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Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Nick Madrigal Is Good. Can He Be Great?

Let me get this out of the way: Nick Madrigal is really good at baseball. Or at least, he’s really good at one aspect of it, and that aspect is one of the most important ones. Madrigal’s bat control is borderline otherworldly. Per FanGraphs’ measurements, Madrigal entered Sunday’s contest with a 100% in-zone contact rate. 100%! That’s zero swings and misses in the zone. Nearly 20 games into the season, that’s a remarkable achievement. Arguably more impressive is his 90.2% contact rate out of the zone. When he chases, he still hits the ball. Currently, only 31 qualified hitters have a higher in-zone contact rate than Madrigal has when leaving it. In terms of putting the bat on the baseball, Madrigal is a pure 80. It’s an amazing ability, and it’s one reason that, barring injury, it’s easy to see him hitting .300 or better for the next decade or more.

The question is how valuable can Madrigal be beyond his remarkable ability to make contact. He’s the ultimate “empty average” guy due to an aggressive approach and a complete lack of power. Entering Sunday’s game, Madrigal is a .327 hitter in his young, 47-game career. He has a .757 OPS to go along with that. Again good, but not as good as you’d expect from someone challenging for a batting title. ZIPS sees the weird combination of plusses and minuses and has Madrigal peaking at 2.3 WAR with a 101 OPS+. In order to go from good to really good, Madrigal is going to have to either walk more or hit balls harder, and he has a harder path than most in terms of making either happen.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 27, 2021 at 09:16 PM | 16 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: nick madrigal

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: April 27, 2021 at 10:18 PM (#6015778)
I don't think you can run a tracer on this one but ... when he debuted, Rafael Palmeiro went his first 8 games without swinging and missing (nor striking out). Gooden finally got him to swing and miss and K but the next time up, Palmeiro took him deep. (I traced myself on the games and Gooden but we can't trace the swings.)

On Madrigal -- the old-school 5% K-rate is nice but generally making contact with pitches outside the zone is not great. The low walk rate isn't much of an issue as long as he continues to hit 330 which he might well do but, so far, he does have "empty 300 BA" written all over him. Nevertheless, "might hit like Rod Carew" is a nice thing to have on a projection.

Huh ... just 2 players in the expansion era with 3000+ PA and a BA>300 but an ISO<090 -- Matty Alou and Manny Mota. Not that Madrigal is certain to have a sub-090 ISO but I was expecting a few more guys to fall into that group. I dropped it to 2000 PA and thru age 30 and we add Juan Pierre. Pierre and Alou are more realistic comps than Carew.

We can expand that a lot if we ignore BA and ISO per se and look for players with an OBP of 340 or higher with an ISO of 390 or lower (2000+ PA thru 30, expansion era) -- that turns up 73 names. DeShields, Menke, Paul Schaal, Scott Fletcher, Mike Andrews, Herr, Jody Reed and many more seem reasonable comps too. Those were all solid players putting up 15-25 WAR in their 20s (across a wide range of PAs). The power may be too limiting in today's game but a 350ish OBP looks very nice these days.
   2. SoSH U at work Posted: April 27, 2021 at 10:46 PM (#6015783)
The question is how valuable can Madrigal be beyond his remarkable ability to make contact. He’s the ultimate “empty average” guy due to an aggressive approach and a complete lack of power. Entering Sunday’s game, Madrigal is a .327 hitter in his young, 47-game career. He has a .757 OPS to go along with that. Again good, but not as good as you’d expect from someone challenging for a batting title. ZIPS sees the weird combination of plusses and minuses and has Madrigal peaking at 2.3 WAR with a 101 OPS+. In order to go from good to really good, Madrigal is going to have to either walk more or hit balls harder, and he has a harder path than most in terms of making either happen.


Even if he were to stop chasing pitches entirely, if he hits everything thrown in the strike zone it would be really difficult to meaningfully improve his walk rate.
   3. Itchy Row Posted: April 27, 2021 at 11:35 PM (#6015793)
Nick Madrigal is a baseball player. Can he be a baseball player who knows how to knit?
   4. Walt Davis Posted: April 28, 2021 at 12:38 AM (#6015800)
I coulda saved some electrons if I'd bothered to read the 2nd paragraph. :-)

Assuming you can't be Gwynn or Carew or prime Altuve, pretty much the sweet spot for this sort of hitter is Brett Butler at 290/377/376 or Luis Castillo at 290/368/351. Castillo even overlapped with sillyball.

