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Sunday, August 11, 2019

Astros, Reds rookie sluggers rewrite baseball history with three-homer games

The rookies are taking over Major League Baseball.

We’ve heard all the buzz surrounding Pete Alonso, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr., just to name a few.

On Saturday, it was Yordan Alvarez of the Houston Astros and Aristides Aquino of the Cincinnati Reds who rewrote the history books by becoming the first pair of rookie sluggers to each hit three home runs on the same day.

And that tidbit was just the tip of the iceberg.

So, are the rookies actually taking over, and, if so, why?

QLE Posted: August 11, 2019 at 04:46 AM | 7 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: aristides aquino, astros, home runs, reds, rookies, yordan alvarez

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   1. CFBF's Overflowing Pathos Posted: August 11, 2019 at 01:25 PM (#5870311)
Aquino has kind of an odd swing - he looks incredibly stiff up there.
   2. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: August 11, 2019 at 01:50 PM (#5870315)
If you look at how all the prospects were rated at the time Friedman traded them, Alvarez wouldn’t be near the top 10. He had just signed for $2m and hadn’t played a single minor league game at the time. But he’s always going to be the one who got away.
   3. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: August 11, 2019 at 02:37 PM (#5870334)
<checks Big Book of Baseball History>

Nope, it’s all still there. Whew.
   4. Walt Davis Posted: August 11, 2019 at 06:39 PM (#5870406)
Aquino is different than these others. He's not a prospect phenom, he's 25 and didn't crack AAA until this year. Last year he hit just 240/306/448 in AA, the year before 216/282/397. Possibly he's completely retooled his swing and found success (he destroyed AAA) but I'll guess it's more likely they just haven't found the hole in his swing yet. He'll start seeing a lot more breaking stuff and changeups now, they'll start working in/out and up/down until they find his weaknesses. Which isn't to say he's not a player or won't put up a few solid seasons in his prime but I'll guess he's more Glenallen Hill than Frank Howard. Vogelbach and Voit might be other current comps.

Alonso is a bit similar -- less than a year younger than Aquino. But Alonso's later start is due to being a college draftee and at least he hit reasonably well to excellent at each stop along the way, cracked the top 50 and, in the old days, probably would have gotten a debut last Sept. Alvarez also raked at each of his stops although he seems to have struggled a bit in his first exposure at a new level. Aquino's 2019 has come out of nowehre.
   5. Howie Menckel Posted: August 11, 2019 at 08:29 PM (#5870414)
these authors would have loved the 1930s - especially NL.

"Golly gee, the best hitters ever all just showed up at once! I mean, there can be no other explanation!"
   6. Walt Davis Posted: August 11, 2019 at 09:45 PM (#5870420)
I was perusing this the other day, seems a good spot to roll it out ... for 2019

lo-25: 257/323/444, 102 OPS+ (25.8% of PAs)
26-30: 254/324/439, 101 OPS+ (49.5%)
31-35: 248/321/419, 96 OPS+ (21.1%)
36+: not enough PA to matter

Not a lot to choose from there. In theory, production should be pretty stable across groups, the main issue is the playing time distribution. That is there's not much point (beyond $) to give PT to a <26 who can't hit while you'd keep hiring 26-30 until such point as their average production matches the others, etc. Presumably as we move into garbage time for many teams, the proportion of PAs going younger will increase. Looking at it for 2014 (so the current 26-30 group includes 2014's 25 and under group):

lo-25: 248/306/380, 96 (24.7%)
26-30: 252/314/391, 101 (46.4%)
31-35: 256/325/390, 105 (24.4%)
36+: still not enough to matter

2014 was the big downer offense year so that massive difference in SLG/ISO is extreme. The pattern here though is the reverse with the youngsters hitting the worst. PA distribution tilts a bit older. Now 2009:

lo-25: 263/330/421, 100 (23.3%)
26-30: 261/333/422, 101 (43.5%)
31-35: 266/335/413, 99 (27.6%)
36+: still not enough to matter

Here we start to see the younger shift in playing time that has been talked about widely although most of it has shifted to the 26-30 year-old group. But the performances are again quite similar. The lower performance of the 31-35 group in 2019 might well be due to the EV/LA revolution -- those batters weren't raised on it and have to change while the kids have been trained this way. The primary source of lower production in 2019 is lower ISO but the 2009 oldsters had a lower ISO too so it could just be random.

