Batted Ball Quality: Marwin, DeJong, and Seager

Over the past three years I’ve had a lot of fun studying quality of contact stats, and I’ve tried to put everything I have learned into xStats.  This uses exit velocity, launch angle, running speed, park factors, temperature and more to measure a player’s offensive performance and displays this information in the form of basic slash line items to make it easy to understand for any baseball fan.  You’ll see stats like expected batting average, slugging, BABIP, and wOBA. (xAVG, xSLG, xBABIP, and xOBA, respectively).

Recently I’ve run 7 day, 30 day, and 60 day stats, giving an insight into players who have been out or under performing their game results in recent weeks. Today I want to touch on a few of the batters I find particularly interesting, and I’ll include a little table showing a few other notable players as well.

7 and 30 Game xOBA Under/Over Achievers
Last 7 Games Last 30 Games
name PA xOBA wOBA PA xOBA wOBA
Marwin Gonzalez 30 .456 .486 129 .332 .395
Paul DeJong 30 .309 .421 119 .333 .389
Chris Taylor 28 .401 .502 125 .343 .401
Domingo Santana 33 .311 .385 130 .355 .424
Travis Shaw 30 .330 .394 125 .389 .439
Zack Cozart 28 .560 .604 122 .355 .376
Eddie Rosario 27 .373 .404 117 .341 .378
Scooter Gennett 26 .443 .361 121 .403 .436
Justin Upton 31 .395 .442 128 .359 .385
Adrian Beltre 30 .389 .509 129 .374 .402
Manny Pina 27 .361 .449 117 .330 .368
Ryan Braun 27 .371 .347 118 .380 .348
Kyle Seager 30 .345 .418 125 .365 .339
Asdrubal Cabrera 27 .300 .318 129 .396 .351
David Freese 29 .484 .491 115 .387 .334
Shin-Soo Choo 34 .364 .320 140 .363 .303
Matt Carpenter 26 .232 .249 134 .361 .321
Manny Machado 32 .336 .268 135 .363 .319
SOURCE: xStats.org

I have previously written about a few of these guys, namely Machado and Cozart, so I’ll ignore them for the purposes of this piece. You may notice that the names towards the top are deemed to have been ‘lucky’, or else ‘playing over their skill level.’  While those towards the bottom are quite the opposite, and are said to have been unlucky.  In that sense, you might want to be wary of those towards the top, and more open minded towards those at the bottom.

A Whole Lot About Marwin Gonzalez

Marwin Gonzalez is in the middle of a breakout season as a super utility man.  He can play any of the four infield positions, plus the outfield, making him one of the most flexible players in the game. Of course, he’s also been putting up far above average offensive numbers as well, batting .321/.402/.582 on the season with 18 home runs and 5 stolen bases. While he certainly isn’t the best player, his versatility has proven extremely valuable for for the Astros and for any fantasy owner who has the luxury to use him to fill in injury (or slump) induced gaps in their starting lineup. Personally, I can say he’s helped me tremendously throughout the season, plugging in for Manny Machado and Miguel Cabrera as they have gone through their struggles.

Marwin Gonzalez’ 20 Game Rolling xOBA
Marwin Gonzalez’ 20 Game Rolling xOBA shows a general upward trend in batted ball quality.

This success, though, is at least partially buoyed by luck. In the past month, and certainly even beyond that, Marwin has posted elite offensive numbers on merely strong batted ball quality. Strong batted balls are nothing to sneeze that, that alone is quite valuable, but this elite production is likely a mirage. His xStats slash line to date is .277/.362/.482, a far cry from his .321/.402/.582 slash line to date, and much closer to his career .266/.314/.418 numbers.

Home runs a big distinguishing factor between Gonzalez’ expected success rates and game results. Namely, xStats has awarded him 12.8 homers, as opposed to the 18 he has actually hit. This difference alone is enough to account for 80 points on slugging, knocking his .582 figure down to a more reasonable .504.

It isn’t all down for him, though. Marwin has increased his average exit velocity by more than 1 mph, which is a tremendous achievement, and likely adds five plus feet to his average batted ball. On the flip side, his fly ball exit velocity hasn’t changed at all, so this boosted exit velocity is mostly going towards ground balls and/or low launch angle line drives. In other words, he should be boosting his singles rate, not his home run rate.

