Arenado0.3170.261-0.056
Eduardo Escobar0.3070.250-0.057
David Peralta0.3500.297-0.053
David Dahl0.4100.367-0.043
Miguel Cabrera0.3610.312-0.049
Trevor Story0.3610.307-0.054
Christian Vazquez0.3210.272-0.049
Gleyber Torres0.3190.266-0.053
Eric Sogard0.3190.272-0.047
Corey Seager0.3220.273-0.049
Elvis Andrus0.3490.294-0.055
Christian Yelich0.3280.295-0.033
Brian Goodwin0.3550.313-0.042
Marcus Semien0.2920.266-0.026
Austin Meadows0.3680.332-0.036
Tim Anderson0.3720.329-0.043
Jorge Polanco0.3490.320-0.029
Jeff McNeil0.3800.340-0.040
Adalberto Mondesi0.3520.322-0.030
Xander Bogaerts0.3280.301-0.027
Juan Soto0.3650.323-0.042
Joey Votto0.3260.296-0.030
Difference0.3430.296-0.047

Most of us were likely able to identify many of these players as BABIP regression candidates for the second half. As a whole, these outliers had an average BABIP of .343 through June 26th, 2019, nearly 45 points above the league-average. In fact, xBABIP pegged the group as essentially league-average in terms of BABIP based on the batted ball data per Baseball Savant. The table below tracks how each player fared after June 26th. We can expect regression, but how much?


2nd Half Performance: 2019 1H xBABIP Outliers - Over-performers

PlayerBABIP 1HBABIP 2HBABIP 2H - BABIP 1H
Rhys Hoskins0.3080.228-0.080
Omar Narvaez0.3240.286-0.038
Charlie Blackmon0.3490.321-0.028
Brandon Lowe0.3970.278-0.119
Nolan Arenado0.3170.306-0.011
Eduardo Escobar0.3070.260-0.047
David Peralta0.3500.274-0.076
David Dahl0.4100.324-0.086
Miguel Cabrera0.3610.311-0.050
Trevor Story0.3610.3620.001
Christian Vazquez0.3210.291-0.030
Gleyber Torres0.3190.273-0.046
Eric Sogard0.3190.313-0.006
Corey Seager0.3220.286-0.036
Elvis Andrus0.3490.266-0.083
Christian Yelich0.3280.3900.062
Brian Goodwin0.3550.314-0.041
Marcus Semien0.2920.2990.007
Austin Meadows0.3680.300-0.068
Tim Anderson0.3720.4300.058
Jorge Polanco0.3490.306-0.043
Jeff McNeil0.3800.289-0.091
Adalberto Mondesi0.3520.3680.016
Xander Bogaerts0.3280.3480.020
Juan Soto0.3650.266-0.099
Joey Votto0.3260.308-0.018
Difference0.3430.308-0.036

19 of the 25 outliers regressed in the second half of 2019. Some of them saw heavy regression. Trevor Story essentially broke even, so basically, 80% of the over-performers finished with a lower BABIP in the second half. The average drop in BABIP from the group was 36 points. When compared to the average xBABIP-BABIP differential in the original table, the group collectively regressed about 77%. If we exclude the players who actually improved their BABIP in the second half, the differential between 1H BABIP and 2H BABIP is a whopping .052! We’ve got a small sample of outliers but it’s very telling that the first half xBABIP was a much better predictor of second-half BABIP. At least for this group of outliers. Let’s dive into the analysis on each player with some tidbits for 2020.

Rhys Hoskins’ regression was obvious given his profile. Slow-footed hitters with 50% fly ball rates and high pull percentages rarely produce near league-average BABIP, let alone above-league average. Not only did he regress, but he also fell below his xBABIP from the first half. Despite a great eye at the plate, we can expect Hoskins to continue to carry a BABIP around .250 going forward.


Regression came but not as hard as xBABIP predicted for Omar Narvaez. He’s shown strong bat to ball skills and a tight launch angle variance which has helped him outperform his metrics over the last two seasons. It’s no surprise that he once again managed a league-average BABIP. He may continue to outperform his expected metrics going forward but I’m not betting on a .300+ BABIP. Coors Field is largely at play for Charlie Blackmon. Look no further than his home/road splits: .376 BABIP at home vs .296 BABIP on the road. Simply put, he’s a .325 hitter at home and a .275 hitter on the road.

This was an easy win with Brandon Lowe. A .397 BABIP is not sustainable (unless you ask Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson, and Fernando Tatis Jr.). My concern for Lowe is that his true talent is a .300-.320 BABIP hitter. We need a larger sample but if that’s the case, he’s going to hit .230. Once again, Coors Field is to blame for Nolan Arenado. No need to dig deeper. I’d expect him to hit .275 if he’s traded.

Man, I really expected a major collapse from Eduardo Escobar in the second half. While his BABIP almost completed regressed, his power did not. Besides, the BABIP dropping, his power remained strong in the second half despite extremely poor power metrics. Alas, his power sustained as he hit 17 home runs in the second half after clubbing 18 in the first half. Shrug emoji. Although he’s a major candidate for regression based on my eHR metric in 2020, he’s still a safe .260 hitter with low-to-mid-20s pop.

