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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Byron Buxton is reaching his potential

Byron Buxton is a poster child of a player who has worlds of potential, but hasn’t been able to put it together due to injury or lack of opportunity. In Buxton’s case, it’s much more the former. He’s dealt with a multitude of injuries over the course of his career, which has subsequently inhibited his ability to really get his footing at the Major League level.

After a 140-game campaign in 2017, Buxton followed with game totals of 28, 87, and another 39 that came in the shortened campaign of 2020. The Star Tribune has a comprehensive list of the injuries that limited him so much in those seasons here. It’s a trend that’s crushing at every turn, which makes this year’s early developments that much more exciting.

Obviously the figures ahead aren’t anywhere near sustainable. But what they do accomplish, other than being slapped with a NSFW tag, is speaking to the talent that has always been there for Buxton, waiting to be unlocked with the right combination of health and, well, more health. Thus far in 2021, Buxton has slashed a cool .481/.548/1.185/1.734. His ISO is at .704. His wRC+? 354.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 13, 2021 at 02:18 PM | 13 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: byron buxton

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: April 13, 2021 at 05:05 PM (#6013248)
It's the annual "Buxton has finally figured it out" article. There was the 2nd half of 2016 when he put up a 812 OPS and the 2nd half of 2017 when he put up a 893. It's true he got hurt and missed about 6 weeks in the first half of 2018 but it's also true that his performance was to bad they had to send him down to AAA for the 2nd half where he posted just a 793 OPS. He was quite good when he played in 2019 then in 2020 he hit for outstanding power (60 HR pace) and walked twice in 135 PA for a 267 OBP.

With his play 2019-21, I'm willing to grant the power is there (also EV and hard-hit%). The K-rate isn't so bad for these days (25%). He might well setting in around 270/320/520 which is mighty handy for a good defensive CF ... but I won't be surprised if it's more like 250/280/480.

Wow! At the moment, he's on a 200 Rbat, 24-WAR pace.
   2. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 13, 2021 at 05:08 PM (#6013250)
Over the last three seasons, he has played in 134 games and has hit .273/.316/.575 with 6.3 WAR. Seems like health is the biggest issue right now.
   3. JJ1986 Posted: April 13, 2021 at 05:34 PM (#6013262)
Like 8 years ago, I commented that the Astros shouldn't have cheaped out and taken Correa over Buxton. For years, that was the wrong call, but I may have finally turned out to be right.
   4. Walt Davis Posted: April 13, 2021 at 06:18 PM (#6013268)
#2 ... his first 8 games of 2021 raise that total over 2019-20 by 14 points of BA, 17 points of OBP, 41 points of SLG and 1.2 WAR. He has more Rbat in 2021 than he did in 2019-20 combined.

His 2018-20 numbers are 240/278/473, 98 OPS+, 4.8 WAR in 154 games ... 4.8 WAR thanks to 21 runs of Rfield and 7 of base/DP. Nobody questions his defense and running. That's 140 points of OPS if you swap 8 games of 2021 for 28 games of 2018.

Is he a 240 hitter, a 255 hitter or a 270 hitter? Makes a big difference because that looks like the difference between a 290 OBP, a 305 OBP and a 320 OBP. Is he a 200 ISO, a 250 ISO or a 300 ISO hitter? As a hitter, is he Javy Baez or Eloy Jimenez? (or the new Babe Ruth?) He's had a wicked good 134 games ... and we would never place much confidence in a projection based on just 134 games.
   5. Cooper Nielson Posted: April 14, 2021 at 04:57 AM (#6013332)
Speaking of centerfielders drafted by the Twins out of Georgia high schools, what are we to make of Akil Baddoo? Obviously he's not THIS good (1.443 OPS), but how good is he?

His minor-league performance was promising but not overwhelming, and he hasn't played a full season since 2018. He profiled as a speedy on-base guy (low average, high walks) with decent power. But now he's a super-slugger who rarely walks (1 in 8 MLB games so far) and has only stolen one base.

