Archive for June, 2015

The Mets, Third-Base Uncertainty, and Troy Tulowitzki

The New York Mets are a team in need of upgrade.  With their playoff odds now at 16%, while every additional win is still important, there should be a large focus on 2016, and beyond, as well.  The question is where to upgrade.  A team should be willing to upgrade anywhere (a win is a win, is a win, is a win).  However, considering the type of depth and high-end talent the Mets have in their rotation, it seems unlikely they will attempt an upgrade there.  Both corner outfield spots could use an upgrade, but it is probably unlikely that the Mets will move, or bench, either Michael Cuddyer or Curtis Granderson.  Catcher has young talent.  First base is set.  Second base has a couple of capable providers in Daniel Murphy and Dilson Herrera. This leaves us with shortstop and third base.

Shortstop was a hot topic around Metland during the off-season, mainly in regards to Wilmer Flores’ questionable defense.  As he did things like this:

Ahhh, that never gets old.  However, he has also done things like this:

Ultimately, Wilmer now has a 1.7 UZR/150 in 561.2 innings this year to supplement his 12.5 UZR/150 in 443.1 innings in 2014.  This now gives him a cumulative 5.9 UZR/150 in 1005 innings!  While this is still not a huge sample size it is becoming increasingly likely that Flores can stick at the position.  Flores’ apparent ability to play shortstop coupled with his current 93 wRC+ (projected for more of the same from ZiPS and Steamer) makes him about an average player.

This is where it gets interesting.  The Mets’ third-base situation is probably the most variable in baseball.  It is basically impossible to know what they will get from David Wright at this point, if anything at all.  Spinal stenosis is a harsh mistress.  Time will tell what becomes of Wright.  Though, every cloud has a silver lining.  Other clichés.  The Mets will not bring in a strict third baseman, but it would be nice to have someone who can play there for a prolonged period of time if things go bad.

This leads us to Troy Tulowitzki.  Tulo is currently projected for a 128 wRC+, and 2.4 WAR, in 68 games for the rest of the season according to FanGraphs Depth Charts.  Tulowitzki is the type of 5-WAR star the Mets are in need of, as he would be a major upgrade over Flores in 2015 and beyond.  Additionally, Tulo would be able to move over to third base in the case of a prolonged absence from Wright, giving the Mets more malleability in terms of adding impact players.  In this case Flores can either be traded or used in a different capacity.  Tulo has long seemed to be a great fit for the Mets, and the uncertainty concerning David Wright seems to strengthen this fit.  Or, maybe this doesn’t affect the Mets’ decision-making process at all and I’m just writing nonsense.  Tulowitzki is a good fit regardless.  Though he would command a package such as Matz, Plawecki, Rosario, and Conforto, this may very well be worth it for the Mets.

What Has Happened to the Second Basemen?

 2nd Base hasn’t been a particularly stacked position in the major leagues in the past five years. Entering the 2015 season, the 2nd base position was headlined by Jose Altuve and Robinson Cano. The second tier arguably consisted of Ben Zobrist, Neil Walker, Dustin Pedroia, and Ian Kinsler, and maybe Brian Dozier. Then the next level housed names like Jason Kipnis, Daniel Murphy, and maybe DJ LeMahieu. I’m here to analyze what has possibly happened to this group of baseball players in the past few months.

According to the Depth Charts pre-season projections, the top eight second basemen ranked by wOBA were Robinson Cano, Neil Walker, Ben Zobrist, Jose Altuve, Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler, Howie Kendrick, and Chase Utley. The projections are usually somewhat accurate, but if you’ve been following baseball at all this season, just by looking at those names, you know that we’ve found an exception to that.

These are the top 10 second baseman thus far in the 2015 season ranked by wOBA:

Jason Kipnis Indians 69 322 5 10% 13% 0.17 0.396 0.409 169
Brian Dozier Twins 70 310 14 9% 19% 0.257 0.276 0.363 133
Logan Forsythe Rays 72 284 8 9% 15% 0.161 0.325 0.363 139
Joe Panik Giants 69 296 6 9% 12% 0.156 0.326 0.362 137
Dustin Pedroia Red Sox 68 311 9 9% 12% 0.147 0.325 0.358 127
Dee Gordon Marlins 68 311 0 3% 15% 0.071 0.418 0.347 120
Danny Espinosa Nationals 62 229 8 9% 22% 0.187 0.317 0.345 118
DJ LeMahieu Rockies 68 274 4 7% 16% 0.103 0.373 0.344 102
Kolten Wong Cardinals 69 284 8 7% 14% 0.163 0.3 0.336 114
Jace Peterson Braves 66 270 2 11% 17% 0.103 0.337 0.327 107


If I told you in April that Logan Forsythe would be the 3rd best second baseman in the league, you would think I’m ridiculous. He came absolutely out of nowhere to raise his BABIP nearly 60 points and raise his ISO 55 points! Joe Panik’s beautiful swing has moved him up to be the 4th best-hitting 2nd baseman. Jason Kipnis has shut up all the critics. He took his .310 2014 OBP as confidence going into this year, and now has a wOBA over .400. Danny Espinosa, who has been previously known as a ‘defensive’ second baseman, has skyrocketed his offensive production into a player who Matt Williams is comfortable having run onto the field every day. Cardinals 2B Kolten Wong is pulling the ball more and more every season. He’s also upped his LD% from 19% to 25%. Braves utility-infielder Jace Peterson is doing a bit of hitting in his rookie year, after being traded from San Diego (who, it turns out, could really use him) to the Braves in December. Think back to when I mentioned the tiers up top. Where is Robby Cano on the list above? Where’s Altuve? I don’t see Zobrist, Walker, or Kinsler on this list either. It is not an error.

So we talked about the breakouts at 2nd; now lets talk about the guys who haven’t or haven’t yet lived up to expectations.

Lets start with the guy who all of his fantasy owners hate this year. Robinson Cano. Yeah, the six-time All-Star Robinson Cano. The 32-year-old — the guy who has a wRC+ of 76. This is easily, by far, his worst season of his 11-year career. Why? Lets talk about it.

Cano has raised his Hard% and his Pull% over 4% each! What does jump out at you is that he’s making a ton less contact than he did last year. Actually, the least of his whole career. His Contact% has plummeted down almost 5%. Along with a raised K%, his BABIP has jumped down nearly 50 points.

The next guy is Altuve. Altuve hasn’t been that bad this year, but compared to his 2014 campaign, he’s not playing like Jose Altuve. He’s even fighting with a mild hamstring injury, but in his 287 PA’s, every single one of his numbers are down. His wOBA has decreased .363 to .304. BB% is down, strikeouts are up, OBP and SLG are both way down. He’s swinging more, and making less contact which isn’t a combination that pulls you in a positive direction.

Same can be said for Neil Walker. Almost all his numbers are down. One of the positives that I found, though, is that he’s hitting the ball harder. My prediction is that the .303 wOBA will start to show positive regression. Ian Kinsler isn’t having a horrible season. He’s raised his OBP a bit, but he’s becoming more of a singles hitter, dropping his SLG from .420 to .338.

