How Batters Fared Who Whiffed in April 2013

You’ll hear a lot about strikeout rates stabilizing sometime in April, anywhere from about 60 plate appearances to 110 depending on who you trust and who you reference. It makes sense we talk about this, of course, what with the small sample size police on patrol across Fangraphs. From a fantasy perspective, we try to be patient, but there’s nothing worse than holding a turd any longer than you really have to. Because, well, gross.

Nobody wants to be patient to a fault, waiting through June for a player to finally pull their 7 3/4 out of their backside. And if there’s a cry in fantasy circles right now, it’s the strikeout rate. Strikeouts typically lend themselves to poor overall contact rates and then begets poor run production and that begets crappy fantasy production. There are of course exceptions to this, and those are some of the “special players” whom you can find in this list.

In 2013, there were 28 qualified players who posted a strikeout rate at or above 25% in March and April. Only eight of them surpassed a .500 slugging percentage, and it includes Justin Upton, Ryan Braun, J.P. Arencibia, Nick Hundley, and Josh Willingham who got off to very swift starts. But most of these players had disappointing early returns, regardless of the expectations. Below compares their strikeout rate the rest of the season, along with their concomitant change in wOBA.

Name K% April K% finish K% change wOBA wOBA fin wOBA change
Colby Rasmus 41.80% 29.50% -12.30% 0.323 0.365 0.042
Adam LaRoche 32.60% 22.20% -10.40% 0.217 0.321 0.104
Alejandro De Aza 29.80% 21.80% -8.00% 0.296 0.32 0.024
Welington Castillo 29.60% 22.70% -6.90% 0.337 0.331 -0.006
J.P. Arencibia 36.60% 29.80% -6.80% 0.356 0.259 -0.097
Paul Goldschmidt 26.70% 20.40% -6.30% 0.38 0.404 0.024
Chris Carter 42.20% 36.20% -6.00% 0.329 0.337 0.008
Ryan Braun 27.80% 22.10% -5.70% 0.397 0.37 -0.027
Jay Bruce 32.00% 26.50% -5.50% 0.286 0.344 0.058
Nick Hundley 29.40% 24.00% -5.40% 0.384 0.295 -0.089
Rickie Weeks 31.50% 26.30% -5.20% 0.281 0.299 0.018
Jason Kipnis 26.60% 21.70% -4.90% 0.246 0.357 0.111
Will Middlebrooks 31.10% 26.20% -4.90% 0.276 0.3 0.024
Aaron Hicks 31.30% 26.80% -4.50% 0.182 0.266 0.084
Dan Uggla 35.70% 31.80% -3.90% 0.286 0.303 0.017
Mike Napoli 35.70% 32.40% -3.30% 0.366 0.367 0.001
Ike Davis 29.60% 26.80% -2.80% 0.256 0.297 0.041
Josh Hamilton 26.90% 24.80% -2.10% 0.244 0.319 0.075
Justin Upton 26.80% 25.00% -1.80% 0.47 0.357 -0.113
Giancarlo Stanton 29.50% 27.80% -1.70% 0.324 0.368 0.044
Drew Stubbs 30.70% 29.30% -1.40% 0.295 0.296 0.001
Pedro Alvarez 31.60% 30.30% -1.30% 0.242 0.33 0.088
Adam Dunn 32.30% 31.10% -1.20% 0.275 0.331 0.056
Carlos Pena 29.20% 28.00% -1.20% 0.309 0.298 -0.011
Michael Morse 26.90% 25.80% -1.10% 0.346 0.286 -0.06
Brandon Moss 28.20% 27.70% -0.50% 0.387 0.369 -0.018
Josh Willingham 27.10% 27.20% 0.10% 0.411 0.322 -0.089
B.J. Upton 31.10% 33.90% 2.80% 0.224 0.252 0.028

26 of the 28 players saw their strikeout rate improve throughout the year, and really only B.J. Upton got markedly worse. Poor B.J. Upton. In a couple of cases, their strikeout rate dropped significantly after a brutal start. 19 of the 26 players who saw their strikeout rate drop also saw gains in their wOBA. Of those who saw theirs drop, it’s mostly the players who got off to uncharacteristic hot starts such as the aforementioned Upton, Hundley, Arencibia, Braun.

So what am I driving at with this non-scientific, no causal smoking gun list of hackers? Well, I’d use this as a caution to see what passes the smell test when looking at your 2014 roster. Right now, Starling Marte is striking out at a 34% rate. He’s hitting .250 despite a .400 BABIP. But raise your hand if you think he’ll finish at 34%. We have over 800 plate appearances from Marte in which he’s demonstrated he’s closer to 26%. Could he finish at 35%? Sure. Is it likely? I’d say probably not.

Currently, there are 40 qualified players with a strikeout rate over 25%. Some of them are fantasy relevant, some of them are not. Some of them are likely to continue at their current clip, while others not so much. For your perusal, a selection of that group with their April 2014 K% and their career K%:

Name Team April K% Career K%
Chris Carter Astros 40% 35%
Garrett Jones Marlins 34% 21%
Starling Marte Pirates 34% 26%
Abraham Almonte Mariners 33% 29%
Ian Desmond Nationals 33% 21%
Colby Rasmus Blue Jays 33% 24%
Welington Castillo Cubs 32% 25%
Will Venable Padres 32% 24%
Robbie Grossman Astros 31% 25%
Chris Johnson Braves 30% 24%
Eric Young Mets 30% 17%
Marlon Byrd Phillies 30% 18%
Dexter Fowler Astros 30% 22%
Adam Dunn White Sox 30% 28%
Justin Upton Braves 30% 23%
Jedd Gyorko Padres 30% 24%
Khris Davis Brewers 30% 24%
Mike Napoli Red Sox 29% 27%
Jarrod Saltalamacchia Marlins 29% 29%
B.J. Upton Braves 29% 26%
Ryan Howard Phillies 29% 28%
Jackie Bradley Jr Red Sox 29% 29%
Everth Cabrera Padres 29% 21%
Curtis Granderson Mets 29% 23%
Raul Ibanez Angels 28% 16%
Brad Miller Mariners 28% 17%
Giancarlo Stanton Marlins 28% 28%

So are Chris Carter, Adam Dunn, Giancarlo Stanton, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Mike Napoli likely to stay at their current rates? I’d guess so. But guys like Marte, Desmond, Venable, Young, Byrd, Cabrera, others — they ought to mellow out. The question marks are the youngsters who don’t have as much of a track record — that’s where I might get nervous about a Gyorko or Miller or Almonte.

Keeping a level head in baseball over the first month of the season is a hard thing to do. Regardless if the aggregate data suggests that certain statistics stabilize over X number of plate appearances, it doesn’t mean it’s a sure thing that it applies to your guy, just be sure that you’re using logic instead of false hope.

We hoped you liked reading How Batters Fared Who Whiffed in April 2013 by Michael Barr!

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Michael was born in Massachusetts and grew up in the Seattle area but had nothing to do with the Heathcliff Slocumb trade although Boston fans are welcome to thank him. You can find him on twitter at @michaelcbarr.

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cnote66
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cnote66

Excellent stuff. I have many of these players on my fantasy squad and will keep tabs on their K-rate.