The Weird and the Wonderful — 4/12/21 by Mike Podhorzer April 12, 2021 What I love about the first couple of weeks of the baseball season is all the crazy rates players are posting. In small samples, the range recorded in all metrics is much wider than over a larger sample. Obviously, the larger the sample, the more a player’s performance will revert toward his true talent level. In only eight to nine games, anything goes! So for fun, let’s take a gander at some of the weird and wonderful rates that have been posted by hitters so far. So there’s at least some care given to sample size, I limited my dive to hitters who have recorded at least 30 plate appearances. These hitters have been super patient, all walking at least 20% of the time: Mike Trout Asdrubal Cabrera Bryce Harper Max Muncy Chris Taylor Andrew McCutchen Yuli Gurriel Eugenio Suarez Mike Moustakas Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Andrelton Simmons In some ways, this list makes a ton of sense. We’re using to seeing Trout and Harper at or near the top of the walk rate leaders list. In other ways, this list is WHAAAAAAAAAAAT?! Over 14 seasons, Cabrera has only posted a double digit walk rate twice. seeing his name second in the current walk rate rankings is just bizarre. Meanwhile, Gurriel has never posted a walk rate higher than 6%! He’s swinging at pitches outside the zone significantly less often than ever before. This is a great sign if there’s any sort of sustainability here. It’s only been 39 plate appearances, but it’s no doubt enough for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. big breakout expecters to already believe they are right to be so bullish. These hitters have yet to take a base on balls this season: Rhys Hoskins Jonathan India Josh Fuentes It’s pretty shocking to find Hoskins’ name on this short list, as he owns a career 15% walk rate. Not only has he failed to walk, but he is making less contact than ever before. It’s certainly possible that he isn’t 100% yet after recovering from elbow surgery. There’s no reason to get excited about Jonathan India at this point, as his current success is driven almost entirely by a bunch of singles. I have absolutely no idea what the Rockies are doing (which could be said literally every single season), but might as well start Josh Fuentes in deeper leagues for as long as the Rockies foolishly continue to start him. These hitters have all struck out 5% or less of the time: Mike Moustakas Jake Cronenworth What always intrigued me in the past with Moustakas was his combination of contact and power potential. This was back in his early seasons before his first 30 homers season in 2017. Since, he’s given up some contact for power, but his overall offensive output has remained amazingly consistent since 2015. Given Cronenworth’s excellent plate discipline skills, you feel like a major power breakout should be in his future. Otherwise, he’ll end up being a more valuable Padres player than fantasy contributor, but should do enough everywhere to earn some value. These hitters have all struck out at least 38% of the time: Miguel Sano Ryan Mountcastle Javier Baez Dylan Moore Freddy Galvis We’re used to the Sano strikeouts, but it’s always surprising to me that he has never been able to improve. His best strikeout rate in a season is 35.5%, which was recorded during his 2015 debut. And because of injuries, he has only swatted 30 homers once. Mountcastle has posted pretty solid strikeout rates in the minors and had no issues during his debut last year, so it’s a surprise to see him greatly struggling to make contact so far. Man, what has happened to Javier Baez? These hitters have struggled — majorly — to make contact, as the four members of the over 19% SwStk% club: Javier Baez Shohei Ohtani Randy Arozarena Ryan Mountcastle Jose Abreu J.D. Martinez This explains why Baez has struck out so often…he can’t stop swinging and missing! As great as Ohtani has been when he actually makes contact, his walk rate has plummeted and he’s making little contact. As an owner, I’ll just assume small sample size and hold at this point. It’s been a super weird start for Randy Arozarena, who is one of the players I think we’re all eager to see how he performs this year. In addition to the inability to make contact, he’s walked just once, and heading into yesterday’s game, only hit one fly ball (that went for a homer, lol). It’s way too early to be sure, but could this be the first sign of age-relate declined for Jose Abreu? His SwStk% spiked last year to the highest mark since his 2014 debut, so it’s something to watch. J.D. Martinez has enjoyed an incredible start, but has someone managed to post a sub-20% strikeout rate despite that inflated SwStk%. The power rebound so far is most important. Who has the power (Besides He-Man, of course)? These guys are in the rarified .500+ ISO club: Tyler Naquin Ryan McMahon Every single season, some rando gets off to a scorching start and everyone rushes to pick him up at the tail end of that hot streak. Then the player naturally cools off over the next week and the player gets dropped. Naquin isn’t a complete rando, as he owned a career .324 wOBA and 15% HR/FB rate heading into the season. But not only is he obviously going to slump and revert back to a human hitter, but the Reds have like 14 outfielders, so he’s not even going to have a starting job unless he keeps hitting bombs every opportunity. Boosting McMahon’s ISO is his insane 55.6% fly ball rate, plus massive improvement in strikeout rate, which means lots and lots of batted balls in the air. Usually with an ISO over .500, you would assume an absolutely crazy HR/FB rate (like Naquin’s 62.5% mark), but because of the aforementioned fly ball and strikeout rates, McMahon has only required a 33.3% HR/FB rate to get there. These hitters’ balls in play are finding every single hole as members of the .500+ BABIP club: Christian Yelich Cedric Mullins II Andrelton Simmons Mike Trout J.D. Martinez Colin Moran Randy Arozarena Welp, it didn’t take long for Yelich’s BABIP to revert back to normal after last season’s downturn! Unfortunately, his strikeout and SwStk% marks are even worse than last year, while his FB% is back below 20%. Wayyyyyy too early to care much, but these are metrics to monitor if you’re an owner. Recall that Yelich didn’t become the hitter we think of now until he started hitting a higher rate of flies. Mullins is making the Orioles look good early on for the questionable decision to bat him leadoff. BABIP has never been Andrelton Simmons’ strong suit as he owns just a .284 career mark, so this is just a reminder that anything could happen over a 23 at-bat stretch. These hitters just can’t get their batted balls to fall in for hits. I present to you the sub-.100 BABIP club: Freddie Freeman Paul DeJong I sure as heck didn’t expect to find Freeman’s name at the bottom of the BABIP board! While he hasn’t hit a pop-up yet, he’s also sporting just a 4.5% LD%, thanks to just one line drive so far. It’s a weird small sample anomaly, and everything else looks normal. DeJong’s BABIP spiked last year, while his power collapsed, so naturally he’s started off this year with a rebound in power and a microscopic BABIP.