So possibly the shift is more about the Voit, Vogelbach and Aquino types -- the Roberto Petagines of our age -- and teams deciding that the late bloomers are as good (and cheaper) than the mid-30s vet. Obviously we also have a pretty big group of impressive phenoms but that may be more a fluke.

   7. Walt Davis Posted: August 11, 2019 at 10:47 PM (#5870427)
Another approach:

Make a list of all players 25 or younger in 2009 with at least 100 PAs. What does it look like 5 and 10 years later.

99 players, 75 with positive WAR. In that 75, the only two younger than 21 were Andrus (20, 3.6 WAR) and Travis Snider (21, 241 PAs). At the upper end, we see the Boston cliff-divers (Hanley and Panda), a lot of guys who got crunched by injury (Prince, Pedroia, Tulo), guys with more standard decline (Longoria, Braun) and guys who pretty much maintained where they were (J Upton, Votto, Braun, Andrus).

So, for 2010-14, ...

There were actually 4 players who didn't get any PAs. Another 12 were below replacement, another 15 less than 1 WAR total. The set of guys who were basically near-replacement to 1-WAR players but received rather a lot of PT included Delmon Young, Francoeur, Mark Reynolds, Lind, G Beckham (4.6 WAR, -4.4 WAA), M Upton (5.3, -4.8). The regular starter but not good group includes Suzuki, Drew Stubbs (surprisingly useful), Daniel Murphy, Markakis, Alcides Escobar, Billy Butler, Fowler, A Cabrera.

Around the top third you start crossing into pretty good -- guys over 10 WAR with 3+ WAA say -- Parra, Montero, Pennington (oh yeah, him), Kemp, McCann, Rasmus, M Cabrera, Prince, Bruce, etc. You start pushing into the elite although it's interesting (and probably fluky) that for this particular cohort, many of the elite are there largely on defense -- Carlos Gomez, Erick Aybar, Ellsbury, Gardner. The elite by WAR are McCutchen, Votto, Longoria, Pedroia, Tulo, Braun and Alex Gordon, all around 4.5-6 WAR per year.

Now if we look at the much broader group of players aged 26-30 in 2014 alone with at least 100 PAs, we get 203 players of which fewer than 95 played in 2009. Many of these players would have debuted at age 22 or 23 between 2009 and 2014 so they obviously aren't all late bloomers. Josh Donaldson led the age group in 2014 and he was definitely a late bloomer. Lucroy was 3rd in WAR and he didn't become a starting C until age 25. Jose Abreu came over from Cuba, Dozier didn't become a starter until age 26, Todd Frazier at 27, Lorenzo Cain at 28, 2014 happened to be JDM's breakout year at age 26. At least half of the 2014 top 20 for this age group made little/no substantial impact (or were even starters) prior to ages 25-26.

45 players aged 26-30 in 2014 put up at least 3 WAR. Unless I missed somebody, the only ones not receiving pretty substantial PT this year are Tulo (who got a few PAs), Pedroia, Mesoraco (injured, was solid last year), Cespedes, Erick Aybar, Plouffe (remember him), Denard Span, Hanley (who did start briefly this year), Chase Headley (did he get hurt? He was solid enough in 2017), Ellsbury and Desmond Jennings (who I think got hurt). Some of these guys haven't deserved the PT they've gotten -- Desmond, Adam Jones, Josh Harrison. Several others are close to the end of their careers.

But y'know, it "shocks" me to see that Hanley is 35 now. So are Prado and Span and Ellsbury and Headley. Not a shocker those guys didn't make it to 2019 and beyond ... as we see from the PA distributions above, not many do. The main causes for most of the "deaths" seems to be injury. Granted, they might have been in substantial decline anyway by this point but even a "disaster" like Ellsbury was (per WAA) actually a bit above-average whenever he did take the field for the Yanks. (No, not close to worth $150 M, just saying the evidence is he was still a skilled player when the injuries took over.)





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