Batter’s Box: Party Like it’s 1999

Jim Chatterton digs into the top hitters from Saturday's games including the longest hitting streak of the season.

We’ve got a Bichette, a Vlad, a Biggio, and it’s 2019. The three of them are even on the same team. This story has been mentioned to death this season, but I love it so much. I can’t get over how these guys are starting in the same lineup literally hitting 1-2-3 and even playing next to each other at 2B, SS, and 3B. Two of these guys have been heralded as two of the best prospects in all of baseball and they are not named Cavan Biggio. MLB.com had Biggio ranked as the 9th best 2B prospect last year and the 9th best prospect in the Blue Jays system as well. He was not ranked at nearly the same level as Vlad Jr. or Bo Bichette. Even still, he had that surname attached, which comes with plenty of expectations.

Biggio’s rookie season has not been all sunshine and roses. He slashed .215/.345/.391 in his first 78 games. What stands out the most there is his .130 point jump from his average to his OBP. Despite not getting many hits, he still gets on base with a 16.6% walk rate. His strikeout rate, however, is still nearly 30%. This is because he barely takes cuts.

His swing rate is currently below Alex Bregman’s and would be second lowest in the league if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. His aggressiveness on pitches out of the zone is absurdly low at 14.5%. That’s four points lower than the lowest among qualified batters. Despite this, his contact rate is still in the 70s, but with a swing strike rate below 10%. With more experience, expect that strikeout rate to drop lower.

Alright, so he has some strong underlying plate discipline metrics. Can he hit the ball? His hard hit rate has fluctuated, recently decreasing, but he is lining the ball like a madman. In fact, his August line drive rate is a league leading 37.7%.  He’s also kept his ground ball rate respectably below 30% for most of the year. In the last three games, he has been able to get four extra base hits, including last night’s line of 2-3, 2 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, BB. His stats have been an interesting conundrum, but I firmly believe there is an incredible hitter here.

Gary Sanchez (C, New York Yankees)—2-3, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. Back in July, Sanchez landed on the IL with a groin strain. He had been struggling for that past month hitting under .200 so a little breather didn’t seem like a bad idea. His return occurred on August 10th and he was quickly back to his normal Kraken self. In August, he slugged .623 while hitting eight home runs over 79 plate appearances.

Matt Olson (1B, Oakland Athletics)—3-4, R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 BB. Olson’s first half and second half are interesting splits. He’s sporting a nearly identical wRC+ of 130 and 133 respectively, but they’ve come about in two different ways. His first half slash line was .250/.331/.565 while his second half is .293/.383/.491. He is not hitting nearly as many fly balls dropping his FB% almost 20 points and now hitting over 30% line drives. His power hasn’t gone away, he’s just hitting the ball on a line instead of in the air.

Eugenio Suarez (3B, Cincinnati Reds)—Game 1: 2-3, 2 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, BB. Suarez has put together an interesting season. Solid for the first couple months then he forgot how to hit in June finishing with a 48 wRC+. However, from July on in 53 games he has swatted 22 home runs with 38 runs and 37 RBIs with a second half OPS over 1.000. Both his fly ball rate and his HR/FB rate spiked quite a bit as he is barreling over 15% of balls hit since the break.

Kolten Wong (2B, St. Louis Cardinals)—Game 1: 2-3, 2 R, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 BB, SB. Scott Chu wrote up a nice blurb on Wong a few days ago. Again, since the break, he has been on fire and adding a game with four times getting on base with a steal won’t hurt.

Wilson Ramos (C, New York Mets)—4-5, 2 R, 2B, RBI. He is currently on the longest hit streak of the season so far with 24 straight games. This does include a few times he has popped in to pinch hit. Over this span, he hasn’t had all that much power only hitting eight extra base hits despite hitting 41 total. One notable thing he has done to help this cause is reduce his strikeout rate which stands at an absurdly low 7.8% for the second half, down from 15.7% in the first.

Bryce Harper (OF, Philadelphia Phillies)—2-4, R, HR, 2 RBI, SB. Even while missing a few games in August, Harper had himself a month just when the Phillies needed him to make that push to the wildcard. He finished August with a .277/.376/.649 slash line crushing 11 home runs and adding both a home run and a stolen base for that glorious combo meal just when his fantasy owners needed it.

Mitch Garver (C, Minnesota Twins)—2-3, 3 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB. I’m not sure what Garver or even what the Twins are doing is even legal. The Twins are shattering the single season club home run record, but Garver is doing something possibly more ridiculous. In 76 games, he now has 26 home runs as a catcher! Sanchez is the only catcher with more home runs than him and he’s played 20 less games than Sanchez. But that is the frustrating thing about catchers. He’s been annihilating the ball, but misses so many days.

Ronny Rodríguez (1B/2B/3B/SS, Detroit Tigers)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI. The versatility that Rodríguez can supply going into the playoffs is greatly valuable. But he is more than his versatility. He was recalled from AAA in August and since then he’s been hitting the ball well slashing .281/.295/.614 with three homers in the last two games. He doesn’t have great plate discipline as he rarely walks and strikes out a bit too much but his versatility and some power may provide value in deeper leagues.

Anthony Rendon (3B, Washington Nationals)—2-3, 3 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. What a player. He’s going to be finishing his third consecutive season over 6 fWAR and fourth overall going into free agency. He’s still yet to turn 30. Most notably from this season, he has not had a month with a wRC+ under 140 and his second half has been 183 with an OPS of 1.126.

Anthony Santander (OF, Baltimore Orioles)—2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI. Santander has been getting regular playing time since his call up in June, but did not start to succeed until after the All Star break. Since the break, he is slashing .300/.325/.563 with 12 home runs. This past week has been especially fruitful as he hit over .500 with four homers and 11 RBIs.

Kevin Newman (2B/SS, Pittsburgh Pirates)—3-5, 3 R, HR, 2 RBI. Newman started to show some power over the last few games knocking out three homers in three games, two of which travelled over 400 feet. This brought him to only 10 on the year. However, his value has come from his ability to make contact and get on base as he’s been hitting over .300 this year and striking out about 11% of the time. He’s solidifying the leadoff roll now which is beneficial for him. He’s hit leadoff in about half his games and in that time his run and RBI numbers are much greater than when he hits elsewhere in the lineup.

Albert Pujols (1B, Los Angeles Angels)—2-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, BB. Pujols still isn’t Pujols and he won’t be again, but at least this season he isn’t dragging the team down as much as he did before. Especially this past month where he drove in over 20 runs, hit over .300 and sported a 123 wRC+. He somehow still gets plenty of RBIs, but it’s hard to consider him rosterable in any standard leagues.

(Photo by David Kirouac/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: Party Like it’s 1999”

  1. CJ03 says:

    Fangraphs had an article about Biggio, pointing out his incredibly high walk rate (16.6%, 5th highest in the league) and league-leading O-Swing% of 14.6% as indicators of future success. Fairly impressive stuff from a rookie. Now if only they would stop calling strikes against him that are well outside the strike zone…

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