Statcast Gains and Increasing Value by Lucas Kelly April 14, 2021 Now is that time in the season where you’re probably starting to get a little antsy. Why hasn’t Player A hit any home runs yet? When will Player B steal a base? Do I cut this player? Do I add that player? You may fall into the trap of cutting players on a whim because of a 3-for-31 performance thus far, but then regret that cut when he goes on a home run hitting bonanza in a few weeks. So, what indicators can you look for when trying to decide whether to buy or sell, cut or claim? A lot of great work has gone into determining how predictive max exit velocity can be on overall hit and power performance, giving us the ability to more quickly speculate on power performers. Year-to-year metrics can also give us insight. More than just increasing performance metrics, we often overlook the question, how valuable did this player become over the course of the season? If you acquired a player for $2 at the start of 2019 and at the end of the season he was worth $9, that’s excellent. Let’s look at how improved statcast metrics impact a hitter’s fantasy value over time. From 2018 to 2019 there were 7 interesting players who improved their max hit speed, sweet spot %, and barrel %: YOY Statcast Improvers 2018 to 2019 Player Max Hit Speed 𝝙 (+) Sweet Spot % 𝝙 (+) Barrel % 𝝙 (+) Orlando Arcia 2.5 3.2 2 Josh Bell 0.6 5.5 5.7 Renato Nunez 2.9 3.7 2.2 Yoan Moncada 2.7 4 2.6 Christian Vazquez 2.2 4.8 4 Jonathan Schoop 3.7 4.6 3.8 Pedro Severino 2.7 5.1 6.4 SOURCE: Baseball Savant These players ended 2019 with better metrics than they did in 2018. If you saw these gains occurring midseason in 2019, would you, did you, make a claim? Would you, could you, do it today? Let’s look at how these players ended up doing as far as fantasy performance went in 2020. I’ve chosen three players from above for simplicity’s sake. I’m using end-of-season auction values from Smart Fantasy Baseball’s historical dataset. This data is super helpful because it allows me to see how value changed from year to year. Here are three players from the table above and their end of season value: We see that each of these three players finished 2019 with more value than they did in 2018 and quite significantly for Moncada and Bell. I’ve added in Moncada’s hard-hit rate (the blue, dashed line) to see how these two measurements interact. We see metrics gains and we see value gains. This is relative, obviously, you probably weren’t running to claim Arcia even though he did show improvement, and it’s no secret that Moncada and Bell underperformed in 2020. Moncada’s hard-hit rate was down 8% by FanGraphs measurement from 2019 to 2020. Moncada’s hard-hit rate declined and his value declined. There’s always going to be more to the story, in this case, Moncada’s lingering COVID effects in 2020 tell part of it. However, if you are trying to figure out what to do with Moncada in 2021, focusing on statcast gains could help. His strikeout rate is up this season, but he is heading in an upward direction when it comes to hard-hit rate so far in 2021. If you bought low on Moncada this season, he may be headed in a direction that could increase his value. Just to prove I’m not using some sort of analytical trickery on you by picking and choosing players that tell a good story, we should look at whether or not these advances can be quantified and correlated with fantasy value across more than 1 player. Using statcast data from all hitters who qualified in 2018 and in 2019, I calculated the change in end of season value and the change in selected statcast metrics across the two years to find how they relate. There’s a positive relationship with each of these metrics and value, the largest being in barrel rate and value. Value/Metrics Correlation Chart Max Hit Speed 𝝙 Barrel % 𝝙 Value $ 𝝙 Max Hit Speed 𝝙 1 0.4 0.35 Barrel % 𝝙 0.4 1 0.45 Value $ 𝝙 0.35 0.45 1 What does it all mean Basil? Here it is; when you are searching for a player to pick up on the waiver wire, pay close attention to their gains across seasons in a few statcast metrics that we know tend to increase their performance and value. It might not be good enough for a daily pickup, but if you’re like me and you’ve had a few players go on the IL, you’ll likely need a player for a longer-term. Check the savant year-to-year changes leaderboard, choose a player that has shown steady gains, and look at their FanGraphs rolling chart. You may just find a waiver claim that will increase in value over the season.