Almost every starting second baseman in the big leagues has totally changed their style of hitting this year. Guys like Forsythe and Panik, who were projected to be replacement level or below, have made their names rise to the top of many leaderboards. Cano and Altuve’s value have fallen. Here’s your homework: Think of all the 2nd baseman in the major leagues. How many of them have close to similar stats from their projections? Comment down below.

Which Cellar-Dweller Still Has a Chance?

Today we’re going to look at the teams in the cellar of their respected AL divisions. As it stands today, those teams are the Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox and the Oakland A’s. With a closer look at the numbers, I think we can find which team, if any, still has a chance of contending this year. Let’s start with the Boston Red Sox.

The Red Sox are currently 8.5 games back going into action today. They are 11-22 in the AL East and have an overall record of 32-41. They have a -43 run differential and a team ERA of 4.46. Starting pitching has clearly been the problem for Boston this year, and although the offense hasn’t been as bad as the other teams we’ll look at, it just hasn’t been enough to compete in a stacked AL East. The Red Sox are last among last-place teams in SP ERA (4.77), K/9 (7.08), BB/9 (2.86) and WHIP (1.34). And as the run differential shows, they haven’t been able to outscore opponents to make up for sub-par pitching. This combined with a tough division makes it hard to believe Boston can turn it around this year. And although a trade for a starting pitcher is possible, it still seems unlikely the Red Sox are one piece away from contending; from the look of things, it seems more like 2 or 3 pieces. But have no fear Boston, although the Red Sox have played poorly, they haven’t played as bad as the Chicago White Sox.

The White Sox were a trendy pick going into the season. With the addition of Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson, Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche and the return of Jose Abreu, it seemed like the White Sox could compete this year. So far, they’ve done anything but compete. They’re currently 11 games back in the AL Central and are 14-23 in the division. They have a -79 run differential, worst among last-place teams, and have a team ERA of 4.09. Unlike Boston, the White Sox starting pitching hasn’t been horrible; it hasn’t been great but it hasn’t been the reason for their lack of success. They lead all last-place teams in SP K/9 (8.36) and RP ERA (3.84). They’re also second in SP ERA (4.19) and BB/9 (2.62) but run into the same problem the Red Sox have — they play in an extremely competitive division, perhaps the best in the AL. With Kansas City, Minnesota and Detroit playing solid baseball, it has made the climb for the White Sox quite difficult.

What makes it harder, and perhaps the most shocking, is the White Sox aren’t hitting at all. They haven’t all year and show no signs of turning it around. They’re last among the cellar-dwellers in AVG (.237), wOBA (.282), BABIP (.282), OBP (.292), ISO (.108), K% (20.2) and BB% (6.3). All of that adds up to the worst statistical offense in baseball and hardly seems like an easy fix. GM Rick Hahn had what seemed like a productive offseason, and we’ll see if he can figure out a way to turn things around, but like the Red Sox, it doesn’t appear to be a simple fix. All that brings us to the final last-place team, the Oakland A’s.

The A’s, like the Red and White Sox, had a busy offseason, but unlike Boston and Chicago, no one really expected them to contend this year. Billy Beane blew up what was a successful 2014 squad in order to retool and make another run but so far it hasn’t exactly worked out this year. Oakland is 9 games back in the AL West, looking up at Houston, Texas, Los Angeles and Seattle. They have a 16-22 record in the division but have the only plus run differential (43) among last-place teams and rank second to the Houston Astros in the division with (47).

The A’s have succeeded where Boston and Chicago have failed. Oakland leads all last-place teams in SP ERA (3.00), BABIP (.271), BB/9 (2.68), HR/FB (9%), HR/9 (.81) and WHIP (1.22). They also stack up well in their division: the A’s are first in the AL West in ERA, BABIP, HR/FB, HR/9 and WHIP. Their offense hasn’t been bad either; along with their plus run differential, they’re first among last-place teams in AVG (.259), BABIP (.297) and OBP (.323). Although they can’t hit the long ball like Houston can, Oakland seems to have an efficient offense and good starting pitching, and both of those things could come in handy if the Astros start to falter down the stretch.

Oakland’s biggest issue seems to be the bullpen, as they’re last among last-place teams in RP ERA (4.77) and HR/9 (1.24). They’re also last in the AL West in RP ERA (4.77) and BABIP (.306). The Kansas City Royals showed everybody last year how important a shutdown bullpen can be and although Oakland has performed well in other categories, the bullpen seems to be hurting them the most. Another aspect of Oakland’s game that is hurting them is their defense. The A’s are currently last in the AL West with a -28.7 UZR; that’s more then double what any other division opponent has. If the bullpen can’t shut down the offense and defense isn’t doing you any favors, it becomes very hard to win enough games to contend.

But alas, all is not lost. The AL West is not nearly as competitive as the East or Central and although the Astros have played tremendous baseball, they’re still a young team that lives and dies by the home run. If Oakland can find a way to shore up the bullpen and defense, either through a trade or in-house, it’s not unlikely for them to make a run and cover some ground. They have 35 games left with AL West opponents and Houston seems to be the clear #1 enemy. The Rangers and Angels both seem like middle-of-the-road teams, neither succeeding or failing in any particular category but not dominant enough to move forward. The Astros’ bullpen and offense has been phenomenal this season, leading the AL West in RP ERA (2.62), BABIP (.236), K/9 (9.66), BB/9 (2.36) and WHIP (.94). And although their offense strikes out a lot, they’re leading the West in BB% (8.4%), ISO (.186) and wOBA (.320). They may swing and miss a lot but when they make contact, watch out. The reason to believe the West is still anybody’s to grab is Houston’s starting pitching. They’re last in the division in SP ERA (4.19) and HR/FB (11.5%) and second to last in SP BABIP (.297), K/9 (6.91), BB/9 (2.80) and WHIP (1.30).

Now we are getting closer to the trade deadline and making a move for a starting pitcher may behoove the Astros more so than any other division leader but if they can’t swing a deal, I think it definitely leaves the door open for a team to contend. As unlikely as it appears now, I wouldn’t be surprised if that team were the Oakland Athletics. They have to make moves to improve the bullpen and defense but with their efficient offense and quality starting pitching, I think they’re the only team in the division that can beat Houston and in turn, I believe they’re the only last-place team that still has a chance.

Going the Other Way

Ryan Howard doesn’t like infield shifts. I’m not making this up, or just surmising it. He said so after recording four outs on balls that probably would have gotten through an unshifted infield:

 “No, I don’t like it at all,” said Howard, who has grown accustomed to seeing four infielders on the right side of the infield when he steps to the plate. “That’s four hits. I mean, again, it’s nothing that I’m doing wrong, I’m hitting the ball hard. It’s just right at guys playing shifts. So, all you can do is continue to swing.”

Back in May, Craig Edwards noted that Jason Kipnis had a rotten 2014 (86 wRC+), likely in part due to an oblique injury in April that affected his performance all year. Kipnis’s 2014 was characterized by an increase in grounders, weak contact, and pulled balls. This season, of course, he’s been a monster (164 wRC+ through June 21, fourth in the American League), in part because, with a healthy oblique, he’s pulling less.

