Hitter Contact-Quality Report: Second Base

Earlier this week, we began a position-by-position look at hitter contact quality with a review of the first-base and DH population. Today, we continue to use granular ball-in-play data, such as BIP type frequencies, exit speed and launch angle, to review second basemen.

The data examined today runs through June 6. Players are separated by league, and are listed in Adjusted Production order. Adjusted Production expresses, on a scale where 100 equals average, what a hitter “should have” produced based on the exit speed/launch angle of each ball put in play. Each player’s Adjusted Contact Score, which weeds out the strikeouts and walks and states what each player should have produced on BIP alone, is also listed. Here goes:

AL 2B BIP Profiles
Name Avg MPH FLY MPH LD MPH GB MPH POP% FLY% LD% GB% ADJ C K% BB% wRC+ ADJ PR Pull%
Altuve 89.6 89.6 93.2 87.0 1.4% 29.0% 30.4% 39.3% 121 8.9% 10.7% 161 156 41.9%
Pearce 90.4 90.8 92.0 89.0 6.3% 33.9% 19.6% 40.2% 117 14.4% 11.8% 159 138 42.0%
Cano 90.3 90.0 95.9 87.3 3.5% 34.9% 17.2% 44.4% 127 13.8% 6.7% 147 137 36.9%
S. Castro 89.2 89.2 91.9 87.1 4.1% 22.1% 23.3% 50.6% 107 17.9% 4.5% 91 102 36.6%
Kinsler 86.9 88.5 89.7 84.4 4.8% 42.3% 22.8% 30.2% 89 15.9% 6.1% 140 93 42.3%
Dozier 86.9 90.6 91.6 79.9 6.6% 41.4% 18.4% 33.6% 85 18.0% 9.0% 77 92 51.9%
Lawrie 89.2 89.3 93.6 86.8 7.9% 37.0% 16.7% 38.4% 117 29.6% 10.3% 99 92 39.9%
Pedroia 89.8 89.2 92.8 88.7 3.6% 24.6% 22.6% 49.2% 75 13.1% 8.8% 132 91 37.2%
Lowrie 87.1 85.7 89.3 87.3 2.4% 30.1% 23.0% 44.4% 89 18.1% 7.0% 104 90 36.2%
Schoop 88.5 88.2 95.6 84.7 4.5% 32.7% 16.0% 46.8% 107 22.5% 3.3% 94 88 43.0%
Kipnis 89.0 88.3 95.7 84.5 1.8% 30.2% 26.7% 41.3% 91 21.2% 7.8% 102 87 40.8%
Odor 87.8 89.5 92.3 86.1 5.0% 39.4% 15.0% 40.6% 86 15.9% 2.9% 99 83 45.5%
Giavotella 88.4 85.7 91.3 88.8 2.7% 21.1% 25.9% 50.3% 75 11.9% 2.8% 78 80 37.8%
Infante 86.0 84.3 89.4 86.2 4.4% 37.2% 20.4% 38.1% 64 15.4% 6.0% 59 71 42.7%
Goins 88.8 88.7 94.7 86.4 4.3% 31.2% 9.7% 54.8% 60 22.6% 4.5% 30 54 35.4%
AVERAGE 88.5 88.5 92.6 86.3 4.2% 32.5% 20.5% 42.8% 94 17.3% 6.8% 105 97 40.7%

Most of the column headers are self-explanatory, including average BIP speed (overall and by BIP type), BIP type frequency, K and BB rates, wRC+ and Adjusted Production, which incorporates the exit speed/angle data. Each hitter’s Adjusted Contact Score (ADJ C) is also listed. Adjusted Contact Score applies league-average production to each hitter’s individual actual BIP type and velocity mix, and compares it to league average of 100.

Cells are also color coded. If a hitter’s value is two standard deviations or more higher than average, the field is shaded red. If it’s one to two STD higher than average, it’s shaded orange. If it’s one-half to one STD higher than average, it’s shaded dark yellow. If it’s one-half to one STD less than average, it’s shaded blue. If it’s over one STD less than average, it’s shaded black. Ran out of colors at that point. On the rare occasions that a value is over two STD lower than average, we’ll mention it if necessary in the text.

It should be noted that individual hitters’ BIP frequency and authority figures correlate quite well from year to year, with one notable exception. As with pitchers, individual hitters’ liner rates fluctuate quite significantly from year to year, for all but a handful of hitters with a clear talent (or lack thereof) for squaring up the baseball.

