The Weird and the Wonderful — Hitters Through Apr 13, 2024

We’re already about 10% into the season, so it’s time to take a look at some of the weird, the wonderful, and most extreme of performances. For as long as these types of results remain atop and at the bottom of the leaderboards, we know we’re still in small sample size territory! So let’s review some of the hitting outliers through a couple of weeks of the 2024 season.

These hitters are allergic to the base on balls:

This is a fascinating group!

José Caballero has started most of the Rays games at shortstop, but has someone managed to avoid taking a base on balls even once so far. That’s rather incredible given that he walked at a 10% clip last year and last walked at a single digit clip in any sort of reasonable sample back in 2018! With his speed, his fantasy owners are crossing their fingers his plate patience returns, as that .371 BABIP isn’t going to last.

José Ramírez, what on Earth happened?! After four straight double digit walk rate campaigns, it’s shocking to see him down here with just one measly walk on the season. It’s been a weird start for him overall, as his SwStk% has creeped up to a career worst, his LD% has plummeted, and his FB% is back above 50% and sitting at a career high. He also hasn’t even attempted a stolen base. I’m sure he’ll be fine, but man has it been an odd couple of weeks.

Nolan Arenado was never a big walker, but this is bad. Aside from the lack of patience, his maxEV sits at just 104.1 MPH, versus marks just over 110 MPH the last three years, and his Barrel% is at just 1.9%. So he hasn’t been getting on base or hitting for any power whatsoever. At least his strikeout rate is normal!

Bryan De La Cruz is swinging and missing more than ever, which isn’t great when paired with a microscopic walk rate. However, he has swung so often, his strikeout rate hasn’t actually increased as much as you’d expect given the SwStk%. Everything else looks good, and even though his HR/FB rate languishes in single digits, his maxEV and Barrel% are right in line with his history and his xwOBA is significantly above his actual mark. He’ll be fine.

You don’t normally see first basemen with lots of power with low walk rates as pitchers generally are careful enough that it’s simply hard to avoid the base on balls. Christian Encarnacion-Strand has clearly figured out how to both hit for power, and not get on base via the free pass. He did walk at a double digit clip at Triple-A last year, but never anywhere else. This season’s ratio of one walk to 19 strikeouts is ugly. He’s also oddly toting a GB% over 50%, which makes little sense for him.

This group has become familiar with walking back to the dugout after a strike out:

The Strikeouters
Name K%
Willi Castro 44.2%
Max Muncy 39.1%
Jose Siri 38.6%
Brandon Marsh 38.3%
Joey Gallo 38.2%
Nolan Jones 37.9%
Teoscar Hernández 36.6%

A rash of Twins injuries has pushed Willi Castro into full-time duty, but he’ll need to stop striking out or the team may move Kyle Farmer to shortstop and give Jose Miranda another shot at third base, or something like that. What’s weird is that Castro’s SwStk% is actually at the second lowest of his career and nowhere near alarming. However, he’s simply stopped swinging at pitches inside the strike zone for whatever reason, so his called strike rate has rocketed. I’m not sure why, but his rebound chances seem higher than if he has been swinging and missing like never before.

Too funny, Max Muncy always carried a reasonable strikeout rate for a power hitter, but his BABIP killed his fantasy value. This year, his strikeout rate has spiked…as has his BABIP! He has actually never posted a .300+ BABIP in a season, so it’s hilarious seeing his mark sitting at .379 now, along with all those strikeouts.

Jose Siri and Brandon Marsh are no strangers to the top of the strikeout rate leaderboards, and both of them own some blend of power and speed. It’s nice to see Siri’s walk rate surge, as he desperately needed an OBP bump. On the other hand, Marsh’s walk rate collapse is not a good look.

Joey Gallo near the strikeout rate leaders? Yup, checks out.

