(Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire)
What’s that, you say? You aren’t in the mood for a long and flowery introduction? One that sets up the angle and statistics that follow, and slowly pulls you into the depths like a beach-dweller with his pant legs rolled up on a crisp-but-sunny late spring day, slowly wading deeper and deeper into the sea until ankles, then knees, then thighs, then — ppppsssshhhhhhhhhhh RIPTIDE, sucka!
Onto the undervalued OBP sources.
Matt Adams (1B/OF, Washington Nationals)
Congratulations, Matt Adams. You are finally good. A few years late. Like that Thanksgiving stuffing that’s been in the freezer since 2011. It’s a little weird, but we’ll still eat you.
You’ve clubbed 10 homers in 88 at-bats, along with a lofty .394 OBP, with 22 strikeouts and 14 walks. You haven’t just been good – you’ve been one of the best sluggers in baseball.
But is this a mirage? Are you about to pull the chair from under us? (that reminds me – Kiersten, if you are reading this, I’m so sorry about pulling the chair in 7th grade band. That was a horrible thing to do, and it could have broken your tailbone. There is no excuse for that kind of behavior.)
Let’s pull up the deets and see if Matt Adams is a true friend, or about to stab us in the back with a scorp knife.
What!? He’s been relatively unlucky? Matt… those things I said about you in 2014… I didn’t really mean it. Those were hard times.
Wow, Matt – you are actually walking more frequently than legendary walker and OBP stud Carlos Santana (13.3%). At age 29, it’s not like you’re Adrian Gonzalez or anything. Besides, late-blooming first basemen are all the rage these days. Have you tried Yonder Alonso, Justin Smoak, Logan Morrison, C.J. Cron, or Jose Martinez? All the kids are doing it.
I couldn’t help but notice, Matt, that you’ve really cut down your O-Swing%. The bulk of your rates and percentages look somewhere around career norms – except for this notable drop in chasing pitches outside the zone. So I’m thinking it’s one of three things:
- You were deeply inspired by Peter Jackson’s Magnum Opus “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” and have channeled your inner Jedi.
- Using a small scorp knife, you’ve been routinely and methodically stealing small fragments of Bryce Harper’s aura.
- You matured. You became a man. You stopped making contrived jokes about scorp knives.
(Thanks, Fangraphs. You are the Encarta of my heart.)
In reality, Matt Adams won’t continue to be this good. If he did, he’d be a 50 home run, 125 RBI kind of player – Anthony Rizzo meets Giancarlo Stanton. But if I were you, reader, I’d hope for something in between Yonder Alonso and Jose Abreu. Mostly, I’d just be pleased that Matt Adams no longer stinks. In fact, he’s pretty good. Turns out, all he needed to do was stop swinging at pitches outside the zone (ala 2017 Justin Smoak). Just look where that got Smoak!
sound of radio alert (what’s that, Pitcher List overlords? Smoak has .748 OPS and has been pedestrian-at-best this season? Oh, brother. And so it goes.)
Mystery Player (National League East, Outfield)
This week’s mystery player had a preseason average draft position of #207, wedged between fantasy granola bars Jason Kipnis and Wellington Castillo. His ownership has rapidly risen to ≈ 83%, a far cry from his dwindling ownership numbers from a season ago.
His beastly stat line appears as follows:
.360 batting average, .429 OBP, 23 runs, 6 dongs, 24 RBI, and a Freeman-esque .995 OPS.
Here’s another hint, and it’s a dead giveaway:
Here’s the last hint: the mystery player’s name rhymes with So-Do-Tell | Meh-Rare-Uh
Aha! Nice work! You got it!
The mystery player was Tuffy Gosewisch.
But here’s the bad news folks: his .398 BABIP would make Ty Cobb blush. And that’s an accomplishment because Ty Cobb was a psychopath.
Similarly, while his 9.7% Walk Rate nicely compliments his 14.9% Strikeout Rate, Herrera’s overall plate discipline appears relatively unchanged. Is this a case of a BABIP superstar, or is Herrera having an age-26 breakthrough? Let’s look a little closer:
His SwStr% is down a bit. Perhaps switching from maple to lorax wood has helped.
He is swinging at balls less frequently. That’s generally helpful.
His Z-Contact% has a notable bump. Hmm… so a notoriously free-swinging player, with free-swinging hair, is swinging at fewer pitches outside the zone, and making contact with more pitches inside the zone. He stopped burning his finger on the stove and started adding spices for flavor. We’ve got something cooking here!
Verdict: Odubel Herrera is an excellent athlete with sneaky pop and excellent bat speed. His downfall has been his aggressiveness – a propensity to chase everything, which left him highly exploitable by savier pitchers. The result was an incredibly streaky player who constantly walked the line between fantasy rosters and fantasy waiver wires. He was once the drunken (but handsome) guy at the bar shouting off-color pickup lines to anyone with a pulse. But he has matured. Now, Odubel Herrera sits off to the side, slowly but tactfully sipping a scotch. At times, he still gets a bit wild and does The Sprinkler in the middle of the room, but he is learning. Oh, Dubell – how you have changed.
Other OBP risers to keep a watchful eye on:
-David Peralta (.395)
-Mallex Smith (.386)
-Colin Moran (.374)
-Jaimer Candelario (.371)
-Max Kepler (.360)
Another thing about Odubel that supports his breakout — his first three full seasons have sported a BABIP > .340, so he’s naturally a higher BABIP player. It won’t stick at .398, but even after some regression there’s room for him to be a .300-.310 hitter if his lowered K% sticks.
Aha! thanks, Jeremy. So Odubel is like a talented poker player who has been getting a few more aces than usual.