(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)
(This article is presented with sincere apologies to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers for the writer’s following attempts at parody. The original title for this piece was “Hey, [Please] Come Around Here, LoMo”)
“I’ve given up, I’ve given up
I’ve given up on waiting any longer
I’ve given up, on this [bat] getting stronger . . . ”
Many of you have probably already gone through your fair share of painful fantasy breakups this season due to injury or just a lack of performance. It’s not easy, especially when you were so in love back in March. Now, I’m not saying you have to forgive all of them, but if you find yourself in need of power, you may want to let one of the more disappointing of the 2017 breakouts “darken your door” as you try to solidify your place in the league standings.
Nobody expected anything out of Logan Morrison (1B, Minnesota Twins) in the early days of spring back in 2017. In 909 plate appearances over the prior two seasons, he hit for a paltry .231/.309/.396 line and slugged just 31 total home runs. Advanced metrics were no kinder in their evaluation of his talents — his pedestrian 44.4 GB% and 37.2 FB% showed little to be excited about, especially with his very average hard contact rate (32.1%). Statcast was also unimpressed by his bat — his average launch angle was under 12 degrees and he had just 47 total barrels across 2015 and 2016.
Then 2017 began. LoMo, a 29-year-old journeyman first baseman with below average power, became one of the poster boys of the new launch angle revolution by raising his average launch angle by 5.5 degrees, going from a groundball guy to an extreme flyball hitter. His 47 barrels were as many as he had in the two prior years combined, which likely contributed to the increased hard contact rate (37.7%). In just one season, he transformed his entire fantasy profile from an AL-only at-bat gatherer to mixed league power source. His final line was .246/.353/.516 with 38 dingers (tied for 3rd among 1st basemen). The owners who plucked him off the waiver wire in April and May were able to ride his coattails to fantasy glory.
Unfortunately, this metamorphosis story does not end there. Currently, Morrison ranks 51 among 1st basemen on ESPN’s Player Rater for standard 5×5 formats. He’s hitting just .193 and is currently on the disabled list with a problem in his left hip (though he’s expected to return as soon as he’s eligible). His 11 home runs rank 88th in the league, tied with the likes of Chris Taylor and Derek Dietrich. At first glance, it’s easy to write off LoMo as a one-year power-hitting wonder, cut from the same cloth as Michael Morse, Brad Miller, or Domonic Brown. It’s almost too easy, really. It’s also not exactly true.
Logan Morrison was a very average hitter prior to 2017 in large part due to his inability to put the ball in the air. When I first looked at his numbers, I expected to see a regression in his batted ball profile similar to his pre-2017 numbers, with a lower launch angle, more grounders than fly balls, and lower hard contract rate than we saw last season. What I actually found was the opposite — he is hitting more flyballs (48.0%), fewer groundballs (31.3%), and with a higher launch angle (20.8 degrees) than he showed in 2017, plus he has a similar hard contact rate (37.8%). So why has he been so bad? Does he need to make a change?
The data does show us one change LoMo can make to turn his season around — he just needs to take 3 simple steps:
- Stop walking under ladders, breaking mirrors, opening umbrellas indoors, and knocking over salt shakers;
- Avoid black cats, saying “Macbeth” in any theater, and drinking any water that reflects moonlight; and
- Acquire mass quantities of four-leaf clovers, horseshoes, rabbits’ feet, and maneki-neko.
To put it bluntly, LoMo has been one of the unluckiest hitters in baseball this season. His xAVG is 58 points higher than his AVG, his xSLG is 130 points higher than his SLG, and his xwOBA is 71 points higher than his wOBA. Those are the highest, 3rd highest, and 4th highest discrepancies in baseball (respectively) among players with at least 250 PAs. according to Baseball Savant’s data. Additionally, while 2017’s 22.5 HR/FB% was potentially unsustainable, his current 11.5% rate is probably too low for a guy with his raw power. Finally, as a simplistic icing on the bad luck cake, his BABIP currently sits at just .212, 46 points below his career average. In short, the outcomes of his at-bats do not reflect the quality of the contact he’s making. Of course, lady luck isn’t solely to blame. Issues with pop-ups and lefties are contributing to his poor results, but not nearly to the level of his luck.
