One Surprising Stat for Each Hitter and the Context Behind It
by Chris O’Connor
August 8, 2021
Note: All stats are as of 8/5 and are courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Savant. Position players with at least 250 plate appearances were listed, in no particular order.
D.J. LeMahieu: Among all qualified hitters, D.J. has the 15th lowest slugging percentage in the sport at .365. While his ground ball rate is high, it is not dissimilar to prior years. However, his HR/FB ratio has dropped from 19.3% and 27.0% in 2019 and 2020 to 9% in 2021. His career rate is 10.3%, so maybe his previous two seasons were more outliers than anything.
Aaron Judge: Judge’s wOBA is .376 a very solid number that ranks 22nd among all qualified hitters. However, his xwOBA, based on the quality of contact, is .419. That -.043 differential is the third highest in the league. Despite not having a dominant, 2017-like season, Judge has been really good this year. The evidence suggests that, if his luck evens out and his missiles can start finding holes, he could get back to having MVP-level production.
Rougned Odor: Odor is pulling the ball 54.4% of the time, well ahead of his career rate of 47.1%. Getting out in front of the ball has helped Odor to a WRC+ of 96, his highest since 2016. And, with 0.7 fWAR through 70 games played, he is on pace for 1.6 fWAR/162. Not unbelievable, but getting about league-average production (and a few clutch hits) from a player the Texas Rangers were desperate to get rid of is a win for the Yankees.
Giancarlo Stanton: Stanton’s ground ball rate of 49.1% is easily a career high and well above his career average of 42.6%. Stanton is hitting the ball harder than ever, with both his hard hit rate and average velocity in a virtual tie with Judge for the league lead. However, his 17 home runs through 87 games puts him on pace for “just” 32 in 162 games. If he can find a way to elevate the ball more, the home runs will return.
Gleyber Torres: Remember how LeMahieu has the 15th-lowest slugging percentage of any qualified player? Gleyber is fifth-lowest at .345. His average exit velocity is down, but he has never hit the ball all that hard. Similar to D.J., he appears to be a victim of the de-juiced balls. His HR/FB ratio has plummeted from a high of 21.5% in 2019 to 6.1% this year. MLB’s potential manipulation of the baseballs has been a hot topic over the past few years, but guys like D.J. and Gleyber will need to find ways to adjust to get back to who they were.
Gio Urshela: Gio’s -6.0 baserunning score on Fangraphs is dead last in the major leagues. Fangraphs baserunning metric is all-encompassing: it measures steals/caught stealing, double plays hit into, taking extra bases, getting thrown out on the bases, etc. Knee and hamstring injuries have hampered him on the bases as he is in just the 23rd percentile at sprint speed, a very low number for an athletic third baseman. Still, being (statistically) the worst baserunner in the sport comes as a surprise. Despite this, Gio is having a typically solid year, if slightly down from the past few years; he has a .274/.315/.439 slash line with 11 homers in 84 games.
Gary Sanchez: The Kraken is in a virtual tie with Giancarlo Stanton for second on the team in Win Probability Added. Despite recently going on the Covid-IL, Gary has mostly managed to stay healthy and put in a productive year. In 84 games, he has a .216/.329/.450 slash line with 17 homers and 1.7 fWAR. Gary has routinely rated poorly in various clutch scores over the past few years, but he is right about league average at the point in the season. He has hit a few well-timed homers, and even if he never gets back to the Gary Sanchez of 2016-2017, he can still be a productive, above-average catcher.
Brett Gardner: He ranks in the 95th percentile in walk rate. I have always been a fan of Brett Gardner. The longest-tenured Yankee, he has been a model of consistency by providing great outfield defense, terrific baserunning, and consistent grit and hustle since he debuted in 2008. While all of those are still true, he is simply not a starting-caliber hitter anymore. He has seen his average exit velocity drop by 3.0 mph from 2020, the ninth-highest year over year drop in the majors. Still, his plate discipline has not left him: he walks a ton now, and his 97th percentile in chase rate indicates his increased selectivity at the plate. He may not be capable of consistently beating pitchers anymore, but he does make them earn it. I like him in a fourth-outfielder type role where he can be a veteran mentor for the team.