Franmil Reyes Is Being the Beast Who Was Promised

Editor’s note: The FanGraphs Community Blog has received multiple submissions about Franmil Reyes lately, so we are running a pair together today. Here is the other. Happy Franmil day.

Franmil Reyes. Franimal. La Mole.

There are a few names for one of the most interesting players in the big leagues this year. He certainly has one of the most interesting triple-slash lines — Reyes was the only MLB player with a slugging percentage above .600 and an on-base percentage below .300 going into last weekend.

Reyes, who doesn’t turn 24 until July, is now firmly ensconced as the No. 2 hitter in the lineup on a San Diego Padres team that is somewhat unexpectedly above .500 more than a quarter of the way into the 2019 season.

The OBP around .300 isn’t ideal — it’s the second-lowest among the 52 players with slugging percentages above .500. Reyes ended 2018 with a .340 OBP, so he has demonstrated the ability to get on base at an above-average rate, but this season he has traded some walks for a spike in power by being aggressive, particularly early in at-bats. He was slugging .963 on first pitches after Wednesday’s game, including this blast Friday night for his 14th homer in less than 160 at-bats. There was also this shot to right-center for his 15th homer on a first pitch on Monday. If pitchers come to the inside part of the plate on a 0-0 count against Reyes, he has made them regret it.

Impressively, his aggression is not leading to an increase in strikeouts — rather, his K rate has gone down from 28% in 2018 to 25% in 2019. Reyes has made a lot of noise with his bat, including many loud outs. Bad batted ball luck has led to a .255 BABIP this year despite being in the 93rd percentile in average exit velocity, so there is still possibly some upside he has yet to reach. He isn’t in danger of platooning, with a higher OPS against RHP than LHP, and his spray chart shows he can do as much damage to the opposite field as he can the pull side. Read the rest of this entry »


The Next Giancarlo Stanton Has Arrived

Editor’s note: The FanGraphs Community Blog has received multiple submissions about Franmil Reyes lately, so we are running a pair together today. Here is the other. Happy Franmil day.

When you consider a power hitter like Giancarlo Stanton, it’s hard to think of any other player that can crush the ball the way he can outside of his teammate Aaron Judge. However, there appears to be a young slugger who resembles Stanton in many ways that everyone should be paying more attention to. This is a player who debuted in 2018, and is playing in his first full season in 2019. Meet Franmil Reyes, the 23-year-old Padres outfielder who has 15 home runs through his first 50 games this season. Obviously it’s pretty significant to compare any baseball player to Giancarlo Stanton, right? What’s awesome about this comparison specifically is that Reyes stacks up with Stanton in almost every statistical category from the 2018 season. Take a look at how their offensive numbers compare:

Giancarlo Stanton & Franmil Reyes, 2018
Name BB% K% ISO BABIP OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Stanton 9.9 % 29.9 % 0.243 0.333 0.343 0.509 0.360 127
Reyes 8.4 % 28.1 % 0.218 0.345 0.340 0.498 0.360 129

As you can see above, Reyes and Stanton produced almost identically at the plate last season. Of course Stanton produced over the course of a full season, while Reyes played slightly more than half of a season’s worth of games (87). Nonetheless, the similarities between their statistical outputs are remarkable. When we get into the Statcast numbers from the 2018 campaign, the two sluggers once again compare pretty well:

Giancarlo Stanton & Franmil Reyes, 2018
Player Avg Exit Velo FB/LD Exit Velo GB Exit Velo
Stanton 93.7 mph 99.7 mph 91.4 mph
Reyes 92.3 mph 96.4 mph 90.1 mph

With this data, it’s clear that Reyes didn’t quite hit the ball as hard as Stanton. Despite their similarities statistically, Stanton definitely showed a better ability to crush the ball than Reyes did. We’re looking at the 2018 data because Stanton is currently hurt, but Reyes’ 2019 Statcast data has actually improved this season. Here’s how he’s performed in the same categories thus far: Read the rest of this entry »


Looking Into Brandon Nimmo’s Slow Start

Brandon Nimmo broke out for the New York Mets in 2018, emerging as one of their core hitters. He featured an excellent combination of power and plate discipline that led him to a .263/.404/.483 slash line and a 149 wRC+, a mark that ranked among the best in all of baseball. In getting to that point, Nimmo developed a more pull-heavy approach at the plate, which led to more hard contact and ultimately more power. Nimmo also featured a high .351 BABIP in 2018, which most would expect to come back down to a more reasonable number because of his tendency to pull ground balls into a shifted infield.