Why, fans and sportswriters ask, can’t more hitters do what Jason Kipnis has done by going the other way? Proliferating infield shifts are taking hits away from the likes of Howard, David Ortiz, and Mark Teixeira. So why don’t those players just hit the ball where they ain’t? I’m not talking about bunting. This is just about pull-happy hitters go the other way, guiding batted balls to the opposite field.

I think pretty much everyone reading this knows the answers why. First, infield shifts are effective against grounders and soft liners, and a batter with fly ball tendencies hits the ball over the shifted infielders more often than not. The Indians’ Brandon Moss is a pronounced pull hitter (48% of batted balls hit to right field) who also hits the ball in the air a lot (0.67 ground ball/fly ball ratio, fifth lowest in the majors). So he goes to the plate trying to hit over the shift. Second, and more significantly, I think, hitting, one hears, is hard. Granted, I never played professional baseball like the people on sportstalk radio who insist that Chris Davis would be a much more productive player if he’d just shorten his swing and go with where the ball’s pitched, dumping singles through the vacated space on the left side of the infield. Changing one’s approach to the plate would seem to have a concomitant risk of decreased production.

But players can and do make adjustments. And, as the case of Kipnis illustrates, those adjustments can lead to better outcomes. How often do batters rely less on pulling the ball, and what does it do to their performance?

To answer this, I looked at every batter who was a semi-regular (which I arbitrarily defined as compiling two-thirds the plate appearances necessary to qualify for the batting title) in 2014 and 2015. (My criteria worked out to 334 plate appearances in 2014 and, depending on the team, 140 or so plate appearances in 2015.) There were, through games of June 21, 186 such players. I calculated their “pull tendency” by subtracting the percentage of balls they hit to the opposite field from the percentage they hit to the pull field. Ryan Howard, for example, has a pull tendency of 31.9% this year, having hit 48.8% of batted balls to right field and 16.9% to left. I then subtracted each player’s 2015 pull tendency from his 2014 pull tendency to arrive at the change, i.e. how much more he’s going the other way in 2015. To determine the effect of the change, I calculated the change in the player’s wRC+ from 2014 to 2015 as well. Here are the 15 players who have most dramatically changed from pulling to going the other way in 2015:

Well now. That’s quite a mix. There’s probably the 2015 poster child for going the other way, Mike Moustakas, leading the way with a vast improvement in wRC+. But the median wRC+ change on the list is negative five points–players who are pulling markedly less are having less, not more, success at the plate. Seven of the fifteen players are having a better year in 2015, while the remaining eight aren’t. Of course, as with any list like this, there are caveats. The change for Moustakas is evidence of a well-executed plan. But you can make a pretty good argument that Carlos Ruiz is pulling less because,at 36, he can’t get around on pitches as he used to, and a fairly airtight argument that Victor Martinez is pulling less because he’s been playing hurt. Danny Santana, he of the .405 BABIP in 2014, was at the top of the 2015 regression list regardless of where he’d hit the ball–a lot more of them were bound to find their way into fielders’ gloves. Josh Harrison is coming off a career year. Alcides Escobar, who cares, the guy’s an All-Star Game starter! But if there’s a pattern there of pull less, hit more, I’m not seeing it.

How about players who have done the opposite–in the face of shifts, they’re pulling the ball more now than they did last year? Here’s the list:

Another mixed bag, with a negligible median change in wRC+ (-2 in this case; seven players doing better, eight doing worse). Pulling the ball more certainly hasn’t hurt Todd Frazier (leading all third basemen in wRC+) or the first two second basemen on the list. By the same token, it’s one of many symptoms of the woes of Robinson Cano (discussed in length by Jeff Sullivan here). As with players pulling less, if there’s a pattern here, that pulling more has a systemic impact, I’m not seeing it.

Admittedly, there are limits to this type of analysis. Hitting isn’t just a product of where the ball is hit. It’s affected by whether it’s hit on the ground or in the air, whether it’s hit hard or soft, whether it’s hit by a healthy batter or an injured one, whether it’s hit off a fastball or an off-speed pitch, and whether it’s hit at all or missed. I looked only at the first comparison: pulling the ball vs. going the other way, because that one characteristic has been harped on by fans and some in the media. And the data indicate that changing one’s approach–going from pulling to hitting to the opposite field, or, for that matter, vice-versa–does not appear to have a systemic change in batting outcomes. It works for some players. It doesn’t work for others. For every Mike Moustakas, it seems, there’s a Todd Frazier, or a David Peralta. When Ryan Howard hits four grounders to Kolten Wong in short right field, turning singles to right into 4-3 putouts, it may frustrate him, but that’s not to say that trying to hit the ball to left wouldn’t frustrate him even more.

Hardball Retrospective – The “Original” 1953 Milwaukee Braves

In “Hardball Retrospective: Evaluating Scouting and Development Outcomes for the Modern-Era Franchises”, I placed every ballplayer in the modern era (from 1901-present) on their original team. Therefore, Roy Halladay is listed on the Blue Jays roster for the duration of his career while the Brewers declare Gary Sheffield and the Cardinals claim Mordecai Brown. I calculated revised standings for every season based entirely on the performance of each team’s “original” players. I discuss every team’s “original” players and seasons at length along with organizational performance with respect to the Amateur Draft (or First-Year Player Draft), amateur free agent signings and other methods of player acquisition.  Season standings, WAR and Win Shares totals for the “original” teams are compared against the “actual” team results to assess each franchise’s scouting, development and general management skills.

Expanding on my research for the book, the following series of articles will reveal the finest single-season rosters for every Major League organization based on overall rankings in OWAR and OWS along with the general managers and scouting directors that constructed the teams. “Hardball Retrospective” is available in digital format on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, GooglePlay, iTunes and KoboBooks. The paperback edition is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and CreateSpace. Additional information and a discussion forum are offered at

Don Daglow (Intellivision World Series Major League Baseball, Earl Weaver Baseball, Tony LaRussa Baseball) contributed the foreword for Hardball Retrospective. The foreword and preview of my book are accessible here.


OWAR – Wins Above Replacement for players on “original” teams

OWS – Win Shares for players on “original” teams

OPW% – Pythagorean Won-Loss record for the “original” teams


The 1953 Milwaukee Braves         OWAR: 52.2     OWS: 300     OPW%: .664

GM John Quinn acquired 88% (22/25) of the ballplayers on the 1953 Braves roster after assuming the reigns from his father Robert Quinn in 1945. Based on the revised standings the “Original” 1953 Braves secured the National League pennant by a 16-game margin over the Brooklyn Dodgers. Thus began a streak of seven consecutive National League titles while pacing the Senior Circuit in OWAR and OWS.

Eddie Mathews (.302/47/135) established career-bests in home runs, RBI and SLG (.627) during his sophomore year. The slugging third-sacker placed runner-up in the 1953 NL MVP race and led the circuit in round-trippers. Al Dark (.300/23/88) rapped 194 base hits, clubbed 41 doubles and scored 126 runs from the leadoff slot. Johnny Logan slashed 27 two-base hits and registered 100 tallies. Del Crandall walloped 15 dingers and earned the first of eight All-Star invitations. Earl Torgeson aka “The Earl of Snohomish” drove in 64 baserunners while batting .274. Bill Bruton placed fourth in the 1953 NL Rookie of the Year balloting after collecting 14 triples and leading the League with 26 stolen bases.

