post

Projecting Power Spikes Using Spring Stats (GO/AO)

Just before the start of the 2018 regular season, I did similar research looking at hitter’s ground out air out ratios (GO/AO). It spawned from an article Jeff Zimmerman wrote about which spring statistics have the highest correlation to the regular season. Most spring numbers don’t matter, but an increase in the percentage of balls a player is hitting in the air may signify an approach change. With an entire offseason for players to work on a change such as trying to elevate the ball more, could be important when trying to identify potential power spikes or breakouts. Last year, I wrote about Ozzie Albies, Brandon Nimmo, and Steven Duggar. So Albies was a great one and Nimmo wasn’t too bad either; I’ll take the “L” on Duggar. In addition to those three, guys like Jesus Aguilar, Kiké Hernandez, and Christian Villanueva showed up on this list; all ended up with career-highs in home runs. With a limited sample, I’m mostly looking at a minimum of 50 plate appearances and 35 balls in play for these players.

GO/AO Rates - Spring Training 2019

     
PlayerSpring GO/AOCareer GO/AOEst. Reg Season GB%Career GB%
Paul Goldschmidt0.261.1936.4%43.1%
Juan Soto0.711.0141.0%53.7%
Jose Abreu0.791.2642.0%45.6%
Brandon Nimmo0.351.2337.5%44.1%
Manuel Margot0.570.9339.7%42.6%
Kike Hernandez0.410.9038.0%40.4%
Jorge Soler0.73*1.1141.2%43.2%
Max Schrock0.76*1.02*40.5%42.5%
Garrett Hampson0.77*1.1441.8%*47.0%
*Minor League Statistics

Some players that just missed the cut who I am keeping an eye on include Clint Frazier (OF – NYY), Scott Kingery (2B – PHI), Billy McKinney (OF – TOR), Willie Calhoun (OF – TEX), Eric Sogard (2B – TOR), and Chad Pinder (OF – OAK)

Paul Goldschmidt (1B – STL)
There’s not much more we can say about Goldy because he’s still a monster at the plate. His extreme fly ball approach this spring is interesting because he has never had a GO/AO ratio below 1.00 in any season. He’s almost literally hitting everything in the air this spring. Last year was his lowest ground ball rate at 38.6% but is regularly in the mid-40s. If he carries this approach to the regular season, he has a shot at his first 40-homer campaign. He might take a hit in batting average but an upside of .270-40-110 looks pretty nice.

Juan Soto (OF – WAS)
Well, this could be scary. At age-19 Soto had shown power to all fields but carried a low fly ball rate at 28.8% in 2018. This spring, It’s only been 59  plate appearances, but based on Jeff Zimmerman’s table from last year, that pegs Soto between a 43% and 44% ground ball rate. That’s potentially significant because his ground ball rate was all the way up at 53.7% last year. Now, his line drive rate was relatively low at 17.5%, so I’d expect to see that jump up to 20-22% given his profile. That would still leave a nice 5% bump in fly balls for Soto. The question remains, can he maintain a lofty HR/FB rate which was an impressive 24.7% in 2018?

Soto hits the majority of his fly balls to the opposite field. He was able to maintain a 19.6% HR/FB on those fly balls the other way which ranked seventh in all of baseball last year. Here are the names ahead of him: Aaron Judge, Jesus Aguilar, Khris Davis, J.D. Martinez, Giancarlo Stanton, and the aforementioned Paul Goldschmidt. I would say, that list depicts power hitters to a “T.” Soto’s 47.8% hard contact on those balls backs up the high home run rate to the opposite field. I was skeptical coming into the season about Soto due to a high HR/FB rate and elevated BABIP ticketed for regression (which I still believe), but I’m coming around on his power. I’m a little disappointed that I missed out on shares of Soto this year but I still think top 30 overall is just too pricey.

Jose Abreu (1B – CHW)
Is Abreu changing his approach? He’s given us a pretty good sample and he’s walked just once this spring and stuck out 12 times putting the ball in play a total of 51 times. He’s never been a patient hitter and it looks like he’s elevating the ball more as well with four homers and nine extra-base hits. Referencing Zimmerman’s data, Abreu would carry an approximate 42% GB rate compared to a career 45.6% GB%. Abreu is a notorious slow starter so it’ll be interesting to see if he can buck that trend this year with more fly balls. I’ll be watching Abreu early this year because he had some rough injuries in the second half last year curbing his production. If he can have a solid April, he could end up back around the top 30 overall with some nice value.

Brandon Nimmo (OF – NYM)
Nimmo once again shows up on this list. After a 0.87 GO/AO ratio last spring, he ended up right around his career rate in the regular season of 1.35. Even with a similar GO/AO ratio, he managed a career-best 17 homers. This spring, Nimmo has really gone to the extreme hitting nearly everything in the air. The data says he should decrease his fly ball rate by nearly seven percent this year compared to last season. His power numbers aren’t off the charts with just two homers and six extra-base hits but he’s cut his strikeout rate and is hitting a solid .291. After a 2018 breakout of sorts with 53 extra base hits, it seems like Nimmo is making even more of an effort to elevate the ball this spring. I worry a little about his batting average given his patience and contact rates, but given his approach this spring we may be looking at 20-25 homers this year from Nimmo.