As a Nolan Jones owner, I’ve gotten used to seeing him strike out multiple times a game. Looking at his profile, I’m actually absolutely shocked that his SwStk% sits at just 9.5%. His problem is some serious passivity as his swing rate on pitches inside the strike zone is well below the league average. It’s led to the fifth highest called strike rate among qualified batters. Like Castro, he simply needs to be more aggressive, which is seemingly an easier problem to fix than a whiff issue.

It’s been a hot start for Teoscar Hernández, who has already homered five times for his new team. But, it’s come with a strikeout rate surge, even though his SwStk% is actually at its lowest since 2019. Obviously, this home run pace won’t last, especially given his maxEV/Barrel% combo that don’t support a 41.7% HR/FB rate at all, but his strikeout rate should absolutely return to his normal levels.

These hitters put the ball in play often:

Pay Attention Fielders, a Ball in Play is Coming!

It’s pretty incredible that Luis Campusano has managed to rarely strike out, despite an averageish 11.6% SwStk%. If you’re swinging and missing that often, it’s difficult to strike out so infrequently! The fact he also has a meager 1.9% explains a lot of it, as he has been swinging at everything, ranking 11th in Swing% among qualified hitters.

We thought last year was Corbin Carroll’s breakout? Welllll, maybe it’s actually this year. Not only has he rarely struck out, with the SwStk% to support it, but his walk rate has spiked to 13.8%. Ignore his current .308 wOBA and .324 xwOBA. If his plate skills are maintained, another huge year will follow. Owners should continue holding on tightly.

There’s a lot to like about Gabriel Moreno and a lot not to like. The walk and strikeout numbers, along with the low SwStk%, look fantastic. The 61.5% GB% and only 2.6% Barrel% don’t. Probably the very definition of a catcher that won’t kill you with a weak batting average, but won’t do a whole lot in the counting categories.

I really love Vinnie Pasquantino’s skill set, but last year’s shoulder injury and subsequent surgery was a concern. Would his power return or would he need another year to fully regain it? So far, the plate discipline has remained elite, and while both his HR/FB rate and Barrel% are meager, his maxEV is fine. His BABIP is starting to look like a consistent issue though, which is unfortunate given how massive that low strikeout rate is. With a normal BABIP, he could be an annual threat to hit .300, and even just a low-to-mid-teens HR/FB rate could result in 30 home runs. Yet, I am hesitant to target him without knowing where his power potential lies this year.

It’s been a sublime start for Josh Naylor, who also oddly has suffered a SwStk% jump, but a strikeout rate decline. What’s even weirder is his walk rate has more than doubled, so we can’t even assume he has just been swinging at everything. So what’s the answer? He has cut down on swings outside the zone to a career best, and dramatically increased his swings inside the zone, which actually leads the league! So he’s making ideal swing decisions, which has increased his walk rate, but he’s just making less contact overall. The less contact overall has increased his SwStk%, but since he’s swinging so often at pitches in the zone, eventually he’s putting the ball in play to avoid the strikeout. It’s a weird thing to see and I’m curious how it will look in a couple of months.

Isn’t it fun when a foreign player’s stats translate pretty darn well to MLB? That’s what we’re seeing now with Jung Hoo Lee, who has brought his excellent contact skills and extreme ground ball ways over. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, he doesn’t hit enough fly balls to make a real difference in home runs, and he was never a big basestealer. The results should improve, but he still might look like a guy who you’re constantly looking to upgrade. Don’t, though, as he might actually deliver more total value than you think given the expectation of a pretty good batting average and 10/10 home runs and steals upside.

These hitters might be swinging with their eyes closed:

The Whiffers
Name SwStr%
J.D. Davis 22.1%
Tim Anderson 21.7%
Byron Buxton 20.8%
Kris Bryant 19.2%

J.D. Davis, the Athletic, was assured of regular at-bats, but it came at the cost of a poor surrounding lineup that would cap his PAs, runs scored, and RBI totals. Now, he’s swinging and missing more than ever before, though it hasn’t resulted in more strikeouts than normal. That’s because he’s rarely walked and has swung at more pitches outside the zone than ever, so he’s gone the swing at everything route, expecting to eventually put a ball in play. It’s too bad his power is wasted thanks to a low FB%.

