+

Week 15: PLV Weekly

Rookies, Javier, 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).

(Note: All PLV data is current through Thursday, 7/13).

 

Rookies

 

As we turn the page to the second half of the season, I thought it would be a good time to take another look at how some rookie hitters are performing.

Spencer Steer doesn’t have the acclaim of Elly De La Cruz or Matt McLain but he’s been just as important to the Reds’ success this year. His contact ability is slightly below average, but his profile is otherwise impressive, including above-average marks in SZ Judgement and DV that highlight a very sound plate approach.

Josh Jung is sixth among qualified rookies with a .835 OPS. The above-average power (60) is legit. But his strikeout rate has risen in each of the past three months. Contact ability should be stable by now, so I don’t think it’s too alarming, but it’s something worth monitoring.

Gunnar Henderson had a really passive approach at the plate early on, which might have contributed to his slow start. But as you can see below, his swing rates started to creep up before recently leveling off. I think it’s a case of trying to find the right level of being selective versus being too passive.

Either way, the recent results have been terrific, including a .994 OPS in June.

His contact ability still rates below average overall, but we’ve seen some recent growth (above); If it settles around 2% to 4% above expectations, things could get pretty steamy in the second half.

Knowing how difficult it can be for rookie catchers to succeed, Mets fans have to be thrilled about Francisco Alvarez. How about being tied with Sean Murphy atop the catcher leaderboard with 17 home runs? Not bad. The only blemish is below-average contact ability (40). But that’s pretty easy to overlook, considering the power he’s adding at a shallow position.

Anthony Volpe’s contact ability (40) remains a weak spot. But a potential silver lining might be found in his K rate: 31.9% in May, 27.6% in June, and 23.1% through the first ten games in July. He’ll be someone to keep a close eye on, especially with the Mayor in town as the Yankee’s new hitting coach.

For me, Patrick Bailey has been one of the big surprises of the first half. It’s not often you see a rookie catcher emerge as a regular contributor in the middle of a lineup. He’s hit five home runs through his first 40 games, and his 60-grade power indicates there might be more on the way.

Jordan Walker’s power (45) hasn’t translated into games quite yet. But as one of the best prospects in baseball with a ton of raw power, it’s fun to imagine what his ceiling might be given that he’s already demonstrated above-average SZ Judgement and DV (55).

Hard not to be ecstatic over Matt McLain who is hitting .300 with a .878 OPS. The former first-rounder out of UCLA has shown above-average power (55) backed by an 82nd percentile xwoBACON. However, his contact ability cratered to the bottom tenth percentile earlier this year; He’s since weathered that storm, but if you’re in a redraft league, I don’t mind the idea of flipping him for a more proven player since he might fluctuate a bit given that his contact ability is still a weakness.

Elly De La Cruz’s talent goes without saying and we’ve barely scratched the surface. If you want to hang on tight and simply enjoy the ride, I couldn’t blame you at all. But he might be a sell-high candidate in redraft leagues considering his raw approach (35 SZ Judgement and 30 DV), which might lead to some struggles as a 21-year-old rookie. Or it might not, since he might not be human.

I feel like you could make up one of those Spider-Man memes with Alex Verdugo and Masataka Yoshida; Their profiles are very similar. Both have shown slightly below-average power (45) but terrific contact ability: 60 for Yoshida and 70 for Verdugo.

As far as rookies go, Joey Wiemer feels like he’s gotten lost in the shuffle a bit. Still, 12 home runs and 11 SBs through your first 89 games is nothing to sneeze at. He was billed with a ton of raw power as a prospect, and it’s starting to show up more in games.

Brett Baty’s max EV of 113.7 hints at the impressive raw power he was billed with as a prospect, but it hasn’t translated into games yet.

You know the drill with Esteury Ruiz; He’s not a great hitter but as long as he can get on base enough, or at all really, he can sway leagues with his speed. Without looking, I’d have guessed he had above-average contact ability, but alas, that’s not the case.

Another A’s rookie, Ryan Noda, has shown a penchant for good-quality swings and takes (65 DV) combined with poor contact ability; He’s a little bit lack Jack Suwinski in that respect, although with less power.

 

Will Benson had issues with strikeouts earlier in his career as a prospect with the Guardians but I’m at least cautiously optimistic since he’s shown a really sharp eye at the plate (70 DV). Given his proclivity for stolen bases (7-for-8), he’s on the radar for five OF leagues, more so in daily leagues where you don’t have to worry as much about losing playing time against lefties.

Maikel Garcia has proven to be a useful add with 14 SBs while emerging as the Royals’ leadoff hitter. He’s shown an impressive plate approach (55 SZ Judgement and 60 DV) along with excellent contact ability (60). Garcia actually leads the Royals in OBP, so he might just stick around in that leadoff role for a bit.

 

Cristian Javier

 

Javier’s K rate is down from 33.2% to 21.5% and he’s allowed four or more earned runs in five of his last six starts. In his defense, PLV has noted some hit luck (+5)  in each of his two most recent starts (7/3 @ TEX and 6/28 @ STL).