Injuries certainly played a role here, but David Peralta’s batted ball profile did not portend to anywhere near a .350 BABIP as his speed continues to diminish. I’m not one to project a resurgence to the 2018 version of Peralta but stranger things are happening at the moment. I really love that David Dahl was carrying such a lofty xBABIP through the first half of the season. It all came crashing down to a still solid .324 in the second half. His career BABIP is .369 and I think that’s close to his skill level given his batted ball profile, speed, and Coors Field. He was unlucky based on eHR, so health is really the only thing holding him back. A healthy Dahl could be a major breakout and a top-50 fantasy asset.


Almost nailed it! Miggy is a shell of himself but despite being 36 and one of the slowest players in the majors, he’s still posted better than average BABIP. Even xBABIP thinks so. But I digress, there’s no value here. He’s turning into empty batting average much like Joe Mauer circa 2015. Trevor Story put together a hell of a season. He outperformed his BABIP in the first half but managed to match his xBABIP in the second half. Despite posting back to back seasons with a batting average over .290, the projection systems and his xBABIP peg him as a 275 hitter. What do you think?

I’m not sure Christian Vazquez will maintain a .300+ BABIP again but it’s fun to look at 2019 as an outlier. Gleyber Torres only hit 5.7% of hit ground balls to the opposite field yet managed an above-average BABIP on balls hit on the ground. He was shifted on 33% of his plate appearances. I expect that to rise while his BABIP on ground balls plummets. Projections have his BABIP over .300 which I think is a mistake, especially if he continues to hit pop-ups at an above-average clip. What happens if Gleyber is a .250 hitter?

The second half metrics were strong for Corey Seager but xBABIP isn’t buying it. If he never fully develops into a 30-homer hitter, he could be another boring .280-20-HR type player that does very little for me. Elvis Andrus was dealing with an injury but even still, he was never going to maintain a BABIP near .350. He’s on the wrong side of 30 and his sprint speed is scary low for a player with 30 swipes in 2019. We may be looking at the beginning of the end for Andrus.

Christian Yelich: The un-regressionable candidate: Ideal launch angle for batting average, elite hard contact, great foot speed, the list goes on. He’s the s%$t. Hey, look! I nailed this one – Thanks for making me look good Brian Goodwin. Marcus Semien just keeps getting better. He bounced back spitting in the face of his first-half xBABIP crushing it in the second half. I think we saw the peak Semien season in 2019 but he should be a solid fantasy player going forward. Just not at his current price.

Austin Meadows xBABIP was a solid .332 in the first half and he came all the way down to .300 in the second half. Do we have enough data on Meadows to know what kind of hitter he is? I’m not so sure. For those expecting batting average as one of Meadows’ major assets could be disappointed in 2020. I see him hitting anywhere from .250 to .290. Hi Tim Anderson! Major shrug emoji here. He did hit the ball harder, at lower launch angles, plus he’s got great speed. Even still, Anderson is likely to hit .270 next year and that’s just fine given his power/speed combo.

Yeah, we didn’t believe you either Jorge Polanco. He is like a poor man’s Jeff McNeil. There’s value here but also no need to reach at all. What type of fantasy player is Jeff McNeil if he has a .289 BABIP? Well, he hit .276 in the second half. His power did jump up, but I don’t believe it’s fully sustainable. The good news is, I actually believe he can carry a .330 BABIP going forward based on the data from a majority of two seasons but expecting 23 homers again is a fool’s errand.

We have to accept that Adalberto Mondesi is always going to outperform his xBABIP. It’s likely due to his batting average on ground balls. His batting average minus expected batting average (BA-xBA) on ground balls was .035. I don’t think Statcast fully takes into account the elite speed aspect of his game. He will always outperform his xBA on grounders. However, he was fortunate on line drives by about 100 points, so expecting a BABIP of .350 again is not wise.

For Xander Bogaerts, here’s my explanation. His continued overperformance is a little bit of luck and a little bit due to his home park, Fenway. His BA-xBA on balls in play was .012. So, a little lucky, but nothing crazy. However, if we isolate his balls in play in Fenway Park, his BA-xBA is .059! We should anticipate another BABIP north of .310 from Bogaerts but with neutral luck, we are looking at something close to .320.

Overcorrection much? Juan Soto may have been lucky on his BABIP in the first half but it came all the way back and then some in the second half. I know Soto is a lefty but he sprays balls all over the field and rarely pops up. He’ll continue to carry a .300+ BABIP while smashing 30+ homers. He’s still just 21. I think before he’s 26, we will see a .325-40-120 season from Childish Bambino. One can dream. Joey Votto is kind of in the same camp for me as Miguel Cabrera. After an extended period of greatness, their time has passed. Stay tuned for the underperforming list next week.


Follow me @FreezeStats. Check out my work at FantasyPros and Pitcher List.