Manuel Margot (OF – SD)
Margot is once again putting balls in the air his spring. This approach has not worked out for him thus far in the majors and it resulted in just a 5.5% HR/FB rate in 2018. There’s hope here because while he improved his hard contact and decreased his soft contact last year, his home run rate was nearly cut in half. He was middle of the pack in terms of line drive/fly ball exit velocity last year, so there’s positive regression coming. Margot is still just 24 years old and I was invested in Margot heavily last year to my disappointment. However, Margot remains firm on putting the ball in the air this spring and it’s helped him hit .315 with three homers and eight XBH. The Padres have a crowded outfield, so Margot will need to earn his keep. I think the power should bounce back to the mid-teens given the opportunity. If he learns to be a better base stealer given his elite speed (96th percentile via BaseballSavant), there might finally be the breakout for Margot I’ve been hoping for.

Kike Hernandez (2B/SS/OF – LAD)
Hernandez mashed an impressive 21 home runs in 2018. I’m not sure anyone saw that coming, mostly due to lack of playing time. Hernandez has outright won the second base job for the Dodgers to start 2019. Given the depth of the roster, Hernandez will likely sit against tough righties given his splits. That being said, he can also play the outfield and should compile over 500 plate appearances in 2019. His improved contact rates have cut his strikeout rates each of the last three seasons. He’ll need to continue those high contact rates given his fly ball approach if he wants to remain in the lineup. I see a player that’s similar to Nimmo in Hernandez but without as much speed and more batting average risk. He’s still a great utility guy to roster as he’s eligible at multiple positions.

Jorge Soler (OF – KC)
Soler missed most of the season with an injury and has yet to accrue more than 405 PA or hit more than 12 homers in a single season. We know Soler has power, he mashed 24 homers in 2017 at Triple-A in just 74 games. He pulled that off with a 45% fly ball rate but it dipped to just 34% last year. If Soler can maintain his heavy fly ball approach, we might finally see the breakout we’ve been waiting for. He’s going to need to maintain an improved zone contact rate like he had last season and of course, requires a good bill of health. I’m sure he will struggle to maintain an average above .250 if he starts launching balls in the air at a 45% rate, but he went off the board after pick 300, so he’s basically free. If you’re in a 10 or 12 team league, he literally is free. He’s entering his age-27 season, so it could be now or never for Soler.

Max Schrock (2B – STL)
Schrock is an off-the-radar fantasy player who will start the year at Triple-A for the Cardinals. Schrock came over to the Cardinals from the Athletics and brings a contract-first approach. He’s never shown much power and has moderate speed but has never posted a strikeout rate above 9.2% at any level. Now, at age-24, he’s starting to modify his approach putting more balls in the air. Schrock previously hit ground balls over 50% of the time and looks to be elevated more the last couple of seasons and carried it into the spring. He’s a longshot to break out as he’s blocked at the moment by Kolten Wong but might be someone to keep an eye on if an injury occurs in the St. Louis infield. If Schrock unlocks some power with his high contact approach, he might just be useful in mixed formats later in the year.

Garrett Hampson (2B/SS – COL)
Hampson is currently locked into a battle for the second base job with Ryan McMahon. Both are having great springs and I smell a platoon a-brewin’. Unfortunately, the righty, Hampson would see fewer plate appearances if that is the case. Hampson has game-changing speed which is why fantasy owners are excited about him but his average to slightly below-average power could play up in Colorado. Typically, I’d expect an improvement on his power numbers from the minors but the Rockies’ minor league parks play up to power as well. Still, a jump in fly ball rate could make provide a few more home runs for Hampson over the course of the season. The range of outcomes is extremely large with Hampson. Over 600 PA, Hampson could hit 12 HR and steal 35 bases. Then again, in the short-side platoon, he may end up with a handful of HR and 15-18 SB. Given his potential approach change, I might set his HR ceiling at 15, so if you have room, go ahead and stash him if he’s on your waiver wire.

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


Photo Credit:Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
post

First Base Rankings for 2019

First Base Rankings for 2019

My first base rankings are listed below. At the bottom of the table, I’ll break down the rankings in terms of tiers and why players are in which tiers. These are standard 5×5 roto using batting average, but I will touch on some players who get a nice boost in OBP leagues because I think eventually, fantasy leagues will move in that direction. Also listed are player’s additional positions using 10 games played to be eligible. That includes Yahoo!’s ridiculous rule that a player needs only five starts or 10 games played to be eligible at a position. So, if you play in ESPN, CBS, or most other leagues, some of the multiple positions will not apply.

Rankings Updated 3/13/19.

First Base Rankings for 2019 (AVG/R/HR/RBI/SB)

Pos RankPlayerTeamPositions
1Freddie FreemanATL1B
2Paul GoldschmidtSTL1B
3Anthony RizzoCHC1B
4Joey VottoCIN1B
5Rhys HoskinsPHI1B/OF
6Cody BellingerLAD1B/OF
7Jose AbreuCWS1B
8Matt OlsonOAK1B
9Daniel MurphyCOL1B/2B
10Robinson CanoNYM1B/2B
11Joey GalloTEX1B/OF
12Jesus AguilarMIL1B
13Matt CarpenterSTL1B/3B/2B
14Max MuncyLAD1B/2B/3B
15Ryan BraunMIL1B/OF
16Edwin EncarnacionSEA1B/DH
17J.T. RealmutoMIAC/1B
18Eric HosmerSD1B
19Ian DesmondCOL1B/OF
20Jurickson ProfarOAK1B/2B/3B
21Yuli GurrielHOU1B/2B/3B
22Josh BellPIT1B
23Justin SmoakTOR1B
24Jose MartinezSTL1B/OF
25Trey ManciniBAL1B/OF
26Luke VoitNYY1B
27Jake BauersCLE1B/OF
28Brian AndersonMIA1B/OF
29Carlos SantanaCLE1B/3B
30Miguel CabreraDET1B
31Ryan O'HearnKC1B
32C.J. CronMIN1B
33Brandon BeltSF1B
34Kendrys MoralesTOR1B/DH
35Buster PoseySFC/1B
36Ryan ZimmermanWAS1B
37Marwin GonzalezMIN1B/2B/SS/OF
38Yonder AlonsoCWS1B
39Tyler WhiteHOU1B/DH
40Peter AlonsoNYM1B
41Miguel SanoMIN1B/3B
42Nate LoweTB1B
43Ronald GuzmanTEX1B
44Hunter DozierKC1B/3B
45Jay BruceSEA1B/OF
46Steve PearceBOS1B/OF
47Justin BourLAA1B
48Ryon HealySEA1B
49Mitch MorelandBOS1B
50Eric ThamesMIL1B/OF
51Albert PujolsLAA1B/DH