Very few, however, would have expected Nimmo to struggle like he has to start the 2019 season. To this point, Nimmo has put up a .200/.344/.323 slash line, good for a 93 wRC+ in 161 plate appearances, and injury concerns continue to linger. Nimmo’s struggles are playing a big part in the overall difficulties of the Mets lineup, and coaches have offered suggestions to Nimmo that might snap him out of it:

nimmo_1

Nimmo disagrees with Callaway, and so do I. Nimmo is one of the more patient hitters in the game, and he likes to wait for a pitch he can do damage with. The problem has been that he isn’t doing damage on those pitches like last year, so I wanted to find out what it is about Nimmo’s profile that could potentially be causing such a slow start. Read the rest of this entry »


Does Rule 5 Draft Position Matter?

Orioles fans like myself don’t have a lot of hope. It’s hard to get excited about a starting lineup featuring Austin Wynns, Joey Rickard, and Rio Ruiz. The Orioles’ hope is for the future, and one thing that got some Orioles fans excited this winter was the selection of Richie Martin with the first pick of the Rule 5 draft. Fans can dream about their team unearthing a diamond in the Rule 5 draft, reminding each other that Jose Bautista was a Rule 5 draft pick once. But the likelihood of success remains extremely low. Still, the first shot at a Rule 5 draft pick seems to suggest a better chance at success. The question is, how much does Rule 5 draft position predict the player’s future career value or team contribution?

To answer this, I identified data from the 2003 to 2014 Rule 5 drafts. I included only players selected in the major league portion of the draft, a sample size of 175. I also only included data up until 2014 to give players time to contribute towards their career bWAR and team bWAR values.

First off, the bar for success in the Rule 5 major league draft is fairly low. Take a look at the distribution of total bWAR provided to the team during the selected players’ tenure.

teambwar

That’s a lot of clustering around 0 with the exception of some highlights like Shane Victorino, Dan Uggla, Joakim Soria, Marwin Gonzalez, and Odubel Herrera, who all come in at top-10 in team bWAR. The mean team bWAR provided is .61 for this sample. Only six players, or 3.4%, provide more than 5 bWAR to their selecting team. In comparison, 25% of them posted a negative team bWAR, including poor Levale Speigner, who posted a -1.7 bWAR in 26 games across two seasons with the Washington Nationals. Read the rest of this entry »


Annotating “They Played Baseball” by The Baseball Project

The Baseball Project is a baseball-themed rock supergroup. The active roster includes:

Scott McCaughey [Young Fresh Fellows, The Minus 5, R.E.M.] (Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, Bass, Percussion, SF Giants)

Steve Wynn [The Dream Syndicate, The Miracle 3, Gutterball] (Vocals, Guitars, New York Yankees)

Linda Pitmon [The Miracle 3, Zuzu’s Petals] (Drums, Vocals, Minnesota Twins)

Peter Buck [R.E.M.] (Guitars, Bass, Banjo, Washington Senators)

Mike Mills [R.E.M.] (Bass, Vocals, Atlanta Braves)

The Baseball Project started when McCaughey and Wynn met and discovered a mutual love of The National Pastime sometime around 1992. It wasn’t until 2007 that the pair sat down to write and records songs. “We don’t have any rules about what constitutes a baseball song,” McCaughey explains on the band’s website. “It can be anything from a character study of an obscure guy from the 1920s, to something that just happened, to something completely ridiculous like Extra Inning of Love, which takes the baseball-as-love metaphor and tries to stretch it as far as it will go. They can be fictional songs or non-fictional songs. The great thing with baseball is, we’ll never run out of things to write about!”

