Going Deep: Minor Adjustments, Major Payoffs for Danny Jansen

I was a big fan of Danny Jansen coming into the season this year. He was a highly-regarded prospect who had hit for a high average with some decent power in the minors, and given how much of a dumpster fire the catcher position often is, any glimmer of hope at the position was exciting.

Then, the season came and Jansen was awful. Not just bad, awful. Like, if he was a movie, he wasn’t “Hotel Transylvania,” he was “Yogi Bear,” or “The Emoji Movie,” or “Rocky & Bullwinkle” (I’ve been watching too many movies with my kids).

I’m serious. From the beginning of the season through June 22 (I’ll tell you why I chose that date in a minute), he was slashing .166/.253/.237 with just two home runs. He was entirely unusable, and understandably dropped in most leagues.

But since then, Danny Jansen has been an entirely different hitter, slashing .424/.441/1.061 with six home runs. So is this just a hot streak? Or is this something more?

 

Jansen’s New Stance

 

I think some of Jansen’s recent success can be attributed to a change he made in his approach. Specifically, he’s changed his batting stance a slight bit and opened it up.

Take a look. The stance on the left is from May, the one of the right is from July:

 

 

The difference isn’t massive, but it’s definitely noticeable, and it’s definitely something he’s done intentionally. Actually, he didn’t just change his stance on his own, he started imitating his teammate Eric Sogard, as he told The Athletic‘s John Lott.

“I watched Eric Sogard hit,” Jansen said. “He’s wider like that. His head doesn’t move much. He’s got a great approach. He keeps it very simple, and I’ve always liked keeping it simple too. Getting wider and lower helps me stay in my legs, helps my head stay still.”

For reference, here’s a look at Sogard’s stance:

 

 

Jansen started using that new stance on June 23 in Boston, and according to Jansen, it’s been helping him handle fastballs better.

“When I was taller [in the box], I would leg-kick and crash,” Jansen said. “I’d have nothing behind my swing. I would be flat and falling over.”

His stats against fastballs have improved since he started using the stance. His wRC+ against fastballs up through June 22 was a miserable -10.9. Since then, it’s been sitting at a much more manageable 1.2.

In fact, his stats have improved all over the place, especially in his quality of contact.

 

 

He’s seen his groundball rate drop from 44.4% before the stance change to 27.3%, his line drive rate increase from 19.4% to 27.3%, and his fly ball rate increase from 36.3% to 45.5%.

And he’s been pulling the ball more, which is good for power.

 

 

He’s also making better-quality contact with the ball, as he’s seen major increases in his barrel rate:

 

 

And his sweet spot rate, which is defined as a batted-ball event with a launch angle between eight and 32 degrees.

 

 

His plate discipline has also gotten better. In fact, since June 21, Jansen has swung and missed at a pitch only once. Like, literally once. And he hasn’t struck out since June 21. He’s also seen his chase rate drop from 27.8% before the stance change to 21.6% after.

And what’s perhaps more impressive is comparing his actual stats since the stance change to his expected stats:

AVG wOBA SLG
Actual .424 .610 1.061
Expected .408 .533 .850

 

Conclusion

 

If there is one thing I look for when I try to determine whether a batter’s recent hot streak is just a streak that will end soon, or signs of something good to come, I look for a definitive, noticeable skill change.

Based on everything I’ve seen with Jansen, it looks like exactly that has happened here. He’s made a change to his approach, a change that has been intentional, and it’s helped him make better contact and launch into a hot streak. This doesn’t look to be a case of a guy who’s just doing the same thing he’s always done and is just getting lucky, and I think the batted ball stats and the expected stats bear that out.

Now, a couple of caveats I want to mention before you jump into the comments and yell at me.

First, I want to caution that, yes, this is a small sample size. We’re talking about roughly two weeks’ worth of data compared to about a month-and-a-half’s worth. It is entirely possible that he truly is on a hot streak and that his changes to his approach have just coincidentally coincided with this hot streak. I don’t personally believe that’s the case, but of course, it is possible. I’m not guaranteeing anything here.

Second, I want to say that, while I believe much of what Jansen is doing is legit, there’s obviously going to be some regression. I mean, the guy is hitting like a demigod, that isn’t going to continue, and that even shows itself in the expected stats over these past two weeks.

However, the catcher position is much like Steven Seagal’s filmography—there’s one that’s really good, and the rest are mostly terrible. So you need all the help you can get at catcher (I’d imagine). Someone who’s heating up like Jansen is and may be able to sustain it to some extent is absolutely worth picking up over whatever upright body you probably have filling in at catcher.

Jansen is available in 73% of leagues, as of this writing, and you should pick him up.

Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire

Ben Palmer

Lifelong Orioles fan (which can be....painful at times) and a Ravens/Wizards/Terps fan. I also listen to way too much music and watch way too many movies.

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Comments


theKraken

Jansen is a lot more open now than he was a a month ago based on that image – I don’t think its subtle. That is almost always a good move as is ditching a leg kick. To me the real story is how he made it to this point making such simple mistakes. I think that is a good insight into the reality of being a real baseball player as opposed to managing a baseball sim or sitting in a cubicle looking at spreadsheets saying what should players need to do. The game has always been about constant adjustments and maintenance. In this case, those are very basic fundamentals that any 12 y/o is aware of but over the course of a season things get weird. I think it also tells you how little instruction and real reflection and analysis takes place at the highest level – I think people talk about it a lot more than do anything. In any dynasty Jansen is probably incredibly overvalued but in a redraft (he was top 100 in the PL list lol) anyone with a pulse is a worth an add at C. I think he is exactly the kind of player that is wildly overvalued. Only a few C are really worth the own in a given year and you are probably just as well off adding the other C that just hit for two weeks and doesn’t have the hype… whoever that is at a given time. I like the idea of adding him, but it is just a streaking C add in all likelihood. I don’t think anyone should overvalue the idea of an above average catcher as it just isn’t valuable. I have embraced going full stream-mode with Cs for a few years now and I haven’t looked back. Emoji Movie is in fact terrible. I also think The Croods is painful to actually pay attention to and they are making a sequel – its one of my least favorites.

Tim

A lot of good info but the one major mistake to leave out is he is dealing with professionals, pitchers and staffs that analyze everything about a batters tendencies. There simply isnt enough data yet on Jansen. Mistakes on pitches arent likely going to happen to often. He may not get as many good looks at pitches and his walk count may go up. Either way, he is showing why the Jays have brought him along thru the ranks, and has had success at every level, no reason his success track will stop now.

Ryan

I have Novarez. But I picked Jansen up to see if this is for real. I can’t carry two catchers very long, but thought he was worth the hold for now.

Nicklaus Gaut

I hate to be the new guy coming in hot with corrections, but the only way there’s only one good Steven Segal movie is if you mean that only one is just good because of all the rest being masterpieces…Glimmer Man, Shadow Man, The Foreigner, Today You Die…Boom. There’s four amazing Segal movies, right there. And who can forget his haunting performance as Dr. Wesley McClaren in The Patriot or as hardboiled ex-CIA agent Jake Hopper in Belly of the Beast? Clementine, Pistol Whipped, Attack Force. There’s three more. All fantastic. So fantastic, in fact, that they had to go straight to video because theatres weren’t big enough to contain them. Professor Robert Burns. Out For A Kill. Mic drop.

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