Who To Expect the Most Improvement From in the Second Half

Baseball is a very fickle sport; sometimes everything will be going your way, and sometimes it may be the complete opposite. There will always be guys who go through long stretches where they are seemingly doing everything right but the results just are not coming. With that being said, let’s take a look at who should improve after the All-Star break.

Miguel Cabrera

Cabrera is in the midst of one of the worst seasons of his career. His .264 average would be a career worst, the 20 home runs he’s on pace for would be the third worst. His 110 wRC+ is his worst since his rookie season.

All signs point to that coming to an end quickly, though. Cabrera’s .067 xwOBA – wOBA is the highest in the league and his BABIP has plummeted to .307. He is obviously a terrible baserunner with his age so one might expect those numbers, but the .037 xwOBA – wOBA he posted in 2015-2016 and his .346 career BABIP suggest it has been more than his age. Comerica Park is one of the more pitcher-friendly parks in the league, but still shouldn’t account for the bad luck.

Cabrera’s batted-ball profile also appears to be in great shape. He is hitting more line drives than ever before, while also utilizing all parts of the field at a career high. To go along with that, his Hard% and Soft% are career bests. His Hard% is second in the league and within 0.1% of the godly Aaron Judge. Cabrera’s contact rates are slightly down but right in line with the last couple of seasons, and his O-Swing% and Z-Swing% are also similar to his past.

The basic numbers suggest he’s having perhaps the worst season of his career, but Cabrera’s peripherals suggest one of his best. Expect bigger things from the two-time MVP in the second half.

Matt Carpenter 

Carpenter’s numbers have not disappointed quite to the extent of Cabrera’s. He is hitting only .237 and his 119 wRC+ are down, but he is also posting an absurd 17.5% BB% and just a 18.6% strikeout rate. His 14 home runs show a little bit of improved power. However, the numbers suggest he could be doing quite a bit better.

His xwOBA is .044 higher than his wOBA, which is tied for eighth in the league. Similar to Cabrera, he is not an exceptional baserunner and is not playing in a hitter’s park, but his 2015-2016 xwOBA was only .014 higher than his wOBA. He’s also experienced the same BABIP drop as Cabrera, as the .256 mark he’s running in 2017 is way off his career .322 BABIP.

Carpenter’s batted-ball profile doesn’t excite as much as Cabrera, as his line-drive rate is down and his Soft% is up. But his hard-contact rate is at a career-high 45.1%.

His season has not been a total disappointment to date, but expect it to improve in the second half.

Manny Machado 

Lastly, we have the player disappointing the most on this list. Without even looking at the numbers, Machado could easily be included on this list. Machado is still not even at the peak of his prime yet, as he turned 25 just over a week ago. The three time All-Star posted 6+ WAR in three of the last four seasons. The only other players to do the same were Mike Trout and Josh Donaldson.

So, even without digging into things, improvement in the second half is expected. Luckily, the peripherals also support an improvement from Machado. His xwOBA of .355 is far more impressive than his .319 wOBA, and Machado is actually a solid baserunner and plays in a generally neutral park at Camden Yards. The -.013 xwOBA – wOBA he had in 2015-2016 makes a lot more sense than the .036 he is running right now. The .239 BABIP in 2017, way off his .302 career mark, further suggests bad luck.

Just like Cabrera and Carpenter, Machado’s batted-ball profile is actually even a little more impressive than past seasons. His hard-hit rate of 40.2% would be a career high by a good amount and his soft-contact rate has seen a 3% decline from last year.

There may be more cause for concern with Machado than the others, though. He has basically forgotten how to hit line drives, as his LD% has cratered to 13.9% and his ground-ball rates are up. Along with that, his pull rates are creeping up. Luckily, Machado crushes his ground balls. His 89.4 average GB MPH ranks fifth in the league, which helps to offset his minuscule liner rates. But even with that, his Contact% of 76.3% would be the lowest since his rookie year, and his plate discipline is trending in the wrong direction.

It’s possible Machado is selling a bit of his contact skills for improved batted balls, but the GB/LD/FB tendencies don’t support that. Overall, considering Machado’s youth, talent, and most of the peripheral numbers, a large improvement should be expected. However, it does appear that something may be a little off with the Orioles’ franchise third baseman.

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Carpenter looks like he’s already turning it around.