Holy guacamole, Tim Anderson’s stat profile so far this year is crazy! Both his strikeout rate and SwStk% are at career worsts, his FB% has skyrocketed to an absurd 79.4%, and he has failed to barrel a single ball (undoubtedly because of his high GB%, which by definition can never be a barrel!). It wouldn’t have been that crazy to think there was some sort of rebound in store after last year’s offensive disaster, but so far, he appears to be performing even worse, if that’s possible! I wouldn’t touch him.

I was so excited to snag Byron Buxton for cheap in both LABR Mixed Draft and AL Tout Wars, and so far he’s given me absolutely nothing. Not a home run or a steal, and the funny thing is he hasn’t even gotten hurt yet! The one positive is a 27.6% LD%, pushing his BABIP back above .300, but that’s about the only good thing in his profile. I don’t really care though, as long as he stays healthy, I’m confident he’ll get his offense back on track, but it’s been ugly so far indeed.

I was excited as anyone when Kris Bryant came over to the Rockies, but injuries have derailed his time there, and even when on the field, his power has been a major disappointment. I missed out on grabbing him cheap in any leagues this year, and so far, he’s given us no indication that a rebound is in sight. A SwStk% this year to go along with a 30% strikeout rate isn’t something we’ve seen from him since his 2015 debut. Since then, he had dramatically improved his contact skills and been a strong hitter because of the improved strikeout rate, to go along with a high BABIP and above average power. Now, everything seems to be out of whack and you always have to wonder if something is bothering him physically. I’ve lost interest here.

These hitters are finding every. single. hole:

The .500 BABIP Club!
Nelson Velázquez 0.500
Ryan McMahon 0.500

I wasn’t really in on Nelson Velázquez this year after the Royals treated him last year, as I thought for sure they would find any reason to sit him on random days, even if he figures to be one of their better hitters. Now with a .500 BABIP, I don’t think the Royals could come up with an excuse to sit him! The BABIP is a product of a 26.7% LD%, no pop-ups, and luck, of course. His power has been down a bit looking at his maxEV and Barrel%, while his strikeout rate and SwStk% has jumped. I would be worried as soon as his BABIP plummets what happens to his playing time then.

It’s shocking that Ryan McMahon is a member of the .500 BABIP club given that he has recorded 10 more at-bats on the road than at home! Amazingly, he owns exactly a .500 BABIP at home and on the road, which is nuts considering his career .337/.299 home/road split. He has hit more grounders than normal and a higher rate of his flies have been pop-ups, so clearly there’s a significant amount of good fortune in that .500 BABIP. Everything else looks normal though and fantasy owners with Rockies get to look forward to more home games in the future, though that won’t prevent the imminent BABIP regression.

These hitters can’t buy a hit:

I’ll Take A Hit For $1,000, Alex
Francisco Lindor 0.098
Victor Scott II 0.122
Nolan Schanuel 0.125

Somehow Francisco Lindor has combined a career best strikeout rate with a microscopic BABIP. His maxEV is meager, while his Barrel% is at its lowest since his 2015 debut, so it’s possible he’s just not hitting his balls with any oomph and they have turned into easy outs. However, Statcast calculates a .337 xwOBA, right in line with years past, versus his actual .197 mark, so it sure seems like it’s simply been a massive dose of bad fortune so far, rather than legitimately bad hitting. With just one steal attempt, a homer, and that lowly .103 batting average, he seems like an ideal target to try to steal from his owner in your league.