Mathews is listed as the third-best ballplayer at the hot corner according to Bill James in “The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract.” Five teammates join him in the top 100 rankings including Warren Spahn (5th-P), Dark (27th-SS), Logan (39th-SS), Crandall (30th-C) and Bruton (73rd-CF).

Al Dark LF/SS 3.41 20.61
Johnny Logan SS 3.86 23.8
Eddie Mathews 3B 8.87 38.91
Earl Torgeson 1B 1.77 13.85
Del Crandall C 2.73 16.03
Bill Bruton CF 0.45 13.61
Jack Dittmer 2B -0.95 10.85
Bob Thorpe RF/LF -0.54 0.13
George Crowe 1B 0.2 1.28
Harry Hanebrink 2B 0.15 1.6
Mel Roach 2B -0.03 0
Sibby Sisti 2B -0.04 0.5
Jack Lohrke 2B -0.12 0.08
Gene Verble SS -0.16 0.29
Mike Sandlock C -0.4 1.85

Warren Spahn (23-7, 2.10) flummoxed opposing batsmen as he completed 24 of 32 starts and paced the National League in ERA, victories and WHIP (1.058). Hoyt Wilhelm aka “Old Sarge” provided 7 wins and 15 saves in 68 relief appearances. Returning from two years of military service, Johnny Antonelli delivered a record of 12-12 with a 3.18 ERA.

Warren Spahn SP 8.46 29.45
Johnny Antonelli SP 1.4 11.32
Don Liddle SP 1.43 9.36
Joey Jay SP 0.62 1.73
Hoyt Wilhelm RP 2.23 13.57
Ernie Johnson RP 0.63 6.03
Jerry Lane RP -0.37 0.64
Virgil Jester RP -0.38 0
Vern Bickford SP -0.39 0.72
Dave Cole RP -0.54 0.44


The “Original” 1953 Milwaukee Braves roster

NAME POS WAR WS General Manager Scouting Director
Eddie Mathews 3B 8.87 38.91 John Quinn
Warren Spahn SP 8.46 29.45 Bob Quinn
Johnny Logan SS 3.86 23.8 John Quinn
Al Dark SS 3.41 20.61 John Quinn
Del Crandall C 2.73 16.03 John Quinn
Hoyt Wilhelm RP 2.23 13.57 John Quinn
Earl Torgeson 1B 1.77 13.85 John Quinn
Don Liddle SP 1.43 9.36 John Quinn
Johnny Antonelli SP 1.4 11.32 John Quinn
Ernie Johnson RP 0.63 6.03 Bob Quinn
Joey Jay SP 0.62 1.73 John Quinn
Bill Bruton CF 0.45 13.61 John Quinn
George Crowe 1B 0.2 1.28 John Quinn
Harry Hanebrink 2B 0.15 1.6 John Quinn
Mel Roach 2B -0.03 0 John Quinn
Sibby Sisti 2B -0.04 0.5 Bob Quinn
Jack Lohrke 2B -0.12 0.08 John Quinn
Gene Verble SS -0.16 0.29 John Quinn
Jerry Lane RP -0.37 0.64 John Quinn
Virgil Jester RP -0.38 0 John Quinn
Vern Bickford SP -0.39 0.72 John Quinn
Mike Sandlock C -0.4 1.85 John Quinn
Dave Cole RP -0.54 0.44 John Quinn
Bob Thorpe LF -0.54 0.13 John Quinn
Jack Dittmer 2B -0.95 10.85 John Quinn


Honorable Mention

The “Original” 1902 Beaneaters         OWAR: 44.1     OWS: 314     OPW%: .580

Vic Willis (27-20, 2.20) shouldered a massive workload, completing 45 of 46 starts and leading the National League with 410 innings pitched and 225 strikeouts. Alas, Boston (81-59) finished three games behind Cincinnati. Togie Pittinger (27-16, 2.52) matched Willis’ win total and registered 36 complete games. Charlie “Piano Legs” Hickman (.361/11/110) led the circuit with 193 hits and 288 total bases. Chick Stahl, Jimmy Collins, Fred Tenney, Patsy Donovan, Kitty Bransfield, Joe Kelley and Dan McGann exceeded the .300 mark in batting average.

The “Original” 1983 Braves    OWAR: 51.0     OWS: 293    OPW%: .568

Dale Murphy (.302/36/121) received his second straight NL MVP award. “Murph” topped the charts in RBI and SLG (.540) while earning the second of five successive Gold Glove Awards. Brett Butler led the League with 13 triples and Glenn Hubbard (.263/12/70) received his lone All-Star nod. Craig McMurtry (15-9, 3.08) merited a runner-up finish in the 1983 NL Rookie of the Year balloting. Larry McWilliams (15-8, 3.25) whiffed 199 batters and set career-bests in virtually every pitching category as he placed fifth in the Cy Young voting.

On Deck

The “Original” 1948 Indians

References and Resources

Baseball America – Executive Database


James, Bill. The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. New York, NY.: The Free Press, 2001. Print.

James, Bill, with Jim Henzler. Win Shares. Morton Grove, Ill.: STATS, 2002. Print.

Retrosheet – Transactions Database

Seamheads – Baseball Gauge

Sean Lahman Baseball Archive

Can Toronto Keep Rolling?

I decided to do a little experiment today and put the first third of the season under a microscope. I thought, what better way to compare MLB teams then by using a fantasy baseball format? Using seven offensive stats (AVG, wOBA, BABIP, OBP, ISO, K%, BB%) and seven pitching stats (BB/9, HR/9, BABIP, HR/FB, ERA, WHIP, K/9) I compiled the numbers from around the league. After getting the numbers, I went through and noted where each team stood in the overall standings for each stat. For every top-10 a team had in a given category, I gave them a point; the teams with the most points, theoretically, should be in the mix for the 10 playoff spots this September. Three teams — the Cardinals, Dodgers and Tigers — had the highest scores with 10 overall points. The next highest was the upstart AL West leading Astros and the red-hot Blue Jays. Both teams are interesting cases but with the Blue Jays sitting in third place in a, let’s say, competitive AL East, I have to wonder, how good are the Blue Jays and how far can they go?

This isn’t the Blue Jays of old; with the addition of Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin and the emergence of young, productive players like Kevin Pillar, Devon Travis (before he got hurt), Chris Colabello and Danny Valencia, the Blue Jays have a balanced and deep offense. We know teams that live and die by the home run generally have trouble staying consistent throughout the season. This has been the problem with the Blue Jays in the past, waiting for Bautista and Encarnacion to heat up and then when they do, watch out. This year however, has been much more of a consistent team effort. With the top offense in baseball the Blue Jays are third in AVG, first in wOBA, 10th in BABIP, third in OBP, second in ISO, seventh in K% and seventh in BB%. All of that adds up to scoring runs, which they do very well, leading the league with 5.47 RPG. In my fantasy reality projections, the Blue Jays received a point for every offensive stat, the only team to do so. It’s the pitching categories however that raise my questions.

