By The Numbers: Week 7 (Fantasy Baseball)

by Kenyatta Storin | @KenyattaStorin | Featured Writer
May 18, 2017

Jonathan Lucroy’s new hitting approach hasn’t worked too well for him

Can you believe it’s Week 7? The baseball season is blowing by, and yet while this would be close to the halfway point of the NFL season, we still have a ways to go!

And that means plenty of time to dig into some numbers. Let’s jump right in and check out four guys whose peripherals may surprise you.

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Jonathan Lucroy has a 6.1% Strikeout Rate and 92.3% Contact Rate

Following a year in which Lucroy hit a career-high 24 home runs, 2017 has been nothing short of a disappointment. All that power he flexed has seemingly vaporized, as he has just a .113 ISO with two homers. It’s a far cry from the .208 ISO he had in 2016.

So, what has changed? Instead of hitting for power, for better or for worse, Lucroy has taken a rather contact-heavy approach. He has an impressive 6.1% strikeout rate, well below last year’s 18.4%, and his 92.3% contact rate dwarfs the prior season’s 81.8%.

That all looks good on paper, but he’s traded most of those strikeouts for groundballs (52.0% rate), and far less hard contact (23.0% rate). Compared to the 37.2% ground-ball rate and 35.4% hard-hit rate in 2016, and it’s no wonder he hasn’t shown the same home run prowess.

Also, it goes to show that making more contact isn’t always a good thing. Despite swinging about the same amount, he’s making more contact on balls outside the zone (81.5%) and has a high first-strike percentage (70.4%). He’s getting the ball in play plenty, but he hasn’t had desirable results.

One can have success hitting this way — after all, Ichiro made a career of it — but Lucroy doesn’t exactly have the speed skill set for it. Thus, even with the drop in strikeouts, it hasn’t had any positive effect on his batting average (.274), although a low .276 BABIP is partially to blame.

While players like Yonder Alonso have joined the fly ball hitting movement in 2017, it’s as though Lucroy is going in the opposite direction. Whether this is an intentional change by Lucroy, or him scuffling through a slow start remains to be seen. This is hardly the first time he’s gotten off to a slow beginning, as even last year he hit zero home runs with a .078 ISO in April.

But let’s hope he can return to hitting fly balls, and hitting the ball with authority again because that’s when he’s found his most success. Clearly, what he’s done so far this season isn’t working.

Luis Perdomo has a 70.5% Ground-Ball Rate

It may only be six starts, but Perdomo is looking like a pleasant surprise for the San Diego Padres. Following a year in which he had a forgettable 5.71 ERA, he’s now sporting a more reasonable 4.19 ERA and has a 2.85 SIERA that signifies more good times could be ahead.

Part of his newfound success is due to an elevated 23.9% strikeout rate that runs laps around what he did last year (15.9%). It doesn’t appear to be a total fluke either because he also has a 10.3% swinging-strike rate.

But arguably just as impressive is his 70.5% ground-ball rate and 23.2% hard-hit rate. That ground-ball rate is better than even grounder extraordinaire, Dallas Keuchel. Perdomo has always shown an excellent ability to keep the ball on the ground (59.0% rate in 2016), but combining reduced hard contact with his improved strikeout ability, and we may have a potential breakout on our hands.

Given the leap in whiffs, it’s too early to say how sustainable these results are, but even if he can maintain a league average strikeout rate, he should have success with his propensity for grounders — kind of like a Keuchel-lite. He’s worth a deep-league look.

Chad Kuhl has an 11.9% Swinging-Strike Rate

On the other hand, Kuhl hasn’t made any noticeable strides. Or has he?

As it stands, he has an unsightly 6.69 ERA, and a 4.86 SIERA doesn’t inspire much confidence either. A 17.3% strikeout rate and 9.3% walk rate are both pretty “meh,” and the 34.2% hard-hit rate isn’t so hot.

But as the header indicates, there’s hope! Kuhl has an 11.9 swinging-strike rate, which suggests the strikeout rate should be much, much higher. That’s in the neighborhood of fellows like Clayton Kershaw (11.5%), Lance McCullers (12.1%) and Chris Archer (12.1%).

That’s some pretty good company, and everyone in that group has a strikeout rate of at least 26%. And it’s worth noting that Kuhl’s average velocity is up to 96 mph in his last couple starts.

Furthermore, Kuhl shows all the telltale signs of a guy due for some positive regression. He has an astronomical .377 BABIP, one of the highest among starters, and a 59.5% left-on-base rate that should undoubtedly improve.

The ERA makes it look pretty dire for the moment, but at the very least, Kuhl is a whole lot better than this. How high the strikeouts will rise is hard to say, but it sure looks like there’s a lot of untapped potential there.

He’s still walking too many batters and giving up too much hard contact, but keep an eye on how he does in his next few starts. He’ll cost you nothing as a deep league flyer, and you could be rewarded for having some faith.

Eduardo Rodriguez is 10th in the League in Strikeout Rate (28.1%)

Lost amidst Chris Sale’s dominance in a Red Sox uniform is that Rodriguez is quietly putting together a very solid season. You read that header correctly — Rodriguez is 10th in the league among qualified starters in strikeout rate. For those keeping score at home, his 28.1% is better than Kershaw (26.1%), Yu Darvish (26.3%), Carlos Carrasco (26.8%), and Archer (26.9%).

That’s like a who’s who of potential Cy Young candidates! And it looks pretty sustainable, judging by a 13.2% swinging-strike rate.

Rodriguez isn’t without his issues, though. He struggles with walks (10.2% rate) and hasn’t gone past six innings in any game this season. But the strikeouts and a 26.7% hard-hit rate are strong signs that this could finally be the breakout season the Red Sox, and fantasy owners, have been hoping for.

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Kenyatta Storin is a featured writer with FantasyPros. For more from Kenyatta, check out his archive and follow him @kenyattastorin.

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