(Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire)
May is literally right around the corner and it looks like the weather is finally starting to turn. Gone will be the cold (and wet) weather excuses and sample sizes are getting larger grounding certain assertions of expectations. Let’s review the week in Statcast data and discuss the high and low ends of Exit Velocity, Launch Angle, and applicable xStats.
Here are the current top-10 Baseball Savant xAVG and xSLG leaders as of April 30th. Two Cleveland Indians, Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis, seem to be having the worst luck of the bunch appearing high on both xStats categories.
Nelson Cruz (OF/DH, Seattle Mariners) – Cruz was the best by nearly 2MPH over the runner-up for highest average EV (99.2 MPH). Cruz has been crushing the ball lately; he slammed a 428-foot home run on April 28th in the first inning versus the Cleveland Indians, 30.3 degree LA with an EV of 109.4 MPH. Under last week’s average metrics, 99.2 MPH EV and 14.1 degree LA, the majority of hits result in singles (44%) and roughly a third of that end as doubles. His hardest hit ball was 114.8 MPH; a run-scoring single off Indians starter Carlos Carrasco seen below.
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Cruz has been stymied thus far in 2018 with an xwOBA of .481, though only managing a .355; the latter is nothing to shake a stick at and it demonstrates he could be even more effective than he is now. Cruz is currently slashing .274/.303/.561.
Yoan Moncada (2B, Chicago White Sox) – Moncada, through 21 events, averaged an EV of 97.3 which is good enough for second behind Cruz. Moncada hit a line drive moonshot home run for his hardest-hit ball last week, leaving the bat at 112.1 MPH at a 36.2 degree angle. He also gave us an aesthetically-pleasing spray chart as seen below.
Moncada isn’t showing a particularly strong batting average but his OPS of .877 is great. According to Baseball Savant, from April 22 through the 29th, Moncada slugged .737, which is about .013 higher than his expected SLG. Meaning Moncada’s week was (mostly) legit in terms of his power while his batting average (.368) was about 50 points higher than expected. To further exemplify, his BABIP was an incredible .556 (third overall last week); 10 of his 18 balls in play became hits.
Giancarlo Stanton (OF, New York Yankees) – Regardless of how bad Stanton has been playing, he hasn’t faltered when it comes to hard-hit contact. He’s still got the power, despite the (unsurprising) strikeout issues, that allowed him to hit a rocket of a home run last Monday against and the Tampa Bay Rays. Traveling 435 feet, the EV was 115.7 under a 28.6 LA; roughly 2 MPH slower than his 458-foot bomb way back on the 4th of April. Stanton was productive this past week for the Yankees, posting a .406 OBP. Furthermore, his xSLG ended up being .096 lower than expected; .632-.536. Have a look at his LA chart for the week.
While Stanton was hammering the ball most of the week, only three BIP were barrelled contact and the bulk of his BBEs contained negative LA.
Yadier Molina (C, St. Louis Cardinals) – To say Molina had a rough week is being pretty kind because, well, it was straight up terrible. For starters, looking at his wOBA, his differential between his actual and expected is -.256. That’s not even the worst part. His xSLG is .397 points LOWER than what is expected. Molina slugged just .083 last week. And his batting average? .083. After a great start to his season, Molina has crash-landed back to earth. As you can see from the xStat leader’s chart, Molina is tops in the league in xBA-BA and eighth in xSLG-SLG. His average exit velocity isn’t bad at 88 MPH and is only 2 MPH slower than his season average. Looking at his spray chart, he’s just not lifting the ball; most of his contact has been pulled groundouts.
In spite of all this, Yadi is still a really good hitter. He’s going to have bad stretches as he gets older. I’m sure he’ll get back on track soon.
Travis Shaw (3B, Milwaukee Brewers) – Last week, Shaw hadn’t underachieved at Yadi’s on-base production level, but he certainly didn’t hit the ball any better. Shaw was a tough-luck 2 for 20, yet still managed to make (fairly) respectable contact this week as seen in the EV chart below. His average EV was 86.6 MPH.
Shaw’s xSLG for the week was a difference of .230 from his posted slugging. Not expected to tear up the league with his contact, he’s having a pretty good year so far (.342 OBP, .220 ISO) The problem this week, a .059 BABIP, tells a large part of the story. Shaw just couldn’t catch a break and that will happen when you put a lot of balls on the ground. Shaw typically splits his contact evenly between grounders and fly balls. Expect an about-face soon and though he’s only been in the league for 2 full seasons, and some stats have not yet normalized, this can’t keep up much longer.
Brett Gardner (OF, New York Yankees) – Last but definitely not least is Gardner. He’ll wind up being eligible for this article several times throughout the year. Reason being his regular inconsistencies which are exemplified by his rolling exit velocity below.
He can dip as far as sub-80 MPH or as high as the low 90’s; Gardner is another one of those guys I refer to as heart-monitor hitters. In any case, Gardner lacked offensive production this week. His xwOBA was only .304 while he actually ended up with a .180. Despite his struggles, the Yankees are on a roll but he’ll have to start making more dependable production if he wants to keep himself as a regular in the lineup. What’s more is his xBA was just .227 and his differential was -.140. Not good.
I think it is time to start looking at Moncada’s splits. He is pretty much garbage as a right-handed hitter and really effective as a lefty. I don’t know that the righty thing is completely a lost cause, but he is unreal from the left – that is where he has one of the best swings in the game. I assume the underlying data is even better from the left. I think people don’t really know that he is a switch hitter lol – of course the spray chart looks like that! His Batting average problems disappear in the L/R splits – for this year at least.
Thanks for reading! I try not to overlook or gloss over things but you’re exactly right about Moncada. Those details would probably be more appropriate for an article devoted to just him, which is not a bad idea.
Once that happens the hype can go to a new level! Even the Sox hit him 6th as a righty and leadoff as a lefty. Last year the splits weren’t huge but it is because he was so bad at everything.