(Photo credit: Andy Marlin, Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports)

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Tommy Pham Player Profile

Tommy Pham (TB – OF) – #2EarlyMocks ADP 78; NFBC ADP 62

After Tommy Pham was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays at the end of July of 2018, he was one of the best hitters in the league. In the second half, Pham hit .331 with a .433 OBP, eight homers and six steals, good for a wRC+ of 177! That was only in 50 games. Pham doesn’t get the notoriety he deserves because of a late break in the big leagues and a slow start to 2018. Even given that slow start, Pham carries an impressive 138 wRC+ the last two seasons which is tied for 16th among qualified hitters. He hits for average, hits home runs, steals bases, and takes walks. So, why isn’t he being drafted like a top 20 hitter? Players like Adalberto Mondesi, A.J. Pollock, and Eddie Rosario have gone ahead of Pham in the 2 Early Mocks but is gaining steam in the NFBC drafts. I’d take Pham over all three players just mentioned, and here’s why.

Starting with plate discipline because I love a player who commands the zone. His O-Swing (or chase rate), zone-contact, and swinging strike rate are all above league average. In fact, his O-Swing is nearly 8% lower than the league average, which is in the top 10% of all players. Pham doesn’t get beat by pitches outside the zone. Some might look at his 24.6% K rate, which is worse than the league average, and think he’s a bit of a free swinger. It’s the actually the contrary, Pham is patient and sees a ton of pitches putting him deep counts. The downside is a higher strikeout rate, the upside is an elevated walk rate. It also allows Pham to wait for his pitch which is verified in his 48.5% hard contact rate! The elevated walk rate allows Pham additional stolen base opportunities. It’s a trade-off Fam (Pham?)

Speaking of hard contact and batted quality, Pham does not discriminate when it comes to hitting the ball. He sprays balls to all fields. Let’s take a look at his hard-hit rate to all fields compared to the league average. 

Hard Hit Percentage by Batted Ball Direction

 Pull SideCenterOpposite Field
Tommy Pham46.7%52.8%43.8%
League Average39.5%37.3%25.9%

I challenge you to find a player with a similar quality of contact to all fields. I’m mostly kidding, I should just do the work myself but I’m feeling lazy. Just kidding, no one compares, I just checked. Christian Yelich and Shin-Soo Choo come close with hard contact to center and the opposite field but fall short when including the hard-hit pulled rate. What this does is allow Pham to avoid shifts and will result in an elevated BABIP. Pham’s batted ball distribution is very diverse as well hitting just over a third of his batted balls to both the pull side (37%)  to center (35%), and over 25% the other way. What also contributes to a higher BABIP is his high line drive rate and his foot speed. So, his .342 BABIP from 2018 doesn’t seem out of place, especially when you consider his career .351 BABIP!

Pham does possess a near-50% groundball rate which will limit his home run upside, but he’s average 23.5% HR/FB the last two seasons. Pham is not all that different than 2018 MVP Christian Yelich, he just hasn’t been as healthy. If you miss out on Yelich, don’t sweat it. Just wait five rounds and grab ya boy Pham! I’ve projected Pham for 23 homers and 17 steals but that’s in just 574 plate appearances. Therein lies the discount when it comes to Pham. I anticipate Pham’s ADP to drop in Yahoo, ESPN, and CBS leagues as we approach draft season in full force the next couple months. If I had to guess, Pham’s ADP settles in around 78 overall where he was drafted in the #2EarlyMocks. If he can stay healthy for 650 PA, I could see a 25/20 season with over 100 runs and a solid batting average.

via Gfycat

Hit me up Twitter @FreezeStats with your Fantasy Baseball questions.

Photo courtesy of (Getty Images)

Weekly Rundown – Chris Arrrrrrcher Walks the Plank




Welcome back to another round of the Weekly Rundown! A lot to cover this week and I want to start by saying I was dead wrong about Javier Baez this year. As a Cubs fan, I had seen too much of how reckless he was at the plate, not looking like he had a plan. He swings at everything and plays like his hair is on fire. As a fantasy writer, his plate approach still makes no sense to me, but I love that he’s doing it and is clearly inside the top 3 for the NL MVP.

Hot Hitters
I have to lead with Trea Turner who is running wild with 8 steals in the last 7 days! He’s also hitting .339 with a home run and 9 runs this week. I kept Turner inside my top 10 through the May Rankings but dropped him to about 15 overall in my All-Star ranks and now I’m kicking myself. A player with 60-steal speed with 20-homer power in an era where no one steals is fantasy gold. I had Turner ranked #3 overall in the preseason and while he won’t reach those heights thanks to Trout, Ramirez and Betts, I think he ends up inside the top 10.

Oh my goodness Rougned Odor! Odor has 5 homers, 10 runs, and 10 RBI this past week with a .421 average and a 1.642 OPS! What’s most impressive is that he walked 5 times in a single game AND hit a homer! This is a guy who typically walks 30 times a year. Yeah, nobody is hotter than Odor right now. He’s walking more and luck is more on his side this year. I expected a bounce back from Odor and he’s finally proving me right! Expect him to slow a bit, but should still end up close to 20 homers and 15 steals.