The Baseball Project has released three albums, performed The Star-Spangled Banner and Take Me Out to the Ballgame at numerous ballparks, and recorded the theme song for Adult Swim’s animated series Squidbillies in 2013.

Their songs are endlessly catchy and often dense with baseball references. Here’s one of their best, with 30 footnotes to fill in any backstory you may not already know. Read the rest of this entry »


The Logic Behind Opt-Outs

Opt-outs are complicated to understand. On a basic level, an opt-out allows a player the choice, during a specified offseason, to nullify his current contract and become a free agent again. How an opt-out affects the value of a contract has been written about plenty — despite the differences in methods or dollar-per-WAR values, it is generally accepted that the inclusion of an opt-out lowers the total salary of the contract.

Given the issues with trying to calculate an exact value of an opt-out — the two biggest challenges being having sparse contract data and the necessity of a reliable future projection system — I tried to explore opt-outs from a theoretical perspective: why would a player ask for an opt-out, and why would a team write one into a contract. Note: the equations were originally in latex, but they lost formatting through submission. They have been replaced with plain text.

From the Player’s Perspective:

A player would sign a contract with an opt-out if he believed the expected present value of the contract was greater than a contract offer without an opt-out.

EPV_opt < EPV_no-opt

The expected present value of the contract without an opt-out (EPV_no-opt) is just the expected present value of the contract itself. The expected present value of the contract with an opt-out (EPV_opt) is more complex.

The expected present value of a contract with an opt-out can be broken down into two components: the expected present value of the pre-opt-out portion of the contract ($latex EPV_{pre\:opt}$) and the expected present value of the post-opt-out portion. Regardless of whether the player opts out or not, the pre-opt-out value of the contract is the same. The post-opt-out value differs, depending on three values: the value of the new contract should the player opt-out ($latex EPV_{opt}$), the value of staying in the current contract and not opting out ($latex EPV_{no\:opt}$), and the probability the player opts out (P opt-out). Read the rest of this entry »


Lucas Giolito and the Long-Awaited Comeback

Are we finally seeing the Lucas Giolito performance that we waited so long for? Once pegged as a “top-of-the-rotation demigod,” Giolito has struggled to find any consistency in the majors. Through the month of May, he’s got the highest K% of his career at 29.2% and the largest K% increase in MLB from 2018 to 2019 with a 13.1% jump. He’s got an average fastball velocity of 93.4 mph, up exactly one tick from last season, and has also added 148 rpm to his heater. Giolito has been more aggressive in terms of overall zone percentage, with the third-largest MLB increase from 2018 to 2019 at 6.8%. Even while down in a hitter’s count, he’s found ways to battle back in the zone, something he was below league average in last season:

Batters are having a tougher time squaring him up and he’s even added some vertical break on his fastball and curveball: Read the rest of this entry »


How Are Starting Pitchers Affected by Their Previous Start’s Workload?

Pitchers’ workloads are certainly a topic we’re used to hearing about as baseball fans. We live in the pitch count era after all, and every game has a pitch count indicator on the screen showing how many the starter has thrown. We’ve gotten used to starters getting the hook right around 100, even if they’re pitching well. We also know that it is to avoid injury to this most injury-prone of positions. It’s never been shown very clearly that higher pitch counts lead to injury, but there’s enough worry that teams want to play it safe with these prized assets. This is even more true with young pitchers: they often aren’t allowed past 85 or 90 pitches if the team is especially worried about their arm.

We also know the other reason why: pitchers just aren’t going to keep doing as well if you leave them in for that long. Past 100 pitches, pitchers are usually well into their third time through the opposing team’s batting order, if not their fourth. We know that each additional time hitters get to see the same pitcher in the same game, the better the hitters do against him. And we know that, of course, pitchers get tired as they throw more pitches, and their velocity drops, and with it, their effectiveness.

But should there be another consideration here? We know the long-term reasons for limiting pitch counts, as well as the short-term ones. But what about the medium term: how does a starter’s pitch count affect how he’ll do his next time out on the mound?