Tier 1 – Studs
Freddie Freeman, Paul Goldschmidt
That’s it. Typically, first base produces at least a handful of studs, but not in 2019. If you haven’t been paying attention, the first base position has gotten shallow. Even Paul Goldschmidt is past his prime and I anticipate a small decrease in production in 2019, yet he remains in the top two overall. Both of these hitters can go .300-30-100-100-8 with a little upside. That’s the reason they are here. Although neither Freddy or Goldy are in my top 10 overall and should probably not be drafted in the first round.

Tier 2 – Fourish-Cat Guys
Anthony Rizzo, Joey Votto, Jose Abreu, Rhys Hoskins, Matt Olson
All of these guys have a weakness in addition to lack of speed. Rizzo is no longer a 30+ HR guarantee he once was but his elite contact rates tell me he will provide a .280+ batting average. Has Votto begun a steep decline or can he bounce back at age 36? I think his power gets back to 20 and his elevated line drive rate should keep him near .300.  Abreu is solid and consistent but is similar to a cross between Rizzo and Votto. xStats shows that Abreu was unlucky in terms of BABIP, I am hopeful for a near 100% bounceback from Abreu in 2019. Hoskins and Olson won’t provide the batting average of the other three in this tier, but I like their abilities to hit over 30 homers with 100 RBI which is why they are in this tier.

Tier 3 – Really? This is Tier 3?
Goes from Daniel Murphy to Joey Gallo
Murphy gets a massive bump playing in Colorado. We all know about the boost in home runs but for Murphy, it’s more about the bump in BABIP. In 2018, Rockies hitters had a .334 BABIP at home. If Murphy is a .300 hitter outside of Coors, he has a shot to hit .325 with 20 homers in 2019. Cano is similar to Murphy just not in a location that greatly benefits him which is why I prefer Murphy over Cano. Again, both are eligible at 2B but 1B might actually be more shallow.

Tier 4 – Put me in Coach
This tier goes from Max Muncy to JT Realmuto

I like all of these players, I really do, but there are either playing time concerns or injury concerns here. You can discount Realmuto because no one is playing the top catcher at 1B. Of this group, I like Muncy the most. His plate discipline is fantastic and his barrel rates were top 5 in all of baseball. Check out my piece over at Pitcher List on how he was attacked in the 2nd half. Unfortunately, Muncy has the most question marks such as playing time, adjustments, etc. He will produce if he plays every day and he’s eligible at three positions, so that’s a bonus.

Tier 5 – Mixed Bag of Meh
This tier goes from Eric Hosmer to Justin Smoak

I’m not a huge fan of this tier outside of Jose Martinez, but that’s only if he gets traded to an AL team to be the full-time DH. If that happens, his profit potential jumps up quite a bit, that being said, he likely moves up a tier. Hosmer’s ADP has dropped over 100 spots from 2018, so he’s a decent bounce-back candidate. E5 is clearly on the decline and while he still has 30 homer power, he could also hit .230. I do like Profar because of his position eligibility and the move to Oakland is a lineup upgrade but a park downgrade. Don’t sleep on Smoak either, he’s basically E5 at a discount.

Tier 6 – Corner Infield Spot
This massive tier goes from Ryan O’Hearn to Ryan Zimmerman

If you are drafting one of these players as your starting 1B, then you’re doing it wrong unless you’re in a 30 team league. I’ll highlight Brandon Belt because he’s been killed by playing at AT&T Park. If he gets traded to a team with a neutral or favorable park, I will be moving him up 5-10 spots and be grabbing him everywhere. His hard contact metrics are fantastic. The other player with upside is Luke Voit, but the Yankees still feel like Greg Bird is good. Voit is a beast and could hit 30 homers in Yankee Stadium given a chance. Keep an eye on this situation during spring training.

Tier 7 – Intriguing Young Talent
Goes from Tyler White to Hunter Dozier

Peter Alonso and Nate Lowe and my two favorites from this group. Both should be called up at some point during 2019, hopefully by June. They are both just about ready and Alonso is a top prospect with maybe the most power upside of a Major League ready prospect right now. There will be some swing and miss and lower batting average but should hit 4th or 5th once he gets the call. Lowe has a much more well-balanced approach and can hit for average, take walks, and has above average power. Keep an eye on these guys during spring training.

Tier 8 – The Rest
Goes from Jay Bruce to Eric Thames

I suppose I could see a bounceback from Jay Bruce. If E5 gets moved, Bruce could see a full slate of at-bats between 1B, OF, and DH. He was hurt most of 2018 and if healthy can still reach the 30 homer mark. Keep an eye on Thames, if he gets moved to a situation where can DH and/or play most days, his power is massive. Hopefully, you aren’t having to grab one the guys in this tier, but at this point try for upside.