50 year-old Nelson Cruz has 5 more home runs this week with 9 RBI. OK, he’s not 50, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was still hitting homers at ago 50. What’s amazing about Cruz is the fact that his first MLB home run was hit at ago 26 and he wasn’t even a regular player until he was 30 years old! He’s managed to hit 351 home runs in his career. That’s basically in nine and a half seasons. Now at 38, nothing’s really changed. He’s actually making more contact inside the zone and while I don’t expect him to hit .290, I’d love to see him reach 40 bombs for the fourth time in five years.

Trey “Boom Boom” Mancini is actually hitting with 3 homers and 6 RBI this past week. I didn’t love Mancini coming into the year after his impressive rookie season, but I expected some better numbers. This is what happens when a .352 BABIP comes crashing down. His average goes from .293 to .231. Mancini has no speed and hits 55% of his batted balls on the ground. That’s not going to be a recipe for success. He also doesn’t make a ton of hard contact and his plate approach is the same as last year. It’s regression to the mean for Mancini, he can be left on waivers. I’ll have to call him Trey Meh-cini.


Daniel Palka (who?) is hitting .500 with 2 homers and 7 RBI this week in only 10 at-bats. Palka is kind of a meaty human being. He’s crushing baseballs though and he’s tied with Matt Davidson in home runs with 16 with 70 less plate appearances. Remember Matt Davidson? He hit 3 HR on Opening Day and had 6 in the first week? OK, here’s my analysis of Palka. He’s a classic free-swinging slugger. Palka has a poor approach with a lot of swing and miss in his game. His contact rate is trash and he hits a few too many popups. He’s a deep league flier if you need power, that’s about it.

Christian Yelich is rocking .367 batting average with 3 homers and 9 runs plus 5 RBI this week. He’s been elevated thanks to a .500+ BABIP in the last three weeks but I’m not selling Yelich. I was asked the other day is Yelich is a sell-high candidate. I basically said, HELL NO. I think Yelich is just reaching his potential. Remember, he’s only 26 years old, he’s hitting the ball harder than ever, and is 13 out of 15 on the bases. I think Yelich is a .300-25-20 player this year and for the next half-decade, especially now that he’s in Milwaukee.

Hot Pitchers
Carlos Carrasco is on fire with a 0.66 ERA with 18 strikeouts and a WHIP below 1.00 in his last two starts. If you were able to buy him when he was rolling with a 4.00+ ERA then kudos to you! Carrasco is the same pitcher he was last year, except he’s getting more swings outside the zone. That’s great but he’s also giving up more hard contact and less soft contact. That may explain the small bump in home run rate and WHIP. Otherwise, his K%-BB% is still elite and he should be a top 10 SP the rest of the way.

Justin Verlander did not have a great start a week ago but he was Str8 Ballin’ last night against the Dodgers. He struck out 14 batters and allowed a solo homer to Yung Joc Pederson. That gives JV 21 strikeouts in his last two starts. So guess what? Former Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander is having the best season of his career. Oh and he’s 35 years old. He’s one win shy of 200 for his career, which in today’s game is quite a feat. His K%-BB% is a crazy 29%! If that was his strikeout rate, it would rank 11th in MLB! Did I mention he married Kate Upton after the World Series last year? JV has successfully lived out everyone’s fantasies. #LIFEGOALS

I guess I’m forced that mention Trevor Richard of the Miami Marlins. Who, you ask? You know, Garrett’s brother, I’m JK, I don’t think they are related because Trevor would already be on the DL if that were the case. Anyways, my man TR has spun 11 innings of one run ball with 15 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.00. He’s actually been great for three straight starts now. Here’s the deal, Richards is 25 and has decent strikeout potential and showed good control in the minors. He’s been wild since the call up, so I’d expect some positive regression there. I don’t think I believe in the low HR/FB continues, even in Marlins Park. He might be more interesting next year but for this year is just a streamer.

German Marquez has a 2.45 ERA with a 0.65 WHIP and 17 strikeouts in his last two starts. If you read my blog, you know how I try to avoid Rockies pitchers like the plague. However, Marquez has managed a K/9 near 9.5, so he at least deserves some attention. Did you know Marquez is only 23 years old and has 300 ML innings under hit belt? Here are the pluses, his O-Swing is up, first-pitch-strike is up, and SwStr% is up. The bad, the HR/FB is up to almost 19% and his only plus pitch is his slider. I still can’t trust him, but will gladly stream him on the road.


Rick Porcello just threw a complete game shutout against the Yankees and in his last 14.2 IP with 4 ER with only 7 base runners and 14 Ks. Porcello is basically the same pitcher he was when he won the Cy Young back in 2016. Listen, we all know he shouldn’t have won and was relatively fortunate, but the fact remains, he’s been good. He’s lower his fastball usage to around 20% and he’s throwing his slider about 25% of the time, that’s great. He’s pretty capped with his strikeout rate, but keeps the walks in check. I like him as a top 35 starter ROS.

