Joc Pederson’s Less than Ideal Batted Balls

Last week, I examined a list of hitters who were near the top of the league in exit velocity, while also lagging behind their peers in terms of expected results on their batted balls. For reference, I showed the following chart to explain how batters have performed during 2017 (updated for current games over the past week):

Exit Velocity Z-Scores
z-score Avg xOBA Avg EV
0.00 0.346 89.32
1.00 0.374 91.68
1.50 0.391 93.01
2.00 0.406 93.96
All 0.326 87.28
SOURCE: xstats.org
Over 30 BIP
n=395
Average EV = 87.28
Variance = 7.12
Std Dev = 2.67

I didn’t do well at explaining this chart, last week. To reiterate, at the footer of the table you can see see that there are currently 395 players with over 30 balls in play in 2017. The numbers shown in each z-score row, display the average metrics for all players with exit velocities in excess of that performance level. For example, those with an exit velocity z-score in excess of 2 have average an exit velocity of 93.96, with an expected OBA of .406 (on same scale as wOBA). Please let me know if any confusion surrounds this chart.

Specifically, I wanted to take a stab at answering the question “are there hitters with elite exit velocity who are not capitalizing on it?” and mentioned Yandy Diaz as a potential candidate. A mea culpa, this is not meant to say that a player currently displaying elite exit velocity can change his swing to increase loft, and maintain the same exit velocity he is currently displaying. He may be able to. He may not be able to. What I am trying to look at is players who have shown that they posses elite exit velocity as things currently stand, while having a less than ideal launch angle. Does that predict that they can make a change and the results will be positive? No. However, it may indicate that a potential change could be considered.

Today, I want to look at more name brand option than Yandy Diaz,  in Joc Pederson, who is expected to begin his rehab assignment Friday. For reference, here is the group of players with average exit velocities in excess of one and a half standard deviations from the mean.

1.5+ Z-Score Based on Exit Velocity
Name xOBA xOBA+ VH% PH% K% OUTs avg EV Vertical Spray
Miguel Sano 0.397 124.6 11.40% 14.80% 37.10% 40.00% 96.6 18.6 -2.3
J. D. Martinez 0.535 168.3 16.50% 15.30% 18.80% 22.40% 95.1 13.7 3.2
Aaron Judge 0.439 137.9 11.40% 16.00% 29.20% 39.30% 95 12.1 -3.5
Manny Machado 0.378 118.9 11.70% 22.50% 21.30% 40.00% 93.8 13.7 -3.9
Miguel Cabrera 0.446 140.1 9.90% 16.00% 20.40% 32.00% 93.8 12.2 8.1
Adam Lind 0.42 131.9 8.00% 21.30% 10.70% 30.70% 93.8 11.4 8.6
Yandy Diaz 0.27 85 0.00% 22.50% 23.90% 56.30% 93.7 -3.5 7.1
Khris Davis 0.368 115.7 10.90% 16.20% 31.90% 43.70% 93.5 12.7 4
Alex Avila 0.507 159.3 17.20% 6.60% 28.70% 23.00% 93.5 17.6 6.8
Joc Pederson 0.278 87.4 4.10% 25.20% 26.80% 59.40% 93.2 9.2 19.5
Paul Goldschmidt 0.476 149.6 11.40% 16.90% 17.70% 29.10% 92.8 14.3 -0.4
Joey Gallo 0.341 107 10.10% 20.70% 38.00% 53.10% 92.8 25.8 18.8
Gary Sanchez 0.365 114.8 6.50% 17.10% 23.60% 45.50% 92.6 13.7 -14.3
Nelson Cruz 0.388 122 10.60% 23.40% 18.90% 39.20% 92.5 12 3.5
Ryan Zimmerman 0.411 129.2 11.00% 20.20% 20.20% 30.70% 92.3 10.1 1.1
Justin Bour 0.374 117.6 10.30% 19.20% 22.90% 43.00% 92.3 9.4 12
Yasmany Tomas 0.333 104.6 9.40% 21.70% 27.80% 47.00% 92.1 8.8 1
Freddie Freeman 0.442 139 10.90% 18.80% 18.80% 31.50% 91.9 14.6 9.7
Kendrys Morales 0.391 122.8 9.90% 20.70% 18.90% 36.80% 91.6 8 11
Ryan Braun 0.358 112.5 8.60% 27.40% 21.40% 44.40% 91.6 9 -1
Seth Smith 0.339 106.6 7.30% 21.70% 22.50% 40.60% 91.6 11.6 6
Mark Trumbo 0.331 104 8.00% 28.60% 18.90% 47.50% 91.3 12.8 1.1
SOURCE: xstats.org
Over 30 BIP
n=22
Average EV = 93.01
Average xOBA= .391

Like I mentioned last week, that’s some pretty elite company. While hitting the ball hard does not guarantee success, as we see based on a couple of names on the list, it is the apparent best thing a player can do in order to increase their expected results when making contact.

