PLV Weekly: Identifying New Hitter Approaches with PLV

Using PLV to examine hot and cold hitters through the first two weeks

The PLV report is back for another season. Here, we’ll use the PLV metrics to contextualize player performance. For example, which hitters are making sound swing decisions, i.e., swinging at good pitches to hit as indicated by decision value (DV) and vice versa? Or who is hitting for more (or less) power or showing gains in contact? If you’re unfamiliar with PLV, be sure to check out Nick’s PLV primer from last year. Note that PLV metrics are normalized to 100, and Decision Value (DV) has been further broken down into oDV and zDV, referring to swing decisions outside the zone and inside the zone, respectively.

We’re still quite early in the season, so sample sizes aren’t quite ideal yet. Very generally speaking, 400 pitches faced, 200 swings, and 75 BBE are the benchmarks for when things start to solidify, i.e., more signal than noise. However, swing aggression stabilizes very quickly, so we can feel good about that right now at least. Again, sample sizes are a little small right now, so there will be some fluctuation and some of this could turn to dust. But let’s take a peek behind the curtains and see what the early returns are telling us.

Note: PLV metrics listed are current through Monday, April, 15th.

Anthony Volpe


Do the Yankees have a new leadoff hitter? The 22-year-old shortstop is hitting .373, third-best in baseball, and has cut his K rate from 27.8% to 14.3%. He’s shown a little less power (106 last year; 96 this year) in the early going but his 123 contact ability is a tremendous improvement from last year’s 89.

He’s also expanding the zone less frequently with an oDV of 114, compared to 104 last year. He’s also shown a far more patient approach, with a -9.9% Swing Aggression compared to -1.3% last season. Considering that Volpe more or less backed into a 20/20 season with rough-looking rate stats, it’s hard not to be excited about his outlook given the early improvements in contact and plate approach.


Tyler O’Neill


O’Neill has given Red Sox fans a strong first impression with a 1.209 OPS through his first 15 games. As you might’ve noticed by his 18.1% walk rate, he’s shown a much more passive plate approach. His Swing aggression has dropped from -2.6% to -10.1% so far this year. Swing aggression stabilizes quickly, so we can feel pretty decent about this sticking.

He’s also improved his contact ability from 92 to 104. O’Neill has always had immense power but his plate approach and contact ability have been suspect. However, if he can maintain these gains, there’s a pretty good chance the Cardinals might regret trading him. Now, let’s hope he can recover from the concussion.


Michael Busch


Busch saw all of 353 pitches during his brief stint last season with the Dodgers, so it was a less-than-ideal sample size. However, he showed good power (114) but with below-average contact ability (93) and suspect swing decisions (84 DV).

So far this year with the Cubs, his swing decisions have been better (106 DV), and his power is off the charts (144). But his contact ability is still below average (90), so he’ll need to maintain the gain in DV. I’ll also be interested to see how his power rates once we get a more appreciable sample.


Mike Trout


From one Mike to another, although this one has a little bit longer of a track record. Trout has gotten off to a brilliant start with a 1.072 OPS (ninth among qualifiers) and, don’t look now, but he’s stolen three bases, something he hasn’t done since the Pleistocene epoch, aka pre-pandemic. However, there is something else he is doing that he hasn’t done since the land before time: striking out a clip lower than 25%.

The ten-point dip in K rate (28.7% to 18.7%) is backed by a pretty sizable jump in contact ability (90 to 116). He’s also shown a more passive approach at the plate with a -8.8% swing aggression compared to -4.7% last year. The three-time MVP has also shown better swing decisions inside the zone, with his zDV jumping from 102 to 123, making his gains in contact even more impressive.


Josh Naylor


Naylor has gotten off to a brilliant start hitting .340 with a 1.073 OPS through 15 games, the latter just a point ahead of Trout. He’s still an extremely aggressive hitter, but so far, he’s shown sizable gains in SZ Judgement (96 to 133) and DV (84 to 115). It also looks like he might’ve traded away some contact ability (121 to 97) for power (104 to 114).


CJ Abrams


The former Padres prospect has already gone yard four times this year and is on pace (famous last words) to clobber last year’s career-high 18 home runs. The power gains look legit, so far at least (96 to 119). The only thing holding him back is a rough plate approach. Seriously, imagine if he had even average-ish swing decisions? What a nightmare he’d be.


Jazz Chisholm Jr. 


Last year’s MLB The Show cover athlete has gotten off to a more modest start, hitting .246 with a .752 OPS through 16 games. However, he’s demonstrated intriguing contact gains (78 to 100) with improved swing decisions (94 DV to 107 DV). He’s also shown a more passive plate approach with his swing aggression dropping from -1.2% to -7.9%. I’ll be interested to see if he can maintain this as it might be the key to unlocking his potential.


Paul Goldschmidt


Goldy has gotten off to a frosty start, hitting below the Mendoza line with a .523 OPS. At first, I worried that the rise in his strikeout rate (23.4% to 28.6%) might spell trouble, but his contact ability (90) is actually pretty close to last year (92), and his 112 DV is identical to last year. The only notable difference in his profile is a big bump down in power (114 to 91), but that could very well be the product of a small sample size. Considering his profile hasn’t changed outside the power, I’m cautiously optimistic that he can rebound from the rough start, although with perhaps a couple fewer longballs than we’re used to.


Evan Carter


We’ll end with Carter, who gained a lot of steam this past draft season after a terrific showing in the postseason but has started a little slow out of the gate, hitting .211 with a .742 OPS through his first 16 games. The two concerns with Carter were his splits against left-handers and the 32% K rate he posted during his brief debut (336 total pitches faced). With only six at-bats against LHP this year, the jury is still out on his ability against Southpaws. However, he’s slashed his K rate to 14.1%.

So far, Carter has demonstrated terrific gains in contact ability (87 to 119). One thing that really stands out about Carter’s approach is his exceptional ability to avoid chasing pitches out of the zone (126 oDV). However, his subpar swing decisions inside the zone (84 zDV) probably indicate that he can be a little too passive at times (-11.2% swing aggression).  The fact that he’s showing average-ish power (95) is another encouraging early sign since his game power was a little bit of a question mark too. I’ll be interested to see if he can maintain the gains in contact; if he does, then big things could be in store.

Ryan Amore

A proprietor of the Ketel Marte Fan Club, Ryan Amore has been writing things at Pitcher List since 2019. He grew up watching the Yankees and fondly remembers Charlie Hayes catching the final out of the '96 WS. He appreciates walks but only of the base on ball variety.

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