Batter’s Box: Don’t Talk to Me or My Donaldson Ever Again

Jim Chatterton uncovers Saturday's interesting crop of hitting performances, including Chris Davis' breakout four RBI game.

Let’s all take a seat in the way way back machine. Settle in because it’s gonna be a long ride all the way back to 2017. A nagging calf injury finally sent Josh Donaldson to the DL. Calf injuries are no fun, and can get aggravated easily. Donaldson also had been 31 years old for a few months and we all know what happens to you in your 30s. Despite all of this, Donaldson came back, took some time to acclimate and then had an incredible August through the end of the season, hitting 22 homers in two months. This hype lead into the beginning of 2018, however, he went on the DL with nagging shoulder issues and his calf problem popped up again. These injuries wrecked his 2018, leaving the former MVP a free agent with lots of questions surrounding him.

The Braves picked him up on a one year deal thinking they could plug him at third in their great lineup to add some more pop. All he needs to do is stay healthy and they potentially found that extra something to push them ahead of the NL East pack. It took him 14 games but he finally delivered his first RBI on the year. It came on his first home run of the year too! He finished the game going 2-3, 3 R, HR, 2B, RBI, 2 BB. Regardless of those early numbers, he is hitting the ball well. He has six extra base hits with a 95.1 MPH exit velocity. However, he is not nearly hitting as many fly balls as he normally does. Donaldson also is being more patient in the box. Notably, he’s chasing less while swinging at more pitches in the zone and getting more contact in both areas. Donaldson seems to locked in to seeing the ball well and hitting it hard. If he can elevate again, he’ll be driving home a few more runs. Just cross your fingers he can stay on the field.

How did all the other players we hope to steer clear of nagging injuries fare last night?

Chris Davis (1B, Baltimore Orioles) 3-5, 2 2B, 4 RBI. He did it. It’s over. And it wasn’t just some random hit. Davis had three solid hit balls all around 100 MPH. He also plated four guys resulting in a win over the Red Sox. What a game! Let’s actually take a look at how he’s hit so far though. Even though it took so long to get a hit, his batted ball profile looks like any other decent hitter; 92 MPH exit velocity, 53% hard hit rate. He’s just striking out way too much. Now that this burden is off his shoulders, could he dial the clock back a few years to 2016?

Javier Baez (2B/3B/SS, Chicago Cubs) 3-5, 3 2B, 2 RBI. He keeps clubbing the ball. Baez isn’t just doing more of what he did last year, he’s turned his dials to 11. He’s hitting the ball harder, but he’s whiffing more, chasing just as much, and striking out more. He’s still hitting for power and stealing a few bases here and there. Surely with his plate discipline it can’t be sustainable to have repeat of 2018.

Adam Eaton (OF, Washington Nationals) 3-4, R, HR, RBI. Where has this leadoff hitter been all season? He’s quietly sitting on top of a very potent offense barely collecting runs. Eaton’s had a few games here and there with a few hits, but hasn’t walked nearly as much as expected. He also has been striking out 6% more than last year. He may have changed his swing and approach as his launch angle is up substantially. If these changes stick around, his value as the Nationals lead off hitter may be in question, especially if those changes don’t translate to the power one would hope for.

Melky Cabrera (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates) 3-4, R, HR, RBI. The Melkman delivers! Melky just hits the ball. That’s all he does. Non-stop. Look at his contact rates. High 80s his whole career. But wait, there’s more. So far this season, Melky has been laying off more pitches out of the zone while taking a shot at more pitches in the zone. He is swinging at strikes more than 80% of the time, about 17% more frequently than his career average.

Austin Dean (OF, Miami Marlins) 4-4, 3 R, HR, 2B, 5 RBI. This was Dean’s second game of the year and it won’t get any better. What an incredible game. Dean won the Marlins minor league player of the year last year so he does have some promise specifically with his bat. If he’s going to stay in the bigs, keep him on your watch list.

Brian Anderson (3B/OF, Miami Marlins) 3-5, R, HR, RBI, SB. Another Marlin in the same Batter’s Box? It’s true! And I could have added a couple more if I stretched it a bit. Anderson was a decent candidate for Rookie of the Year last year, but there were a couple other players you may remember in front of him. He got his first stolen base and home run of the year. It’s tough to stomach owning a Marlin player right now, and Anderson has to prove his worth.

Derek Dietrich (1B/2B/OF, Cincinatti Reds) 2-4, R, HR, 3B, 3 RBI. Dietrich’s had an interesting season so far. He hasn’t hit the ball hard at all, with a  21.1% hard hit rate. Also, he nearly has a 40% infield fly ball rate. He’s hitting so many pop ups. Even though he has a decent barrel percentage, something is going on with him at the plate.

Kolten Wong (2B, St. Louis Cardinals) 1-2, R, HR, RBI, SB. After a super fast start, Wong has settled down. After four straight O-fers, Wong added another homer and stolen base. Looking at his batted ball profile, he hasn’t changed much from previous years. He’s not someone to consider again.

Hunter Dozier (1B/3B, Kansas City Royals) 2-3, R. I touched on Dozier a couple days ago when he hit his second homer in as many games. Since then he’s had back to back two hit games. He’s finally getting those hits. Dozier has improved his strikeout rate and has still been crushing the ball. If you’re looking for a corner infielder he’s a fun pick up.

Nick Ahmed (SS, Arizona Diamondbacks) 2-4, R, 2B, RBI. Ahmed’s had a decent start to his 2019 campaign. Nothing you’d drop your jaw for but nothing you’d turn away in disgust. However, these decent numbers don’t have much behind them. He’s been striking out more and walking less, while not putting good wood on the ball. Hitting in the back of the D-backs lineup won’t help either. I’d vote to stay away. There should be better options available.

Jose Altuve (2B, Houston Astros) 2-4, R, HR, RBI. Last year, Altuve dealt with a nagging knee injury that he fixed with some surgery this offseason. Remember when he was the clear cut number two overall pick going into last year? Well if he doesn’t have the injury bothering him, is he back? Seven homers into the season, and he’s looking like he’ll set a career high for homers this year. He’s having a much higher hard hit rate and is slugging .717. He’s back fighting Betts for that number two spot.

Mike Moustakas (2B/3B, Milwaukee Brewers) 2-4, 2 R, HR, RBI, BB. One of the most underrated signings this offseason, and underrate for fantasy pushing him to second base. Moose is proving the Brewers right, barreling nearly 20% of his batted balls. His HR/FB rate has skyrocketed but that did happen to Yelich last year after his move to Milwaukee. There may be something in the water there. (There is and it’s called Miller Lite).

(Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire)

Jim Chatterton

Jim has written for Razzball and now is a part of the Pitcher List staff. He is a Villanova alum and an eternally optimistic Mets fan. He once struck out Rick Porcello in Little League.

One response to “Batter’s Box: Don’t Talk to Me or My Donaldson Ever Again”

  1. theKraken says:

    Javy has proven that he isn’t everyone else and that he can make his approach work IMO. It is an interesting case study in the limitations of metrics. Machines are not good at creativity. We should be looking at how people succeed outside the models, not finding reasons to question them when the track record is this long. There will be those that simply predict regression every year until it happens, but you can say that about anyone. That said – from what I have seen Baez has been getting pretty lucky – throwing his bat at pitches etc. I have not been impressed from what I have seen, but when Baez can get it all together he puts up massive stats to stuff the season totals. I think it is a bit weird that they are not putting him higher in the lineup – he really benefits from protection as they have to throw him a few more strikes – I would have thought that CHC would have learned something last year.

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