8 games is very little to go on, but he also hit 5 HR in spring training with a .325/.460/.750 slash line in 50 PA. So that's now 9 HR in 75 PA against MLB(ish) pitching. Is it just a ridiculous hot streak, or is he actually a future star?
   6. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: April 14, 2021 at 06:30 PM (#6013456)
I was thinking, "Hey, he went to my college!" until I realized I was confusing him with this guy.
   7. sunday silence (again) Posted: April 14, 2021 at 07:24 PM (#6013461)
He's had a wicked good 134 games ... and we would never place much confidence in a projection based on just 134 games.


if he's playing full time, thats what 500 AB? Most measures of off. should start to stabilize at that pt. See e.g. this:

https://library.fangraphs.com/principles/sample-size/
   8. Mayor Blomberg Posted: April 14, 2021 at 07:40 PM (#6013463)
#2 ... his first 8 games of 2021 raise that total over 2019-20 by 14 points of BA, 17 points of OBP, 41 points of SLG and 1.2 WAR. He has more Rbat in 2021 than he did in 2019-20 combined.


OK, but then look at the effect of his brief return from injury prior to being sent down in 18. What happens when we trim them both?
   9. Walt Davis Posted: April 14, 2021 at 09:33 PM (#6013482)
OK, but then look at the effect of his brief return from injury prior to being sent down in 18. What happens when we trim them both?

You asked the question and you have the same access to b-r that we all do so why don't you tell us. My response is "I don't care -- anytime it matters whether this set of 10-20-30 games is in or out of our prediction means our prediction is unstable."

See e.g. this:

And?? Take a look at the interactive chart at the end. It shows ISO to "stabilize" better than BA and SLG. The alpha (R^2) is nearly 82% at 600 ABs which means this year's ISO explains about 82% of the variation in next year's ISO which is quite high. Now that's the line for a 250 ISO which is really high of course. Now hover on the last point and it gives you more info. First, that 250 ISO gets regressed to a prediction of 232 -- it's not clear to me if that's gone into their measure of "error" in predicting next year or not. Then look at the 95% confidence intrval -- it's 192 to 273. That's an 80 point range which, in ISO terms, is quite large.

Now go down to the SLG line. SLG of course is the sum of the highly variable BA and the less variable but still highly variable ISO. You have to fiddle with it a bit but for a 500 SLG (say 250 BA, 250 ISO), it gets regressed to 476 and has a CI that's 110 points wide. That graph uses data for 2013-15 so 110 points of SLG is about 25 points of OPS+. Now OBP "stabilizes" a bit later than SLG (i.e. OBP more variable) but it's a proportion so will have a lower random variation (in abs terms) than the count variable SLG ... but then the lg average is much lower in abs terms so ... the chart doesn't give OBP as an option so let's just WAG that it's something like a 20 OPS+ point CI just on SLG.

Now you've got to answer the question of whether SLG and OBP are correlated. Hard to say. In today's game, ISO may be slightly negatively correlated with BA but, in almost any era, ISO is positively correlated with walk rate.

Point being, by the time you're done, you're probably looking at something like projecting that Buxton's current true OPS+ is somethwere between 100 and 130 ... which means in any given season it can manifest as anywhere between about 80 and 150. I coulda told you that without running a single number.

Be clear that "stabilized" in these studies is the point at which the last N PAs of a stat will predict 50% of the variation in the next N PAs. That's all well and good but there's a lot of variation to explain so 50% still leaves a ton you don't know. That chart at the end at least gives you the CI as an estimate of the remaining uncertainty. About all you can really say is what I said: Buxton has demonstrated more power and it's probably real.

The bigger problem of course is that the question these studies are trying to answer is "at what point can we believe that the 95 OPS+ hitter Buxton who is now putting up a 125 OPS+ is now really a 115 OPS+ hitter (after regression)?" Let's say we answer that he is. Now, so what? Did we explain how he went from 95 to 115? Other than maybe a standard aging curve, no we haven't. So then we have to include a guesstimate that he's probably just as likely to turn back into a 95 OPS+ hitter out of nowhere as he was to go from 95 to 115. But of course maybe he's about to move from 115 to 135 although we'd guess this is less likely.

So again, that projection is the projection of their "true talent" and, per your cite, after 600 AB, a 500 SLG gives a true SLG estimate of 421 to 531. Where in that range is Buxton right now? What his last 600ish PA tell us (assuming these studies hold when the PAs are spread across 4 years) is that he almost certainly is a more powerful hitter than he was prior to 2018. They also suggest he is most likely (but not almost certainly) a less powerful hitter than he has demonstrated over those 600 PAs (SLG of 511). We might then say "but his last 171 PA show him to be even more powerful still" and, I suspect, if we redid everything we'd find that to be correct. We might then say "sure but if a guy with a 400 SLG can suddenly become a guy with a 500 SLG can suddenly become a guy with a 600 SLG, none of which we were able to predict, maybe we don't really a single concrete thing about Buxton."