Freezing Cold Hitters
Ryon Healy is hitting a pathetic .091 with no homers, 1 RBI, and a 1 run this week. This is Healy you guys! I get that he has power, but his approach is trash and he has no speed whatsoever. His BABIP is sitting around .250 and should rebound a little bit higher, but up to what, maybe .270? Ok, so Healy is a .245 hitter with 25-28 HR power. I’m just not a big fan, you can find his production on the wire. I personally hope he gets to 30 HR this year so he can be over-drafted next year.

Through the first half, Matt Kemp was doing his best Return of the Mac impression. What happened to all the Matt Kemp hype talk? He’s down to .045 this week with no homers and RBI and 1 run. That’s not great. Is Kemp’s age finally catching up with him? Eh, not so much. He is swinging and missing a little more since the start of July, but he’s hitting the ball as hard as ever. He’s not hitting as many fly balls, but it’s coming in the form of line drives. He looks like he will be fine. I think he can hit .275 with solid power these last two months.

Eddie “Not so Money” Rosario is 3 for his last 25 with no homers or steals in that last 7 days. I don’t love Rosario’s aggressive approach, but he makes a lot of contact, so it works for him. His speed has slowed down considerably, at one point it was looking like Rosario was going to hit 35 homers and steal 18 bases. Now, he’s on pace for 25-26 homers and 10-11 steals, or basically the same as last year. His chase rate is up to an awful 42% and his zone% is 41.4%, so pitchers aren’t throwing him as many strikes and he’s chasing them. He’s only hitting .256 with 1 home run since July 1, plus his K% is up 4%. I would have sold him a couple weeks ago, but since his numbers are still solid on the season, maybe you can still sell relatively high.

Starling Marte was looking like he was going to lead the league in steals until TreaT Urner decided to go nuts this week. In the last 7, Marte has no homers, no steals, no RBI, and 2 runs, thanks to a 3 hit night last night. Marte is fine you guys, his fly ball and hard contact rates are up and as a result, he’s hitting for power. Marte typically gets at least one day off per week because he’s often injured/banged up, but that’s fine. He’s still going to hit 20-22 HR with 35 steals. No one will complain about that.

Max Muncy is back on the cold list for the second straight week after getting huge Mass Appeal. He’s only 3 for his last 19 without a homer and hitting .163 the last two weeks. This is actually concerning, after people we calling for Muncy as the NL MVP. The additions of Machado and Dozier along with the return of Justin Turner are squeezing Muncy out of some playing time. Chris Taylor may also feel it as well, but Taylor is better defensively and Muncy is struggling right now. Muncy is going through the struggles similar to Rhys Hoskins at the end of September last year. Muncy is chasing more pitches and making less contact, and of course the K rate bumps up as a result. I’m worried about playing time but if the Dodgers keep playing him, he’ll get himself out of it. I’m still on the Muncy bandwagon.


Freezing Cold Pitchers
Chris Archer has some new digs and after one start but I’d rather have him walk the plank. Archer got pummeled and struggled with control against the Cardinals. At least he’s not facing the Red Sox and Yankees, right guys? Well, to be fair, he’s getting BABIP’ed a bit in the past month but that doesn’t change my mind on Arrrrrrrrrrrcher. LOL, sorry had to do it. He’s striking less batters out, giving out more walks and doesn’t have a third pitch he trusts. Its well documented that the lack of that third pitch is forcing him out of games early and adding walks to the mix is really shortening his outings and killing his ratios. No thank you, Bucco. 

It’s been a great career for King Felix but I think he’s soon to become a pauper. Felix has given up 9 ER in his last 7.2 IP and his ERA is up to 5.49 for the season. He’s been dealing with some back luck in terms of strand rate but he’s not inducing much weak contact and his velocity is down 1.5 mph this year. He’s either injured or his career may be just about over. This is a cat that used to throw 95 mph on the regular and can’t even average 90 mph anymore. I’m sensing a DL stint is coming followed by an attempt to come back next year. Then…..retirement.

Marcus Stroman has given up 9 ER in his last 11.2 IP with a whopping 18 hits against. He somehow hasn’t allowed a homer in either start, but his ground ball tendencies are really working against him in Toronto. It’s not all his fault that the Blue Jays infield defense is trash, but it’s also not changing this year. I wouldn’t own him in anything deeper than 12-team leagues, there just isn’t enough upside with his low strikeout totals.

Andrew Cashner is anything but Straight Cash-ner Homie. How does 12 ER in his last 2 starts sound? How about a 2.35 WHIP in those two starts? Did you think his 3.40 ERA in Texas last year was for real? I apologize for all the questions, but this is a guy who probably had the luckiest season on record last year. A 4.64 K/9 and a 3.6 BB/9, with a 91.6% Z-Contact and a 6.1% SwStr rate make me sick. Those look like an elite hitter like Jose Ramirez. So Cashner was putting up elite hitter numbers, but was a pitcher. Is that bad? OK, no more questions. He’s just BAD.