Although they had a total of 8 points, the Blue Jays were in the top 10 of only one pitching category: they’re third in BABIP. This isn’t to say that their pitching has been bad, as they’ve actually been pretty decent so far this year. Mark Buehrle has been his same old self, Drew Hutchison with his 5.33 ERA is 6-1, Aaron Sanchez has recovered nicely from a rough start of the season, Marco Estrada is a nice piece to have and although R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball hasn’t been as good as in years past, he’s still keeping them in the game and at least saving the bullpen. Speaking of the bullpen, it’s been a lot better as well this year. Brett Cecil, Roberto Osuna and Liam Hendricks all have K/9 above 9.0 and the bullpen as a whole has an ERA of 3.38, lower than the league average of 3.50. But is all of this enough to win the division or at least get a wild-card birth?

The AL East has been a mixed bag this year. Every team, besides the Red Sox, seems to be a hot or cold streak away from dominating or falling off the face of the earth. The Rays are currently leading the AL East by 1 game over the Yankees and 2 games ahead of both the Orioles and Blue Jays. The Rays are pretty much the opposite of the Blue Jays, as they don’t hit a lot of home runs and where the Blue Jays lead not only the division but the league in runs scored per game, the Rays are last in the division and 26th in the league with 3.73 RPG. The Rays have an AL East best 3.26 ERA and the Blue Jays, of course are at the opposite end of the spectrum, ranking fourth in the division at 4.26. These numbers bring into to play run differential, where the Blue Jays lead the division at +69 and the Rays are fourth with a +7 run differential. Anything is possible but it just feels like the Rays won’t be able to hold on throughout the season, especially facing the offenses in the AL East. Speaking of the other teams not named the Red Sox, let’s look at the Yankees and Orioles and see how their success may impact Toronto.

Both the Orioles and Yankees have mostly played good baseball throughout the season. The Yankees have definitely exceeded expectations and the Orioles have been a streaky team but are still hanging right in there. I think these two teams pose the biggest threat to any potential Toronto success. With the AL Central as loaded as it is, it’s entirely possible that two AL wild-card teams come from that division. It’s also highly possible that one could come from the AL West — the Rangers are playing better, the Angels have a similar record to the Blue Jays, Yankees and Orioles and I know it sounds crazy but I’ll never count the A’s out until it’s mathematically impossible.

All that being said, I think it will be hard for Toronto to secure a wild-card birth; I think they have to win the division. The Yankees and Orioles are second and third in the AL East in RPG with 4.53 and 4.50 respectively and both have a better team ERA than the Blue Jays do. The Orioles have a run differential of +35 and the Yankees are at +12, so it’s certainly possible if the numbers stay where they’re at that the Blue Jays can just outscore everyone more often then not. But pitching wins championships — just ask the Giants — and if the Blue Jays want to have the success they’re looking for, they’ll need to improve their starting rotation.

The question then becomes, where do they get the help? We saw what happened to the A’s last year when they went for everything and broke up a successful offense to secure their starting rotation. I’m not suggesting the Blue Jays do exactly that but I do think they need to make a move to get a proven starter. Toronto is invested in young starters Hutchison and Sanchez who have performed well but not great, and veterans like Buehrle and Dickey are a good presence for a young staff, but they seem to lack that workhorse, front-of-the-rotation guy. Filling the void from within is always the preferred method but it doesn’t appear that the Blue Jays have anybody waiting in the wings.

Perhaps R.A. Dickey can regain his form and become the ace that he was with the Mets, but that’s a lot to hope for. Toronto’s farm system was ranked 19th in MLB going into the season, making it difficult to trade for a top-tier starter without dealing major-league talent but surely they could put something together for a major-league starter without breaking up their core players. If they can make a move, I think they’ll greatly increase their chance of winning the division. If they don’t, they’ll have to hope everyone stays healthy and the offense keeps rolling. One thing is for sure, it’s baseball and anything can happen at any time. For now we’ll just have to wait and see, and of course, enjoy the dingers.

The Astros and Password Hygiene

Earlier this week, the New York Times reported on the FBI investigation of the Houston Astros’ compromised database and the current suspicion that the culprit are none other than the St. Louis Cardinals. The hacking of Houston’s proprietary in-house information sharing system, called Ground Control, caused major waves last year when Deadspin published excerpts from their internal discussions about players and trade negotiations. The Astros ended up with some egg on their face, and Jeff Luhnow was quoted as saying he was avoiding electronic communication during the early days of the known leak for fear that the Astros’ systems remained unsecured.

What is so shocking about the (alleged) penetration of the Astros’ systems by members of the Cardinals’ front office is that it does not appear to be a high-tech hack: according to the NYT, the likely intrusion vector was Astros’ general manager Jeff Luhnow’s own user credentials, which reused the same password that he had formerly used to access the Cardinals’ own proprietary system (codenamed Redbird) when he worked there.

Targeting credentials of users who reuse the same password to access multiple systems is a popular method of hacking. A surprising number of smart, highly-placed individuals (like Luhnow) often don’t perceive the risk that they take by using the same password across multiple accounts. Hackers look for sites and apps that have poor password security, steal the passwords from those less-secure places, and then test the passwords against higher-security systems. Some examples of poor password security practices include storing passwords in plain text in the database, not encrypting passwords with a one-way hash where the password can’t be taken back out of the database, or using an inexpensive encryption method that can easily be broken by throwing computing power at the problem. (The Cardinals were allegedly able to pull Luhnow’s password out of the database, so Redbird’s passwords were likely either stored in plain text or encrypted using a less-safe two-way encryption technique.)

Reusing passwords across multiple accounts is an example of poor “password hygiene”. As email addresses become increasingly popular as usernames, it has become easier to guess one half of the username-password credentials pair for a user of a site or application. The most effective strategy for proper password hygiene is to use a unique password for every account you have and to use a password manager to securely store those credentials. I use 1Password because it works on Mac, PC, iOS, and Android and stores credentials on my own devices rather than on someone else’s server, but there are plenty of other popular solutions such as LastPass, KeePass, and Dashlane.

An additional strategy for improved security is two-factor authentication (2FA). The idea behind 2FA is that you authenticate yourself with “something you know” (your password), and “something you have” (your phone). The second part can be a text message that’s sent to you when you log in, or a special code that is generated every few seconds that you can use as a sort of second password. Those special codes are generated using a hardware device (if you’ve ever seen an RSA keychain token, that’s an example of hardware 2FA) or by a software app such as Google Authenticator or Authy. 2FA helps protect you against someone stealing your password, because unless they also have your mobile phone, they can’t get into your accounts. Many sites feature 2FA as an option, and the list continues to grow.

My last piece of advice is to rotate passwords on a regular basis. 1Password reminds me when a given password has been in use for too long, and I can go ahead and change it. (It even flags accounts that have had reported breaches, which is a great help.) If Jeff Luhnow had been rotating his password regularly, even though the Cardinals (or whoever the bad guys were) started out with his credentials, they would have lost access whenever he rotated, which helps stop the bleeding of confidential information.