Follow me on Twitter @FreezeStats

Image Courtesy of Scott Cunningham


Weekly Rundown – Here’s the Story with Machado

HOT HITTERS
Paul Goldschmidt has finally broken out of his two month slump and is hitting .448 with six homers in the past eight days. If you visit the site, you know that back in mid-May I wrote a post about Goldschmidt’s struggles. There was a point in mid-May where Goldy had a .171 wOBA, a 20% hard contact, and a 42% K rate. The wOBA was the lowest of his career and his K rate was its highest since 2012. I haven’t dug deep yet into the numbers but this appears to have been a mental block with Goldy. Good for the owners that stuck it out, hopefully he didn’t dig you in too big of a hole.

Trevor Story is hitting a blistering .500 with three dingers, nine RBI and a steal this past week. He’s actually started to hit on the road for the first time this year and that could be dangerous. Story is making strides in the contact department now with a 6% jump from 2017, a career low SwStr rate and that has helped cut his K rate down below 27%. He’s basically looking a lot like his rookie season with a lower strikeout rate. He’s been a little unlucky in terms of power and he just stole his 9th base of the season, a new career high. His sprint speed is in the top 98 percentile. Add Coors to the mix and he could be a .270-35-18 type player this year.

Max Muncy continues his onslaught on the league mashing .350 with four bombs in the last seven days. Muncy is an OBP league’s dream. I recently compared his 45 games stretch (now 47 games) to Hoskins’ 50 game run at the end of 2017 and they are nearly identical. Muncy’s patience and great plate discipline makes him a viable option in all leagues. Sure, regression is coming but his clear swing and approach change makes him a solid .250-ish hitter with good power. Injuries and poor performance has given Muncy an everyday role and he can play almost anywhere.

Future 2018 NL MVP Freddie Freeman is hitting .409 with four homers and a steal this past week. Freddie keeps getting better, he’s cut his K rate for the third straight year and he continues to steal bases 6 for 8 on the season. He’s everything you hoped Paul Goldschmidt would be this year. Combine that with a career high hard contact and pull% and Freeman’s HR rate may actually improve. I can envision Freeman going .330-35-120-14 this year.

The Seattle Bombers Ryon Healy, Nelson Cruz, and Mitch Haniger have combined for 12 HR and 18 RBI this past week. What, only 18 RBI? Haha, that’s right, they kept hitting back-to-back bombs so no one was on base. Anyways, I read a comment on Twitter @bdentrek that the Seattle hitters busted into Cano’s medicine cabinet. LOL, that’s joke but damn, the ball seems to be flying out of Safeco. Cruz’s early season struggles are behind him, I’m convinced he can hit 40 homers until he’s 50 at this point. I love Haniger and the Diamondbacks have to be kicking themselves right now. Healy is on a hot streak, but I don’t love him in shallow formats. If I’m ranking them ROS, I’m going Cruz at 1A, Haniger at 1B, and Healy in a distant third.

Evan Gattis is hitting .320 with four homers and an amazing 15 RBI in the last seven days! Jesus man, slow down. A week like that from a Catcher will vault you into the top 5. Searching….searching…and he’s the number 1 ranked catcher. OMG, that’s hilarious. Rounding out the top 3 is Grandal and Cerevelli. Realmuto is 4th and I think by season’s end, he’s top 3. This is case and point why you never draft a catcher inside the top 100 overall.

Hot Pitchers
Trevor Bauer seems to be a regular on this list, he’s got 24 Ks in his last two starts with a 2.30 ERA and 0.89 WHIP. If you didn’t believe he was an ace before this week, you should now. If I told you in Mid-May that Bauer would end 2018 with better numbers than Gerrit Cole, you would have punched me in the face and laughed. Sure, the win totals are down for Bauer, but come on, luck can change on dime, all other numbers are almost identical between the two. It’s not a long-shot anymore. Bauer Power!

Anibal Sanchez has somehow managed a 1.46 ERA with a 0.73 WHIP with 2 wins and 11 strikeouts in his last two starts. On the season he’s below 2.00 for an ERA! I think you know just like everyone else, he’s regressing. A near .200 BABIP with a below average K rate means you need get out now before your left rostering him when that blow up happens. I did see that he’s inducing 28% soft contact, so maybe his cutter has improved. Something to watch but he’s still a streamer.

Dylan Covey of the White Sox has put together several solid starts including 2 W with a 1.38 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP in his last two. Covey has dropped almost 5.50 off his ERA from last year. Yup, you read that right. It’s odd because his WHIP is 1.30 which doesn’t jive with a 2.29 ERA. Listen I like 61% GB rate and increased velocity but I’m setting the over/under ROS at 4.15. I mean Covey hasn’t even given up a HR yet after allowing, get this 20 HR IN ONLY 70 IP last year. I’m take big the over.

Mike Clevinger has 16 strikeouts with a 1.98 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP in his last two starts. Cool but what’s up with his sub-8.0 K/9 though? Yes, he’s around the zone a little more and sacrificing some swings and misses for called strikes and weak contact. He’s another Indians pitcher without a good fastball but has an ELITE slider. He’s finally throwing it over 20% of the time. His change up is pretty good too, if he ups his slider usage, I think his K rate settles in around 9.0/9. Me like

Jhoulys Chacin has managed to grab a couple of wins along with solid ratios and 14 strikeouts in his last two starts. Chacin is so boring, but you know what, he’s been useful with his ratios and has provided 6 wins. That’s about to change, I’d be moving on quick at this point. Everything is pointing in the direction. When your K rate is less than twice your BB rate, we have problems. When the BABIP and HR rate come up, he’s donzo.

