The San Francisco Giants are second in the National League with 25 home runs hit and as a result, their slugging percentage is one of the better ones in the league; but, they’re solidly middle of the pack in terms of average and on base percentage. On the pitching-side, they’re the 4th-worst team in the NL by fWAR (0.8) as a staff and the worst team — by far — in home runs allowed on fly balls (17.8%).
Causes for concern? Some degree of early seasons statistical variance? All of the above? A quick scan through some Statcast data might confirm some suspicious, dispel some notions, and/or reveal a surprise.
Believe your eyes: Thairo Estrada has been a dude. Not only has his walk rate jumped up a full percent (now 7.1%) over last year — yes, it’s a 14-game sample — but his weighted on base average of .441 is in the top 6% of the league. The expected weighted on base average is .462.
His average exit velocity is just 28th percentile, but his speed has helped him convert that weaker contact into hits. Defensively, he’s been worth +2 outs above average at second base. Statcast hasn’t really liked him at shortstop (-1 OAA) and he’s +0 in left field. But heading into the third week of games, overall, he has been the Giants’ most valuable player (0.9 fWAR).
I wanted to include Mike Yastrzemski in this section because of his in-game numbers: he had 4 out of the 15-hardest hit balls in the Dodgers series and was still rocketing into the first game in Detroit. All that said, his 24.6% strikeout rate and 3.5% walk rate combined with a .310 wOBA/.356 xwOBA and I’m seeing a player whose hitting pluses are easily neutralized by his minuses. Even defensively, my eye test thought he was playing at least solidly average in center field, but the -1 OAA in center suggests it’s more like a shaky average.
But, I do want to do an honorable mention for Blake Sabol and Heliot Ramos, whose names popped up in the top 10-15 of hardest hit balls in games last week. Sabol in particular is someone to watch because he can’t be optioned. Hopefully, they’re both starting to figure some things out.
And here’s a look at the Hard Hit rate leaderboard:
Last week, I talked about pitch run value:
It wouldn’t surprise you if I told you Statcast rated Gerrit Cole’s 4-seam fastball as the most valuable pitch through week one of the season, with an incredible -5 in run value. Broadly, that means his fastball was so impactful on a pitch-by-pitch basis, given runners on base, outs, ball and strike count, that through just two starts (12.1 IP), it’s prevented — theoretically — five runs. Presuming 10 runs in Statcast is the same as 10 runs at Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs — as in, 10 runs = 1 win — then Cole’s fastball has been worth almost half a win.
Scott Alexander’s sinker in 2023 carries a run value of -4. that’s in just 5 IP and has been thrown just 68 times, but that’s 86% of his pitch usage so far this season, and so it’s just safe to say that through two weeks, he has had a top-three most effective sinker in the National League.
Meanwhile, Sean Hjelle has the worst curveball in baseball (+5). I don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about a 26th-man, so let’s talk about another reliever who has not done well in Statcast’s view.
Yes, that’s Taylor Rogers’ Statcast Box. It ain’t got no alibi. It’s ugly. And working backwards from “he’s got no command, he’s got no control,” he’s lost 1-2 mph off his pitch arsenal: four-seamer, sinker, slider, and cutter. He’s 32 years old, too, and last year was a transition year where he went from above averagely reliable to question mark. Add another question mark and you get his 2023 line.
That would look like this:
I see a velocity drop and I think injury, but we’ll see if it’s just a matter of getting older and needing to adjust his delivery to make it more efficient, because there’s still a whole lot of contract left for a guy who was supposed to be a key force in the bullpen.