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Weekly Rundown – Finding Nimmo at a Stripling Club

Jose Altuve is back to doing MVP type things. I’ll be honest, I was worried for a minute. He’s going to be fine but he is making slightly less (but still elite) contact and hitting a ton of extra-base hits. I still think he finishes the season around 20 homers and 25 steals with a .310 batting average. It’s not quite the 25/35 you had hoped for but if you don’t win your league, it won’t be Altuve’s fault.

Christian Yelich’s ground ball rates have looked like this since 2015: 62.5%, 56.5%, 55.4%, and 50.7%. That last one is this year. That’s good, but I still think his best GB% should be around 45%. That being said, he’s hitting the ball harder along with the improved launch angle. What’s also intriguing is his pull percentage on fly balls is up from last year and matches his 2016 output when he had a career high 23.6% HR/FB. That’s probably his upside in terms of HR/FB rate, but we could be looking at 22-25 HR for Yelich this year if he keeps this up. Oh by the way, he’s got 3 steal this past week, so 15-18 steals with that power and average is fantasy gold.

Tim Anderson isn’t going to win the batting title but he’s one of three players with 10+ HR and 10+ steals. The other two are Mike Trout and Mookie Betts, so there’s that. Anderson has 4 HRs and a steal while hitting nearly .400 this week. He’s going to be hot and cold but get this, his pathetic 2.1% BB rate from 2017 is up to 8.2% this year! He’s also been unlucky in terms of BABIP. If the BABIP comes up and he continues to walk, he might start be hitting 1st of 2nd for the White Sox and be a 20/25 type player with a .260+ average.

Yairo Munoz is the starting catcher for the Cardinals with Yadier Molina out. Just kidding! Just because his initials are YM, he plays for the Cardinals, and he’s Hispanic, you assume he’s the catcher! Anyways, no he’s playing shortstop but I’ll get back to Munoz in a sec. I also wanted to write about Harrison Bader because he’s been on fire hitting .435 with 2 homers and 2 steals in the past week. The Cardinals sent Tyler O’Neill back down to Triple-A, so Bader should get plenty of playing time as long as he performs. Anyways, back to Munoz. He’s got a couple of homers and driven in 9 runs in the last 7 days. Munoz has surprising speed, he stole 22 bases in AA last year and has above average pop. He’s striking out a lot but kept it under 20% in the minors. Consider grabbing him in 14 team leagues and deeper in your MI slot.

I’ve had a bit of a man-crush on Brandon Nimmo since late last year. I wrote about him as a potential breakout player this year in the preseason on FanGraphs Community. After the Mets jerked him around a bit, he’s finally playing everyday and leading off. On the year, he’s slashing .294/.436/.597 and has 4 homers and 2 steals this past week. He’s the latest adopter of the flyball revolution evidenced by his 18.1 degree launch angle (up from 9.6 last year) and his ground ball rate is down 12%. He’s now got 18 XBH in only 148 PA and should be owned in all leagues. Yes, I said all leagues, what are you waiting for? He’s a monster in OBP leagues as well with his 14+% BB rate.

David Dahl is hitting .333 with 2 homers and a steal despite not starting in 3 of the last 6 games. I really think the Rockies just need to keep him in the lineup. Between Cargo, Parra, and Desmond, Dahl should be able to start at least 5 games a week. He’s going to go through slumps with his K rate, but there’s 25/15 upside there.
UPDATE: Dahl was placed on the DL last night. This guy appears to be made of glass, unfortunately, he may not get the playing time this year given his injury track record.

John Ryan Murphy has too many first names and he’s a catcher. Yes, super boring, but I’ll make this quick. He’s one of three catchers on the Diamondbacks rosters but easily the most productive. Given the injuries, suspensions, etc at the shallow position if catcher, given JR (Not Smith, gross) Murphy a spin in 12 team and deeper leagues.

HOT Pitchers
How could I not lead with Ross Stripling? He’s struck out 19 batters and given up one ER in his last two starts. The time to grab him was a week or two ago, he’s long gone now. A 30% K rate and 23% soft contact rate means hitters are rarely making good contact against Stripling. His curveball/slider combo has been awesome (yeah I said awesome) and his F-Strike is 70%! That’s fueling his K rate. He can’t keep a 30% K rate but I don’t think I’m selling just yet.

Joe Musgrove has notched a couple of wins with a sub-1.00 ERA and WHIP with 12 strikeouts in his last two starts since coming of the DL. There’s no easing him back into action. There’s only 2 starts of data from Musgrove so I can’t take much stock in that. What I do love is his average fastball velocity is 95 mph up 1.5 mph from last year. His success out of the pen last year saw a jump in FB velo, so I’d stick with Musgrove or scoop him up if he’s available unless the velo drops.

Eduardo Rodriguez has 14 Ks with a 2.92 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP in his last two starts. He’s slated for two starts next week and I’m buying him right now. His peripherals look identical to last year when he was a bit unlucky. He’s throwing his fastball less but it’s yielded better results. Go figure. Just throw less fastballs everyone!