The Dodgers Ace Ross Stripling, yeah I said it! Who else can claim that title thus far in 2018? I’m getting tired of writing about him on these rundowns, HAHA JK, it’s great! A near 30% K rate with a 4.2% BB rate, what!?! If I were to tell you a Dodgers pitcher has those ratios at the start of the season, Stripling would probably have been the 7th or 8th choice. Sure, there’s some luck with L-O-B% and I’m still down with O-P-P. However, that BABIP looks just fine, I don’t see regression there. Every pitch he throws has registered a positive pitch value, which is crazy. I said it before, the K rate may drop 3-4% but he’s still a top 30 SP if he keeps this up.

Freezing Hitters
Tim Anderson is 2 for his last 20 with no homers and a steal but somehow has 3 runs. That’s because he’s actually walking! An 8.3% BB rate up from an abysmal 2.3% in 2017, allows him for more stolen bases opportunities to weather these cold streaks. He’s still likely a .240-.250 hitter but with his change in approach (increased patience and increased fly ball rate), he should have no problems reaching 20 HR and 25 steals.

Giancarlo Stanton is 3 for his last 21 with no homers. If I’m being honest, I think Stanton is kind of a jackass but damn he can hit the ball hard. Yes, he’s in a funk right now but his 24% K rate from 2017 is up to nearly 32% this year! He’s also got a career worst 16% SwStr rate and a career low contact rate to back up the elevated strikeouts. Stanton has also decreased fly ball% and is pulling the ball less. So, less contact, lower fly ball rate and less pulled balls equals no where near 58 HR. I’m sorry, the people claiming “this is exactly where he was last year” are wrong. He never has contact issues like this last year. Expect a .250-35-40 HR season from Stanton.

Matt Kemp, what happened? After going nuts this past month, Kemp got old and fat quick, hitting .188 with one homer this past week. Damn, just last week I had him back with Rihanna and now he’s dating one of the Kardashians (and not the good ones). His K rate keeps heading north and his hard contact has dipped a bit. If this is a younger hitter, I’m not concerned but shizz can go sideways with Kemp in a hurry, so I’m keeping a close eye on this one. Another week like this and HE GONE!

Anthony Rendon has never really got on track this year; he’s 4 for his last 20 and no homers and no steals. He’s driving in runs because he’s in a great Nationals lineup, but what’s going on here? Rendon has really taken the launch angle Revolution (is that what’s it’s called now?) to heart the last two years. There are too many popups but he’s still stinging the ball when he doesn’t pop it up, his barrel% is up 5% and he’s nearly doubled league average for value hits. He still makes a ton of contact but he’s expanding the zone a bit which could be the reason for the elevated popups. It don’t matter, I’m buying Rendon right now. DO IT NOW!

Edwin Encarnacion is only 1 for his last 16 and he’s even seen the bench a couple games. I believe he’s harboring an injury. Either that or he’s finally aging and it’s showing. His fly ball rate has increased along with his K rate, but it’s become a detriment to his batting average. His hard contact and HR/FB rate still looks great but if he continues to sell out for power, his value will drop. The walk rate is also no longer elite and his O-Swing and SwStr rates are at career highs. He still might hit 35+ HR but it may come at a .230 AVG and a .310 OBP. I’d sell, but not at a draft day discount.

Speaking of high strikeout rates, Joey Gallo has a measly two hits this past week although one of them was a bomb last night.  All of that talk of him lowering his strikeout rate is out the window as he’s back above 36% on the season. This makes me sad and I thought Gallo was going to take a step forward this year. He still can and I do believe his 0.088 BABIP of fly balls and 0.171 BABIP on ground balls should rise, but he’s still pulling too many balls into the shift. I guess Gallo is just a .210-.220 hitter with 40+ homer power. Sigh

I was going to write about Kris Bryant and Nolan Arenado but they both hit bombs last night and had multi-hit nights, so…. Let’s talk about Manny Machado. Machado is only 3 for his last 18 with no homers, runs, RBI, but 1 steal! I guess you’re the only top tier 3B that sucks Machado! Totally JK obviously. Machado is still killing it this year. The K rate and BB rate are at career bests and his BABIP normalized from last year’s outlier. I don’t love his batted ball profile, he’s hitting too many popups as he continues to increase his fly ball rate, so a 40 homer season is a possibility but not at a .300 average. Although a 91% zone contact rate goes a long way in terms of batting average. Machado will be on the move before the deadline, so a lot will depend on where he goes. Either way, I think he can be around .285 with 40 bombs with his first 100 RBI season. 

Freezing Pitchers
Vincent Velasquez is here mostly due to his 10 ER outing against the Brewers last weekend. He actually fired a solid 6.2 IP with 2 ER this week. Point is, his 12 ER in the past 10+ IP does not look pretty. These past two starts are great examples of VV’s volatility. Come to think of it, VV stands for very volatile. However, there are improvements, his K%-BB% is 20%, a career high. He’s also allowing less hard contact, his 1.2 HR/9 isn’t great, but it’s playable. If his LOB% and BABIP normalize just a little, he’s a 3.50 ERA guy with a great K rate.

Zack Greinke has given up 8 ER in his last two starts. He’s uncharacteristically given up 6 walks and 3 HR in that span. Greinke is averaging under 90 mph on his fastball. In the Spring, Greinke messes around and throws mid-80s but I think this lower velocity is real. Stinky Greinke is crafty AF but as the velocity continues to drop, his margins are razor thin. I’d look to move him while his K rate and BB rates are still fantastic. I think you can get 100 cents on the dollar for him (yes, that’s the same thing, I know that) but it needs to be done now. Try to get a Tommy Pham or Christian Yelich for him.

Luke Weaver, everyone’s second favorite young starter coming into the 2018 (first being Luis Castillo The question is, where did the strikeouts go? His Contact, SwStr, and O-Swing match last year’s number but his K/9 is down almost 3.0 to a sub-par 7.8 K/9. I think you can move on from Weaver this year, he’s still only 24 years old and I do like him long term to be a solid #2 on your fantasy team in the future. See if you can get anything for him, but if not, he’s safe to drop.

