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Week 11: PLV Weekly

Soler, Bryce Miller, and more

This past offseason, Pitcher List introduced Pitch Level Value, or PLV, a new metric that assesses player performance by grading outcomes on the single pitch level. If you’re new to it, you can read Nick Pollack’s primer on PLV here.

You’ll find the definitions below. Grades are on a 20-80 scale.

Swing Aggression: How much more often a hitter swings at pitches, given the swing likelihoods of the pitches they face.

Strikezone Judgement: The “correctness” of a hitter’s swings and takes, using the likelihood of a pitch being a called strike (for swings) or a ball/HBP (for takes).

Decision Value (DV): Modeled value (runs per 100 pitches) of a hitter’s decision to swing or take, minus the modeled value of the alternative.

Contact Ability: A hitter’s ability to make contact (foul strike or BIP), above the contact expectation for each pitch.

Power: Modeled number of extra bases (xISO on contact) above a pitch’s expectation, for each BBE.

Hitter Performance (HP): Runs added per 100 pitches seen by the hitter (including swing/take decisions), after accounting for pitch quality.

Pitch Level Value (PLV): Estimated value of all pitches, based on the predicted outcome of those pitches (0-10, 5 is league average).

Pitch Level Average (PLA): Value of all pitches (ERA Scale), using IP and the total predicted run value of pitches thrown.

Pitch type PLA: Value of a given pitch type (ERA scale), using total predicted run values and an IP proxy for that pitch type (pitch usage % x Total IP).

This week we’ll survey a few hitters that seem to be swinging more often than expected. One of them is Gunnar Henderson who has been on the rise. The same can’t be said of Anthony Rizzo. But first, we’ll start with a resurgent slugger who is third in baseball with 20 home runs.

(Note: All PLV data is current through Thursday 6/15).

 

Jorge Soler

 

Unfettered by injuries, Soler has wreaked havoc this season; He’s seventh among all qualifiers with a .921 OPS — just two points below his big breakout in 2019. As you’d guess, his power ranks among the best (70) and is an uptick from last year (60). On that note, his xwoBACON of .486 is in the 95th percentile. Soler’s contact grade has also gone up from 45 to 50 this year thanks to losing nearly five points on his K rate. He’s also shown impressive plate skills with above-average ratings in Strikezone Judgement (55) and Decision Value (60) and a career-high walk rate of 11.8%. He’s earned a reputation for being a streaky slugger, so there will be some valleys, but his PLV grades support the big season.

 

Bobby Miller

 

First selected by the Orioles in the 38th round of the 2017 draft before he decided to attend Louisville, Miller has done nothing but impress in his first tour of the bigs. This past Saturday, the Dodger rookie shut down a good Phillies lineup across six innings and on the road no less. We don’t have an ideal sample size yet (372 pitches). But relative to starters with a minimum of 1,000 pitches, his 2.77 PLA would be tied with Aaron Nola for 11th.

As you can see with his pitch distributions above, Miller’s five-pitch repertoire has so far been led by his sinker (5.41 PLV / 2.45 PLA) and slider (5.55 PLV / 2.04 PLA). The curveball is the only pitch that ranks below average.

 

Kyle Hendricks

 

The Professor returned from a strained shoulder about four weeks ago and tossed a gem this past Saturday. He held the Giants scoreless through eight and needed only 94 pitches. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Hendricks at his best but at the very least it was a reminder of the man who held a 3.12 ERA and 1.10 WHIP from 2014-2020 (1047.1 IP).

Similar to Miller, we don’t have a great sample size yet (333 pitches) but the changeup has been very impressive. Relative to starters with at least 1,000 pitches this season, Hendricks’ changeup PLA of 2.10 would rank seventh just behind Zac Gallen (2.06) and ahead of Sandy Alcantara (2.11).

 

Gunnar Henderson

 

If you were patient with the 21-year-old, you’ve been rewarded with a 1.259 OPS over his last 10 games. When we first looked at Henderson about two weeks into the season had a 38.6% K rate. That’s now down to 29.3%. You can see the uptick in his contact ability below which now ranks just slightly below average (45) overall.