Projecting performance based on BIP speed/angle opens us up to a couple biases that we didn’t need to address when evaluating pitchers. Pitchers face a mix of pull and opposite field-oriented hitters, more and less authoritative hitters, etc. Hitters are who they are each time they step up to the plate, and we must choose whether or not to address their individual tendencies.

I have adjusted the projected ground-ball performance for hitters who meet two criteria. First, they’ve recorded over five times as many grounders to the pull side than to the opposite field and, second, they exhibit a resulting deficiency in actual versus projected grounder performance. Such hitters’ projected grounder performance was capped at their actual performance level. Such hitters’ Adjusted Contact Scores and Adjusted Production figures are in red fonts.

I have decided not to adjust for the other primary factor that can skew actual versus projected performance based on exit speed/angle — namely, player speed. We’re attempting to assess hitter contact quality here; let’s keep speed/athleticism separate. As a result, we’ll see some slow, hard-hitting-to-all-fields sluggers overperform on this metric, and some more athletic players underperform. Contact quality is just part of offensive baseball; let’s attempt to isolate and evaluate it on its own.

First off, the group of AL second basemen are much more interesting, if not more productive, than their NL counterparts, so we’ll spend a little extra time on the junior circuit. Don’t worry, NL fans, we’ll even it up when we get to the left fielders. You’ll also notice that there is quite a bit less red and orange, and more blue and black than was present on the first-base/DH tables earlier this week. In fact, no AL second baseman’s overall BIP authority exceeded the average range.

Jose Altuve is the cream of this crop. He never, ever strikes out, and his liner rate is off of the charts. It’s due for some regression, but Altuve does have a knack for squaring up the baseball. While his BIP authority isn’t eye-catching, it’s quite solid across the board for his position, though the forgiving left-field area in his home park pumps up his fly-ball production (117 Unadjusted vs. 75 Adjusted Fly Ball Contact Score). Interestingly, there is surprisingly little “speed premium” in his actual numbers; he recorded only a .212 AVG and .242 SLG on grounders through June 6.

Steve Pearce technically qualifies as the Rays’ regular 2B to date, but in truth he’s more a multi-positional bat. That said, he’s a valuable one. After his 2014 breakout, I predicted his 2015 collapse, as his 2014 fly-ball rate was unsustainable. This version of Pearce looks to have more staying power. The K/BB profile is exceptional, the fly-ball rate is in the average range; the only blemish is a very high pop-up rate. He has been very lucky on grounders to date, producing a .400 AVG and .457 SLG on them through June 6, but I’ll still take that 138 Adjusted Production number after adjustment for context.

Robinson Cano is back. HIs 2015 decline, featuring few fly balls and a ton of pulled, roll-over grounders, turned out to be injury-related. This year, he’s kept infielders honest by spraying more grounders the other way, and more importantly, elevating the ball more often, with a focus on selectively pulling pitches in his nitro zone in the air. His liner rate should climb as the season progresses, though I would expect a concurrent power decline.

As stated earlier, some players have a talent for outperforming their raw contact quality. For different reasons, Ian Kinsler and Dustin Pedroia are two examples of this. Kinsler is a really interesting case; his authority tends to be below average across all BIP types, and he routinely runs very high pop-up rates. He more than compensates for his weakness, though, by selectively pulling batted balls in the air. He’s a master at the 95-mph homer down the line. Also, he still runs well, and as a result tends to outperform his grounder authority. He’s hitting .293 AVG-.341 SLG on the ground, though his grounder authority says he “should be” hitting .216 AVG-.236 SLG. That’ a 171 Unadjusted vs. 88 Adjusted Grounder Contact Score. His low K rate also offers a layer of insurance, while his maxed-out fly-ball rate adds a layer of risk moving forward. Still, there’s a fine line between the profiles of Kinsler and Omar Infante.

Pedroia shares Kinsler’s grounder outperformance trait: he has a 178 Unadjusted vs. 90 Adjusted Grounder Contact Score. He hasn’t lost a step down the line, either. Pedroia’s other defining characteristic is his ability to use the Green Monster to his advantage. He routinely paddles doubles off of it, and is batting .365 AVG-.865 SLG on fly balls (111 Unadjusted Fly Ball Contact Score). His actual authority in the air suggests a 42 Adjusted Contact Score. Not in Fenway.