Jake Arrieta got absolutely blown up last night giving up 8 run but only 4 ER in 3.1 IP. In his last three starts, he’s given up 13 ER while striking out only 9 batters. That’s not good. His K rate sits at a career low 16.2% combined with an 8% walk rate. I don’t see anything in his profile that tells me that his K rate will rise much. He’s probably going to be around a 17-18% K rate guy while limiting homers. I just don’t see him being successful giving up that much contact, especially if he doesn’t have a great walk rate.

Whoa James Paxton, what happened? I don’t want to use the “I” word but how can you not when he’s always hurt and usually super effective when healthy. Big Maple has given up 8 ER in his last two starts but what’s also concerning is the 20 hits he’s given up in his last 17 IP. Well, let’s check his velocity, uhoh, it’s down about 2 mph in his last start. Ok, that could explain the ineffectiveness. If I’m the mariners, I’m putting him on the DL to skip a couple starts and give him some rest. You don’t keep going down this road with Paxton. Keep a close eye on his velocity in his next start if they don’t put him on the DL. Look for 95.5+, if it’s 94, we’ve got problems.

Mining for Goldschmidt and Coming Up Empty

Paul Goldschmidt has been a fantasy stalwart for the better part of six seasons. His 162-game average is .295/106/30/106/20. There’s something satisfying about Goldy having the same number of runs and RBI but also the clean 30 HR, 20 SB average. That 162-game average is the definition of a five category fantasy stud. The news of the humidor managed to drop Goldschmidt’s average draft position from around fourth overall to between 10-14 overall. That’s a still a first round pick in most cases, so owners are growing tired of this sluggish start. So, what’s wrong with Goldschmidt? Is his performance a result of the humidor or are there more factors at play here?

At this point in the season, we can’t ignore Goldschmidt’s poor numbers at home and immediately blame the humidor. I can’t deny that the humidor at Chase Field is playing a huge roll in suppressing power. In 2017, the Diamondbacks averaged 1.51 home runs per game at home; thus far in 2018, Diamondbacks hitters have averaged 0.68 home runs per game at home! How about on the road? To date in 2018, the DBacks have averaged 1.53 home runs per game, or 225% more dingers on the road. Not surprising, the DBacks are slugging .737 on the road and only .645 at home.  Goldschmidt is feeling it more than anyone, here’s his home/road splits this year.

 AVGOBPSLGBABIPHRK%BB%
Home0.1400.3210.2090.231031.219.3
Road0.2940.3510.5590.372428.48.1

Yeah, that’s bad. The main effects of the humidor will add weight to the baseball by adding moisture to the ball and will decrease exit velocities. Lower exit velocities and heavier baseballs is going to significantly reduce the distance balls travel, relatively speaking. Hmm, I guess science is winning out on this one.

With this information, let’s compare Goldschmidt’s exit velocities between 2017 and 2018. His average exit velocity is down 2.2 mph from 2017 (91.4 mph) to 2018 (89.2 mph). That’s certainly concerning, but the majority of that may attributed to the effect of the humidor, especially since the Diamondbacks have played nine more games at home than on the road so far this year.  However, his exit velocity against fastballs is down a whopping 4.2 mph this year. Goldy typically mashes fastballs, his slugging against fastballs in 2017 was .660; in 2018 it’s down to a still solid but un-Goldschmidt like .487. While the humidor is clearly having an effect on Goldschmidt’s production, his struggles actually started in the 2nd half of2017.  His increased swing and miss rate and decreased hard contact began in late June of 2017, save for the month of August. 

Keep in mind Goldschmidt sees a much higher percentage of fastballs (red line) than any other pitch type. The bump up in swing and miss% on the fastballs is more dramatic than the graph shows. 

An incredibly hot month of August partially masked a sub-par 2nd half for Goldschmidt. The struggles and poor approach from July and September of 2017 mimic Goldschmidt’s 2018 to date. Since July of 2017, Goldschmidt is riding a 4.5 month stretch of poor exit velocity and increased swing and miss rate with only one positive month within that timeframe. Yes, Goldy’s SwStr rate has increased 1.3% since 2017, but that’s not all that concerning and doesn’t explain the nearly 8% jump in his strikeout rate. The real culprit is the first-pitch strike percentage which currently is 69% (nice). That’s a 10% increase from 2017 and 11% over his career F-Strike%. When a pitcher can get ahead that often, it puts the hitter, Goldschmidt in this case, at a disadvantage. Goldschmidt’s patient nature has kept a strong walk rate but at the expense of everything else.

His current patient/”wait for his pitch” approach is clearly not working as pitchers continue to attack him early in the count. He needs to adjust and be more aggressive on first pitch fastballs. Goldschmidt has had the most success in his career, like most hitters, against fastballs. The difference in 2018, instead of pitchers working from behind in the count grooving fastballs on 2-0, 3-1 counts, they are now getting ahead 0-1 and can now throw off-speed/breaking pitches putting Goldschmidt at a disadvantage.

I took a quick inventory of instances in both 2017 and 2018 where Goldschmidt was in an unfavorable count of 0-1, 0-2, 1-2, or 2-2. In 2017 he was in an unfavorable count just under 42.6% percent of the time. In 2018, he’s been in an unfavorable count 49% of the time. Typically batting average takes a jump of over .100 points and slugging is about .300-.400 points higher in favorable counts. That’s an old article but it’s principles remain the same as today.