Daniel Mengden continues to confuse hitters with his fantastic mustache since he walks no one and strikes out very little, he’s been able to go deep into games. He’s gone 17 IP in his last two starts with a 1.59 ERA and a 0.59 WHIP! What to do with DM? Look, it’s a good story but Mengden probably ends the season with an ERA near 4.00 and with a K rate around 6/9 (nice), there’s little value outside of deep leagues. I’d be selling if I’m an owner.

Aaron Nola, is great, we all know this. I just want him on here because I love me some Nola! His “low” strikeout rate took a jump with 17 Ks in his last two starts with 2 ER and only 7 base runners. I mentioned this on a previous rundown, his SwStr is up about 1% from last year when he had a 26% K rate. I feel like Nola is going to end up with a 2.50 ERA and 200+ Ks this year along with something like 16-17 wins. He’s only 24 and I think he could be a top 10 SP for the next 6-7 years.

Freezing Cold Hitters
Things have not gone well for Jake Lamb since coming off the DL. He may have caught whatever Goldy has, JK. He actually homered last night, no not Goldy LOL, Lamby. Ok so Lamb probably just needed to get his chops back, tehe. We know he can’t hit lefties, but if he can crush righties like he’s done in the past he should be owned. If someone dropped him in your league, you need to grab him.

My boy Tommy Pham has somehow scored 4 runs with 2 RBI while going 3 for his last 26. He’s even hitting the bench now and then with hit Master Bader hitting well. So what’s going on? I’ve always loved Pham for his ability to not expand the zone and crush balls in the zone. The past couple of weeks he’s expanding the zone and his O-Swing is over 25% for the first time since 2016. His contact rate is below 80% the last month and his hard contact while still great is down a bit. He had a couple blips like this in 2017, so normally I wouldn’t be concerned but can I trust Mike Matheny to keep him in there to work out of it? I hope Bader’s hot streak doesn’t affect Pham’s playing time.

Yoan Moncada has gone 4 for his last 25 with a steal and no homers. Would you be surprised to know that Moncada hasn’t hit an infield fly ball all year according to FanGraphs.com? That’s pretty crazy. His typically below average contact rate was on the upswing nearing 75% before this cold streak. I’m more concerned about his dip in hard contact the last 15-20 games. It doesn’t show up on his season numbers because he was sitting around 50% hard contact the first month. The past few weeks, it’s been near 30%. Again, he’s been on the DL, so don’t panik, just watch to make sure the hard contact and exit velocity go back up or there could be another DL stint on the horizon.

Justin Upton is no longer hot and his hot/cold streaks can flip on a dime. He’s only 3 for his last 22 without a HR or steal.  This is J Up you guys. Nothing to see here, he just was on a 3 week tear so naturally he flips the script and will go on a three week slump. I’ve said this before, as much as Upton fluctuates in season, he’s one of the most consistent guys to own in Roto leagues. He’s going to hit .260 with 30 HR and 10 steals with 100 RBI.

I’m old enough to remember Jed Lowrie’s 2018 hot start. His overall numbers are still good but he’s 6 for his last 33 without a homer and only 2 RBI! He somehow scored twice and drove in a run going 0 for 3 last night because the Athletics put up a 16 spot on the depressing Royals. Other than Pinder, he’s the only player without a hit in that one. Ok, here’s what I see, he saw a massive dip in hard contact and his contact rate has dropped. His contact remains down but his hard contact is rebounding. If I’m an owner, I’m holding tight, he might be on the verge of a rebound

Gary Sanchez and Giancarlo Stanton have combined to go 4 for their last 45 without any ding dongs! Meanwhile Judge continues to be the best player on the Yankees, sorry Didi. I don’t want to alarm you but Stanton’s recent O-Swing% and SwStr% are higher than at anytime in 2017. If you are expecting 2017 numbers from Stanton, you’ll likely be disappointed. Just be happy with a .250-.260 average and 45 homers. Sanchez has weathered a terrible stretch of contact rate and looks to have rebounded. His ground ball rate is down and his fly ball rate is up but it has come with a dip in hard contact. If the hard contact rebounds along with the launch angle increase, he could go on a huge run.

Freezing Cold Pitchers
Sean Manaea is not on FIYA. Sorry fam, but Manaea  has given up 10 ER in 8.2 IP last two starts. His K% has dipped below 20% which is basically the threshold for fantasy relevance. His walk rate is sub-5% so that’s great but his .225 BABIP means there’s still some regression. He’s still giving up a ton of hard contact, so basically Manaea is Mengden without the mustache?!? Not quite, I like him a little more than Mengden and maybe you can flip Mengden for Manaea, but I doubt it.

Oooooh that smell, can’t ya smell that smell. That terrible smell is Jake Odorizzi  who has given up 10 ER in 9 IP last 2 starts with 4 HR given up! You can move on in shallow leagues, he’s giving up 2 HR/9 and has a B.B. rate that’s flirting with 10%. Even deep mixed leagues, he’s going to be a drag, which is the opposite when batters hit off of him, it’s like there’s not drag on the ball. That was a joke, not funny I know. Anyways, does a 4.50 ERA and 1.30 WHIP interest you? I didn’t think so.

