10 Fantasy Baseball Stats to Ponder for Week 4

Up front I’d like to say that I’m setting myself free from “refreshing” any stats noted in this effort. I’m penning it on Monday night, and a guy has to sleep sometime. Mostly, I’m enjoying watching some baseball while hoping to unearth some facts that might be actionable. Or, maybe it’s just helpful background knowledge. You be the judge.

1. Might J.D. Martinez and some of the Red Sox struggles be due to not having video access? I heard about this during last night’s in-game broadcast and had to find an article. Here’s a link. For what it’s worth, Martinez homered off of the lefty Ryan Yarbrough on Monday. So maybe he’s adjusting. This is just an angle I hadn’t considered–yet another change brought on by COVID-19.

2. Mitch Moreland, the GOAT, leads the whole of Major League Baseball with a 29.2% barrel rate. Among qualified hitters, he’s just ahead of David Bote (26.7%), Jorge Soler (25.0%), Fernando Tatis Jr. (25.0%), and Nicholas Castellanos (24.4%). That’s some pretty epic company. Fun fact, Moreland has a .323 batting average, but a .222 BABIP. He’s got a .271 xBA thus far, and there’s nothing crazy going on with is plate discipline, which is in line with career norms. His 90.9% Z-Contact rate is the best mark of his career, though. Add that to a career-high 76.7% Z-Swing rate and now we’re cookin’. He’ll sit against most southpaws given his age and injury history, but that’s the only qualm you’ve got. Get Mitchy Four-Bags on your team to cover that corner infield slot.

3. Eschewing average exit velocity in favor of hard hit balls is fun. For instance, most everyone knows that Corey Seager has been tattooing the ball lately. Seager is tops in the majors with 28 balls hit 95 MPH or greater–tied with some upstart named Fernando Tatis Jr. Apparently, hitting the ball really hard is a good thing. Seager has missed three games in a row with his back issue, including yesterday’s game. Hopefully it’s something that doesn’t linger, as the fantasy baseball world is better when he’s crushing baseballs.

4. Tommy Pham ranks ninth in the league with 22 balls hit 95 MPH or greater, which stuck out to me since I know he’s sitting on only one home run right now. And then I notice the -0.1 degree launch angle and worm-killing 67.3% ground ball rate. He’s always been higher than you’d like in this regard, with a career 51.4% rate. Not sure what’s up in 2020, but I know he came in with a bit of a shoulder ailment. Maybe it’s that. Maybe it’s a skill thing. Either way, hopefully we see a bit more loft soon.

5. Here’s a nice thread on average exit velocity, since I saw the metric getting slandered a bit a day or so ago:

Speaking of average exit velocity, your top five in the majors right now are Fernando Tatis Jr., Marcell Ozuna, Willson Contreras, Miguel Sano, and Corey Seager. It can’t be all bad, right? And sure, don’t lean on any one piece of information. I’m not suggesting such.

6. Giancarlo Stanton has the hardest hit ball in the majors thus far, at 121.3 MPH. No surprise. Pete Alonso ranks second at 116.9 MPH, but it’s not all rosy. His fly ball rate has cratered from last season, from 41.5% to 29.3%–and he’s now hitting ground balls at a 51.2% rate. This jives with a major dip in average launch angle, from 14.8 degrees on average to only 7.1 degrees through a few weeks in 2020. He’s also not pulling the ball as much or making as much hard contact. Maybe he’s coming out of it, as the 116.9 MPH ball was hit this past Saturday (August 8th), the day after he had a two-hit game. Since Saturday he’s gone 1-for-8 with an RBI, but still. Now seems like the time to hold on for just a bit longer.

7. Chris Paddack leads the majors with 29 hard hit balls (95 MPH+) this year. Again, I know we can’t take any one thing into account. That name just surprised me. It’s interesting, because on fly balls and line drives (75th), ground balls (155th), and average exit velocity (144th) he’s nowhere near one of the worst. Which suggests that overall he’s generating soft contact but giving up really hard hit balls on occasion. I haven’t watched Paddack enough to know, but maybe hitters are sitting on his fastball/changeup too often–and increasing the use of his curveball will help him out? To date he’s sitting on a 9.9% usage rate on the curve, compared to 10.5% last year. Neither are very high marks. Anyway, I’m not selling Paddack. It’s way too early to be making decisions based on a few weeks, especially for a pitcher of his caliber. I just thought it was interesting.

8. Alec Mills has had some early success with his slow curve, as his 79.8 MPH average exit velo allowed is fifth best in the majors–and the four guys ahead of him are either relievers or working from even smaller samples than Mills’ 36 batted ball events. He was knocked off of his recent turn by a postponement with the Cardinals, but he’s only 41% owned in Yahoo leagues and makes sense as a back-end rotation guy.

9. Yandy Diaz had hits in seven straight games until last night, when he went 0-for-4 with a run scored. He’s now 11-for-53 (.208) with four runs scored this year, with no homers or RBI. He keeps getting prominent spots in the Rays batting order, but he’s gonna have to start hitting the ball with more authority soon if he wants to stay in that high perch I think. On 41 batted ball events this year, he has zero barrels and his average launch angle has reverted to a ghastly -13 degrees–which is far worse than his previous years. His average exit velocity 87 MPH so far, a far cry from his previous three years: 91.5 MPH, 92.1 MPH, and 91.7 MPH. For reference, last year’s 91.7 MPH mark ranked inside the top 10% of the league. So far in 2020, he’s down in the 27th percentile.

10. Tyler Chatwood ranks 11th in the majors in swinging strike rate, though now that I’m at that place I have to go to every day to make money, Fangraphs is blocked from me. Per Statcast, he’s 76th percentile in whiff rate and 88th percentile in strikeout rate. From a “stuff” standpoint, I think he’s worth holding onto this week, even if you don’t start him. That said, due to his postponement against the Cardinals, it looks like his current draw is home against the Brewers this Friday (8/14). The Brewers have a 29.2% strikeout rate against RHP, the second-worst mark in the league against righty pitching. I’m not saying it’s a guarantee, I’m just saying there’s a chance. I’d hold Chatwood for now.

Not quite sure where I go with this from here. Honestly, I just enjoyed perusing some descriptive baseball stats last night while I was watching a few games. It could be that I drill down on certain situations a bit more moving forward. Anyway, hope it made someone think about something! We shall see, we shall see…

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