Brian Dozier, like Kinsler, focuses on selectively pulling in the air, and had a great deal of success in 2015. His grounder authority is among the very weakest in the game, over two STD below average. He didn’t receive a pulled-grounder penalty only because his authority suggests a 51 Adjusted Grounder Contact Score, marginally below his actual 53 mark. His pop-up rate is very high, his fly-ball rate maxed out. Dozier’s decline has begun, and I’d expect nothing better than average production for his position moving forward.

Jonathan Schoop and Rougned Odor retain star potential, but both have obstacles to overcome to reach it. Schoop scalds his liners; only Cano hits them harder among AL second basemen. Case in point: through June 6, the players in the above table had recorded a total of 10 liners at 110 mph or harder. Schoop was responsible for eight of them. He also hit the most fly balls at 105 mph or higher among this group. Go down into the next two buckets in those BIP types, however. Schoop has hit two 95-105 mph fly balls to Cano’s 20, and seven 100-110 mph liners to Cano’s 22. He doesn’t hit his grounders hard at all. It’s a hit-or-miss swing that needs refinement and increased consistency. He must address that abysmal walk rate as well.

That last point also applies to Odor: a 2.9% BB rate just doesn’t cut it. I’m not too concerned about Odor’s low liner rate, which should positively regress at least a bit. The high pop-up rate, the high fly-ball rate — with big numbers in the 75-95 mph “donut hole” — and his extreme grounder-pulling tendency are real concerns. He received a very small ground-ball penalty for this, only because he’s been fortunate enough to bat .220 on the ground to date. There’s downside below that if he fails to adjust.

To round out the AL, some words of concern about Jason Kipnis. I’ve always been a big fan, and believe he has the talent to consistently rank among the best in the league at his position. He’s too good of a hitter to be an extreme ground-ball puller and overshift candidate. He’s batting .091 AVG-.091 SLG on the ground to date, for a 15 Unadjusted Contact Grounder Contact Score. He gets a pull penalty and is capped at that level. His production would fly upward if he simply kept infielders honest. That 26.7% liner rate is going to regress soon, so he’s going to need some extra hits on the ground.

NL 2B BIP Profiles
Name Avg MPH FLY MPH LD MPH GB MPH POP% FLY% LD% GB% ADJ C K% BB% wRC+ ADJ PR Pull%
Zobrist 90.7 91.9 91.8 89.7 2.5% 29.1% 25.3% 43.0% 107 12.3% 16.7% 154 147 48.8%
Dn. Murphy 91.0 89.9 93.1 93.1 3.7% 41.3% 24.9% 30.2% 133 10.6% 4.4% 178 147 39.7%
LeMahieu 93.2 90.0 96.2 93.1 4.3% 15.3% 28.2% 52.1% 109 12.2% 8.9% 100 129 22.8%
Dietrich 87.6 87.5 89.5 87.3 2.6% 37.9% 23.3% 36.2% 125 18.3% 7.7% 140 122 37.1%
N. Walker 89.5 91.5 94.1 84.7 4.3% 42.1% 22.9% 30.7% 133 23.3% 9.0% 132 118 44.0%
Utley 90.0 90.9 95.5 86.1 3.4% 24.0% 28.1% 44.5% 98 19.4% 9.7% 111 101 46.3%
Panik 87.2 88.4 92.0 85.2 3.9% 34.1% 19.0% 43.0% 77 11.5% 8.8% 99 97 33.3%
J. Harrison 86.3 88.7 87.0 83.1 1.2% 32.5% 25.9% 40.4% 88 13.0% 4.3% 109 95 36.7%
Segura 89.3 90.9 92.0 86.8 1.0% 25.1% 18.1% 55.8% 89 15.1% 2.8% 102 88 28.9%
Gennett 88.1 88.8 93.4 86.2 2.0% 33.0% 18.0% 47.0% 93 25.2% 9.7% 79 85 32.0%
K. Johnson 89.0 85.7 93.7 90.1 1.1% 27.6% 19.1% 52.1% 73 18.8% 7.8% 56 77 40.4%
Rosales 89.0 90.3 99.0 84.0 3.5% 38.6% 12.3% 45.6% 114 36.7% 10.1% 69 74 40.4%
C.Hernandez 87.9 90.3 93.3 85.7 2.8% 22.0% 21.3% 53.9% 72 19.0% 6.3% 73 73 27.5%
B. Phillips 87.4 89.2 87.6 87.4 2.4% 32.7% 19.6% 45.2% 65 13.9% 3.8% 89 69 34.9%
Wong 87.3 85.1 91.1 86.8 2.9% 26.5% 16.7% 53.9% 52 17.4% 8.3% 66 60 44.7%
AVERAGE 88.9 89.3 92.6 87.3 2.8% 30.8% 21.5% 44.9% 95 17.8% 7.9% 104 99 37.2%