Over at Baseball Prospectus, Russell Carleton (a.k.a. @pizzacutter4) looked at this question back in 2013. He found that past 100 pitches, every further pitch thrown leads to more home runs and more singles being given up next time out, as well as fewer balls in play meekly falling for outs. But his study was only focused on the extreme upper end of pitch counts, inspired as it was by Tim Lincecum’s brilliant 148-pitch no-hitter. That matters, but I also want to know what happens before a starter gets to 100 pitches. There’s no reason to think the effect of workload only kicks in after 100 pitches have been thrown. Will a pitcher do better next time out if his pitch count is kept significantly below 100? I decided to find out. Read the rest of this entry »


Ulnar Collateral Ligament Reconstruction and Its Effect on Yearly and Career WAR

Tommy John’s Legacy

Tommy John belongs in the Hall of Fame. With 12 more wins to his name, he almost certainly would be. However, his record 188 career no-decisions held him back. With more advanced analytics, his case becomes clear. In terms of all-time WAR, Tommy John sits in 22nd among pitchers, sandwiched between John Smoltz and Phil Niekro. His impressive total can be attributed largely to his astounding longevity, pitching 26 seasons in MLB. This becomes even more incredible when his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) is taken into account. Tommy John underwent the first UCL reconstruction (UCLR) ever performed on a pitcher in 1974. After taking the 1975 season off, he went on to pitch 14 (!) more seasons, essentially putting in an entire career’s worth of work after a still experimental surgery.

Tommy John surgery, as it is now called, is still extraordinarily common in Major League pitchers, and the specter of a UCL tear haunts pitchers and general managers alike. But how does actually undergoing Tommy John surgery affect a player’s ability to perform? There have been considerations that Tommy John surgery actually improves performance, though this assertion is controversial at best.

Brief Review of Current Literature

A 2014 cohort study from Erickson et al. investigated MLB pitchers who underwent UCL reconstruction and compared performance measures between those who underwent surgery and controls that were matched by age, BMI, position, handedness, and MLB experience. Also measured was the rate of the return to pitching after surgery. This study showed that 83% of those who underwent surgery were able to return to pitching. In terms of performance, it was found that performance significantly declined the year before surgery and improved after surgery in the experimental cohort (as measured by losses, losing percentage, ERA, walks, hits allowed, runs, and home runs allowed). The surgical group even improved in some measures after surgery as compared to the controls, specifically in terms of losses, losing percentage, ERA, walks allowed, and hits allowed per inning.1

Another cohort study shortly followed in 2014 from Drs. Jiang and Leland that investigated the velocity of MLB pitchers after UCL reconstruction. In this study, of those who were able to return to pitching at the major league level, the mean velocity they were able to reach was unchanged with respect to the control group. In addition, performance measures of those who received surgery were not affected relative to the control group (in this case ERA, BAA, W/9, K/9, and WHIP).2

Yet another cohort study came in 2015 by Marshall et al., which compared 33 MLB pitchers who received Tommy John surgery to 33 age-matched controls. These groups showed mixed results in terms of performance, with little effect of surgery on ERA and WHIP. Surgery was correlated instead with a decline in innings pitched and BB/9. Of note, those who received surgery had significantly shorter careers after surgery than the control group (a difference of 0.8 years (P<0.1)).3 Read the rest of this entry »


Are Players Learning to Cut Their Strikeout Rate?

Strikeouts are continuing to go up. In 2016, batters struck out 21.1% of the time. It was 21.6% in 2017, and 22.3% in 2018, and now 23.2% in 2019, which would again be a new record.

However, while looking at the leaderboards, it appeared to me that there were some quite spectacular K-rate improvers this year, most notably Matt Chapman and Cody Bellinger. This leads to two questions:

1. Is there an increase in players improving their strikeout rate?
2. Do those improvements stick?

I looked at guys who improved at least five points in strikeout rate in April 2019 vs. 2018.

2019 contact gainers

There have been 20 hitters that have improved five or more points, with five guys improving by more than 10. Read the rest of this entry »