Profile Changes: Hitters Improving

For my next few articles, I am going to examine batters and pitchers who have changed their approach from the second half of 2016 to the first half of this season. Today, I will start with the hitters.

For hitters, I found how far their stats changed, in standard deviations, from the league average in these five categories:

  • Strikeouts (K%)
  • Walks (BB%)
  • Groundball Rate (GB%)
  • Pull Percentage (Pull%)
  • Isolated Power (ISO)

Then I binned the change as good or bad. I determined “pulling the ball” (can be shifted) and groundballs (fewer line drives and home runs) to be bad. If a person disagrees, they can change the values found in this spreadsheet and create their rankings.

Here are the top 20 hitters who have changed for the “better” from the 2nd half of 2016 to the first half of 2017 (min 100 PA in each half season).

Hitters Who Have Improved from 2016’s 2nd Half
Name “Good” Change GB SD Change in GB% Pull SD Change in Pull% K SD Change in K% BB Change Change in BB% ISO SD Change in ISO Total Change
Ryan Zimmerman 4.8 -0.1 -1.0% -0.1 -0.7% -1.0 -4.8% 1.0 3.3% 2.9 0.184 5.1
Steven Souza Jr. 4.7 1.3 8.7% 0.9 5.9% -0.4 -2.1% 2.0 6.7% 1.4 0.089 6.0
Tommy Pham 4.1 0.7 4.7% 0.7 4.9% -3.4 -16.5% 0.0 0.0% 0.0 0.001 4.8
Jake Lamb 4.0 -0.1 -0.7% 1.8 12.0% -0.3 -1.7% 0.7 2.3% 1.2 0.075 4.1
Mikie Mahtook 3.9 0.7 5.0% 0.7 4.5% -3.1 -15.2% -0.3 -0.9% 0.4 0.025 5.2
Lonnie Chisenhall 3.9 0.9 5.8% 0.4 2.9% 0.5 2.7% 1.7 5.8% 2.3 0.143 5.8
Ezequiel Carrera 3.8 -1.4 -9.6% 0.8 5.4% -1.9 -9.4% 0.7 2.3% 0.5 0.029 5.3
Anthony Rizzo 3.8 -0.2 -1.0% 0.2 1.0% -1.2 -5.7% 1.8 6.2% 0.6 0.039 3.9
Todd Frazier 3.7 0.1 0.5% 0.6 4.1% -0.9 -4.5% 2.0 6.8% 0.2 0.014 3.8
Freddie Freeman 3.7 1.0 6.7% 0.9 6.3% -1.3 -6.2% 0.2 0.6% 1.3 0.084 4.7
Aaron Hicks 3.5 0.6 3.9% -0.3 -2.2% -0.4 -1.9% 2.1 7.0% 1.4 0.086 4.8
Miguel Sano 3.5 0.0 0.2% 0.4 2.8% -0.7 -3.3% 1.7 5.7% 0.7 0.047 3.6
George Springer 3.4 0.6 3.8% 1.2 8.1% -1.0 -5.0% -0.8 -2.6% 1.9 0.122 5.5
Zack Cozart 3.3 -0.1 -0.8% -0.5 -3.2% -0.6 -2.8% 1.0 3.2% 2.2 0.138 4.3
Cameron Maybin 3.2 1.4 9.4% 1.8 12.4% -0.2 -1.2% 1.1 3.8% 0.0 0.003 4.6
Robbie Grossman 3.2 1.1 7.6% -0.6 -4.3% -1.9 -9.6% 2.0 6.9% -0.2 -0.011 6.0
Derek Norris 3.1 -0.3 -1.8% -0.5 -3.5% -2.7 -13.2% -0.9 -3.0% 1.8 0.116 6.2
Scooter Gennett 3.1 -0.5 -3.2% 1.2 8.0% 0.4 2.1% 0.1 0.3% 2.3 0.144 4.4
David Freese 3.0 -0.6 -4.0% -1.3 -8.7% -2.3 -11.4% 1.5 5.0% 0.5 0.031 6.2
Bryce Harper 3.0 0.7 4.5% -0.1 -0.6% -0.8 -3.7% 0.3 0.9% 2.0 0.128 3.8

Here’s my thoughts on some of the players:

Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper: Injuries can drag down a player’s production. These two felt the effects of injuries in 2016 and being healthy increased their production in 2017.

Owners should focus more on hitters with known injuries, especially since it has been proven there is no evidence of an injury prone hitter ($$). These perceived injury risks are given too much of discount. Now some players have chronic issues like David Wright with his bad back, but in most cases, the injury prone label can be ignored.

I wish I could find a usable source which labels hitters as an injury risk (can’t use BHQ Forecaster) before this season. I haven’t … yet. I asked my Twitter followers for hitters who had the injury label coming into 2017 to see if the label holds. I’m worried a little confirmation bias exists for ones who went on the DL again and those who didn’t are being ignored. I am going to try to find a useable source before using this off the cuff list.

Steven Souza Jr.: Souza’s improvement all comes down to improved plate discipline. He’s increased his BB/K from 0.19 to 0.46. Additionally, his ISO (.230) is at a three-year high. These improvements are huge for his value. I expect his 2018 projections to not consider this change and he may be undervalued going into next season.

Tommy Pham: I’ve never been high on Pham, mainly because he rarely maintains regular playing time with the Cardinals outfield usually playing the hot bat. Since Pham has been able to cut his strikeout rate from 39% to 25%, he’s now playing regularly. He’s been a nice surprise with 10 HR and more importantly, nine steals.

To me, he’s a bench option in shallow leagues. He can fill in when a regular is hurt or struggling but I don’t want to count on him keeping his job all season. I could be wrong though and he has a 20/20 season which would have been unexpected.

Jake Lamb: Lamb’s improvement hasn’t been in just one category but across the board. The change can be seen in his 18 HRs and .281 AVG. The one improvement which would be great if he kept it is the 3% point increase in his walk rate from last year.

Mikie Mahtook: While improving from last season, Mahtook’s still a fantasy non-factor.

Lonnie Chisenhall: I believe owners got prospect fatigue with Chisenhall after he didn’t live up to his prospect pedigree. He’s become a nice usable option in all leagues the last couple of seasons as he continues to improve.

His big change this season is near doubling of his walk rate to 10% and his ISO jumping over 100 points to .264. Besides power, he provides batting average (.305) and on-base skills (.379).

He could be a good trade target. Trade one of the top third basemen (Bryant, Donaldson, Ramirez, Arenado) to get Chisenhall and some pitching help.

Ezequiel Carrera: Carrera is following the Jake Lamb approach and showing small improvements across his entire profile. If one item sticks out is a drop in strikeouts from last season.

In weekly lineup leagues, Carrera’s probably not a regular option except in AL-only leagues. In daily lineup leagues, he’s a great plug-and-play guy when in the lineup. The 30-year-old lefty mainly hits against righties (28 PA vs LHP, 174 vs RHP). With the platoon advantage, he’s posting a .285 AVG with five steals and home runs. He can be played without killing a team’s AVG and still provide some counting stats.

We hoped you liked reading Profile Changes: Hitters Improving by Jeff Zimmerman!

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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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King Donko of Punchstania
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Member
King Donko of Punchstania

Do you think Lamb ever figures it out against LHP?

jjstrikes
Member
jjstrikes

He accepted the challenge lol