Henderson started off really passive and still has an overall -8.3% swing aggression. But we’re seeing him swing the bat a bit more lately which could be the reason for the dip in strikeouts.

His more aggressive approach (relatively speaking) has led to a drop in the overall quality of his swings and takes (below), which have been trending down for a while. Overall, he grades out average in DV (50).

 

Julio Teheran

 

The Brewers dusted off Julio Teheran, who last started one game for the Tigers two years ago, and he’s rewarded them with a 1.48 ERA and 0.95 WHIP through his first four starts. To his credit, Teheran has posted a pretty decent 5.02 PLV / 3.13 PLA albeit across a limited sample size of 346 pitches. Regardless, this very much feels like a house of cards built on an unsustainably low 3.3% BB rate; He had an 11.3% walk rate from 2018-21 (386.2 IP).

 

Anthony Rizzo

 

Rizzo has cratered badly hitting just .190 with a .520 OPS over his last 20 games. The one silver lining is that he still has excellent contact ability (60) but his approach at the plate has deteriorated with a 35 in Strikezone Judgement and a 40 in DV (below) representing sizable drops from his grades last season (45 and 50 respectively).

Overall, Rizzo’s 1.4% swing aggression is just a tick above last year’s mark of 0.4%. But it looks like he’s been swinging a lot more lately.

 

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

 

Vladdy has a .632 OPS over the last 30 days (27 games). Are we worried about the power outage? Oddly enough, he has actually posted a better power grade this year (55) than last (50). I don’t usually pay too much attention to home/road splits as I think they’re noisy but I have to admit his are oddly polarizing; He has yet to go yard this year in 31 games at the Rogers Centre.

He is swinging a lot more lately which has led to a drop in the quality of his swings and takes (55 DV: 60 DV last year). Sometimes a more aggressive approach pays off like in the case of Henderson. But other times it doesn’t.

The interesting thing is that Vlad’s more aggressive approach has come with not only a dip in power but in contact too (above). What does all this mean? I wish I knew! But at the very least it’s something to monitor.

 

Ke’Bryan Hayes

 

At one point, Hayes’ swing rate was near the bottom tenth percentile but he’s since been swinging more and more.

He’s another example of how swinging more can sometimes work and sometimes not or, to put it another way: when baseballs are struck, results may vary. Analysis, I know. In the case of the Pirates’ third baseman, the results have been favorable: He’s hitting .408 with a 1.031 OPS over his last 12 games. However, similar to Vlad, we’re seeing his contact rate dip a little with the more aggressive approach.

 

Jarred Kelenic

 

After looking like one of the breakout players of the year, Kelenic has come back down to earth with a pedestrian .698 OPS over the last 30 days (22 games). His contact ability has been on the decline and now sits well below average (40).

 

Spencer Strider

 

I have to admit, it’s at least a little odd seeing the qualified leader in K-BB% (29.9%) with an ERA of 4.13. With Strider, it’s all about the fastball which has been stellar overall with a 5.72 PLV / 1.68 PLA. That’s even better than last year’s 5.24 PLV / 3.25 PLA. However, in his latest start against the Tigers this past Wednesday, Strider’s fastball (41 pitches) returned a 5.14 PLV / 3.73 PLA — its worst grade in any game so far this year. It’s probably just a blip but I’m also a little interested to see how it grades out in his next start.

 

Bryce Miller

 

After two rough starts against the Rangers and Yankees, Miller bounced back nicely and held the Marlins to just one run over six innings this past Monday. He’s basically a two-pitch pitcher but the fastball rates out really well — a 5.59 PLV  and 1.83 PLA. Overall, Miller’s 2.20 PLA ranks first among all pitchers with at least 650 pitches thrown.

 

Top Ten PLA

 

We’ll end this week with a glance at the top ten pitchers by PLA (800-pitch minimum).

I don’t know what’s more surprising: Zach Eflin being at the top of this list or Clarke Schmidt and Gerrit Cole just missing the cut both being tied at 2.67. OK, I lied Julio Urías is just ahead at 2.66, but still.

Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter

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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