While the NL group isn’t nearly as interesting, there’s some great stuff going on at the top. An exceptional K/BB profile has been at the core of Ben Zobrist’s offensive game for years now, but a step up in the batted-ball authority department has brought him to another offensive level. He’s flirting a bit with an excessive grounder-pulling penalty, but that’s a minor quibble at present. The liner rate should negatively regress a bit, but even then, Zobrist appears to be a better offensive player than even the Cubs thought they were buying, at least in the near term.

Ah, Daniel Murphy. He suddenly started making more contact than ever before during the 2015 season, and has taken a major step up in class as a result. That said, he’s hitting way over his head thus far in 2016. His fly-ball rate is maxed out and then some, for one. The big underlying red flag is his performance on grounders: through June 6, he’d produced a beyond insane .458 AVG and .500 SLG on grounders, for a 397 Unadjusted Grounder Contact Score. He does crush his grounders, but after adjustment for speed/angle, his 135 adjusted mark makes much more sense. He’s really good, but not .360+ good.

DJ LeMahieu might be the most misunderstood hitter in the game. Every year, his wRC+ is docked for playing his home games in Coors, despite the fact that he gets absolutely zero advantage from playing there. Well, almost zero. You see, he hits no fly balls. But look, his average liner and grounder authority are well above average. His liner rate is very high (and admittedly due for some regression), and he never strikes out. He’s so opposite field-oriented that, if anything, a reverse shift is in order. He has significantly underperformed on grounders to date, batting .206 AVG-.221 AVG (79 Unadjusted Grounder Contact Score), but “should be” hitting .279 AVG-.304 SLG (147). Career splits be darned; LeMahieu possesses the profile to bat .300 with gaps power anywhere.

I’m not buying Derek Dietrich’s performance to date. It’s largely been fueled by the bloop fly-ball single, as evidenced by mediocre authority but solid production (186 Unadjusted, 145 Adjusted) in the air. It’s hardly sustainable.

Neil Walker is in “harvesting” mode. His fly-ball rate is maxed out, he’s pulling the ball at a nearly excessive clip — he narrowly avoided a pulled-grounder penalty — and his doubles total is puny. That latter fact is often a harbinger of near-term decline; check out Mark McGwire’s career for a cherry-picked, extreme case. Walker should be alright the rest of 2016, but I’m not sure I’d want to be the team extending him his next contract.

As earlier stated, faster, more athletic players will often underperform according to metrics relying on BIP authority. Jean Segura is no exception. While he has been a pleasant surprise by an measure thus far in Arizona, bear in mind that he has benefited from hitting .313 AVG-.358 SLG (192 Unadjusted Grounder Contact Score) on the ground to date. I don’t care how fast he is, that’s coming down.

On the surface, Brandon Phillips‘ traditional numbers don’t seem all that alarming. Dig a little deeper, however, and you find that he clearly benefited from a very forgiving home park in the early going. While weather conditions a few hours north, east and west tamped down offensive production in April and May, the ball was flying out of Great American Ballpark, where all of Phillips’ six homers have been hit this year. He batted .327 AVG-.796 SLG (92 Unadjusted Fly Ball Contact Score) in the air through June 6, but “should have” hit .237 AVG-.596 SLG (50). His offensive decline continues.

We hoped you liked reading Hitter Contact-Quality Report: Second Base by Tony Blengino!

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bombguy85
Member
bombguy85

I really feel that LeMahieu may be one of the most if not THE most underrated 2B in the game or at least the NL. He has really come into his own the past couple of seasons with the bat to go along with Gold Glove caliber defense. Sure he doesn’t hit a lot of HR’s but he really doesn’t need to. He just needs to keep getting into scoring position with gap power batting in front of Arenado.

LHPSU
Member
LHPSU

I think most of us outside of Denver remember him from 2013-14, when he was an outstanding defender but did absolutely nothing with the bat. The Rockies didn’t exactly give people much reason to pay attention to them in 2015 when he started putting his offensive game together.