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Angels Snare Hunter Renfroe, Brewers Fill Up on Pitchers

Hunter Renfroe
David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Hunter Renfroe was probably getting tired of Milwaukee anyway. After spending the first four years of his career in San Diego, he will join his fifth team in five years as the Brewers sent the 30-year-old outfielder to the Angels in exchange for pitchers Janson Junk, Elvis Peguero, and Adam Seminaris.

Starting with the Los Angeles side of the deal: the Angels know what they’re getting in Renfroe. He’s a bat-first corner outfielder who relies on power to make up for what he lacks in on-base ability. After a poor showing in 2020, he bounced back with a 113 wRC+ in ’21 and posted a nearly identical season in ’22, good for a 124 wRC+ in the tougher offensive environment. He hit 60 home runs between the two seasons and posted a .315 on base percentage in both. He’s projected to make $11.2 million in arbitration this year, then move on to yet another team in 2024 as a free agent.

Hunter Renfroe – 2022 Stats, 2023 Steamer Projection
2022 125 522 29 .255 .315 .492 .347 124 2.5
2023 131 567 30 .241 .305 .470 .334 117 2.0

Renfroe owns a career wRC+ of 136 against lefties versus 97 against righties and has often been viewed as a platoon candidate. He improved his wRC+ to 120 against righties in 2022, however, after putting up 101 wRC+ in 2021. And while his defense isn’t to OAA’s liking, DRS and UZR both tend to rate him right around average, and his excellent arm helps to make up for what he lacks in range. He’ll slot into the outfield next to Mike Trout and Taylor Ward. Steamer projects the trio for 10.3 WAR — a big improvement after Los Angeles got just 0.3 WAR from its left fielders last year, good for 27th in the league. Even though Steamer expects Renfroe to take a step back next year, his projection of 2.0 WAR would patch a significant hole. Read the rest of this entry »

Nobody Actually Hits Good Pitching

Alex Bregman
John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

During Game 3 of the ALCS, Jeff Francoeur noted that 10 of the 12 pitchers who had surrendered postseason home runs to Alex Bregman were All-Stars, eliciting a comment about how Bregman hits well against good pitching. That’s undoubtedly a fun fact, but the notion has been rattling around my brain for the last couple weeks. I’ve definitely heard stories about players who hit good pitching, but I’ve never heard of anyone looking at splits based on the quality of the pitcher on the mound.

The main problem with that idea is a logical one. Break down any batter’s performance into its constituent parts, and you’ve entered a zero sum game. If you’re at your best against great pitchers, that means you’re hitting worse against everyone else. It’s hard for me to imagine that there are many players who fare better against Justin Verlander than they do against, well, anyone on the Nationals.

There could be players who are less bad than average, but if I had my choice of superpowers, I’m not sure that’s the one I’d pick. It would definitely help out in the playoffs, but over the course of the season, batters see a lot more average and poor arms than they do great ones. I’d rather perform well the majority of the time. Read the rest of this entry »

Pitchers Hitting Is Dead, Long Live Pitchers Hitting

David Robertson
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Over the years, plenty of FanGraphs articles have started out with a writer clicking around on the leaderboards looking for something interesting. Only the truly great articles, however, come about when the writer distractedly clicks on the wrong leaderboard because they’re busy baking adorable miniature cakes. With that auspicious beginning, let’s talk about pitchers hitting in the era of the universal designated hitter.

We’ll start with a simple question: Who was the best hitting pitcher in 2022?

Did you think it was Shohei Ohtani? Oh sweet, naïve reader. You make me laugh. It wasn’t Ohtani. That would’ve been the right answer if the question had been, “Who was the best hitting pitcher in 2022 (minimum two plate appearances)?” But that wasn’t the question, and you have fallen right into my trap. (Don’t worry; nothing bad happens if you fall into the trap. In fact, there’s candy down there.) Read the rest of this entry »

How Much Should We Believe In Dansby Swanson?

© Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Even though Dansby Swanson checks in at number eight on our recently published top 50 free agent rankings, it feels like no one knows just how much to believe in him. Obviously, that’s not completely true. I’m sure Swanson strongly believes in himself. There’s a Re-sign Dansby Swanson petition on; I bet the 12 people who signed it believe in him quite a bit too. The rest of us, however, fall somewhere in the middle.

