Joe Panik is down to a .675 OPS after a 1-for-4 day and has only 17 hits in total this month. His double to lead off the bottom of the 10th inning was the result of a mild misplay on the part of first baseman Eric Hosmer, so, it you’re looking for a thicker dark cloud in the silver lining, there it is.
He’s also far off the mark of his preseason projections. ZiPS had him at a 3-win player over the course of 162 games. Due to his broken hand, he’s 20 games off the projected pace, but he’s still only sporting a 0.3 fWAR, the bulk of which comes from his defense. He’s essentially a league average player, and when you watch him, you start to understand just what that means, as he looks the very definition of average.
But despite all this doom and gloom it’s not all doom and gloom, and that’s because I went over to Statcast and looked at some hard hit ball data and, folks, I gotta tell ya, Joe Panik is hitting the ball harder than an average player would. The hits just haven’t been falling for him this month.
Here’s what I’m looking at, and here’s what you need to know about it:
By accumulating the expected outcomes of each batted ball with actual strikeouts, walks and hit by pitches, Expected Batting Average (xBA), Expected Slugging (xSLG), and (most importantly) Expected Weighted On-Base Average (xwOBA) tell the story of a player’s season based on quality of and amount of contact, not outcomes.
Joe Panik ranks 114th in xwOBA for all of Major League Baseball with .355. That’s higher than Brandon Crawford’s xwOBA by one thousandth of a point (.354). His actual wOBA is .299. wOBA is better than OBP percentage because it tells you the value of a specific hitter reaching base. How much impact does this player reaching base provide?
In 2018, the league average wOBA (this isn’t that scary — it’s no different than the league batting average or league on base percentage) .314, so we see that Joe Panik is expected to be about 4% better than the average. So why is he 1.5% percent worse than average?
He’s hitting the ball harder than last season and right around his career average with an 86 mph average exit velocity, and Statcast’s Hard Hit % lists him at 28.1%, his highest rate since 2015. It’s the launch angle that’s down. He’s average 10 degrees on that. So, more ground balls, which means most likely that he’s hitting into more shifts and at slicker defenders than usual.
In his career, June has been his best hitting month (outside of 2014 when he wasn’t yet a starter), but he missed all of May, so in addition to the shifting and defensive wizardry, he’s also still trying to work back into his normal rhythm.
But however you want to look at it, there’s nothing wrong with Joe Panik.