If you think you’re not important enough to be hacked, it can be an ugly surprise to discover that hackers target everyone. The consequences of sloppy hygiene could be your bank account being drained, your Gmail messages or your wedding photos being deleted, or your Facebook account being seized. These things happen to “normal” people every day. The additional effort for a little bit of extra security goes a very long way. The bad guys are often looking for the easiest targets. Making yourself a little harder to attack is the first line of defense.

The Allure of Potential and the Black Hole In the Indians Rotation

The Cleveland Indians can be a frustrating team to follow.  As a small to mid-market ball club, the Indians do not have the luxury to spend big in free agency, and when they do, they usually have to spend extra to bring in overrated players (see Kerry Wood, Nick Swisher, and Michael Bourn).  As a result, the Indians hedge their success on taking risks.  This process started in the early ’90s when they signed their young players with big potential to long-term contracts.  As a result, the Indians turned into an offensive juggernaut with stars such as Jim Thome, Sandy Alomar Jr., Kenny Lofton, Omar Vizquel, Carlos Baerga, and many others.  However, many people do not realize that the Indians also lost on some of the risks that they took in that era with cases such as Eric Plunk, Herb Perry, and so on.

This strategy has continued to this day, and has resulted in a very promising, yet frustrating team.  Carlos Santana has been productive with his high OBP, but never the player the team envisioned.  Jason Kipnis has had up and down years.  Lonnie Chisenhall has shown moments of brilliance, but has been unable to sustain those moments, resulting in his demotion to Triple-A Columbus last week.

While the offense has been widely inconsistent, the rotation has, for the most part, been brilliant.  Corey Kluber is second in the league in strikeouts with 111.  Danny Salazar, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer have been inducing a lot of long walks back to the dugout as well, ranking tied for sixth, seventh, and ninth, respectively.  These four have a combined 3.65 ERA, which is quite remarkable considering that the most respected starting rotation in the Majors (the Nationals) has logged a 3.60 ERA.

However, this is not where the story ends.  As everyone (hopefully) knows, major-league rotations consist of five starting pitchers (unless you’re the Mets for a few weeks).  With the fifth starter added in, the Cleveland Indians rotation has an ERA of 4.37, almost three-quarters of a run higher.  This is absolutely startling.  By themselves, the fifth starters in the rotation have gone 3-8 with an 8.33 ERA.  I’ll repeat that, an 8.33 ERA.  The only fifth starter to win at all has been Shaun Marcum, the man who had not pitched in the major leagues since halfway through 2013.  In the games that a fifth starter has pitched in, the Indians have been outscored 88-48.  Opponents have nearly doubled the Indians run output when a fifth starter has taken the hill.

Are there games that the Indians should have won when a fifth starter has pitched? Absolutely.  But in order to have any shot of making the playoffs, someone has to step up in the back of the rotation and close up the black hole.  A .375 winning percentage does not a contender make.

The Importance of Hard-Hit Percentage

In some ways, baseball is a simple game. For a hitter, it boils down to: see ball, swing at ball, hit ball hard, jog around bases (the Frankenstein approach). Of course, it’s not really that simple and there are many other variables involved. Still, a simple goal for a hitter would be to hit the ball hard as often as possible. With that in mind, I thought I’d investigate what happens when a batter hits the ball hard on a regular basis.

I took all players with 150 or more plate appearances so far in 2015. All data in this article is through June 14. Using players with more than 150 plate appearances gave me 236 players.

To start off, I looked at the correlation between the old-school statistic of batting average with hard, medium, and soft hit percentage. You may think that players who hit the ball hard more often would have higher batting averages. This is true. The correlation between batting average and hard hit percentage for these 236 players was .18. For both medium and soft hit percentage, the correlation was negative. The more often you hit the ball hard, the higher your batting average. The more often you hit the ball medium or soft, the lower your batting average.

Here is a table that shows the correlation for other metrics:

The statistic that correlates most with hard-hit percentage (Hard%) is Isolated Slugging (ISO), with a correlation of .73. Hitting the ball hard more often leads to getting extra-base hits more often. The top three metrics in the table—ISO, HR/FB, and SLG—are all measures of power and correlate quite nicely with Hard%. The two measures of overall hitting production—wRC+ and wOBA—also score high on this chart.

Both strikeout rate and walk rate correlate positively with Hard%. When you swing hard, you are more likely hit the ball hard and also more likely to miss, so hitters who have a higher Hard% also have higher strikeout rates, in general. Hitting the ball hard also correlates with walking more often. Perhaps pitchers a more careful to hitters who can beat them with one swing of the bat.

Hard% has a positive correlation (0.36) with fly-ball percentage, no correlation with line-drive percentage, and a negative correlation with groundball percentage.

With all of that in mind, I decided to separate hitters into groups based on hard-hit percentage and compare their composite batting lines. Consider the charts below. There’s a great deal of information here, but if you go down the column as Hard% goes down, you can see the effect on other statistics.

The group of hitters who have a hard-hit percentage of 35% or higher have combined to hit .276/.356/.491. Their .276 batting average is 9 points higher than the next-highest group, their OBP is 22 points higher, and their slugging percentage is 49 points higher. They have a .215 ISO, a solid 10.2% walk rate, and the best HR/FB rate, at 17.5%.

As the hard-hit percentage goes down, the other numbers go down also. By the time you get to the bottom group, those with Hard% below 23%, the composite batting line is .252/.303/.332, with an ISO of .080 and a HR/FB rate of 3.4%. This group strikes out less often than any other group, has the highest rate of soft-hit balls, and the lowest rate of fly balls. These are your typical light-hitting shortstops (Alcides Escobar, Elvis Andrus) and speedy outfielders (Billy Burns, Sam Fuld).

The three wRC+ columns show the number of hitters with a wRC+ at 100 or higher, the number below 100, and the percentage of above-average hitters in each group. For example, 86% of the hitters with Hard% above 35% have been above-average hitters this year, while just 19% of the hitters with Hard% below 23% have been above-average. If you’re not hitting the ball hard with some frequency, you are unlikely to be productive. The break-even point where half the players are above average hitters and half are below is in the range of 27% to 28% hard hit balls.

Let’s take a closer look at these groups.

