Sabermetric Breakdowns of Early Performances
It is still early, but it is good to see what improvements, and what the hitters and pitchers noticeably worked on over the offseason. What players are struggling and who are performing well through the first couple weeks? We go deeper into the stats to examine some early trends.
Votto is having an odd start to the year. Through his first 10 games, Votto had yet to produce an extra base hit. Being a model of consistency throughout his career, you expect this to change, but it is eye-opening. One area that might be affecting this is his fly ball percentage being down nearly 9% so far. Also, his swing percentage on balls outside the strike zone is up 4.8%, which is generating less hard contact for him. Currently his hard contact rate is 26%, which is down 10% from last year. It’s early, but these are indeed some numbers to note.
Tim Anderson has come running out of the gates. After a career high 15 stolen bases in 2017 where he played in 146 games, Anderson has already stolen six bases on the year. He was only caught once stealing in 2017 in 16 attempts, so it seems the coaches are making it an effort to give him more chances this year. You have to get on base first, and Anderson’s OBP of .333 so far this year, would be his career best. On top of that, he has shown some power with three home runs.
The combination of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in the Yankees lineup was the talk of the offseason, but the best hitter for the Yankees so far has been Didi Gregorius. He has been a force against right handed pitchers with five 2Bs, one 3B, and three HRs in just 25 ABs. His patience at the plate has been a huge difference with a 19% walk rate. He only walked 4% of the time last year. The patience at the plate is allowing him to wait for his pitch and use his power when he gets it.
After leading the year off with a home run, it has been tough opening stretch for Ian Happ. The glaring issue with Happ is striking out. In 35 plate appearances, he has struck out 18 times. He currently has the highest strikeout percentage in MLB. It appears he is being over-aggressive and swinging for the fences. His fly ball rate is up 10%, and he is swinging at more pitches outside the strike zone. He has shown flashes of hitting ability, but for him to be consistent, he needs to lower his strikeout rate drastically.
Here is a player that has adopted the fly ball and launch angle approach to hitting. Already off to a great start to his second season, Hoskins has been hitting fly balls 65% of the time. In comparison, last season he had a 45% fly ball rate. The league average for fly ball percentage is around 35% for hitters, so Hoskins was still above average last season. He has combined that with the ability to pull the ball and use opposite field hitting. His opposite field percentage is up 17%, which has helped him raise his batting average to .375, after batting .259 in 50 games last season.
J.D. Martinez, who was one of the best hitters in 2017, is off to a slow start in 2018 with the Red Sox. He has been striking out a bit more this year but is still smashing the ball when he is getting contact. His hard hit rate is 62%, so he is just getting unlucky with the balls going right to the fielders. Martinez will have better luck as the season goes on, and is part of one of the best offenses in baseball, giving him a lot of RBI opportunities.
Patrick Corbin has been the best strikeout pitcher in the game through his first three starts. Not normally known as a strikeout pitcher, Corbin is trying to change the narrative this year as he has generated a gaudy 17.9% swinging strike rate and a 40% K rate. Looking at his pitch types, Corbin has made an effort to throw less fastballs and change-ups. His fastball percentage has dropped from 30% to 16%, and only 0.7% of his pitches have been change-ups. To replace those pitches, Corbin has started throwing a curve ball. Before this season, Corbin had yet to throw a curve ball in his five-year career. The new pitches have given Corbin a leg up on hitters so far, and it will be interesting to see if hitters will adjust.
After bursting onto the MLB scene last year, Luis Castillo has struggled in his first two starts. So far Castillo hasn’t been able to produce as many strikeouts, and is allowing more hard contact and fly balls. He has been throwing less fastballs, which he threw 50% of the last time last season, so he might choose to go back to that pitch more with his struggles. It is too early to show major concern as he looked so promising and his xFIP and SIERA are still are still low, showing that his high ERA isn’t predictive of what he will do the rest of the season. If a Fantasy owner is panicking over Castillo, take advantage.
The 41-save pitcher has raised some alarming flags so far this season. His go-to cutter pitch has seen a noticeable drop in speed of two mph. Jansen said “who cares” when asked about it after his first outing. Dave Roberts said that Jansen is 100% and is not hurt. It is too early to tell if it is just Jansen shaking off the rust, or a concern for the rest of the season as he was hit hard his first two games, but has turned it around in his last three games despite the speed still being around 91 mph, after being 93 mph last season.
Another SP off to a great start is Dylan Bundy. He has done a great job at making hitters chase pitchers outside the strike zone, with a 38% swing rate on balls. This has jumped 21% last season to 32% this season. Bundy is also generating more ground balls with 41% , up from 32% last year. He won’t be able to stay on pace with his great numbers so far, but he seems to be in line for his breakout season.
After a very disappointing 2017, Jeurys Familia has found his form in 2018. The biggest thing for Familia has been his ability to get a lot less hard contact. Last season, he had a career high 30% hard contact rate, and has only allowed 11% hard contact so far. Looking at his pitch types, Familia didn’t go to his slider nearly as much last year. He has thrown it 21% of the time throughout his career, but only 15% of the time last year. Familia has made an effort to go back to it, more throwing it 23% of the time. It is currently valued as his best pitch, saving around four runs so far.
🔒 it down!
— New York Mets (@Mets) April 11, 2018
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