And the last bit is of course the true bit. Other than their injury history, we really know nothing of value about any individual player until they actually perform ... at which point that doesn't really tell us much reliable. We didn't know Justin Turner was gonna turn into Justin Turner while Kyle Schwarber was (to this point) gonna stay Kyle Schwarber. All we can say is "past players with this past performance profile, on average, performed like this going forward with a typical range (which is quite wide) of this." We can't pick the outliers, we are actuaries.

At best the last decade of sabermetrics has shifted from actual results to underlying indicators (statcast stuff) and possibly the underlying indicators are better predictors than the results. Buxton's averrage EV and hard-hit % did take big jumps in 2019 and again so far this year. Maybe that info gives us an 80-point wide CI on SLG rather than 110.
   10. sunday silence (again) Posted: April 16, 2021 at 10:51 AM (#6013770)
you are arguing about each of those parameters of Buxton's hitting as if they exist in a vacuum but they don't. So OK lets say 500 data pts of batting average of .250 has a reasonable range of .220 to .300 going forward. (I dont know the exact range for ba but I guess you can work it out from that link)

IF this was all we had I would agree. EXAMPLE ONE: say we are not given the name of the player, we know nothing about his slug.; his BB his Ks, his babip. So sure 500 data pts. of binary data (ie.: hit or not a hit) would lead to the conclusion that this might be OMAR MORENO or BILL BUCKNER. A huge range of possibles, a huge range of prediction going forward.

But that's not what we have here. Batting is comprised of at least 4 variables: ba. (or babip if you like) slug.; Ks; BB. Probably some more. Every AB Buxton is producing data that relate to each of those four variables.

SO we dont have just 500 pts of binary data we have 500 data pts. that each comprise a rich array of data. Call it four parameters if you will. At least that many. This is way different than example ONE. I dont know how to do the math but we are likely to find that going forward the last 500 AB would suggest a tighter predictable range maybe .230-.270 ba; and .475-580 slug.

So you can't just cherry pick ba from the link I posted and then argue that Buxton's as likely to hit .200 as .300. If it was an unknown player with no further info, perhaps "yes" but that's not what we have here. We have several thousand data pts of information.

Obviously there is always going to be a range to making future predictions. Roberto Clemente had 10,000 AB and I dont think we can say with any confidence that he was a predictably .317 hitter for all of those. There are park factors, weather factors the opposing pitcher, the defense, the base/out situation; etc. The fact that there's range, and maybe a bigger range that we as fans assume, doesnt really invalidate my pt. that going forward we have better predictability than you suggest.

I made the very same argument to you a couple years ago when we were discussing the limitations of a seaon's worth of defensive data. And you dropped out of the discussion.

SO let's make this real simple:

1 Does one AB in baseball provide us more than one binary data pt?

2 Therefore: Isnt 500 AB, provide at least a couple thousand data pts?

3 Havent you yourself already admitted the data work this way when you say:

At best the last decade of sabermetrics has shifted from actual results to underlying indicators (statcast stuff) and possibly the underlying indicators are better predictors than the results. Buxton's averrage EV and hard-hit % did take big jumps in 2019 and again so far this year. Maybe that info gives us an 80-point wide CI on SLG rather than 110.


So peripheral data like statcast is being used to further sift the data that we have and produce more data pts. Isnt that what I'm saying?

So OK instead of 1000 word essay let's see how you respond to these.



   11. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: April 16, 2021 at 11:22 AM (#6013778)

Now you've got to answer the question of whether SLG and OBP are correlated. Hard to say. In today's game, ISO may be slightly negatively correlated with BA but, in almost any era, ISO is positively correlated with walk rate.

Batting average makes up ~60% of SLG* and ~70% of OBP** for the league overall, so OBP and SLG are pretty much by definition going to be correlated. Unless I am missing something.

* League H/TB = 59% in 2020
** League H / (H + BB) = 70% in 2020
   12. sunday silence (again) Posted: April 19, 2021 at 03:34 PM (#6014277)
So no response from Walt to any of this?
   13. Nasty Nate Posted: April 28, 2021 at 04:03 PM (#6015892)
Today he was 5-for-5 with two doubles, a homer, and a steal.

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