Players With Interesting Statcast Trends – Week 7
This article will present a few players who are hot and some who are not thus far in the season. I’m going to discuss these players in terms of their Statcast or batted ball data through a few lenses: launch angle, exit velocity, and expected statistics through Baseball Savant. Let’s start with the expected stats disparity leaders, which will be updated every week:
For those who do not remember from last year, there are qualifiers for this list: a .250 xAVG and a .425 xSLG. To clarify, this list does not mean we expect Justin Smoak to positively regress to a .539 SLG%. Rather, it means that Smoak’s batted ball profile supports a .539 SLG% rather than his current mark. In this way, we can identify players who are performing better than the underlying stats indicate. I know that Jose Ramirez doesn’t technically qualify for this list, but I wanted to mention him because I figured he was a name of relevance.
Jose Martinez (1B, St. Louis Cardinals): Momentum is a very powerful thing. Martinez got an opportunity early in the year thanks to an injury to Harrison Bader and the demotion of Tyler O’Neill and he ran with it, forcing Hader to the bench. I can feel the reaction of those of you who own him. But he’s struggling in May! Yes, that’s true. His average has fallen close to 60 points thus far in May, from .375 to .319, and he’s hit just two HRs so far this month. So why is he in this section? Because he’s posted a .618 xSLG over the past 30 days, a full .169 points above his actual SLG. Now, xSLG is not a be all, end all, as Nick Gerli pointed out last month. But it does give us some general insight. Check out his batted balls over the last 30 days:
Here, we see a significant number of batted balls ending up in that sweet spot of launch angle, but overall, it appears to be a pretty low exit velocity. It’s true that Martinez is not leading the league in EV (193rd in EV on FB/LD), but power has never been his defining skill set—it’s always been average. So putting this chart in context, we see balls hit decently hard and the majority above zero degrees, which is solid, consistent contact.
Kendrys Morales (DH, New York Yankees): Morales is off to a hot start with his new team, with a homer and 4 RBI through his first 18 PAs. Some will see his overall line for the season at .202/.313/.276 and scoff, and to a certain extent, they’d be right. But Savant suggests Morales has been getting somewhat unlucky as of late. Take a look at this batted ball chart dating back to April 20th.
That’s a strong number of well hit balls, though admittedly, a few closer to zero than I’d like. Overall, that is the batted ball profile of a hitter that is making solid contact, with poor and perhaps unlucky results. During this span, Morales posted a .184 xSLG-SLG, with a .454 xSLG overall. In deep leagues, he’s worth grabbing to ride the hot streak while the Yankees heal up.
Yu Darvish (SP, Chicago Cubs): Over the last few weeks, you’ve probably seen CSW thrown around a lot and for good measure, as it can help us to identify strong performers. Alex Fast concluded that it takes roughly half a season for the stat to stabilize, but I’d like to look on a smaller scale to see if we can identify someone at the beginning of a potential emergence. Of all pitchers over the last 30 days with at least 300 pitches, Darvish ranks 18th in CSW% at 31.9% (FWIW, only three pitchers have posted marks above 35% in that span: Chris Sale, Stephen Strasburg, and Blake Snell). This has corresponded with a shift to a more cutter-heavy approach and it will be interesting to see if Darvish can build upon this.
If there’s somewhere for Darvish to still improve, it’s in his ability to command the zone. Over the last 30 days, Darvish has thrown more pitches in 2-0 counts than 0-2 counts, and slightly fewer pitches overall in counts where he is ahead (148) than those in which he’s behind (156). Getting ahead early has never been one of Darvish’s great strengths: He ranks 9th to last in baseball this year in the metric. Perhaps attacking the zone a bit more early on would help him take advantage of his devastating stuff.
Jon Lester (SP, Chicago Cubs): The CSW giveth and the CSW taketh. Over the last 30 days, Lester has posted just a 25.9% CSW rate, suggesting his 3.83 SIERA could be sneaking up on him sooner rather than later.
This chart from Lester’s baseball savant player page should say it all. Trade Lester while you can.
Ozzie Albies (2B, Atlanta Braves): You don’t really need Statcast to tell you Ozzie is in a huge slump. But the Statcast numbers sure do back it up: 86.4 mph average EV in the last 30 days (70th of 78 hitters with at least 75 PAs), 155th in EV on FB/LD, and the list goes on. In fact, dating back to the All-Star Break last year, Ozzie is hitting just .242/.297/.381 with 11 HRs and 9 SBs in 468 PAs… yikes. In fact, Ozzie ranks 113th out of 129 hitters with at least 250 PAs since the All-Star Break last year. This is looking like more than just a slump.
(Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire)