While we stress “small sample size” so often early in the season to the point that y’all probably tune out at this point, it could yield some fun stats, both weird and extreme. Let’s dive into some of the most interesting extremes after the first month.
Mike Trout, Godly
We thought Trout couldn’t possibly get better offensively, right? Well folks, he may actually have done so. Since 2016, his walk rate has already been ridiculous, but this year, it’s taken a step up to an even more insane level. Yes, his walk rate stands at an absurd 24.4%. But that’s not all! His strikeout rate has been nearly cut in half versus his career average, and sits at just 11.8%! WHAAAAAAAAAAAT?! Even more crazy is his SwStk% is just 2.5%. Oh, and his line drive rate is at a career high as well. We’re running out of words to describe his hitting skills.
Walk This Way
Who ranks seventh in walk rate? Niko Goodrum, of course. He has more than doubled his walk rate of last year to 17.5%, which is not what you expect from a Niko Goodrum. Guess last season’s respectable output was just the beginning, rather than a complete fluke.
Hits Fallin’ In Everywhere
Talk about fortunes turning, Dexter Fowler lost his starting job last year thanks partly to a weak .210 BABIP. You rarely hear that a hitter has doubled his BABIP, but Fowler has actually come close by posting a .407 mark so far. It’s easy to see how — he’s sporting a 35.6% LD%! He has just one homer and steal, but deeper leagues should hold, as last year appears to be the mirage.
So the Royals, ranked mid-pack in wOBA in the AL, released Brian Goodwin at the end of spring training. Oops. The Angels claimed him two days later after learning Justin Upton would open the season on the IL and he has made the Royals look pretty foolish, though that’s admittedly not very difficult to do. Goodwin has thanked the Angels by BABIPing .404, driven by a 29.5% LD% and no pop-ups.
Nope, Not a Small Sample Fluke
Raise your hand if you figured Luke Voit’s ridiculous 148 plate appearances with the Yankees last season was a fluke. Okay, I can’t see your hands, but I’m guessing it’s a lot of you. Welp, he’s doing his darn best to prove his doubters wrong. He has posted a 34.6% line drive rate and has yet to pop-up. That kinda suggests he’s due for a better BABIP than just .314.
Homers and Nothing Else
Eddie Rosario ranks third in baseball with 11 homers, as he has doubled his HR/FB rate, while his FB% has risen for a second straight season, jumping above 50%. But man has he really sold out for fly balls, as his line drive rate stands at just 10.3%, third lowest in baseball. That LD%, combined with the FB%, help explain his sub-.300 BABIP. It has worked well enough at this point as his wOBA sits at a career high, though not by as much as you would expect given the homers.
Ya Can’t Hit a Home Run on a Ground Ball (that isn’t misplayed)
While Rosario has fully embraced the fly ball revolution, Wilson Ramos and Willy Adames have not. Ramos is a rare power bat behind the plate, but can’t get to it when he’s hitting grounders nearly 63% of the time! Ramos’ career FB% is just 26.6%, so this is nothing new to him, but his current 17.3% mark is easily a career low, and the first time it’s slid below 23% in a reasonable sample size. Adames enjoyed a respectable rookie debut last year, but has followed that up by hitting everything on the ground with a 61% grounder rate. With little speed and lots of strikeouts, that’s simply not a recipe for fantasy (or real life) success.
Speedy Guys Hitting Flies
Yeah, it’s tempting to request your membership card to join the fly ball revolution. But that doesn’t mean it makes sense for every hitter to do so. Byron Buxton (55.2% FB%), Jorge Polanco (53.1%), Jose Peraza (52.9%), and Victor Robles (50%) are four who fit that logic. These guys are known more for their speed potential than power, although you figured double digit homers for all. But it makes no sense that all four are sporting fly ball rates of at least 50%. This is especially true of Peraza, whose previous career high FB% was 38% last year, and has posted just a 5.4% career HR/FB rate.
Introducing the Next David Eckstein!
It’s not just because they share the first name David, but David Fletcher has been a contact king, conjuring up memories of Eckstein. Fletcher has posted a strikeout rate of just 4.3%, thanks to a microscopic 1.8% SwStk% (not a typo) and 97.5% Z-Contact%. Since he owns little power, this is exactly the type of hitter he needs to remain. It’s too bad he’s probably much more valuable to the Angels than to your fantasy team.
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.