Players With Interesting Statcast Trends – Week 1

Dave Cherman reports on who's hot and who's cold according to the underlying statcast metrics through the first week and a half of the 2019 season.

We’re about ten days into our young season and sample sizes are smaller than Hot Pie’s chances of sitting on the Iron Throne (if you’re not watching Game of Thrones by now, what are you doing?), but it doesn’t hurt to take a look at how some players are performing in the early going in 2019. This article will present a few players who are off to a hot start and some who are not thus far in the season. I’m going to discuss these players in terms of their Statcast or batted ball data through a few lenses: Launch Angle, Exit Velocity, and expected statistics through Baseball Savant. Let’s start with the expected stats disparity leaders, which will be updated every week.



For those who do not remember from last year, there are qualifiers for this list: a .250 xAVG and a .450 xSLG. To clarify, this list does not mean we expect Gary Sanchez to positively regress to a .998 SLG%. Rather, it means that Sanchez’s batted ball profile supports a .998 SLG% rather than his current .750. In this way, we can identify players who are performing better than the underlying stats indicate. For those who want to read more about Franmil Reyes, check out Evan Rockow’s going deep piece from yesterday.


Who’s Hot


Gary Sanchez (C, New York Yankees)- Sanchez’s ADP plummeted this year after an abysmal, injury-riddled 2018, but it appears The Kraken is out to prove the haters wrong in 2019. Just how hot is Sanchez? In addition to the silly expected line which you can see in the chart above, he’s posting a ridiculous 34.5% barrel rate. Compare that to league leader from 2018, Joey Gallo, who posted an 11.4% rate.

For the uninitiated, here’s a little more info about barrels:



Those batted balls came with a batting average of .822 and a SLG of 2.386 in the 2016 season, aka the most valuable batted balls. Sanchez will not keep up this dominance, nor will he maintain an EV (exit velocity) of 100.8 mph on his FB/LD (11th in baseball so far), but the hot start has to give you optimism for the rest of his campaign.


Luis Castillo (SP, Cincinnati Reds) – This time last year, we were all aboard the Castillo hype train, but it appears that 2019 may in fact be his year. La Piedra, aka “the Stone”, paced the league in average exit velocity among starters at just 80.0 mph. Sometimes in these situations, we see a sterling average EV number but, when you dig, you find warts that are hidden by the average. However, Castillo has allowed just three batted balls with an exit velocity of 95+ mph, two of which were on the ground. Take a look at Castillo’s batted balls allowed thus far this season:


That’s beautiful and it’s exactly what you want to see: Hard hit balls are kept in the park and there’s a ton of soft contact. Here’s hoping he can continue it as the season progresses.


Pete Alonso (1B, New York Mets) – This may seem obvious because Alonso has been off to a blistering start, but he’s here for a specific reason. Most rookies struggle significantly against breaking balls and off-speed pitches because they’ve never faced them at the quality of MLB pitching. However, Alonso is not one of those rookies; Alonso has made contact with 10 off-speed or breaking pitches to the tune of a whopping 101.5 mph average exit velocity. But exit velocity means little without the addition of launch angle — and Alonso hit only two of those batted balls on the ground. To highlight just how good he has been, take a look at the 10 batted balls overlaid on Citi Field.




Here, we have five doubles and a home run, but two of those doubles look like they easily could’ve been home runs were they hit in another park, as they went for 381 and 371 feet. I’m trying to temper expectations, but it’s hard not to get excited about the rookie.


Who’s Cold


Maikel Franco (3B, Philadelphia Phillies)- That’s not a typo. You may be confused because Franco’s stat line, featuring a .447 OBP and .655 SLG, thus far looks beautiful. But unfortunately, the Statcast data does not. On its face, we can see an issue because Franco has posted the 10th lowest average EV of any hitter who has faced 100 pitches so far. Digging in further, we can see further issues as only six of his 27 batted balls have been struck at 95+ mph, two of which were hit on the ground. He’s still got a respectable 7.9% barrel rate, good for 74th in the league among hitters with 10 batted balls, but we want the rest of the data to look better. I hate taking the air out of the balloon, but here it appears there’s some overinflation early on.


Nolan Arenado (3B, Colorado Rockies)- I think we may need to have a conversation about Nolan Arenado. Ben Pernick got us started by pointing out Arenado’s startlingly bad xStats data from 2018, an issue which has extended into 2019. The $260M man is off to a very bad start with just an 83.6 mph average exit velocity. In case you’re thinking it’s masked by some slow grounders, the EV on FB/LD is just 93.0, putting him in the company of guys such as Jean Segura, Whit Merrifield, and Mallex Smith. To a certain extent, we can breathe because Baseball Savant’s metrics have never really loved him, but last year was a notable step back for Arenado from even what Baseball Savant had pegged him for and 2019 is off to an even worse start. He’ll get better, but we need to keep a close eye on him moving forward to make sure this doesn’t become a greater trend.


Patrick Corbin (SP, Washington Nationals)-



The chart tells a lot of the story: Corbin is giving up tons of hard contact and, from the looks of it, the fact that he’s got a 3.75 ERA through two starts is extraordinarily lucky. Some may want to say that his slider, which propelled his dominance in 2018, is still strong; the truth is, it hasn’t been so far: It has given up a 96.9 average EV, .531 xSLG, and .348 xwOBA. The spin rate for the pitch has actually gone up, so perhaps we’re looking merely at the ill-effects of just 64 sliders thrown and the stats will come back down to earth as he gets more reps. It’s been a rough start for the $140M man so far in Washington.

(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

Dave Cherman

Across the Seams Manager, also a former player and umpire and New York-based lawyer who spends his free time studying advanced statistics and obsessing over fantasy trades. Will debate with you about most anything.

8 responses to “Players With Interesting Statcast Trends – Week 1”

  1. Mike says:

    Great read! Thanks for the content!

  2. Alex says:

    Regarding the daily newsletter, please consider offering Today’s Top Streamer” one day in advance for those of us who cannot make same day adds. Thanks

    • Dave Cherman says:

      Hey Alex, I’ll pass that along. In the meantime, you can click on the article about yesterday’s starters which is featured in the newsletter and that includes Nick’s steamers for tomorrow and day after tomorrow.

  3. theKraken says:

    Do you have median EV? Median is a better measure of center than average in this context IMO. Average will reward those that swing super hard just in case they hit it and penalize those with K aversion skills. I liked the article.

    • Dave Cherman says:

      I completely agree that median is better – unfortunately baseball savant only calculates average for us. Therfore, median would have to be calculated manually. I’m gonna talk to the data team and see if there’s any easier way for us to do median.
      In the meantime, that’s why I tried to go into more context here than just average- weeding out the outliers is much easier with a small sample size.

      • theKraken says:

        I figured that was the answer. xAP told me that it was too resource intensive, which I can understand why it would be. I think the answer will be no haha.

        • Dave Cherman says:

          Our Colin Charles is going to help me with median calculations moving forward. He says it’s possible using R.

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