A swath of injuries vaulted Victor Scott II into a starting job in St. Louis, despite never recording a plate appearance at the Triple-A level. He certainly doesn’t seem to be overwhelmed, as his strikeout rate and SwStk% are right in line with where projections have him at given his minor league numbers. Sure, the LD% is low and he has no business hitting so many fly balls. However, that .122 BABIP might end up being the reason he gets demoted when Tommy Edman returns. Is that just poor hitting? Unlike what Statcast suggested for Lindor, it actually does believe Scott hasn’t proven he is actually ready to hit Major League pitching, calculating just a .212 xwOBA. I wouldn’t bother targeting him in a redraft league now, but his weak start could make him cheap in keeper leagues, and he stole 94 bases in the minors last year!

I was very eager to find out how Nolan Schanuel performs this year as his power potential was a real mystery to me. So far, it’s been another weird season so far, as he has continued showing fantastic plate patience and excellent contact skills, but now his strikeout rate has rocketed. He has also hit a ton of grounders and rarely a line drive. He does have a homer, but his maxEV sits at an embarrassing 101.6 MPH, so it’ll be impossible to maintain a double digit HR/FB rate without hitting balls harder than that. I’m fine with him in an OBP league, though he might really hamper your home run and RBI totals, but in batting average leagues, he’s just an AL-Only option.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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1 month ago

I understand this is more of a fluff or just fun to look at article… however since you’re including critique on the players, why include a stat like BB%? In the glossary it states BB% doesn’t even begin to stabilize until 120 PAs (and 220-240 PAs when it begins to normalize), and we’re just at the halfway point to stable. If Ramirez would have taken 4 more walks in the past few weeks, then he’s over a 7% BB. So it’s early. Same thing for Arenado. Saying that his BB% is just bad, because he only has 69 PAs and 1 BB, but if he had 69PAs and 5 BB then he’s at his career norm. A month from now they’re not going to be at 1% BB. I guess I’m complaining lol but I guess my request is I’d like to see you just take it easier on the player critique when we’re talking a few events being the difference of good and bad, more focus on the fun/interesting of early stats.

1 month ago
Reply to  Mike Podhorzer

I don’t think it’s the pointing out of what’s happened that’s the issue, it’s lines like this:

it’s shocking to see him down here with just one measly walk on the season

1 month ago
Reply to  Mike Podhorzer

Looks like he had a similar 18 game stretch about a third of the way through last year. That’s just the way small sample statistics works **shrug**

1 month ago
Reply to

You actually didn’t understand my point then. Its not about sharing with us the extremes and outliers so far, I also find them interesting. And will check on them later in the season. My point was about then using said stats to give a player outlook, on this site of all places. I just don’t get how you could also be be shocked with Ramirez’ stretch. Im just an amateur with stats, but I know a consistent yearly aggregate 10%+ BB guy is just that, a yearly aggregate. Filled with peaks and valleys. Using the game log split tool for Jose Ramirez last 4 seasons found these:

1. From September 1, 2020, to September 22, 2020, over 15 games, he had just 1 walk.

2. From April 1, 2022, to April 20, 2022, over 16 games, he also had just 1 walk

These stretches are within -3 deviations from the mean of a bell curve, which explains why they’re occurring about every couple years. It’s completely normal.

I can pull up his BB% on a rolling 75PA avg, and last year he had a stretch dipping to 2%. He also had ceilings of 20%. So 1% in 15 games is just not shocking at all for him. Nor is that standard deviation weird for any player.

You also used this years small sample size of batted ball data against him as something that may be concerning. But this contradicts the sites glossary on LD% and FB% known stabilization and normalization rates:

“First, sample size is very important for the batted ball stat you likely care most about for hitters — line drive rate. While you can get a good sense of fly ball and ground ball rate with a month or two of data, it takes more like a year and a half for line drive rate to “stabilize.” All this means is that six weeks of batted ball data shouldn’t change your opinion of a player’s talent level.”

Just like the 2 others pointed out, the point of my gripe was not seen. Most of the readers here are coming for fantasy baseball with the application of advanced analytics. So these critiques you’re adding to the players with the — yes, improper use of stats — is not what we are donating $10/month for. Ive been very blunt here, but that’s how it is when you didn’t understand my original reply.