Keaton It Real: Statcast Darlings
Statcast is great. I love Statcast. Who doesn’t love Statcast? As I sit here in my hotter than the devils drawers of an apartment, I found myself perusing the Statcast leaderboards and some things caught my eye. I thought it would be fun to explore who Statcast thought performed better than they should have done last season. Here are the names I thought were interesting.
Ryan Braun, OF, MIL: AVG: 254 xBA: .296 Delta: -.042
The first thing that jumps out is that Statcast thought a hitter in a very hitter-friendly park should have done better. Well, I guess that makes sense. Although Braun is getting up there in age, entering his age-35 season, he’s still been a fairly reliable fantasy player. Probably helped by the park he’s in, but hey, you go to war with the army you have. His career batting average sits at .299 and his xBA of .296 last season would suggest he’s not slowing down all that much in his old age. As my dear friend, Jake Devereaux would say, “Give me them olds.” Still holding down a starting outfield spot in Milwaukee, It’s probably safe to expect a rebound season for Braun’s average, making him pretty useful for contenders or those in deep leagues.
Gary Sanchez, C, NYY: AVG: .186 xBA: .220 Delta: -.034
Sachez 2018 stat line was a baffler. It’s not surprising that Statcast thought he should have done better. Remarkably, Sanchez totaled a .198 BABIP last season which seems an impossible task to accomplish. Somehow despite those numbers, Sanchez still managed an OBP over .300 bailing out those in OBP leagues who invested in the young slugger. A rebound for the 26-year-old catcher seems almost a certainty and I would expect him to outdo even his xStats from a year ago.
Jackie Bradley Jr, OF, BOS: AVG: .234 xBA: .259 Delta: -.025
JBJ has long been someone people expected more out of, and now we can add Statcast to that group too. Across the board Statcast expected more in average, slugging and wOBA. One of the things most often said in defense of JBJ for his underperforming stat line is, “well, he hits the ball on the screws.” Even manager Alex Cora repeated that same line many times last season when Bradley Jr. was struggling and calls for a benching were in the air. I guess Statcast agrees, and if i’m being honest so do I. One thing that is clear from watching JBJ swing the bat is he does make a ton of good contact. Which makes it all the more frustrating why he wouldn’t get more out of it. However, if the rumors are to be believed, he spent the offseason working with JD Martinez to fix his swing and has had a pretty decent spring as a result. Some are expecting a breakout form Bradley Jr. in 2019. I’m not one of them, but it would be nice to see him reach his Statcast expected potential of a .260-.270 hitter with 20+ homers. That doesn’t seem like so much to ask.
Joey Gallo, 1B, 3B, OF, TEX: AVG: .206 xBA: .228 Delta: .022
Gallo stood out to me not for his xBA, but for his other xStats. Statcast thought Gallo should have had even more power than he already did last season, one in which he smacked 40 homers and tallied 24 doubles. For Statcast to think Gallo left some to be desired there is wild. His slugging percentage was .498 and his xSLG was .535 a -.037 differential. Is it possible that Gallo has more power in his bat than his back to back 40 homer seasons? I mean, the thought alone is enough to excite anyone but will we actually see it? I actually think we will. Something that contributed to his low batting averages the past two seasons was a rather low BABIP of about .250. If that self corrects a bit, and Gallo becomes a .230 hitting slugger, it’s not hard to imagine him pushing 50+ homers for a few seasons.
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