(Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire)
Welcome to July and the latest Statcast update for week 14! With the All-Star break is right around the corner, let’s check in on our xStats leaderboard. All hitters must have at least 200 plate appearances an have an xBA of no less than .250 and an xSLG no less than .425 to qualify for the list.
I want to point out that Albert Almora, Jr. actually led the xSLG leaders but didn’t qualify because his expected slugging was just .346. Scooter Gennett, Eddie Rosario, and Nolan Arenado all appear on each top-10s this week. Almora and Gennett both have sizeable gaps between the rest of the hitters on this list for their respective metrics.
Jed Lowrie (2B/SS, Oakland Athletics) – Lowrie hit .400 last week with an expected batting average of .226. In 30 plate appearances, his .480 ISO was good for eighth overall of qualified hitters. He didn’t hit the ball much harder as his average exit velocity improved by just 0.5 MPH. See the radial chart below and notice most of Lowery’s hits occur in ideal locations but he’s been under a lot of pitches, with just one hit occurring on ‘topped’ contact.
Lowrie started off the week red-hot with a four-hit game last Tuesday against the Detroit Tigers, followed by multi-hit games the next two days. He cooled off a bit at the end of the week and hasn’t had a hit since the 29th of June. Regardless, Lowrie is pushing a 3 WAR and currently holds a 134 wRC+ in 2018.
Gregory Polanco (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates) – Polanco’s batting average for last week was 151 points higher than his xBA of .323. His .474 clip was good enough for third-best of qualified hitters; his .636 BABIP placed Polanco in third as well. Polanco hit two home runs, two doubles and a triple which helped him place a distant second in wRC+ for the week (308). Despite the fact that his average exit velocity was down nearly 3MPH from his yearly average, it seemed to be of no consequence (average launch angle was an idea 20.8o); see his spray chart below, where you’ll notice only one of his balls in play that breached the outfield ended up as an out (the one on the edge of the infield was a popup to short that was a bit closer to the infield).
While he tended to pull the ball, the majority of damage he inflicted was in the middle of the field. Note the infield hit, which no doubt influenced his BABIP and xBA this week. In Polanco’s last five games, four of them have produced multi-hits; the Pirates certainly can use his offense right now.
Harrison Bader (OF, St. Louis Cardinals) – Bader has been just about average throughout 2018. He has a 98 wRC+, is hitting .261, and holds a 1.1 WAR. The last week of June was truly a tale of luck and fortune; how else can you explain a .163 xBA versus a .333 BA? Bader has had just two extra-base hits since June 6th, and yet he’s put the ball in play with great results (.600 BABIP) despite the fact that he stuck out during 38% of his at-bats. One thing that Bader did last week that won’t bode well going forward is he chased a lot of pitches that, fortunately for him, ended up as hits. Good news for Bader, though, is most of his chasing wasn’t terribly far out of the zone.
Jon Jay (OF, Arizona Diamondbacks) – Jay was praised(?) over at Fangraphs early last week in regards to his ability to get on base in situations where an average hitter really shouldn’t. He’s a BABIP wonder who actually out-performs his peers on a yearly basis in that category; high BABIP isn’t usually sustainable for multiple years unless your an elite hitter. Nevertheless, Jay had no hits last week…and has reached base just ONCE since June 23rd (a walk). Jay’s xBA? .160. This is closer to the type of output you’d expect from a hitter without the peculiar abilities of Jay. You can see below that just 20% of pitches Jay saw last week were put into play.
Jay hit .368 in May, then saw his average drop to .245 in June. Ah, regression is a fickle beast.
George Springer (OF, Houston Astros) – Springer has been hard to figure for quite some time now. During the past seven games for Springer, he’s hit .043 with a .182 xBA. His spray chart below show’s his contact location has been less than ideal.
His exit velocity remains stable, as well does his launch angle, so he’s not having issues with his swing (or so it would seem). He had two multi-strikeout games last week; five during the four-game series versus the Tampa Bay Rays. Springer wasn’t being pitched to any differently but you can see he’s really pressing by looking at his results on contact that are basically all down and away with several out of the zone.
Springer’s BABIP has floated around league-average for his career but its down a bit this season. Last week was no help at all. Springer is a really talented hitter but it would seem, on the surface, that he needs to be a little more patient at the plate and let the game slow back down for him; his expected metrics are much too low for him right now.
Matt Kemp is on fire.
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