This past offseason, Pitcher List introduced Pitch Level Value, or PLV, a new metric that assesses player performance by grading outcomes relative to the quality of the pitch. 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 stats are current through Thursday, 8/24).
The results weren’t there when Triston Casas debuted last year. But it was barely a cup of coffee at 95 plate appearances. It’s always risky when you dissect that small of a sample but one thing that jumped out was that he earned a 75 in decision value, indicating that he at least had a good idea of when to swing. That’s played out this year too with him earning a 60 in DV and SZ Judgement. Only now he’s got the positive results to match; his .824 OPS ranks sixth among qualified rookies. And he’s really gone off lately. In the second half (35 games), he’s hitting .307 with a 1.029 OPS.
The good results, though, weren’t always there. Remember he hit just .133 with a .576 OPS through his first 24 games. That’s what I really like about Casas: that he was able to rebound and grow as the season went along and that’s not the easiest thing for a rookie. The rolling tab of his Hitter Performance reveals a pretty favorable-looking trajectory.
It’s a similar story with his decision value and strike zone judgment. Both are peaking over the 90th percentile.
So far, PLV has him at 60 in power, though I get the sense that he’s just now scratching the surface in that department. The only blemish is that he’s just below average in contact ability (45).
As we step into the final month of the season, I think we’re all more or less circling who we want next year, and for me, Casas is definitely someone who I’m excited for: He’s shown a great eye at the plate really from the jump, he weathered some bad results, and now he’s tapping into more power. I don’t think you have to squint too hard to see a pretty big ceiling, maybe a Matt Olson type not so far down the line.
Ragans’ overall PLV of 4.93 and PLA 0f 4.14 are middling. But after another dominant outing against the Athletics during which he piled up 11 strikeouts, he’s clearly peaking. Of note, his changeup (27 pitches) earned a 5.48 PLV /2.49 PLA, the best we’ve seen from it through his first six starts with the Royals. Meanwhile, his four-seamer (33 pitches) was up nearly two mph and averaged 98 while earning a 5.39 PLV / 2.75 PLA. All Aboard!
The 35-year-old veteran is proving that he’s still got some juice in the tank. Over his last 20 games, he’s slashing .286/ .405/ .643. And he’s also leading the Jays with a .850 OPS on the year. With 15 home runs, he’s just three behind Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the team lead in roughly 170 fewer at-bats. Woah. Belt has shown excellent power this year (60) but his true super strength is his eye at the plate; he’s one of just four players with a 70 in both Strikezone Judgement and Decision Value (550 pitch minimum). He clearly has X-ray vision right now.
The man just keeps getting the job done. On Thursday, he struck out a dozen Reds and gave up just one hit across seven innings. The best part, to me at least, was that he needed only 86 pitches. He’s now third among qualified starters with a 2.97 ERA; Gerrit Cole is behind him with a 3.03 ERA. Kelly’s latest performance was backed by a sensational 45% CSW; according to Nick, that’s the fifth-highest from any starting pitcher this year.
However, the PLV machine was not that impressed with the performance and gave it a middle-of-the-road PLV of 4.89. Overall, Kelly has earned a 4.96 PLV, again a surprisingly average score considering his stellar 2.97 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. At least a part of the reason for that is that his fastball doesn’t profile that well, which dilutes his overall score quite a bit. Case in point, the fastball (23 pitches) earned a 4.95 PLV in his latest start. The changeup (26 pitches), though, continues to lead his arsenal and earned an excellent 5.49 PLV.
Despite his success this season, which includes a bump in K rate from 22% to 26.6%, his pitch quality metrics relative to last year (right, below) aren’t all that different.
The 24-year-old out of UCLA has enjoyed a stellar rookie season slashing .293/ .362/ .510 across 389 PA. However, his contact ability is slipping to levels that are at least somewhat concerning.
I mentioned this earlier as it’s something that McLain struggled with last year when his K rate ballooned to 28.7% in Double-A. He battled past it prior to being called up so I’m not worried about it long term but I feel like we should pay attention to this as he should be someone who is a popular target in drafts next year.
The 20-year-old had a couple of shaky starts after a month-long interlude in the minors. However, he put any concerns to bed with a beautiful outing against the Dodgers in Los Angeles: Six innings, ten strikeouts, two hits, and zero walks. His fastball (34 pitches) was brilliant and averaged 98.2 mph while returning a 5.54 PLV / 2.10 PLA. And, hey, his curveball (19 pitches) was stellar too, and earned a 6.06 PLV / 0.71 PLA.
It feels like we haven’t seen him in ages, doesn’t it? Fine, two months. It seems longer, though. He had a really promising start against the Astros this past Wednesday: Nine strikeouts in five innings backed by a 38.8% CSW. While his heater (24 pitches) sat at 93.9, a little below his vintage self, it still earned a terrific 5.67 PLV / 1.86 PLA, indicating that he had sharp command. His slider (44 pitches) was effective too and earned a 5.16 PLV / 3.33 PLA. Now let’s hope he can stay healthy and finish the season on a good note.
Morton has rattled off consecutive double-digit strikeouts against the two New York teams. It was the one against the Yankees, though, that PLV liked more: Six scoreless innings, four hits, and ten strikeouts was good for a 5.25 PLV which is his highest-rate performance all year and his first over 5.00 since July 7th against the Rays. Overall, the soon-to-be 40-year-old has had a respectable showing in what could very well be his final season.
However, despite shedding about a run off his ERA relative to last year, his K-BB has dropped nearly five points to 14.6%. That’s usually not a good sign and neither is his 1.38 WHIP. His pitch quality metrics have declined across the board, including his curveball but it’s at least still an above-average pitch.
You could say this about a lot of players but I think if there’s one that could really use a strong September to boost their value, it’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. He hasn’t been a disaster but, then again, a .777 OPS, just five points above his rookie season, is far from what we had in mind. Oddly enough, his power has actually graded better this year (55) than last year (50). So maybe, it’s a case of the results just not matching up. Still, this recent trend isn’t what you want.
Ozuna is in the middle of a big redemption tour; over the last 30 days (26 games), he’s second with a 1.249 OPS.
He actually showed the same level of power last season according to PLV (65). The difference this year has been a significantly better approach at the plate with improvements in SZ Judgement (45 to 55) and DV (45 to 60).
He’s not too far off from Ozuna with a 1.071 OPS over the last 30 days (26 games, sixth among qualifiers). He’s shown off terrific power (60) but unlike Ozuna, the overall quality of his swings and takes hasn’t been quite as good (40 DV). Carpenter is an aggressive hitter (4.3% swing aggression). Still, he’s been a steady force in the middle of the Tiger lineup and his HP (65) has only gotten better as the season has progressed.
We’re not going to see the man pitch again this season. I can’t think of anything to say other than to say I feel numb as a baseball fan. It’s sad, it stinks for us and, of course, it’s infinitely worse for him. In the meantime, I hope we see him on the mound sometime soon and I also hope that he blasts 30 home runs the rest of the way and shatters the single-season record. If there’s anyone that can do it, it’s him. Look at this madness.
I could ramble on and on but you all know he’s magic. I’ll leave you with a GIF of him striking out Bryan Reynolds on a slider from his start against the Pirates. Why that game, isn’t that the game he gave up four home runs? Yes, but it was also his best start by PLV.