Continuing with his plate discipline or lack thereof (yes there’s more), you can see that his zone contact (which is contact percentage on balls swung on in the zone) is down 5%. The league average for Z-Contact is near 83%, Goldy’s Z-Contact is at 75.5%; it’s odd to see him that far below the league average. What’s interesting, is his O-Contact (contact on balls swung on outside the zone) is the same as last year and in year’s past. What this essentially means other than he’s making less contact, a higher percentage of balls he’s making contact with are out of the zone.

Again, the results bare this out. Goldschmidt’s career BABIP is an incredible .354; in 2018, it’s an even .295. In addition to the contact outside the zone, his infield fly ball percentage is up to 11.4% and his soft contact is more than double what it was in 2017 (22.0% in 2018 vs 11% in 2017). Again, this justifies a decrease in BABIP among other statistics.

It’s not all doom and gloom; xStats paints a little bit brighter picture with some of the underlying numbers. xStats shows both his high-drive percentage remains strong  and poorly-hit balls are down 5% from previous years and currently half of the league average. So, that’s where there should be some positive regression but it’s not enough data to show that Goldy is the same player he’s always been.

Do you want more bad news Goldschmidt owners? Do you know how well (poorly) Goldy has performed against right-handed pitchers in 2018? No, well I’ll tell you. He’s hit .174 with 1 HR and 40 strikeouts against righties this year. That’s nearly a 32% K rate and a .277 BABIP, which doesn’t scream significant positive regression. Goldschmidt is a career .284 hitter against right-handed pitching. Luckily for him, he’s still murdering (not literally) left-handed pitchers.

As I approach 1200 words on why Goldschmidt owners should be panicked, save for the small xStats blurb, the question remains, what to do with Goldy? As I mentioned, you drafted Goldschmidt as your first round pick, you can’t just sell him for a top 75 player or lower. At that point you’re taking a complete loss because you’ve got next to nothing from him this year. I’m at least somewhat optimistic that the veteran All-Star can make the necessary adjustments to improve on his poor start to 2018. However, those approach changes I discussed are required before I am confident that Goldschmidt will post top 10 numbers at the position. With those adjustments, owners can at least feel confident the partially salvage the season even if the net result is not what was expected on draft day.

Follow me on Twitter @FreezeStats

Weekly Rundown – You Can’t Spell Goldschmidt without Old Shit

Hot Hitters
Nomar Mazara is only 23 years old and already has more than 1300 plate appearances in the Majors. He’s got power in his bat but has always struggles against lefties and hits far too many ground balls. Mazara is hot right now mashing .350 with 3 homers in the last seven days. After hitting 20 HR in his first two MLB seasons he’s got 10 before mid-May. I’m kind of buying in to Mazara as he’s hitting the ball harder than ever and barreling up over 10% of his batted balls up from 6%. His launch angle is trash if you want big power and he’s probably the slowest 23-year-old in the league but I think he could be a .300 hitter with 25 homer power.

Justin Upton is on one of his binges as he’s mashed 5 bombs in the past week and now has 10 HR on the season. This is Upton, you know there are going to be highs and lows. Enjoy this one because a three week slump is around the corner. In the end, he’s a .260 hitter with 30 homers and 100 RBI with 8-10 steals. If you can sell high and get a top 30 bat, do it, otherwise just sit and chill with a little J-Up.

Odubel Herrera is hitting a blistering .500 with 3 bombs, 10 RBI and a steal in the last 7 days! He also leads the league in batting average at .360. Herrera is good hitter you guys! He’s a career .293 hitter in just under 2,000 PA and is only 26 years old. He’s not this good based on his elevated BABIP but he’s regularly had .350+ BABIPs in his career. He’s also cut his K rate, so high contact plus low Ks equals a really good batting average. Throw in 15 HR & 15 SB, he’s a moderate buy/Hold for me.

Odubel’s teammate Carlos Santana has 3 dingers and a boat load of RBI (13 to be exact) in his last seven games. I discussed Santana a few weeks ago as a buy low candidate and I’m still buying. He’s taking the launch angle thing to the extreme but squaring up the ball with regularity. I think he gets hot and hits 30+ homers this year while driving in over 100 RBI but an increase in fly balls and popups brings a low batting average. He may hit only .240 this year but he’s under .200 right now, so could hit .255 the rest of the way. Go ahead make a SMOOTH trade offer for Carlos Santana.

I’m glad I wrote about how Kris Bryant was struggling last week. Since then, he’s gone 9/24 with 4 HR and 7 RBI. Bryant doesn’t hit for much power in April but heats up in May. In 79 career April games, he’s hit 10 home runs; in 90 career May games, he’s hit a whopping 26 homers! KB has somehow cut his strikeout rate again and looks to be a legit .300 hitter with 30 homer power. He’s cut his flyball rate which could limit his HR upside but he’s pulling the ball again. He’s 0-1 on the bases and the Cubs run less than anyone in the National League, so anymore than 5 steals would surprise me from KB.

Delino DeShields, AKA the Dentist is getting on base at a .500 clip this past week and is walking more than he’s striking out. He’s got a homer and 3 steals in the past 7 days and is starting to look like the breakout player I hoped he’d be. He’s making more contact and while it’s not quality contact, the spring speed, which ranks 2nd in all of baseball, along with his ground ball approach should yield great results. He should stay atop the Rangers lineup with his improved OBP. I’d be buying, he could still reach 10 homers and 30 steals this year.

Freezing Hitters
What is going on with Bryce Harper? With only 2 hits in his last 25 ABs without a run, RBI, or steal. He had a similar stretch last May when the Cubs decided to walk him in about 90% of his ABs during a series in May. The success to stopping Harper, walk him for an entire series and watch him struggle, got it. Obviously, I’m kidding y’all! Harper has been extremely unlucky recently. If an owner is frustrated by the recent poor performance try to BUY him for $0.90 on the dollar.