So why hasn’t Pederson been able to capitalize on the exit velocity he has possesses? The issue is much the same as Diaz. A very small portion of the batted balls he is hitting are at launch angles that would make the contact valuable. To phrase it another way, he hits the ball hard. However, the ball isn’t hit at a launch angle that allows the elite exit velocity to be as valuable as it would otherwise be. We know that balls hit under zero degrees, and over thirty nine degrees are the least valuable batted balls, and this season, nearly 65 percent of his batted balls fallen into the above buckets.

Launch Angle Below Zero Degrees
BIP H 1B 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG BABIP BACON wOBA
138,986 26,910 24,854 1,956 100 0 .194 .194 .209 .194 .194 .176
SOURCE: xstats.org
– classified as dribble balls
Launch Angle in Excess of 39 Degrees
BIP H 1B 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG BABIP BACON wOBA
55186 2386 1164 588 54 580 0.044 0.043 0.089 0.033 0.043 0.055
SOURCE: xstats.org
– classified as pop-ups

While Pederson doesn’t have the exact same problem as Diaz, who is hitting zero balls in the air, he appears to have had a problem making valuable contact during 2017. While he should certainly regress based on career norms and that should work in his favor, it is clear that so far in 2017 his batted ball results pain a profile with which it is difficult to sustain success.

Joc Pederson Batted Ball Profile
Lg Avg EV BIP Avg EV Vertical Spray
x<0 81.6 34 90.0 -23.1 2.8
0-10 93.0 7 102.3 5.2 6.2
10-19 92.8 11 102.2 15.0 14.1
19-26 91.9 1 87.6 20.2 25.7
26-39 89.8 7 89.9 33.3 7.3
x>39 83.5 13 69.9 61.2 36.5
Total 87.1 73 93.2 9.2 19.5
SOURCE: xstats.org

While Pederson displays well above exit average velocity, the problem he appears to be having stems from a combination of pop-ups and weakly hit ground balls (I say weakly hit, because, while exit velocity still his well above average on his balls hit below zero degrees, the launch angle is such that it is difficult for those balls ever to be valuable.) So the question becomes, is this a sample size issue? Is there anything in Pederson’s profile to suggest that this is a problem that is likely to continue, as opposed to just the lingering impact of his groin injury. Luckily, we now have minor league batted ball data here on Fangraphs, and can take a look at if Pederson has had an issue with pop-ups throughout his career. From this data, we can see that he has routinely run infield fly ball rates in excess of 15% throughout his minor league career. (I am using this as a corollary for pop-ups). While his ground ball rate in 2016 is a career high, it has been increasing since his debut, from 35% to around 40% to 49% this year. While he could certainly regress toward career averages, the upward trend isn’t ideal. Certainly a portion of this could be related to the injuries he has sustained this year.

So how does that impact him for fantasy leagues? Simply put, like Diaz, there is extreme cause for concern in his batted ball profile this season. This isn’t a case where his poor start is not supported by underlying skills. So, I’d proceed with trepidation. While he certainly isn’t doomed, he doesn’t look like the mid-tier outfielder he was drafted as in most leagues.

However, while he has made poor contact in 2017 (less than ideal launch angles), his exit velocity is not a cause for concern. To take an optimistic view, despite injury he doesn’t appear to be hitting the ball with less authority than prior years. Exit velocity is important. It’s more important than launch angle. However, you’re OPS is in the air, and Pederson could benefit from a change in line with this.

We hoped you liked reading Joc Pederson’s Less than Ideal Batted Balls by Joe Douglas!

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Joe works at a consulting firm in Pittsburgh. When he isn't working or studying for actuarial exams, he focuses on baseball. He also writes @thepointofpgh. Follow him on twitter @Ottoneutrades

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johansantana17
Member
johansantana17

“Is there anything in Pederson’s profile to suggest that this is a problem that is likely to continue, as opposed to just the lingering impact of his concussion.”

Pederson has not played since his concussion, so none of his numbers reflect lingering effects of the concussion.

RonnieDobbs
Member
RonnieDobbs

Watch a few Joc at bats. All of his problems that Statcast is highlighting are very visible to a mildly trained eye. Pederson has a ridiculous swing and approach, which directly leads to poor contact and lots of swings and misses. Unfortunately, I would bet against Joc figuring anything out any time soon. His 2017 has been exceptionally poor as he has the same absurd setup but he has toned down the swing a bit. The result is less power and all of the same bad swings. He needs a complete tear-down to realize his potential and I think he has had too much success(?) to go through that process. He is more than a hand adjustment or a leg-kick (pick your superficial arm-chair swing change) away from getting it figured out. Pederson seems like a likeable guy and he has some physical gifts, but he has some insurmountable mechanical faults that prevent him from scraping his potential.

wobatus
Member
wobatus

Well, he may not scrape his potential, but he still had a wRC+ of 122 for 2015 and 16, making him the 6th best hitting centerfielder in that time. Even with this year’s small sample and injury riddled season and his cup of coffee in 2014 thrown in he’s at wRC+ 116 for his career.

RonnieDobbs
Member
RonnieDobbs

I am not at any point saying that he isn’t a big-leaguer. I just get sad when I think about the divide between what he is capable of and what he is. A lot of his value comes from walks, which doesn’t float my boat. He could do some special things with the bat, but he is doing increasingly less.