Swanson had a career year in 2022. His 6.4 WAR was 12th best in all of baseball, and 3.0 above his 2021 total. While the big jump is encouraging, it also makes him a regression candidate. Of the 83 position players with 500 plate appearances in both 2021 and ’22, only four improved their WAR total more. Aaron Judge improved by 5.9 WAR in 2022, and it’d be extremely unreasonable to expect him to put up anything like a repeat performance. The next three players, Eugenio Suárez, Nolen Arenado, and Manny Machado, were all bouncing back from a down year in 2021. Like Swanson, all three saw their BABIP improve by at least 40 points. Swanson was the only player of the group whose WAR in 2022 was three wins higher than in their best previous season. Read the rest of this entry »

The Most Spectacular Boring Plays of the Year

Jose Siri
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Today we’re going to watch the most spectacular catches of the 2022 season. Not all of them, though; that would take too long. Instead, we’re going to skip all the exciting ones to focus on the greatest, most boring plays of the year.

Last week, I wrote about right fielders Kyle Tucker and Nick Castellanos. The latter got a great deal of ink for making sliding catches on balls Tucker likely would have gotten to easily. In this article, we’ll focus on the inverse: Players who made difficult plays look routine. The goal here is not to downplay cool diving catches, but to celebrate great plays that might have gone unappreciated. Read the rest of this entry »

Nick Castellanos Outshines the Gold Glover

© Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

If you’ve been watching the playoffs, you’ve likely heard at least one broadcaster call Houston right fielder Kyle Tucker underrated. In Game 1 of the World Series, Tucker did his best to remedy the situation, blasting home runs in his first two at-bats. On Monday, MLB announced that after two years as a Gold Glove finalist, Tucker had finally won the award. Still, he’s not the right fielder everyone’s talking about:

Nick Castellanos stole Tucker’s thunder not once but twice, saving Game 1 with a sliding catch, and making a nearly identical play on the first pitch of Game 3. As if that wasn’t enough, the World Series’ third-most talked about play in right field didn’t belong to Tucker either:

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Aledmys Díaz Runs Into One (With His Elbow)

© Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Some kids dream about playing in the World Series and getting the big hit. Fewer kids, one imagines, dream about playing in the World Series and taking the big hit, but that small group might include Aledmys Díaz.

In Game 1 of the World Series, Díaz came to the plate with two on in the bottom of the 10th inning. After a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position, David Robertson hung a curveball high and inside, and Díaz did his best to thrust his shoulder into the path of the ball, barely missing. The next pitch wasn’t a hanger, but that didn’t stop Díaz from sticking his Kevlar-covered elbow into the ball and trotting off toward first base. Read the rest of this entry »

Reaching Back for a Little Something Extra

© Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Hello there! Here’s a graph.

Graph showing that run value declines as fastball velocity increases.

Were you not geared up for such a quick graph? Did I blow it right by you? That was kind of the point. The graph shows the run value of fastballs, bucketed in 1-mph increments. Over the past four seasons, for every 100 fastballs thrown, one tick of velocity has been worth roughly an eighth of a run. The lesson? Throw your fastballs fast.

I’ll stick to fastballs in this article, but I should mention that harder soft stuff is also associated with better outcomes, though the correlation is weaker and the effect is less dramatic. My number crunching indicates that over 100 breaking and offspeed pitches, an extra mile per hour is worth roughly 1/16 of a run. Read the rest of this entry »

Breaking Down Jose Altuve’s (Somewhat Milder) ALCS Struggles

© Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Part 2 of my new series, How Did Jose Altuve Hit in the Last 36 Innings? For those of you who missed Part 1, the answer last time was, well, badly enough to write a whole article about it!

Here in Part 2, I’m happy to report that Altuve’s performance over the most recent 36 innings has been upgraded to “still bad, but with reasons for optimism.”

Before we dig in, I should probably mention that Altuve is excellent. His playoff struggles are notable because he’s normally so fantastic at the plate. He posted a 164 wRC+ this year, fourth among qualified batters. He’s a great hitter. Now let’s talk about why he’s not hitting so great right now. Read the rest of this entry »

Breaking Down Jose Altuve’s ALDS Struggles

© Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Division Series between the Astros and Mariners only went three games, but it wasn’t short on drama. Overlooked amid the extra innings madness and the late game heroics was the performance of Jose Altuve. That might be for the best, as the Astros second baseman struggled mightily:

Jose Altuve Batting – 2022
Season BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wRC+
Regular Season 5.9% 14.4% .300 .387 .533 164
ALDS 10.9% 35.3% .000 .059 .000 -88

Going 0-for-16 with six strikeouts is, to use a technical term, real bad. What was going on? Let’s start with Altuve’s plate discipline:

Jose Altuve Plate Discipline – 2022
Season O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone%
Regular Season 31.4% 65.0% 43.8% 76.8% 91.0% 84.6% 44.2%
ALDS 56.2% 84.0% 68.4% 66.7% 81.0% 74.4% 43.9%

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