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Monday, May 23, 2022

These 5 MLB Breakouts Are (Probably) For Real

J.P. Crawford, Seattle Mariners
The aforementioned established major leaguer, J.P. Crawford graduated as a prospect during the 2018 season. Known for his consistent presence on defensive highlight reels, Crawford’s glove made up the lion’s share of his value as a big leaguer. Coming into the 2022 season, however, Crawford’s offensive output had been on a three-year incline, netting wRC+ marks of 87, 95 and 103 over the past three seasons. That alone earned him a five-year extension.

While Crawford has always shown an above-average skill set when it comes to avoiding strikeouts and drawing walks, with rates near or better than the league average three years running, the best mark he had mustered in weighted on-base average (wOBA) was a meager .314. For his career to date before this season, his triple slash was a rather tepid .250/.331/.367. This year, Crawford is mashing to a much stronger .289/.368/.444 — good for 46 percent above the league average — with a wOBA of .360.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 23, 2022 at 01:51 PM | 20 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: daulton varsho, j.p. crawford, jazz chisholm, jeremy pena, wander franco

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   1. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: May 23, 2022 at 03:05 PM (#6078145)
Wander Franco, the highly regarded prospect who finished 3rd in the AL ROY balloting despite playing less than half the season and is now performing worse than he did a year ago is a "breakout?" He's still playing very well and it's likely he will improve because he's a stud but how is this year any kind of breakout for him?
   2. Tom Nawrocki Posted: May 23, 2022 at 03:19 PM (#6078149)
That's what happens when you talk yourself into thinking that things like "barrels" are more important than results. Franco's barrels have gone from 3.9 per PA last year to 4.9 per PA this year - which means he's had 1 or 2 more barrels this year than you'd expect. That's the breakout.
   3. BDC Posted: May 23, 2022 at 03:37 PM (#6078156)
Sam Huff of the Rangers is batting .435. I don't know how many barrels he has. I have this odd feeling that I am going to my grave without ever quite learning what a barrel is.
   4. I don't want to talk about Rocco Posted: May 23, 2022 at 03:40 PM (#6078157)
I grabbed Chisholm in my auction draft for cheap as others looked elsewhere as Marlins players have a stink on them. I figured he would get plenty of playing time plus he's young so real chance of getting better maybe a lot better

Like it when a plan comes together
   5. Walt Davis Posted: May 23, 2022 at 04:53 PM (#6078170)
BDC ... I forget the specifics (who cares) but a barrel is a ball hit with a certain exit velocity or higher and with a launch angle within a certain range. That is vicious line drives, rockets off the wall and long HRs. The BA on barrels is something ridiculous like 900. Roughly, every hit except bloopers and bleeders. From "he got the barrel of the bat on that one" and "he barreled that one up" of course.

Hey etymologists, how'd we get the meaty part of the bat referred to as the "barrel" anyway? Shape-related or gun-related?

Mr Huff has a manly 91.8 average exit velocity but has yet to be credited with a barrel this year. As Ichiro would tell ya, nobody cares about barrels when you've got a career 389 BA. So far in 2022, he does have one of the odder batting lines you'll ever see. 23 PA, 23 AB ... common enough. 9 Ks is not promising. Yet he's 4-8 on GB and 6-6 on LDs (yet to hit a FB it seems) for an on-contact BA of 714. Last year he hit 550 on contact, with a SLG over 1000 (and a 33% K-rate). He's only made contact 34 times so the sample is teeny but those numbers are so far off the charts there might be something there.
   6. Walt Davis Posted: May 23, 2022 at 05:10 PM (#6078173)
I'm with #1, Franco's not a breakout. He started at the pinnacle of young players, he's still there. (Granted, I once said the only college bball player I ever saw improve more than Hakeem Olajuwon between his freshman and sophomore years was Hakeem Olajuwon between his sophomore and junior years so in that sense Franco could still break out -- he could be greater than Wagner I suppose.)**

I wouldn't expect Crawford's offensive breakout to continue. Not any brilliant insight but his avg EV is actually down (and quite low), his LD%, BB% and K% are all in line with his career numbers. He's had a small surge in BABIP and power -- that might stick of course but I'd want to see it for longer (the BABIP at least dates back to last year). Obviously, the glove is good enough that he doesn't need to hit a lot to be a valuable player so there's nothing to be concerned about and you take whatever offensive benefits you can get.

** double-checking to make sure Olajuwon played just three years, it's hard to establish that improvement by the basic numbers. But what I found most surprising in those numbers is that somehow those geniuses at Houston only managed to get Olajuwon 10 shots a game in 34 minutes.
   7. BDC Posted: May 23, 2022 at 05:32 PM (#6078178)
Thanks, Walt! So I will mentally file "barrel" as "hit the ball hard" and it does seem like a good thing.

Can't have more than one barrel per PA, in that case, though. Tom, is that ratio in #2 4.9 per some number of PAs, not per PA? Or is PA not plate appearance.
   8. Tom Nawrocki Posted: May 23, 2022 at 05:39 PM (#6078179)
I got that from this page. Now that I think about it, barrels/PA doesn't make much sense, but that's what it says.