Madrigal's K-rate is so extremely low relative to context that we probably have to go back to Nellie Fox, at least as far back as Beckert, to find a comparable. But just usting his raw rate and similar criteria as before (expansion, 2000+ PA thru 30) and a K-rate of 5% or less ... 6 players with Gwynn easily leading in OPS+ at 129, Buckner next at 101, Millan and Beckert in the mid-80s, Richardson in the high 70s and Felix Fermin in the low 70s. (Hey, two Felixes.) So a super-low K-rate doesn't bode well and I suspect the main reason for that is that you need high contact on pitches outside the zone to have such a low K-rate. Too much bad/weak contact.

Obviously, as a 2B, Buckner's 101 OPS+ would suit Madrigal just fine. And if you drop it to 1 K per 15 PA, you add Boggs, Brett, Mattingly and Madlock as excellent hitters** and plenty more solid-good hitters (Oberkfell, Johnny Ray, Dave Cash being the most obvious Madrigal comps). There are plenty of very bad bats as well -- the range bottom to top is 90 points of OPS+.

Now ... the Felix hitting competition. Felix Mantilla made it to a 101 OPS+ thanks to a love for Fenway. Felix Jose, who made an AS team!, put up a 103. Junior Felix spares us a debate by placing 3rd with a 99. I didn't check every Felix but most were flashes in the pan or pitchers. Obviously Felix Hernandez leads in overall WAR; Millan made it to 17.

**Brett & Mattingly have too much power to be good Madrigal comps.

Can he be a baseball player who knows how to knit?

The White Sox have Garret Crochet so they are well ahead of other teams on the crafts front. Madrigal can cover music composition and I assume you know what Danny Mendick is useful for. That's about half an adult education center right there. (Needs a cooking class and salsa dancing, maybe yoga.)

   5. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 28, 2021 at 12:53 AM (#6015801)
Needs a cooking class
Adam Eaton.
   6. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: April 28, 2021 at 07:03 AM (#6015812)
Max Fried
   7. Ron J Posted: April 28, 2021 at 08:36 AM (#6015813)
#2 My friend Bob Rich made this point about prime George Bell. He didn't walk much while rarely chasing stuff he couldn't hit hard. He could just hit a lot of pitches hard.

Tough way to make a living though. The moment his bat started to slow he stopped being able to make this approach work really well.
   8. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: April 28, 2021 at 08:51 AM (#6015814)
Needs a cooking class and salsa dancing, maybe yoga.

Bartolo Colón dice, "¡Hola!"
   9. Jose Canusee Posted: April 28, 2021 at 01:10 PM (#6015845)
https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/millafe01.shtml
Millan would be a good comp, he hit .310 with 100 runs scored in 1970 which was all-star but now shows as a 93 OPS+ (He did get 101 for the '76 Mets)

Jim Rice and Zack Wheat are part of the food HOF. Can't stomach Catfish without Lemon, though. And Wally Berger would have had something better than the Yerminator named for him.
   10. SoSH U at work Posted: April 28, 2021 at 01:33 PM (#6015853)
Can't stomach Catfish without Lemon, though.


The '78-'79 Yanks are the team for you.

   11. Rally Posted: April 28, 2021 at 01:39 PM (#6015856)
I think Nick Madrigal is what you'd get if you built a time machine, went back 100 years, and brought Joe Sewell to play 2021 baseball.
   12. A triple short of the cycle Posted: April 28, 2021 at 01:48 PM (#6015859)
Can't stomach Catfish without Lemon

Nice one!
   13. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 28, 2021 at 01:51 PM (#6015860)
Yasmani rice?
   14. Walt Davis Posted: April 28, 2021 at 05:47 PM (#6015929)
Bartolo Colón dice, "¡Hola!"

Not the yoga instructor I had in mind.
   15. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 28, 2021 at 05:53 PM (#6015930)
Not the yoga instructor I had in mind.
Yovani Gallardo would seem to be the obvious choice.
   16. Walt Davis Posted: April 28, 2021 at 05:57 PM (#6015931)
Back to new-fangled baseball, Madrigal's avg EV is about 84.5 and his hard-hit% about 22. That's a bit better than Hanser Alberto who got non-tendered (but picked up by KC) due to having some of the worst numbers in the league. It's a bit worse than Kolten Wong who had an un-exercised option. Alberto also doesn't K much (but more than twice Madrigal) and walks even less often so Madrigal should be able to stay above the Alberto line. Wong Ks more than either of these guys but also walks a lot more and has more power. Of course playing good defense is recommended for this sort of player which, per Rfield, Madrigal is struggling with.

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