This is also be seen with his value hits.  A value hit is any batted ball that has a weighted value of .88 or greater. Over 80% of these balls go for extra base hits, and they are tremendously valuable overall, hence the name. Roughly 6% of batted balls in MLB are value hits over the past two seasons, and in 2015 it was 5.7%. This slight boost from 2015 to 2016-17 could perhaps be a result of what many call ‘juiceball’, or perhaps part of the ‘flyball revolution.’  I’m not sure, exactly. Either way, this season, Marwin’s value hit rate, that is value hits per plate appearance, is 6.7%.  Last year Marwin had a value hit rate of 7.5%.

In both cases Marwin is sitting above average, but the number is trending in the wrong direction, and, like I said before, it hints towards a groundball/linedrive/singles hitter. As opposed to any sort of slugger. However, somehow, Marwin has managed to make the most of his batted balls this year, and is riding a totally absurd 24.7% HR/FB ratio. If you assume his home run total matched his xStats home run total, his HR/FB ratio would drop towards 17.5%. Which is still very strong, but more in line with realistic expectations.

Going forward, though what should you expect? Well, his xStats projection, which combines data from 2015 up through 2017, lists him with .269/.320/.431 with 7 home runs. This is probably the floor of his ability. I expect Marwin to continue hitting high value low launch angle line drives and ground balls, which will result in a solid batting average. He may see some reduction in walk rate, although I expect it to remain strong, and together with his high BABIP batted balls he should keep a high on base percentage. His slugging will likely fall substantially, and perhaps sit between .450 and .470. This would equate to 8 or 9 more home runs. 

A Little Bit About A Few Others

Paul DeJong went crazy against the Mets.  

Watching the games it felt like he hit a homer in each one, but I’m pretty sure he only hit homers in half of them. Only.  There isn’t much data to build off, but he has an 11% value hit rate, meaning 11% of his plate appearances have an 80% chance for extra bases. Which is pretty crazy. He has above average exit velocity, hitting the ball 87.7 mph on average, on par with Marwin Gonzalez. Also like Marwin, DeJong has been hitting a lot of strong low launch angle line drives, although not quite as many ground balls.

In essence, DeJong is a bit of ‘what would happen if Marwin Gonzalez hit fewer ground balls?’ Well, apparently, the answer is ‘he’d be roughly the same.’ Paul DeJong is posting a .290/303/.590 slash, with a .255/.269/.503 xSlash. Trading hard ground balls for flyballs will lower your average and boost your slugging, which is the trade off xStats sees between DeJong and Marwin at this point. Other than that, they are pretty similar guys.

DeJong is projected to bat .265/307/.451 from here on out with 8.5 homers. Obviously the home run total is largely dependent on plate appearances, but xStats is giving him 212 from here on out.

Kyle Seager is having a down year by many metrics.

His exit velocity is down from last year, as is his value hit rate. His weak contact has gone up as well, and this season 42% of his plate appearances have ended in a near automatic out (strike out or exceptionally weak batted ball). Last season only 36% of his plate appearances ended in this manner, so this is a pretty serious dip in performance.

Having said that, his expected home run rate is much, much higher than his observed home run rate. In fact, it is very much on par with the home run rate we saw him put up last season. His expected home run total as of this morning is 20.9. At this point last season, he had 20 home runs. This year, he has 14. Yes, that is 6.9 fewer home runs than expected. That is a mammoth difference, and it is largely chalked up to just bad luck. Losing 6.9 homers is the difference between a .435 slugging and .491. In other words, it completely bridges the gap between this year’s numbers and those from last year.

That’s too bad, the homers are lost, and he probably will not ever be able to get them back this year. However, going forward, I have to believe the home runs will continue to fall as expected. His rest of season projections are .286/.347/.486 with 9.6 home runs. This is assuming 236 plate appearances here on out, but he could potentially receive even more than that, which could boost his home run total north of 10.

Rapid Fire Names:

Paul Sporer talked about Matt Carpenter and Kyle Schwarber recently on his podcast. Kyle Schwarber was edited out when I was condensing the list of players to only feature 18 names, but xStats is high on both of these guys.

Asdrubal Cabrera is a trade chip that, if all goes well, should be traded very soon. I’m not sure who will pick him up, but his future playing time is under question. However, he has been hitting very well recently, especially as a right handed batter. He should be starting any time there is a left handed pitcher, and you should be taking advantage of the ensuing carnage.

Shin Soo Choo has been one of the highest rated players in xStats all season, and his batted ball quality remains top notch over the past few weeks.

We hoped you liked reading Batted Ball Quality: Marwin, DeJong, and Seager by Andrew Perpetua!

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Andrew Perpetua is the creator of CitiFieldHR.com and xStats.org, and plays around with Statcast data for fun. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewPerpetua.

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Kevin
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Kevin

Seems to me that DeJong is basically the infield playing version of Grichuk. Am I off base?