By The Numbers: Tyler Glasnow, Kris Bryant, Max Muncy
Numbers are supposed to never lie, but they often lead fantasy managers astray early in the season.
Certain numbers can deceive in a short sample size. In the wrong hands, any stat can get misconstrued or manipulated to fit a narrative. There’s no magic number to solve all of our answered mysteries, but it’s still fun to dive deep into the data for distinguishable trends and noteworthy nuggets.
And since analysis can never stop at one number, each headlined stat is used as a launching point to dig more into a player’s full story.
Note: Stats updated as of Wednesday night.
Tyler Glasnow (SP – TB): 43.2 IP
There are a lot of salivating stats to admire from Glasnow’s superb start. He’s rocking a 2.06 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, and the fourth-highest strikeout rate (38.3%) of all qualified starters behind Jacob deGrom, Gerrit Cole, and Shane Bieber. He’s also listed among the top-five starters in xERA (2.29), opposing batting average (.151), and CSW (35.5%).
Yet he’s tied for second in a far simpler but telling category few would have foreseen heading into the season.
This is huge given how much durability and health concerns mitigated his draft prize. Glasnow mostly worked out of the bullpen when throwing a career-high 112.2 innings in 2018. He hasn’t made more than 13 starts in a season and averaged 5.2 innings per turn in 2020. This season, he’s completed six frames all but once. The 27-year-old has reaped the rewards with four wins, just two shy of matching a personal high set in 2018.
Glasnow’s early 2021 returns are what drafters hoped would happen to Blake Snell after leaving Tampa Bay. Instead, the dominant, but often volatile hurler who stayed has transformed into a top-shelf ace. But can it last all season?
It’s unlikely Glasnow goes from 57.1 innings pitched in 2020 to the 187 he’d tally if making 30 starts at his current work rate. The Rays, often criticized for their stringent limitations on starters, could skip a couple of turns to least keep him in the 160-170 range. Yet before cashing out in fear of a shutdown, this worry will exist for most pitchers once the season soars past last year’s shortened 60-game schedule.
For now, it’s encouraging to see him consistently go deep into games without issue. Ride with Glasnow unless getting an offer benefitting a legitimate ace.
Kris Bryant (3B/OF – CHC): .382 xwOBA
What do you know? This 29-year-old isn’t washed after 34 bad games logged during an atypical pandemic season. Bryant has already doubled last year’s 11 RBIs and crushed nine homers, five more than he mounted in 2020.
Even before he hit .206/.293/.351 last season, some fantasy players expressed concern because of subpar Statcast metrics. Bryant has posted a better wOBA than his expected wOBA (xwOBA) since Statcast began tracking data in 2015. That hasn’t changed this year, as the batted-ball measures don’t fully back his exceptional .459 wOBA.
His .382 xwOBA is still the highest rate of his career, clearing the mark from his 2016 NL MVP campaign by one point. It’s also 100 points higher than last year’s dismal rate that often left the Cubs star available around the pick-100 range of 2021 drafts.
Bryant also boasts a personal-best 45.3% hard-hit rate and his highest average exit velocity (88.5 mph) since 2016.
Before 2020, Bryant had posted a wOBA of .345 or higher every year. This is far from a miraculous bounce-back, but merely some positive regression from a small sample size. Although he might not stay this hot through September, the three-time All-Star could re-assemble 2018’s .282/.382/.521 slash line with another 30 long balls and 100 runs.
Max Muncy: 32.2% Swing Rate
Had Muncy arrived in the majors 15 years earlier, Chris Pratt might have played him instead of Scott Hatteberg. It ironically took getting jettisoned by Oakland for Muncy to materialize into a Moneyball poster child. The career .234 hitter sports .363 OBP, and that discrepancy is even more refined this year.
Muncy is batting just .209, but he still has a .415 OBP on the strength of 29 walks in 30 games. His 22.7% walk rate leads the major due to a fairly simple strategy: Don’t swing.
Nobody has swung less often than Muncy, who is happy to take his free pass to first. Getting on base is great, especially since that uber selectiveness hasn’t led to more strikeouts. However, some hits would also be nice.
When breaking through with the Dodgers, Muncy crushed 35 home runs in both 2018 and 2019. He has just five this season and is slugging a paltry .405 since the start of 2020. His exit velocity has also decreased in each of the past three seasons.
Perhaps his passiveness would help the Dodgers (and fantasy managers) more if leading off in front of Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, and Justin Turner. He’s instead squandering his cleanup duties for one of baseball’s best offenses with just 14 RBIs. It would benefit everyone — particularly fantasy investors in standard-scoring leagues — if Muncy traded some walks for hacks. He’s on the right path, going yard in each of his last two games.
Raisel Iglesias: 2.42 SIERA
Iglesias saw his ERA rise to 7.20 ERA when surrendering two runs in a non-save situation Monday. He’s allowed multiple runs in four of 11 appearances for the Angels, serving up three homers and a .379 wOBA. Looking at the early returns, anyone would be justified if wondering if his job as closer is already in jeopardy.
Some metrics, particularly a lower SIERA than he submitted in six prior major-league seasons, support staying calm.
Those long balls comprise just nine of his fly balls, an unsustainable ratio in the eyes of a predictive model that regresses HR/FB rates to the league average. He’s also recorded 13 strikeouts to just one walk with the third-best swinging-strike rate (21.2%) behind stud closers Aroldis Chapman and Josh Hader.
That doesn’t mean he’s entirely excused. A 5.01 FIP is far less forgiving. Factoring in a rise in hard contact, his 3.86 xERA falls somewhere in the middle. He seems unhittable at times, until suddenly grooving a pitch right down the plate. Call it Edwin Diaz syndrome.
Remember that we’re working with a whopping 10 innings. Iglesias posted an ERA below 2.75 in four of his five seasons in the bullpen. That track record should extend him more patience not only from antsy fantasy managers, but from the Angels before seeking a new closer. While he’s unlikely to finish as the borderline top-five closer he was drafted to be, it’s too soon to panic.
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