Lance McCullers 9 ER in 10.1 IP last two starts with 3 HR given up and only 6 Ks. Oh Lance, WTF bro?! Can you be more consistent like your pitch by teammates? His batting average against is great and his Z-Contact is down 6%. That’s great but why the blowups? It’s almost like when his zone% is low, he’s better. What’s also interesting is McCullers curve, which was basically the best curve in Baseball last year, has a negative pitch value. His change up is his best year itch this year. This is something to monitor this year, but don’t be selling.

Reynaldo Lopez had another blowup giving up  9 ER in 9.2 IP with only 5 Ks and 4 BB, all without giving up a HR. I like Lopez, but he can’t be trusted. I still think Lopez can be a top 40-50 SP long term, but he’s too volatile to be owned. So make like the All American Rejects and Move along.

Jon Gray 8 ER in 9.1 IP with 6 BB but 13 Ks. Oh Mr. Gray. There probably isn’t a pitcher who is more unlucky than Gray. Then again, there’s Coors. Ugh. If Gray played for a team like the Giants, he’d be a top 25 SP, but the reality is, he doesn’t. As much talent as he has, the Coors starts make it difficult for owners to start him. It sucks because a .376 BABIP should be due for significant regression, but it may end up near .340-.350 because of Coors. He’s also dropped his contact against by 8%. His skills are too good to drop in 12 team leagues, but h need to be benched at home. Here are his ER given up at home this season: 7, 6, 0, 0, 6, 4, 4. A couple zeros but your risking ratio killing more often than not.

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Tommy Pham Validating Fantasy Star Status

The fantasy community was split on Tommy Pham coming into 2018 and for good reason. You had a 29-year-old career minor leaguer coming off monster 6.1 WAR season per FanGraphs when his previous most valuable season was 2016 with a 1.6 WAR. Pham has been plagued by injuries, vision, and just plain poor performance in the past, so the skepticism was valid. I was on the side leaning on the optimistic side mostly due to the correction in his vision evidenced by his plate discipline improvements I’ll highlight later, but also due to his immense tools.

In 2017, his plate discipline improvements were a direct result and confirmation that his vision issues were in the past. Take his O-Swing (swings outside the zone) of 19.0% in 2017 which is 11% lower than league average. His swing strike rate was nearly cut in half from the previous season down to a career-best 7.6% (league average is around 10%). I suppose injuries are still a concern and the inflated HR/FB rate which sat at 26.7% in 2017 seemed unsustainable, which I did agree with. So, the skeptics remained firm on their assessment of Pham as they searched for other outliers such as the .368 BABIP. Surely that comes down and he won’t hit .300 again.

So far in 2018, Pham’s BABIP sits at .386! His career BABIP in the majors is a robust .360 in just over 1000 plate appearances. I think it’s safe to say that Pham is going to carry and sustain an elevated BABIP throughout the season. How though? Well, he hits a lot of ground balls and his average sprint speed is 28.5MPH which is in the top 14% of the league. In addition, Pham has a knack for hitting a high quantity of balls that fall within the low drive (LD%) and high drive (HD%) per xStats. As you can see, these batted ball types are by far the most valuable in terms of batting average but also in terms of SLG, wOBA, etc for high drives. In 2018, Pham has hit an incredible 40% of his batted balls within these two categories (LD+HD). The league average is 28.0%. This justifies not only his ability to yield an elevated BABIP but to also provide solid power numbers despite a low fly ball rate.

Simply put, Pham squares up a lot of baseballs. I mentioned his low launch angle previously which currently sits at 6.9 degrees which is up 0.4 degrees from 2017; that’s almost negligible. Most players that have that average launch angle are hitters with low power numbers. Checking BaseballSavant, his expected batting average is .318, and his expected slugging is amazing .611! Compare that to Christian Yelich who also has a low launch angle but hits the ball extremely hard. His expected slugging is currently a still solid .496 but still over 100 points lower than Pham. Essentially, Pham is a beast. His current wOBA is .417 but Statcast thinks that’s low as his xwOBA currently sits at .443 AKA Mike Trout territory. 

The last skill Pham possesses, is his ability to avoid chasing pitches out of the zone and smoke balls inside the zone. His O-swing (or chase rate) is 21% while his zone contact is nearly 92%! This has led to a career-low swinging strike rate of only 7.4% (league average is about 10%). To me, this verifies that his vision issues are behind him as they were last year as well. His 20% strikeout rate would also be a career low and his 17.5% walk rate would be a career high.

Unfortunately, the injuries continue to pop up as Pham has currently missed a couple of games due to a groin injury this week. Which is a shame of course because I’d love to see a full season of health from Pham. Maybe he can get through these minor injuries and find his way to 145+ games in 2018. If that happens, you may be looking at a top 20 fantasy player at year’s end to the tune of something like .300 BA, 25 HR, 30 steals while scoring 100 runs hitting in the two-hole for the Cardinals. I’m going to have to back off in terms of stolen bases because of the groin issue, but a 25-20 season is well within reach for Pham. It starts and ends with health.