Still, the downtick in Javier’s slider has been the takeaway so far; Its PLA has regressed from 2.54 to 3.18. Another way to interpret the slider’s decline: Its SwStr% has also dropped from 17.3% to 10.9%.

As you can see from his pitch distributions below, Javier’s slider has been slightly below the league average. The good news, at least, is that his fastball still grades above average, although not to the extent that it did last year; Its PLA has risen this year from

Whether or not Javier can figure out his slider is one of the many mysteries of the second half. If it happens is anyone’s guess but at the very least, it’s an interesting buy-low opportunity.

 

Cody Bellinger

 

I’ll admit, I’m still enamored with what Bellinger did as a rookie and then two years later in 2019. But that’s chasing a ghost at this point. Still, I think what he’s doing deserves attention. He’s cut his K rate down nearly ten points to 17.6%, marked by a bump in contact ability from 50 to 60. Since returning from the IL on June 19th (84 PA), he’s hitting .351 with a .877 OPS.

A more aggressive approach seems to have yielded gains in his contact ability; however, his power is still below average (45), so that’s the missing piece. You could certainly dismiss Bellinger based on how bad he’s been over the past two-plus seasons and his not-great batted ball metrics (39th percentile xwoBACON). But I’m intrigued by the recent results. There’s also the question of do the Cubs trade him at the deadline.

 

Alek Manoah

 

Manoah’s woeful season culminated in a catastrophic immolation against Houston reminiscent of the Hindenburg; It was enough to precipitate his demotion. However, the big righty’s path to redemption started on a promising note last Friday with a good start against the Tigers: 6 IPs, 8 Ks, and 1 ER. The performance earned a 5.26 PLV which just edged out his seven-inning shutout against the Yankees on April 22nd (5.24 PLV) for his top grade of the year. His slider (30 pitches) earned a 1.75 PLA, easily its best showing of the year. It’s only one start, but there were some good signs here.

 

Bryan Woo

 

We’re all of seven starts into Bryan Woo’s big league career, but it’s hard not to be impressed; His 2.97 PLA trails only Bryce Miller (2.36), Louie Varland (2.87), and J.P. France (2.89) among rookie SPs (500 pitch minimum).

Woo’s four-seamer has returned an electric 17.7% SwStr% that has fueled a K rate of 30.5%. But as you can see below, his sinker has graded out really well, too.

In his last start before the break, Woo’s sinker recorded an eye-popping 57% chase rate (something you rarely see from a sinker) and a 6.02 PLV (33 pitches).

 

Steven Matz

 

I was very interested in Matz this past draft season, given his career-best 21.3% K-BB last year and exceptional pitch quality metrics (below).

But a disastrous 5.72 ERA and 1.75 WHIP, along with an 0-6 record through his first ten starts, sent him to the bullpen. His pitch quality metrics this season? Not as fun to look at.

Similar to Manoah, although I suspect with much less fanfare, Matz kicked off his redemption tour with a good showing against the White Sox: 5.1 IPs, 0 ER, and 9 Ks. To be clear, it’s one start, and this could easily turn to dust, but both his changeup and curveball returned a PLA under 2.00 for the first time all year. And his sinker velocity was up a tick at 95. Am I ready to be disappointed again? You bet!

 

Josh Donaldson

 

Oh boy. I’ve mentioned Donaldson at least once, and given that it’s, you know, 2023, that’s probably once more than necessary. But his power (75) has me at least slightly interested. Of his 15 hits, ten have left the park, which is all sorts of weird. His contact ability is well below average (40), but even still, the .083 BABIP seems like a fluke that should level out with a better sample size. At the very least, he has shown a  decent approach at the plate (55 DV and SZ), so I wouldn’t completely rule him out having a stretch similar to what Jake Burger did earlier this year.

 

Bobby Miller

 

The Dodgers lost Clayton Kershaw to the IL but welcomed back Julio Urías, who looked good in his latest start against the Pirates; He showed off sharper command and earned a 5.14 PLV, a big improvement compared to his first start back on July 1st at Kansas City (4.77 PLV).

Kershaw being shelved until August should, at least for now, leave Bobby Miller and Emmet Sheehan in the rotation. Going by PLV, Miller seems like the more interesting gamble. In his latest start against the Pirates, he earned the win, and the performance earned an exceptional 5.53 PLV. But he also allowed two home runs, bringing him up to 20 earned runs over his last four starts. However, this might be a buy-low opportunity considering his top-notch pitch quality metrics.

 

Seiya Suzuki

 

Suzuki is hitting .259 with a .747 OPS, so the results have been fairly modest 71 games into year two. But the quality of his swings and takes have been through the roof lately, have a look. Might there be a storm brewing?

One final Cub worth mentioning is Mike Tauchman; He’s probably not an add outside of the deepest of leagues, but he’s done yeoman’s work with a .348 OBP as the team’s leadoff hitter against RHP supported by an impressive 70 in both DV and SZ Judgement.

Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

Ryan Amore

Writer for PL, artist, DFS enthusiast, and occasional Yankee fan. Once won a GPP with Henderson Alvarez. A proprietor of the Ketel Marte Fan Club. Appreciates walks but only of the base on ball variety.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Account / Login