This past offseason, Pitcher List introduced Pitch Level Value, or PLV, a new metric that assesses player performance by grading outcomes on the single pitch level. If you’re new to it, you can read Nick Pollack’s primer on PLV here.
You’ll find the definitions below. Grades are on a 20-80 scale.
Swing Aggression: How much more often a hitter swings at pitches, given the swing likelihoods of the pitches they face.
Strikezone Judgement: The “correctness” of a hitter’s swings and takes, using the likelihood of a pitch being a called strike (for swings) or a ball/HBP (for takes).
Decision Value (DV): Modeled value (runs per 100 pitches) of a hitter’s decision to swing or take, minus the modeled value of the alternative.
Contact Ability: A hitter’s ability to make contact (foul strike or BIP), above the contact expectation for each pitch.
Power: Modeled number of extra bases (xISO on contact) above a pitch’s expectation, for each BBE.
Hitter Performance (HP): Runs added per 100 pitches seen by the hitter (including swing/take decisions), after accounting for pitch quality.
Pitch Level Value (PLV): Estimated value of all pitches, based on the predicted outcome of those pitches (0-10, 5 is league average).
Pitch Level Average (PLA): Value of all pitches (ERA Scale), using IP and the total predicted run value of pitches thrown.
Pitch type PLA: Value of a given pitch type (ERA scale), using total predicted run values and an IP proxy for that pitch type (pitch usage % x Total IP).
(Note: All PLV data is current through Thursday 6/8).
This week we’ll search for some power bats, survey some hot hitters, and see if we should worry about Sandy Alcantara. But first let’s look at a hitter who’s doing something we haven’t seen in a long, long time.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate the toughest out in baseball. Luis Arráez has a 1.167 OPS over the last 15 days (12 games), third among qualified hitters. Oh, yeah, and he’s .522 during that span and .403 for the year. He’s the only hitter (minimum 350 pitches) that PLV has tracked with a contact grade of 75. And he’s also just one of three hitters with a 75-grade in Hitter Performance (HP); Corey Seager and Aaron Judge are the others. He’s just a one-of-a-kind hitter, even more so considering how the game is played today.
The Giant’s leadoff hitter has seen his roster percentage surge recently thanks, at least in part, to a three-game series at Coors Field. However, he’s been terrific overall this year with a .887 OPS that leads the Giants and is 16th among qualifiers. He has an understated profile given the power is just a little bit above average (55) with average contact (50). But he stands out with an elite plate approach — a 75 grade in DV. His 17.4% BB rate has made him a game-changer in OBP leagues.
McCutchen has been excellent in his return to Pittsburgh with a .816 OPS; His highest since 2019 with the Phillies. Similar to Wade, the former NL MVP has mixed modest power (50) with a great eye at the plate — 70 DV and 60 SZ Judgement.
If you bought Ward this past draft season, you were disappointed for a while. But he’s shown some signs of life lately with a .919 OPS over the last 15 days (11 games).
Overall, Ward’s DV (50) isn’t the elite level we saw last year (70). His power has also dropped from 55 to 50. But he’s starting to peak a little bit lately — take a look at his power and SZ Judgement.
He got off to a slow start with a .734 OPS in April but he’s turned it on and then some; He leads all qualified hitters with a 1.236 OPS over the last 15 days. Overall, McMahon is showing a little more power this season (65) compared to last (60) but his profile otherwise looks unchanged.
The Guardian’s cleanup hitter is second with a 1.215 OPS over the last 15 days. He’s been a little bit more aggressive this year with a 9.4% swing aggression compared to 8.2% last year which has resulted in his DV dipping from 45 to 40. Otherwise, I think he’s really just picking up from where he left off last year; High contact (60) and good power (55).
Elly De La Cruz has only a handful of at-bats so we can’t look much at him.
But we’ve got a decent sample size for his teammate and fellow rookie, Matt McLain. The 2021 first-rounder out of UCLA has posted a .935 OPS in 104 PA (459 pitches). The results have been fantastic (70 HP) and he’s also shown an above-average DV (55). Contact (40) is the weak spot in his profile. Strikeouts held him back when he first made the jump to Double-A last season, but he cut his strikeout rate in Triple-A (28.1% to 19.7%) this year before getting the call. We’ll see if he can do the same in the bigs.