So we know that’s still the launch angle darling that we saw in 2017 and that he hasn’t reverted to his old self. We also know that he’s been oppressively unlucky in his batted ball outcomes. Now what? What should we expect if LoMo is the same LoMo we saw last season? We can possibly answer that by looking at last year’s LoMo.
What we might have forgotten about his 2017 run was that it was not quite as spectacular after the All-Star Game as it was to start the season. He started striking out more and his hard contact rate dropped significantly. That said, he still managed 14 bombs down the stretch. What if we, in a very unscientific manner, project LoMo to repeat his 2017 second half’s 14 home runs? He’s actually surpassing all of the metrics he showed down the stretch last season, so such a repeat is well within the realm of possibility. According to FanGraphs’ Depth Charts rest-of-season outlook, only 13 guys are projected to hit 14 or more home runs (LoMo is not one of them). To acquire one of those 13 hitters in a 12 team mixed league, you almost certainly will need to make a trade — the most “available” hitter of this group Matt Olson, who is owned in 70.4% of ESPN leagues.
It’s worth noting that Depth Charts projects LoMo to hit 11 more home runs; however, the projection likely puts weight in pre-2017 numbers and his poor results so far this season. Based on the batted ball profile and data we have available, we can probably disregard some of that negativity and hope for some luck regression.
If you’re looking for power and you don’t want to or cannot pay for it via trade, there’s a no-cost lottery ticket sitting on your waiver wire. All you’ll have to do is snag it and wait to see if luck and positive regression take hold in time to make a difference in your standings. If you’re still holding on to guys like Marwin Gonzalez (who our own Ben Pernick already advised you to drop in his Buy & Sell article earlier today) Mitch Moreland, Yuli Gurriel, Josh Bell, Matt Adams, Yonder Alonso, Matt Adams, or Adam Duvall, and you need some raw power, go ahead and cut those guys and grab yourself some LoMo. Then you just sit back, relax, and wait for the home runs to start rolling in. If you start losing patience, just remember that . . .
“The waiting is the hardest part,
Any day he is when he might go yard,
You take it on faith, you take to the heart,
The waiting is the hardest part . . . “
You want me to drop the guy who is the #1 fantasy 1B in the AL? The same guy who is 5th overall 1B, 4th in the last 30 days, and 2nd in the last 15? A guy who started the year with an injury that was slowing his performance but almost finished in the top #50 bats before the ASB?
I’ll agree with literally everything else you said. Please stop ignoring Gurriel.
I am probably being a bit rough on Yuli, but his skill set makes him more of a niche commodity – his value is great in points leagues and formats that reward total bases – but he’s otherwise the only useful for above average RBI and a high AVG.
You’re right, though. Cutting Yuli would only make sense in a very specific scenario (you need ONLY power, short bench, only can start 1 guy at 1B, etc.).
I feel you on the power end. I watch a ton of his ABs. Dude isn’t trying to lift the ball out of the park. Just tries to get a ball in play to let Springer/Bregman/Altuve run home. He’s a winner. His brother could be something special though because he does try to knock it out and has a similar mentality that his brother does and he’s still very young.
You hit it right on the head. In fact Yuli has pushed the suddenly Anthony Rizzo/ Juan Pierre hit-a-like to the bench. And no I haven’t looked back or any regrets. Too many of the “experts” are reluctant to recommend going outside the box and worship at the church of play your studs no matter what. Me? If you hit you play, if not….
Jeez, it sounds like I struck a nerve with dissing Yuli! Might have to be a topic for a post…
Gurriel is the #29 1B in my settings, R/HR/RBI/OBP/SLG/SB, which is pretty close to standard. This comment is a bit dramatic. Gurriel is not a top 5 1B in most leagues and this article wasn’t written for your specific settings.
Patrick, I also play in formats like the one you mentioned, and while his hot streak has been valuable, he hasn’t been a strong commodity over the course of the year due to the lack of power and low walk rates.
Of all the things I expected pushback on, Yuli Gurriel was at the bottom of the list.