Christian Villanueva came out like gangbusters blasting 3 homers in a single game early in April. To his credit he carried his hot streak across three weeks and still has a impressive nine homers on the season. However, he’s gone 0 for his last 21 with just one walk, and one run. Villanueva appears to have issues hitting righties as he’s hitting .162 with one homer in 84 plate appearances. Yes, he’s been murdering lefties but here’s the problem, only about ⅓ of the pitchers in MLB are left handed. He’s even been lucky per xStats, his swinging strike rate and approach are both terrible. You should have listened when I told you to sell this MFer about three weeks ago. He’s a drop in shallow formats.

Didi Gregorius is finally coming back down to earth. No one expected him to keep up his April pace (at least I hope), but he doesn’t have a hit in his last 22 plate appearances. Regression is a bitch! You know what’s going to happen right? Watch Didi become the player we all thought he’d be, check out my Didi bust post way back in the offseason, going something like .260 with 14 homers the rest of the way. The problem is, he started off like Babe Mantle and will finish the season above expectations. Actually, he has made adjustments by improving hard contact, launch angle, and pull%. So he should be just fine as a borderline top 100 player the rest of the way. I’m holding.

The Oakland Matts (Chapman and Olson) have combined to go 4 for their last 44 with 1 homer which came off the bat of Matt Chapman last night. What’s going on? Both have been a little bit unlucky because they both hit the ball hard and hit it in the air a lot. I expect Olson’s power numbers to go up based on his batted ball data where I think Chapman’s numbers are about right. The problem is, Olson’s plate discipline is trash and Chapman’s is great! It’s odd that they have similar strikeout and walk rates. I’d be buying Chapman right now and holding Olson. The power will come in bunches with Olson, but it will come at a .220 average and 30+% K rate.

Paul Goldschmidt is having his worse start to a season ever.  What’s going on, did he just get old fast? The power is down (humidor), the speed in down, and the strikeouts are up. There’s a lot to look at with Pauly, I’m going to do a deep dive, but right now he’s looking like Joey Gallo without the power, not good. Hold tight for now, but this could be a major sell or a hidden injury. Stay tuned.

Hot Pitchers
Aaron Nola just keeps getting better. I’ve already anointed him ACE status. He’s given up 1 ER in his last 14.1 innings striking out 19 batters! But I thought he didn’t have a good K rate? How about a 4th straight season with an increase in SwStr rate up to 11.9%. The 8 K/9 is a mirage. He managed a 9.8 K/9 in 2017 with a lower SwStr rate in 2017. I’m buying him as a top 12 SP ROS and believe he ups his K rate to around 9.5 K/9 and should be a sub 3.00 ERA with a WHIP around 1.05.

Sean Newcomb has been a man possessed with 2 wins, 14 Ks, 0 ER in 13 IP in his last 2 starts. His stuff is really good, it really is, he can get swings and misses on his slider, change and sometimes his fastball. However, looking at his heatmaps, he’s all over the place with his command. He’s out of the zone far too much and pep this, his fastball velocity is down a tick while the change up velocity is up 1.6 mph. That means that the difference between the two pitches is less than 6 mph which tells me that the changeup won’t be as effective as an off-speed pitch. That being said, I’m riding this out until he loses control again. Right now, he’s effectively wild.

Gio Gonzalez is doing it again. I’m just going to have to ignore what the peripherals tell me with Gio and just trust he’s a pretty decent pitcher. The walks are up and the zone% is down, so don’t expect a pretty WHIP but the whiffs and Ks are up as well. He’s given up 2 ER and struck out 21 in his last 18 innings. Gio may be doing this with smoke and mirrors but he’s a nice guy to have at the back end of you rotation.

Freezing Pitchers
How could I not write about Dylan Bundy after his last outing. Literally anyone in the world could have done what Bundy did last time out as he failed to record an out, gave up four bombs and seven ER! What to do with Bundy because he looked so good the first five starts of the season. His last three have been disasters. In deep leagues you have to hold him but keep him on the bench. He’s not own-able in 10 or 12 team mixed leagues. I’m hoping it’s an injury because the velo is down and he was looking like a top 20 SP the first month of the season. But right now I’d rather be owning Ted Bud Bundy.

Brandon McCarthy is actually healthy but can’t seem to get many outs. That’s too bad, maybe he is hurt? He used to put up solid numbers when healthy and now he’s not giving you anything. Without being able to count on 100 IP from McCarthy, he’s a hard drop.

Yu Darvish, what the hell bro? The Cubs just DLed him because he has the flu. Yeah, ok we are all sick of your pitching Yu but you don’t see us on the DL! Whoops sorry for the rant, the only positive thing I can say is that his strikeouts remain high but so is everything else, in a bad way. Walks are up, HR are up, fly balls are, hard contact is up. Of course I’m stashing him for now, but he’s no longer a top 30 SP going forward. I need to see what he looks like when he clears his head or whatever.

Jeff Samardzija has not looked good since coming off the DL. What’s worse is that his previous ability to limit walks has apparently stayed on the DL. Guess what, maybe his command was all an act and his command/control is actually trash. Just ask Eno Sarris of The Athletic and that dude is smart! Here’s the main problem, his sinker is way up. By way up I mean it’s way up in the zone and he’s decided to nearly double its usage. Therefore fly balls have skyrocketed and many of them go over the fence. STOP THROWING YOUR SINKER JEFF! I’m dropping him in shallow leagues because he’s going to continue to hurt your ratios without helping your strikeout numbers.