If You Like Piña Coladas

Recapping all of Saturday's best offensive performances

Brandon Nimmo (CF, NYM): 2-4, 3B, HR, 2 R, RBI.

Brandon Nimmo is this morning’s headliner after his 2-for-4 night in the Mets’ loss to the streaking Phillies.

It’s been an enigmatic year for the oft-injured Mets center fielder, who posted his sixth homer and first triple of the season in the 5-3 defeat. He’s put up some of the best rate stats of his career, landing hits and getting on base at career-high levels, but his power has almost completely evaporated: he’s got just 22 extra-base hits this season, and his .128 ISO  is easily the lowest of his career.

The logical take is that his trading some thump for on-base ability, but that’s not really happening either. His xwOBAcon (aka, the Statcast thing that measures what happens only on contact) literally hasn’t budged in three years. He’s still perhaps the most selective hitter in the league, with a chase rate in the 100th percentile. His batted ball profile hasn’t changed excessively, but even though it’s only by a few percentage points, he’s got the highest groundball rate and lowest pull rate of his career so far. When you combine those two things together, just 10% of his batted balls are pulled in the air, which is where hitters get the large majority of their power production from. That’s down by a full 10% from his All-Star caliber 2018 effort.

Nimmo is already a valuable player largely thanks to the little things he does well: he fields well, he runs well, he has a great eye, he doesn’t make bad outs. A star return shouldn’t be out of the question if he gets some of that power back.

Let’s see how the other hitters did Saturday

Daulton Varsho (C, ARI): 2-5, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

The rookie catcher is looking like one of the few bright spots for an utterly moribund Diamondbacks organization that might lose 110 games and not even get the top pick out of it. A double and home run on Saturday night, his 11th of the season, raised his OPS to .774 (108 OPS+), tied for tenth in baseball among catchers with 200 plate appearance. More importantly, Varsho has been red-hot for most of the second half, slashing .297/.363/.593 with 23 extra-base hits, 15 walks, and just 36 strikeouts in 161 plate appearances. Varsho ought to be high on quite a few breakout candidate lists next March.

Bryce Harper (RF, PHI): 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI, BB.

Yawn. Barring a gargantuan effort from Fernando Tatís Jr. or Trea Turner to lift their team to the playoffs in the next ten days, this is your MVP. Harper’s double last night was his 38th, the walk his 86th. He now has an extra-base hit in seven consecutive games, and 11 out of 13. His batting average (.315), on-base (.429), slugging (.615), home runs (33), doubles (38), and hit (140) totals are all poised to be his best since his ridiculous 2015 MVP season. Since signing with the Phillies, he’s produced at a 5.7 bWAR per 162 game pace. Super overrated.

Ian Happ (OF, CHC): 3-5, HR, R, 2 RBI, SB.

Both of the combo meals found around the league tonight were sourced in Chicago, as Ian Happ joined teammate Willson Contreras to continue an absolutely scorching September with three hits, including his 23rd home run and fifth steal on the season. Though his 103 wRC+ is a career-worst, this is the first time he’s been healthy enough to be in a position to surpass his rookie year power numbers for the first time. In 33 games since bottoming out on August 11th, however, Happ has posted a 1.101 OPS along with 12 HR and 29 driven, thriving as a centerpiece of a downgraded Cubs lineup.

Manny Piña (C, MIL): 2-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB.

Manny Piña will reportedly go onto the field and give us a full postgame rendition of Hotel California if the Brewers win the World Series. If Manny Piña continues to put up multi-homer games like he did last night—it’s the third time this season (and fourth in his career) he’s gone deep twice!!!—the Brewers’ odds of getting there will be much improved. Let’s go, Manny!

Xander Bogaerts (SS, BOS): 3-5, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI.

Bogaerts would have a strong argument for Best Shortstop In Baseball if his glove wasn’t seemingly made of stone; his excellent season at the plate continues unheeded, however, with his 13th three-hit game of the season in Boston’s win over Baltimore. With 34 doubles and 22 home runs after last night, Bogaerts’ raw slugging numbers are down compared to recent years, but relative to league-average, he’s been hands-down the most consistent of the league’s glut of star shortstops; barring a major slump over the next ten games, he’ll finish with a wRC+ between 131 and 140 for the fourth consecutive season.

Franmil Reyes (OF, CLE): 3-5, 2B, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.

Reyes flashed his prodigious power again on Saturday, doubling, homering, and driving in three in Cleveland’s 11-3 dub over the Yankees. After spending several years failing to turn his top-notch proclivity for home runs into much more than a decently above-average batting line, improvements to his walk and contact ability have led to a quiet breakout for the 25-year old, as his wRC+ now stands at 131 with exactly two weeks to play in the season. When you barrel the ball better than 97% of the league, good things will happen. With a wOBA just six points higher than his expected wOBA, Statcast seems to think his .259/.329/.549 has been well-earned.

Brendan Rodgers (2B, COL): 3-5, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

The third overall pick in the 2015 draft has become somewhat of an afterthought (because that’s what happens in the Rockies organization), but he’s been on fire lately and had one of the best games of his young career on Saturday, doubling, homering, and driving in a pair in Colorado’s shutout of Washington. That’s three homers and seven driven in over his past four games, and Rodgers is now batting a strong .288/.337/.480 on the season. While his league-relative stats aren’t quite as impressive, I simply don’t care all that much, because a hit in Coors is, in reality, just as good—and worth no less—than a hit elsewhere. The roughly 28-homer, 36-double pace Rodgers has been on since June makes the team’s willingness to bid adieu to Trevor Story with nothing but a QO in hand seem at least slightly more logical.

Jeimer Candelario (3B, DET): 1-3, HR, R, 3 RBI, BB.

Candelario’s home run pop hasn’t quite developed as hoped, but with last night’s bomb making it 16 on the year, he still has a shot to catch his career-high of 19 set back in 2018. Nonetheless, Candelario has been a well-above-average hitter this year thanks to his league-leading 40 doubles, putting him on pace to join Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordoñez as the only Tigers to do so in the expansion era. With Detroit’s lineup looking relatively limp heading into the offseason, Candelario could be a trade candidate; switch-hitting power hitters are usually going to have a good home, especially if they can play third base.

Featured Imaged by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)

Zach Hayes

Zach is based in Chicago and contributes analysis and coverage for Pitcher List and South Side Sox. He also co-hosts the Shaggin' Flies podcast with Ben Palmer, and enjoys reading, Justin Fields highlights, and people-watching on the CTA.

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