It also gives barrel%, which makes more sense. Franco's barrel% has gone from 4.9 last year to 5.8 this year.
   9. BDC Posted: May 23, 2022 at 06:09 PM (#6078183)
Baffling - thanks, though, Tom. It can't be PA/barrel because those numbers would be in the 20s (and lower would be better). So PA must mean something not immediately apparent.
   10. Mayor Blomberg Posted: May 23, 2022 at 06:17 PM (#6078184)
it looks to me like it's percentage of PA resulting in a "barrel." YMathMV
   11. Captain Joe Bivens, Pointless and Wonderful Posted: May 23, 2022 at 06:19 PM (#6078185)
Breakout pitchers...Tariq Skubal, Tony Gonsolin, Pablo Lopez, and I guess you can add Alex Manoah.
   12. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: May 23, 2022 at 07:28 PM (#6078197)
I'm with #1, Franco's not a breakout. He started at the pinnacle of young players, he's still there. (Granted, I once said the only college bball player I ever saw improve more than Hakeem Olajuwon between his freshman and sophomore years was Hakeem Olajuwon between his sophomore and junior years so in that sense Franco could still break out -- he could be greater than Wagner I suppose.)**


If Franco was bettering his 2021 season I'd be fine calling him a breakout star but he's not even doing that. He's literally regressed so far. Not badly, no so much that it actually matters and he's still going to be a superstar, but to me a "breakout" is someone substantially bettering what they have previously done or a newcomer blossoming after a call up (like Franco last year).
   13. Captain Joe Bivens, Pointless and Wonderful Posted: May 23, 2022 at 07:36 PM (#6078199)
They used to call it the "Sophomore Jinx".
   14. JimMusComp misses old primer... Posted: May 23, 2022 at 08:34 PM (#6078209)
Taylor Ward is a breakout in 2022. And I was really skeptical that it could stick, until I saw his walk rate. He might have a 3-4 year run as a good player - which isn’t something I thought possible 3 years ago.
   15. Shredder Posted: May 24, 2022 at 12:47 AM (#6078264)
Yeah, I'm not sure how Ward didn't make this list and how Sandoval didn't make the pitchers list.
   16. JimMusComp misses old primer... Posted: May 24, 2022 at 10:30 AM (#6078274)
Hey Shredder!

Yeah - Sandy kind of broke out last year - just didn’t get W’s. But agree. Very strange list.
   17. Walt Davis Posted: May 24, 2022 at 06:45 PM (#6078335)
The statcast categories are presented a bit more clearly in the leaderboard. Barrels/PA is indeed a percentage; barrel% is also a percentage but the denominator is the number of "batted ball events" (i.e. contact). For Franco, those numbers are quite close because he Ks so little. For somebody extreme like Gallo, his Barr/PA is about half his Barr/BBE. Note, Franco's Barrel/PA isn't particularly impressive -- 90th out of 147 qualifiers, similar to Machado which seems about right -- but he makes so much contact that he'll pick up a lot of hits on non-barrels.

BDC ... technically it's not just "hit it hard", it's "hit it hard but didn't hit it straight up or pound it into the ground." Another gun metaphor of "hit a bullet" might be closer although I suppose a long, arching HR we don't think of as a bullet. That said, statcast also has something called a "sweet spot" and how a sweet spot differs from a barrel I have no idea. Maybe that's just the launch angle (got it on the right part of the bat?).

Or roughly speaking ask yourself this question: did that batted ball remind me of Giancarlo Stanton? If the answer is yes, it was a barrel.
   18. chisoxcollector Posted: May 24, 2022 at 08:00 PM (#6078342)
Michael Kopech belongs on any list of breakout players. He leads all pitchers in bWAR with 2.2. He has a 1.29 ERA and 0.857 WHIP.
   19. sunday silence (again) Posted: May 25, 2022 at 03:51 PM (#6078432)
Why don't we just count LDs instead of barrels? It there some statistical reason that barrels are more predictive than LDs?
   20. BDC Posted: May 26, 2022 at 01:13 PM (#6078527)
Ah, OK, Walt, percentage, so it's .039 or .049, but easier to read if the decimal is moved. And thanks too for the refined definition. So I guess maybe barrel percentage is a kind of results-independent power hitting, and stands in relation to ISO (or some other results metric) the way FIP does to ERA - at least vaguely.

I always used to wonder, after BABip became well-established as a concept, whether batters differed meaningfully in SABip – that is, whether they were safe or out on a ball in play might be up to the defense to a certain extent, but less so as they hit the hell out of it, doubles in the gap and the like. I don't know if anyone has ever figured SABip. Barrels aren't SABip because they include HRs, but they seem to be an analogous attempt to separate out the guys who have really hit the ball from the guys whose hits have just eluded gloves. I guess one will see over time, as sunday silence says, whether barrels are predictive or just a curiosity. Unless this has already been established retrospectively …

Thanks for letting me think aloud here :)

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