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Riley’s Believe It Or Not!

Dave Swan breaks down last night's hitting performances.

Heading into the season, I’m not sure many assumed Austin Riley would hit 100 RBIs. Well, after last night’s 2-5, 2B, R, 3 RBI performance, he now has 103 RBI. The double gives him 65 extra-base hits on the season (32 doubles, 32 HRs, and one triple). His superb season touts a 135 wRC+ and 4.0 fWAR; both put him in the top-5 for those respective categories as a 3B. 

However, we need to ask ourselves, is this the version of Riley we will see moving forward?

Now, I am not here to nitpick or say Riley isn’t the stud that’s giving starting pitchers nightmares. But, for a moment, let’s glance at his expected stats. His .302 batting average might be a little lucky, as Statcast suggests his xBA (expected batting average) should be nearly 30 points lower(.277). The questions don’t stop there. Riley’s xSLG (expected slugging percentage) is also 20 points lower; also, his xwOBA is 17 points lower than his wOBA (weighted on-base average). The last question is, do you believe in him or not? Let me know.

 

Let’s see how the other hitters did Wednesday.

Gavin Sheets (CWS): 2-3, HR, R, 3 RBI.

Many of the big boppers in Chicago are right-handed, making Sheets an intriguing player with this ballclub. First, he bats from the left side, but that’s not entirely what makes him valuable. His real impact is from the destruction against right-handed pitchers. In 133 ABs, Sheets has a robust 19 extra-base hits (11 HRs, nine doubles). Due to his massive difference in splits, he will see no time when an LHP takes the mound.

Kyle Isbel (KC): 1-2, 2 R, RBI, 2 BB, SB.

In April, Isbel struggled mightily, striking out over 40% of the time and carrying a wRC+ nearly 30 percent lower than league average. He was soon optioned to Triple-A to refine his approach. Well, since his return in September, he’s shown a more keen batter’s eye and has struck out at a 13% clip, while also hitting for power (.264 ISO). All-in-all, he’s finally showcasing the skill set Kansas City hopes to see in 2022 and beyond.

Brandon Lowe (TB): 2-5, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

Lowe’s 35th HR helped secure Tampa Bay the best record in the AL. He was terrific in the first half by smashing 21 HRs (.257 ISO) with a .208 batting average. In the second half, he’s been even better by crushing 14 HRs (.264 ISO) with a .285 batting average. You might be asking yourself, “How did his BA go up nearly 80 points?” Simple, his reach rate improved and he cut the K% by over 10% since the All-Star break.

Shohei Ohtani (LAA): 2-5, R, 2 SB.

If there is an aspect of baseball, Ohtani is elite at it. Let’s forget the pitching side (Nick, don’t fire me) and focus on his batting. While he didn’t go deep for the 46th time, he did swipe his 25th and 26th base, which moves him into a two-way tie for eighth. Point blank, he’s a stud at baseball, and we’ve been very fortunate to watch his mastery.

Alex Verdugo (BOS): 2-4, 2 RBI.

Boston blanked Baltimore in a 6-0 victory. Even though Verdugo wasn’t the only batter that contributed to the win, it’s worth noting that Verdugo’s September has been excellent. He’s scattered 24 hits over 73 at-bats, which is giving him a .329 batting average. Verdugo remains a nice option for next season’s drafts to help bolster a quickly eroding batting average category in a season that saw the heavy emergence of three-outcome players.

Michael Conforto (NYM): 1-4, HR, R, RBI.

Conforto’s HR was the only blast by the Mets as they dropped a game to the Marlins. Even worse, the L drops the team record to a disastrous 75-83. A look back to 2021 won’t be kind for Conforto, who will likely finish with a wRC+ that might suggest he is barely better than a replacement-level player. However, Conforto is a much better player than his 2021 stats would tell. So, keep him in mind as a sneaky option that could tumble in next year’s drafts.

Trevor Story (COL): 4-4, 3 R, BB.

Story was perfect yesterday, as he reached base five times via three singles and a walk. This special occasion marks the first time in which Trevor reached base in all five plate appearances. He should still hold his head up very high in what will be looked at as a “down year” for Story. He’s only one stolen base away from the illustrious 20/20 season, a feat that currently only six other players tout.

Bryan Reynolds (PIT): 2-3, 2 3B, R, RBI, BB.

The MLB record for triples in a single game is three, hit by Denard Span in 2010. He’s been found treasure for the Pirates, as he’s sporting a 140 wRC+ and .298/.387/.516 slash line. Given his incredibly low BABIP of 2020’s shortened season, Reynolds’ career looks more like 2021’s version, a high batting average with 25 HR potential.

Frank Schwindel (CHC): 2-4, 2B, R, BB, SB.

If you scooped Schwindel up off the wire in early June, kudos to you. The Chicago Cubs‘ replacement for Anthony Rizzo touts a .339 batting average with 40 runs and 41 RBI. This is pretty remarkable when you consider the Cubs moved nearly every viable piece of their championship core. Although, Schwindel has been tremendous at limiting strikeouts (15.8% K-rate) and making quality contact (8.1% barrel rate and 41% hard-hit rate).

Manny Pina (MIL): 1-4, HR, R, RBI.

The Brew Crew gave a few regular starters a night off and elected to use the B squad since the division is locked up. While Omar Narváez is the leading man behind the dish, you can’t look past Piña’s 13 HRs in 175 ABs. Although, Piña’s 104-MPH HR blast in the seventh inning would have been all the scoring needed to defeat the Cardinals in a 4-0 match. Now, if he could just figure out how to hit above the Mendoza Line (.200), he might get more plate appearances.

 

Featured Imaged by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)

Dave Swan

Dave Swan is an avid Chicago Cubs fan that enjoys all aspects of fantasy baseball-especially DFS. He would trade his right arm for a GIF library of Greg Maddux pitches. Swan's baseball thoughts are available at @davithius.

  • BIGmike says:

    Dave, you ask the million dollar question. Is Riley legit or not? I picked him up after dropping Matt Chapman, who was my first pick in a keeper league. Boy, what a pickup. Now, is Riley worth one of my keeper slots next year? Or do I throw him back to pool? It’s going to be a hard off season for this decision.

    • Dave Swan says:

      Wow. Quite a nice find on the waiver wire.

      I would much rather have Riley as my keeper. Chapman’s strikeout issues continue to sink his batting average and limit the counting stats. Last point, Riley is also a few years younger than Chapman.

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