After leading the minors in strikeouts, Andrew Abbott debuted this past Monday (game log above) and picked up his first win against the Brewers. Again, it’s just one start so we have to take this all with a big grain of salt, but just to get an idea: his curveball graded out well (5.47 PLV / 2.45 PLA). However, his fastball command wasn’t very sharp (4.63 PLV / 5.06 PLA) so that’s an area to look for improvement.
Another albeit less heralded rookie, Spencer Steer, has been a pleasant surprise and leads the Reds with a .845 OPS. Over the last 15 days (13 games), he’s 13th among qualified hitters with a .993 OPS. He’s shown average contact (50) and power (50) but he’s graded well in Decision Value (60) and SZ Judgement (55). Not the flashiest profile, but definitely a well-rounded one.
Since we started off with Arráez, let’s balance things out and take a look at some bats that might help you out in the HR category.
Jesús Sánchez recently returned from the IL and has hit three home runs in June so far. It’s only been 109 PA (444 pitches) but he’s shown off impressive power (65) while demonstrating better SZ Judgement this year (55) compared to last season (40) when he struggled.
Joc Pederson is another slugger who has recently returned from an injury. Again, limited sample (495 pitches) but he’s shown great power (65) and is a good gamble in daily leagues where you can play him against RHP. His .501 xwoBACON is in the 97th percentile.
I’m not sure how the Rays do it, but they always seem to find really good, under-the-radar players. Add Luke Raley to the list. He’s a little similar to Josh Lowe in that Rays have been deploying him in more or less a strict platoon against RHP where he has been extremely effective with a .938 OPS and 11 home runs. He’s one of just 10 players (350 pitch minimum) that have earned a 75 or better power grade.
Brandon Belt was someone who seemed like a potential bounce-back candidate given he had dealt with a bad knee injury that sapped his power last year. He’s not an everyday player at this stage, but his power (60) has shown up. And he still has a great eye at the plate (65 SZ Judgement / 70 DV). Contact (30) is the big blemish.
This is a fun one if you’re into post-hype players like I am. Former Tampa Bay Ray Jake Bauers has made some noise in an albeit brief sample (357 pitches). Similar to Pederson, he’s also sporting an xwoBACON in the 97th percentile, and the Newport Beach native recently belted his first career multi-home run game in front of family and friends against the Dodgers. Similar to Belt, Bauers has struggled a bit with strikeouts (40 contact).
Joey Wiemer went off for a pair of home runs against the Orioles this past Wednesday en route to setting a franchise single-game record of 11 total bases. He’s shown above-average power (55) and similar to Raley, Wiemer has shown off some wheels with nine steals. Similar to most of the other names here, his contact ability (40) is below average but he’s at least shown average SZ Judgement (50) and DV (50).
One last one: Josh Donaldson has shown off 80-grade power but it comes with a minuscule sample-size caveat (139 pitches).
The rookie first baseman is hitting .206 with a .713 OPS, but I’m cautiously optimistic given the quality of his swings and takes (below).
Considering he’s also shown impressive power (60), he makes for a compelling buy-low or at the very least someone to monitor on your watch list.
In his latest start last Sunday, Sandy gave up five earned runs against the Oakland A’s of all teams. Now he’s sitting at a 5.07 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. However, a silver lining in that start against the A’s was that he earned a terrific 5.77 PLV and 1.11 PLA (89 pitches). Yes, Sandy’s K-BB% is down from 17.7% to 13.2% but his overall pitch quality is still excellent and actually even better than last year. Overall, Sandy’s 2.51 PLA is second among all pitchers with at least 1,000 pitches thrown. And if you’re wondering, George Kirby is first at 2.47.
I don’t think it got all that much fanfare when it happened but the Wacha signing has proven to be a very good one for the Padres. His changeup’s PLA of 0.95 leads all pitchers with at least 1,000 pitches thrown. Overall, his 2.88 PLA is 18th among pitchers with at least 1,000 pitches thrown.
Saving the best for last. Roughly two months into his career and he’s fifth among qualifiers with a .957 OPS on the year. However, I see that he hit two more dingers tonight (Friday) so that might be going up.
Hey, do you remember when there were some questions about how his power would play in the majors? What fun times those were. As you might’ve surmised he’s shown above-average power (55). His other grades: 50 in SZ Judgement, 55 in DV, 55 in contact, and 65 HP. Not too shabby. Now if we could only grade his speed.
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)