Diamond Group (35% and higher Hard%)


.276/.356/.491, .321 BABIP

.215 ISO, 17.5% HR/FB

10.2% BB%, 22.3% K%

WAR/600 PA: 4.0

wRC+ >100: 43 players (86%)

wRC+ <100:   7 players (14%)


Best Hitter: Bryce Harper, 216 wRC+

Median Hitter: George Springer, 131 wRC+

Worst Hitter: Matt Kemp, 78 wRC+


  • Top five hitters in this group, by wRC+: Bryce Harper, Paul Goldschmidt, Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, Anthony Rizzo.
  • Middle five hitters in this group, by wRC+: Andrew McCutchen, Jose Abreu, George Springer, Adam Lind, Seth Smith.
  • Bottom five hitters in this group, by wRC+: Mark Trumbo, Will Middlebrooks, Matt Adams, Steve Pearce, Matt Kemp.
  • Bryce Harper is the top performing player in this group, hitting .333/.469/.721 with a Hard% of 40.4% and a 216 wRC+. He’s the Hope Diamond of Major League Baseball right now.
  • Giancarlo Stanton has the highest Hard%, at 51%. Stanton’s .341 ISO is second in baseball to Harper’s .388. Stanton’s Hard% is 5% higher than the next-highest player in baseball, Brandon Belt.
  • Nine of the top ten hitters in baseball by wRC+ are in this group (Nelson Cruz missed the cut with a Hard% of 32.9%.
  • The seven below-average performers with a 35% or higher Hard% are Jorge Soler (96 wRC+), Jay Bruce (96 wRC+), Mark Trumbo (93 wRC+), Will Middlebrooks (80 wRC+), Matt Adams (79 wRC+), Steve Pearce (79 wRC+), and the enigmatic Matt Kemp (78 wRC+) bringing up the rear. These players are hitting the ball hard at a high rate but have still been below average hitters.
  • Speaking of Kemp, what is up with this guy? After a bounce-back year in 2014, when he hit 25 home runs in 599 plate appearances, Kemp has just two homers so far in 274 plate appearances. He’s the Robinson Cano of the National League. His 35.4% Hard% isn’t bad, but it’s not as high as last year’s 40.3%. He also pulled the ball more often last year (43.8%) and his ground ball rate is at a career high (48.7%, career rate is 41.9%). He is struggling big time on fastballs after crushing fastballs in 2014. It’s been an ugly start to the year for Kemp, just ask Bud Black.
  • Two players in this group who are very close to a 100 wRC+ are Ryan Howard (100 wRC+ and Pedro Alvarez (104 wRC+). They both have been terrible against left-handed pitchers, having struck out at least 30% of the time against lefties. Also, when they do make contact against southpaws, they aren’t making good contact, with identical 25% Hard% versus lefties.


Quartz Group (31% to 35% Hard%)


.265/.334/.442, .300 BABIP

.177 ISO, 14.1% HR/FB

8.6% BB%, 19.4% K%

WAR/600 PA: 2.9

wRC+ >100: 39 players (75%)

wRC+ <100: 13 players (25%)


Best Hitter: Nelson Cruz, 175 wRC+

Median Hitter: Evan Longoria, 115 wRC+

Worst Hitter: Christian Yelich, 68 wRC+


  • Top five hitters in this group, by wRC+: Nelson Cruz, Mark Teixeira, Andre Ethier, Albert Pujols, Stephen Vogt.
  • Middle five hitters in this group, by wRC+: Danny Espinosa, Carlos Santana, Evan Longoria, Khris Davis, Mark Canha.
  • Bottom five hitters in this group, by wRC+: Justin Maxwell, Luis Valbuena, Robinson Cano, Michael Taylor, Christian Yelich.
  • The magic pixie dust that Nelson Cruz was sprinkled with in April (206 wRC+) and May (188 wRC+) seems to have worn off in June (78 wRC+). His ISO has dropped from .402 to .262 to .000 by month (although he has continued to be fortunate on balls in play with a .393 BABIP in June). He’s also seen a big drop in the percentage of hard hit balls, from 40.6% in April to 30.1% in May to 21.4% this month. This has coincided with a drop in fly ball rate, from 55.1% to 27.4% to 21.4%. Cruz was never going to keep up his torrid early-season pace but he’s also not as bad as he’s looked recently.
  • The player at the bottom of this group, Christian Yelich, has an above average Hard% of 34.2%. Unfortunately, his sky-high ground ball rate (69.1%) and miniscule fly ball rate (15.4%) mean those hard hit balls are not providing much production (68 wRC+).
  • Another player in this group, Luis Valbuena, is having a very peculiar season. He’s hitting the ball hard (31.5% Hard%) and hitting a ton of fly balls (50.3%), which has resulted in 14 home runs in just 234 plate appearances. His career high was set last year when he hit 16 dingers in 547 plate appearances. Valbuena has seen his fly ball rate increase in each of the last three seasons from 35.4% in 2012 to his current rate of just over 50%. That all sounds very good until you look at his ugly .185/.256/.412 batting line, good for an 86 wRC+. With all of those balls flying over the wall for home runs, Valbuena has a .169 BABIP. It’s surprising that a player could hit 14 home runs in 234 plate appearances and be a below-average hitter but Valbuena is doing it.


Apatite Group (28% to 31% Hard%)


.267/.325/.417, .307 BABIP

.150 ISO, 10.8% HR/FB

7.3% BB%, 18.4% K%

WAR/600 PA: 2.5

wRC+ >100: 30 players (60%)

wRC+ <100: 20 players (40%)


Best Hitter: Jason Kipnis, 160 wRC+

Median Hitter: Torii Hunter, 110 wRC+

Worst Hitter: Alexei Ramirez, 51 wRC+


  • Top five hitters in this group, by wRC+: Jason Kipnis, Josh Reddick, Justin Turner, Russell Martin, Brian Dozier.
  • Middle five hitters in this group, by wRC+: Edwin Encarnacion, Trevor Plouffe, Torii Hunter, Daniel Murphy, Brad Miller
  • Bottom five hitters in this group, by wRC+: Aaron Hill, Nick Castellanos, Ryan Zimmerman, Mike Zunino, Alexei Ramirez.
  • Jason Kipnis tops this group of players with a 160 wRC+, 50 points higher than the median player in this group. He’s having his best season. Looking at his numbers, he’s striking out less often than he ever has and has a .375 BABIP that is 68 points higher than his career mark. He’s also hitting fewer fly balls than ever (26.9% FB% compared to a career mark of 30.8%). He’s replaced those fly balls with line drives. His current Hard% almost exactly matches his career rate, but he’s done it in an interesting way. In three of his first four seasons, his Hard% was around 27% (2011, 2012, 2014). In 2013, his Hard% was 35.3%, which would put him up in the elite group (the Diamonds). That 2013 season was his best before this year’s revival. Kipnis is not going to OBP over .400 and likely won’t slug over .500, but he’s looking more like the 2013 version of himself than last year’s colossal disappointment. Maybe this is what a healthy Kipnis looks like.
  • The two players at the very bottom of this group in wRC+ are Mike Zunino and Alexei Ramirez. Zunino just strikes out way too much (36.7% K%). He has power (.159 ISO, 13.0% HR/FB) because he does hit the ball hard, but he doesn’t hit the ball hard often enough to be productive.
  • Alexei Ramirez is actually hitting the ball hard more often than he has in any season in his career. His current 28.4% Hard% is quite a bit higher than his career mark of 23.7%. His batted ball profile hasn’t changed, with a similar rate of line drives, ground balls, and fly balls. He does have the lowest BABIP of his career, at .256 (career mark is .293) and he’s walking at the lowest rate of his career, although he’s never been one to walk much.


