Mining the News (8/25/20)

Overall

• Here a must-read research article. The author, Harper Wallbanger, examines the usefulness of one month’s worth of xwOBA. He found:

The ultimate takeaway is that it seems like players that underperform their xStats in the first month are good targets to pickup or trade for.

I find this information helpful. StatCast batted ball data just gets thrown in. I swear some analysts have no idea what the information means, they just want to appear all-knowing. This past offseason, I cut down the variables to the few that matter. Now with an x-stat, the usefulness is known, but I’m sure it and other stats will continue to be misused.

American League

Athletics

Robbie Grossman has been working on his swing.

“All the best hitters in the game don’t move their heads very much when they make their strikes at the ball,” Grossman said. “Keeping it still has given me a better opportunity to consistently make hard contact.”

Beyond that, Bush suggested that Grossman lean more into his legs as a power source, instead of his upper body. If you use the strongest part of your body to drive the ball, you’ll be a more consistent hitter, he told him.

The approach has helped since he now has a career-high 1.006 OPS.

Blue Jays

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was in shape and then he wasn’t.

What happened to the offseason conditioning work Vlad was supposed to be doing? — Bill T.

He did it. The problem seems to have been that he slipped a bit during the shutdown from March to July. He’s back to working frequently with the Jays’ training staff and told reporters this week he feels better and feels that his bat is getting quicker the more he does. He’s a big guy, but he knows this is something he’s going to have to continue to work diligently on. He seems to see firsthand in July why that is.

He doesn’t seem self-motivated to improve so I’m worried his upside is limited and he might start aging earlier than normal.

Indians

José Ramírez is playing through a thumb discomfort.

It’s minor enough that the Indians’ third baseman is still being penciled into the everyday lineup, but José Ramírez has been experiencing some discomfort in his left thumb, according to Alomar. Through Aug. 6, Ramírez hit .308 with a 1.015 OPS, but in the next 12 games, he hit .146 with a .534 OPS.

“He pushes himself,” Alomar said. “We just don’t want him to start messing up his hitting mechanics when he’s nursing something. But at the end of the day, he goes up there and competes. I’ll take a José Ramírez even if he’s 50 percent. I’m sure he’ll figure it out and he’ll bust out of it. But he’s OK, he just needs to get a couple of hits and he’ll be fine.”

The injury could explain why his strikeout are at a career-high (21% K%) and his power is at a four-year low (.204 ISO).

Rangers

Jose Trevino has reworked his approach at the plate.

Trevino, who appeared in 40 games for the Rangers late in 2019, said through the help of video and with access to advanced metrics, he’s been working to improve his swing mechanics with an eye on increasing his launch angle.

“The past few years, getting to work with our hitting coaches every day in the offseason and Spring Training and the summer, I actually was able to dive into that a little bit and get a little bit more launch angle, and try to work off that plane,” Trevino said.

It seems to be working with his strikeout rate down (21% to 14%) and his ISO up (.125 to .206)

Royals

• Mike Matheny is just making stuff up to bat Nicky Lopez high in the order.

And this is interesting, considering Lopez struggled to find playing time early in the season. Now, though, Lopez is entrenched at second base and hitting second in the batting order.

Matheny’s reasoning goes beyond the traditional numbers: He believes Lopez provides, for the most part, solid plate appearances and well-above-average defense.

Just think how much worse Lopez’s .605 OPS would be if he didn’t play good defense. What the hell?

Tigers

• The manager believes Joe Jimenez’s struggles are because of irregular work.

“We haven’t been able to get him regular work,” Gardenhire said. “I think it’s more from time off than it is the situation he got put in there. He just hasn’t been on the mound enough yet because we’re not winning games or giving him that chance. He needs more time on the mound, and some way or another, we’re going to have to figure out how to get him that.”

I have no idea if the statement is true, but the team does. It might mean fewer Saves for Jimenez (if he doesn’t get traded) since he won’t always be held back for them.

White Sox

• Some useless stuff on Tim Anderson and Average Exit Velocity

Anderson was not much of a hard-hit-ball type of batter in his career before 2020. His highest average exit velocity in a season was 88.3 mph in 2019, which was below the Major League average of 88.7 mph. His prior highest hard-hit rate was 37.6%, also in ‘19, just above the average of 36.8%.

In 2018, he was in the bottom 6% of the league with an 85.8 mph average exit velocity, and bottom 9% with his 27.9% hard-hit rate.

In 2020, he’s been scorching the ball, both compared to his prior standards and overall. His 47.5% hard-hit rate ranks tied for 19th among 183 players with at least 50 batted balls this season. His 91.9 mph average exit velocity ranks 15th in that same group. His exit velocity is second to only José Abreu on the White Sox, a team that is quickly gaining a reputation for power. The hard-hit rate ranks tied for third with Luis Robert, behind Abreu and Eloy Jiménez.

Average Exit Velocity includes bunts. Being a speedster, Anderson may have his fair share of bunts. The Median value would be better. The analysis might be right or completely off like it was with Victor Robles.

I decided to remove any bunts and see what is really going on.

And the article lucked into the correct answer. Anderson is actually hitting the ball harder when he’s not bunting.

National League

Cubs

• Javy Baez blames the lack of a crowd on his struggles to be motivated.

Báez especially seems out of sorts. A day after Ross suggested Báez “as much as anybody” is being impacted by no fans, his shortstop agreed.

“I get motivated from my fans,” Báez said. “It’s really weird, to be honest. It’s not an excuse because it’s the same for every team. But everybody’s different. Some of them like ’em, some of them don’t like having fans. We have to deal with it. We have to play as a team and just try and win.”

Snowflake.

Kris Bryant’s struggles (.594 OPS) were likely injury-related.

Or maybe it’s just he’s hurt. Bryant saw a specialist on Tuesday and received a shot for his left wrist, which has been bothering him since he tried to make a diving catch last week in Cleveland.

Bryant felt some tightness in his lower back near the end of summer training camp and sat out a July 22 exhibition game.

He was playing through and injured back and wrist. I’m sure he picked up a bad habit or two. He might be completely useless this season.

Rockies

Raimel Tapia reworked his swing.

Tapia, who has hit mostly seventh, had a single and a career-high four walks Thursday. In nine games leading into Friday, Tapia slashed .414/.541/.517. The turnaround occurred after he didn’t start a few games, worked on pitch selection, tweaked his stance to open his lead foot toward first base and returned to a leg hover/kick that he had agreed to abandon in Spring Training.

If the results stick, his value will jump. His walk rate is at a career-high (14%) and strikeouts at a career-low (16%). Both have led to a near-.400 OBP. An elite OBP player with some ability to steal bases means in Colorado is a must-own in all formats.





Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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Salty
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Salty

Jeff – Wander Javier’s CBS ownership increased from 1% to 2% the last couple of days. Since there’s zero news regarding him, I think it was due either to an overreaction to your sarcastic answer to FG Dusty’s question in Sunday’s chat, or that same Dusty managing hundreds of teams in CBS leagues.

Charlie Hustle
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Charlie Hustle

I vote overreaction to Jeff’s sarcastic answer. While Dusty might be managing hundreds of teams, I always sensed that his schlick is to get OTHER people to buy Javier. He may indeed be blowing a gasket right now.