Going Deep: Travis Shaw is Whiffing More Than Ever

Travis Shaw has without a doubt left his fantasy baseball owners very frustrated five weeks into the 2019 season. Fantasypros had Shaw’s ADP heading into this year at 95, and...

Travis Shaw has without a doubt left his fantasy baseball owners very frustrated five weeks into the 2019 season. Fantasypros had Shaw’s ADP heading into this year at 95, and much of that was for reasons that seemed perfectly reasonable and were largely thanks to his setting.

Shaw was traded from the Boston Red Sox to the Milwaukee Brewers after the 2016 season and immediately put up strong numbers for the Brew Crew. A patient, powerful approach led to back-to-back seasons of 30-plus home runs and a 120 wRC+ in 2017, followed by a 119 mark last season.

Shaw benefitted from Milwaukee’s strong lineup, posting run and RBI totals between 70 and 101 both seasons. Few saw a reason not to expect a repeat coming into 2019. Also, thanks to the Brewers, Shaw gained second base eligibility in 2018, which obviously added to his value for this season.

So how have things gone so far? Well, Shaw has four home runs and 18 R/RBI, but that’s where the positives end. You could add Shaw’s batting average to his OPS just to be generous and it would still be behind his actual OPS so far in 2019—the real one that’s just on-base plus slugging.

However, most of Shaw’s batted ball data looks close to what he’s achieved in eihter of the last two years.


LD% FB% Med% Hard%
2017 19.9 37.6 47 37.1
2018 18.1 44.5 40.3 39.8
2019 20 46.7 38.2 39.5


So when he makes contact, it’s mostly close to the same quality of contact that we saw from Shaw the last two seasons. The issue appears to be with how often Shaw is making that contact. The infielder is striking out at an eye-popping 30.8% rate so far this season.

So far, his swing percentage is within .5% of what it was in 2017 and 2018, so he’s not being more aggressive, and he’s actually chasing pitches outside the strike zone less this year than he did before. Still, Shaw’s swinging-strike rate is the highest it has been in his career at 14.2%.


The only theory I’m left with is one that my PL colleague and manager Ben Palmer posited on Twitter a few days ago. Something is leading Shaw to make less and less contact despite his approach being largely unchanged and, arguably, even improved.

An injury making it harder for him to get to pitches is one of the only sensible explanations I can think of. Shaw missed some time earlier this month after being hit on the hand by a pitch, but he has played in all but two of the Brewers’ games so far. So if he is hurt, he and the team isn’t acknowledging it, or may not be aware of it.

Injuries, obviously, are temporary, so there is hope that Shaw turns it around this season, but at least based on what is publicly available, there is no injury being addressed. There is also a possibility that he will regress to the mean and will post numbers more similar to his 2018 and 2019 campaigns, but we simply don’t know at this point. I wish I could tell you that the right thing is definitely to hold or drop him, but it’s going to depend on your team and situation.

Shaw can be good enough that my gut says the play is to hold him and wait it out, but a desperate owner could be forgiven for trying to move on.

Graphic by Nathan Mills (@NathanMillsPL on Twitter)

Jordan Larimore

I'm a local news reporter and former sports reporter at a The Joplin Globe. Pinch hitter at birdsontheblack.com. I still have nightmares about Travis Ishikawa. Yes, I'm a Cardinals fan. I'm sorry about most of the rest of them.

9 responses to “Going Deep: Travis Shaw is Whiffing More Than Ever”

  1. Greg says:

    Hiura playing out of his mind at AAA makes this interesting too.

  2. Francis says:

    Shaw was dropped over the weekend in my OBP league. Is he worth my number one waiver claim? I could use an upgrade at MI eventually.

    • Herbert says:

      I wouldn’t use a#1. If he clears waivers then maybe pick up and stash. I’m considering using my drop on him to activate rendon

  3. DonJuan says:

    Rather than using 15 game moving averages, if you shrink that to 5 games, his numbers appear to be normalizing.

    • BG says:

      Can you please explain how they are normalizing? He is 2/23 in the last 5 games he played in w/ no runs or RBI’s.

  4. Marty the Celery Salesman says:

    This spring, Shaw had 25 strikeouts and walked none times. While I know not to put too much weight into spring stats, this really jumped out at me and I wouldn’t touch him with a 10-foot clown pole in drafts.

  5. Joe Blanquie says:

    I just cut him since i was able to snag Senzel for Mancini. But i’m also 0-5 in my H2H league and i’ve lost 3 games by less than a point. I blame Shaw for that! last week lost 320-320.17 and he had 4 pts…. No clue how Senzel will actually be but i’d roll the dice

  6. Ryan Jordan says:

    Hey great article! A bit scary as a Shaw owner cause I dont see a clean way to recovery for Shaw. Either it’s an IL stint or a bench etc.. either way it may get worse before it gets better… Anyways, quick question, can you explain the “Add Shaw’s AVG to his OPS and it would still be behind his actual OPS so far in 2019” comment? I cant figure out how we could add his AVG to his OPS and be below his OPS. Am I having a moment and there’s a joke I’m missing or is there a typo there possibly? Just curious! Thanks and keep up the great content!

    • Jordan Larimore says:

      Hey, Ryan. Sorry for the delay in getting to this. It looks like my attempt at humor didn’t land (with readers or editors). What I was going for was that his AVG could be added in with his OPS this season and the total would still be behind his OPS from last year. Obviously, I didn’t make that clear enough. Good catch and thank you!

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