Calcite Group (25% to 28% Hard%)


.262/.313/.378, .303 BABIP

.116 ISO, 7.4% HR/FB

6.3% BB%, 16.9% K%

WAR/600 PA: 1.8

wRC+ >100: 16 players (30%)

wRC+ <100: 37 players (70%)


Best Hitter: Mike Moustakas, 133 wRC+

Median Hitter: Jean Segura, 91 wRC+

Worst Hitter: Danny Santana, 42 wRC+


  • Top five hitters in this group, by wRC+: Mike Moustakas, Dustin Pedroia, Brandon Guyer, Cameron Maybin, Rajai Davis.
  • Middle five hitters in this group, by wRC+: Cory Spangenberg, Juan Uribe, Jean Segura, Martin Prado.
  • Bottom five hitters in this group, by wRC+: Dustin Ackley, Lonnie Chisenhall, Chris Owings, Jordy Mercer, Danny Santana.
  • The Bizarro World version of Mike Moustakas tops this group. This is the first time Moustakas has ever been an above average hitter in his major league career, but it doesn’t look like Hard% has much to do with it. His Hard% of 25.6% is right in line with most of his career and close to his career average (last year’s 31.7% is an outlier). The rest of his batted ball profile is quite different, from the lowest fly ball rate and highest ground ball rate of his career, to the direction he’s hitting the baseball. After never hitting the ball to the opposite field more than 22.7% of the time in a season, Moustakas’ 33.3% Oppo% this season is a career high. That may explain some of his elevated .346 BABIP (.270 career mark). He’s also striking out less frequently than he usually does (11.1% K% to 16.1% career mark). On the other hand, looking at his monthly splits throws up a big red flag. Moustakas went opposite field 39% of the time in April, 30.7% of the time in May, and is at 26.3% in June and has seen his wRC+ drop from 170 in April to 112 in May and June (aided by a .368 BABIP in June). Whatever changes he made in April don’t seem to be sticking, as his batted ball locations in June look much more like his career marks than they did in April. This Tiger may be reverting back to his original stripes. It seems strange that he would consciously make that change despite being so effective in April, so it could be that pitchers have adjusted and are pitching him differently.
  • Among this group of 53 players with Hard% between 23% and 28%, Salvador Perez has the most home runs, with ten. This is interesting because Perez has had much higher Hard% rates over the last three years, when his lowest mark was 29.8%. This year, he’s hit fewer hard hit balls but has the highest HR/FB of his career. That doesn’t seem like something that can continue going forward.


Talc Group (23% and below Hard%)


.252/.303/.332, .290 BABIP

.080 ISO, 3.4% HR/FB

6.4% BB%, 14.8% K%

WAR/600 PA: 1.1

wRC+ >100:   6 players (19%)

wRC+ <100: 25 players (81%)


Best Hitter: Nori Aoki, 131 wRC+

Median Hitter: Eric Sogard, 69 wRC+

Worst Hitter: Rene Rivera, 24 wRC+


  • Top five hitters in this group, by wRC+: Nori Aoki, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Iglesias, Billy Burns, Dee Gordon.
  • Middle five hitters in this group, by wRC+: Alcides Escobar, Elvis Andrus, Eric Sogard, Freddy Galvis, Jimmy Rollins.
  • Bottom five hitters in this group, by wRC+: Melky Cabrera, Chase Utley, Jose Ramirez, Omar Infante, Rene Rivera.
  • If you aren’t hitting the ball hard on a regular basis, you better find some holes. The top 12 hitters by wRC+ in this group have BABIPs at .311 or higher and the top five are significantly higher than that: Aoki–.344 BABIP, Ellsbury–.379, Iglesias–.367, Burns–.366, Gordon–.418.
  • On the other hand, the players at the bottom of this group in wRC+ are not only struggling to hit the ball hard but also struggling to get those balls to drop in for hits: Utley–.189 BABIP, Jose Ramirez–.205, Infante–.241, Rene Rivera–.198. Of course, this may not stop Infante from starting the All-Star game, but that’s a whole different topic.
  • These players don’t hit home runs, for the most part. Of this group of 31 players, just two have more than four home runs and 25 of the 31 have 0 to 2 home runs.
  • Stephen Drew leads this group with 9 home runs, despite a Hard% of 20.4%. His career rate is 30.6% and he had a 38.8% Hard% in 2013, the last year he was an above average hitter (109 wRC+). In that 2013 season, Drew had a fly ball rate of 41.6%. Drew then went unsigned prior to the 2014 season and missed spring training and the first two months of the year before joining the Red Sox in early June. He appears to be a very different hitter than he’d been before. His Hard% has been 23.2% and 20.1% in 2014 and 2015 after regularly being around 30% in previous seasons. He’s also greatly increased his rate of fly balls, from a consistent 40-42% from 2009 to 2013 to around 50% the last two seasons. Along with the increase in fly balls is an increase in the number of balls he pulls. His career rate is 41.2%. Over the last two seasons he’s pulled the ball over 50% of the time. Along with these changes in batted ball profile, Drew has a .182 BABIP since joining the Red Sox in early June of 2014. It’s hard to believe that missing a half season could result in such a dramatic change in a player’s batted ball profile, but it may have happened to Drew and it’s not a good thing for him.
  • Jimmy Rollins is the other hitter in this group with more than four homers. He currently has seven. His HR/FB rate is 10.6%, which would be the highest he’s had since 2007. Unfortunately, that’s about all he’s done well on offense, as he is hitting .199/.260/.336 (.265 wOBA, 68 wRC+).


SOSA Projections: Byron Buxton and Francisco Lindor

Byron Buxton and Francisco Lindor were called up for the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians respectively. Both players are 21 years old, Buxton in the outfield and Lindor at shortstop. SOSA doesn’t officially project players that didn’t play last season in the MLB — I have to manually input data for projections.

One major difference between Buxton and Lindor is that Buxton was called up straight from AA. SOSA calculates its MLE’s (Minor League Equivalencies) by comparing the minor-league level the player is coming from to the MLB. Systems like Oliver directly link them, other systems chain their projections.

Despite both hitting around .280 in the minors, Buxton takes the bigger hit. Because he’s coming from AA his numbers are brought down further. SOSA has Buxton slashing .204/.283/.372 at the Majors, with Lindor slashing .217/.295/.306 with Cleveland. The discrepancy? While Buxton has a worse batting average and on-base percentage, he’s projected for a better slugging percentage than Lindor.

While Lindor is projected for eight more doubles and four more home runs than Buxton, Lindor is projected for 280 more at-bats. With the young outfielder coming up earlier than expected, he can likely outperform his projected four doubles, seven triples, and four home runs. Buxton already had twelve triples and twenty stolen bases; with speed transferring well to the majors, Buxton could find a solid role with the team that his batting average doesn’t accurately represent.

The talented Cleveland shortstop’s projection is considered more accurate. He’s projected for a solid 469 at bats, producing a wOBA (Weighted On-Base Average) of .266, near the bottom of the pack in what I called top-tier prospects this off-season. With projections for twelve doubles, three triples, and eight home runs, Lindor’s offensive value does exist, but he has much to prove at the big-league level

So while Buxton and Lindor’s offensive value doesn’t match that of some prospects called up earlier, they’re both above-average defenders, and they will find ways to contribute to their teams. If you have questions about Minor League Equivalencies, SOSA, or stats feel free to hit me up on twitter @AthleteInvictus.