Given my standing as the President of the Jake Lamb Fan Club, I would be remiss in my responsibilities if I did not revisit his 2017 season one final time, in the event that the Snakes are sent home on Wednesday night in order to enjoy the splendid weather in the Valley this time of year. At the beginning of the year, I made some rather nonsensical bold predictions about the third base position. Within that, I declared that Jake Lamb would make the biggest move up the third base leaderboard.
However, Lamb did demonstrate improvement primarily within the fact that his 158 games represented a new career high. Unlike his 2016 season, a good chunk of those were not hindered by injury, either. There were some cold spells sure, but he was able to graduate from 16th in WAR among qualifying third sackers in 2016 to 14th (2.5), while making the move from 12th in Off rating to 10th (9.7). So Off has him as a top ten player at the position, which isn’t a far-fetched idea to consider.
Despite running into a bit of bad luck, with a .287 BABIP, and maintaining a strikeout rate that trailed only Joey Gallo (23.9%), there’s a ton of value in what Lamb provides with the stick. He hits the ball hard and represents one of the true power bats at the position. A completely healthy 2017 season allowed him officially establish just that, but he was also able to demonstrate some on-base skills that perhaps went unnoticed or, at the very least, were certainly unexpected.
Lamb’s 13.7% walk rate was the highest of his career and ranked fifth at the position, among the 22 qualifiers. As such, he was able to drive his OBP up from consecutive seasons that lingered around .330 to a career mark of .357. That OBP figure trailed only seven players at the position, many of which represent the very elite at third base. While the power was always evident for Lamb, his ability to gradually improve his approach is an extremely important element of his game, both as a fantasy entity and an asset to the Diamondbacks, moving forward.
But obviously when one speaks about Jake Lamb, the power is going to be the main focus. From an ISO perspective, the following is a visual representation of Lamb’s output in 2017:
There’s that dropoff that Lamb, again, experienced in the second half, though it wasn’t nearly as decimating to his overall performance as it was last season. That ISO ranked seventh at the position, while he managed to hit the ball as consistently hard as many of his third base compatriots, finishing with a 35.7% Hard% that ranked eighth. His OPS, at .844, also ranked eighth. The long and short of it is that he is one of the more consistent power threats the position has to offer, even if there are some shortcomings present within his game.
It’s probably worth noting that his ISO figure from this year is actually lower than that of 2016. But it’s important to remember that much of what Lamb did last year, in terms of total output, was heavily buoyed by that insane first half in which he posted a .322 ISO. The second half came in at only .184. This season was a bit more consistent, though there was also that noticeable dropoff in the second half still, something we’ll touch on here in a moment.
So what exactly are we to make of Jake Lamb’s 2017 season? There were some continued successes brought about by his revamped swing from a couple of years ago, but also some concerning elements that continued to manifest themselves, namely a second consecutive dropoff in the second half (even if it wasn’t as severe). But with Lamb, it may make more sense to take more of an optimistic approach. He continued to serve as one of the position’s most powerful entities, even if a bit of bad luck (despite a decrease in GB rate and a modest increase in FB rate) cost him a couple points on the ol’ wRC+ metric (114 in 2016 vs. 111 in 2017). As a result, the average was about the same, but his improvements in approach led to a significant increase in OBP, an increase in walks, and a slight decrease in punchouts. The successes here appear to overshadow the potential shortcomings, and it’ll be very interesting to see what a season of Jake Lamb without the second half tail off would look like, in terms of overall production.