Statcast Review: Luis Castillo, Zach Davies, Eugenio Suarez
This Statcast series has been a ton of fun, but we’re turning it up a notch this week. Over the last few weeks, we’ve talked about barrels and barrel rates, exit velocity, and expected stats. This week, we’re diving deeper. We’re getting into Swing & Take numbers, Attack Zones/Regions, and Run Value. For pitchers and batters who have been struggling or thriving, we’ll see exactly what’s happening on pitches in the heart of the zone and outside of the edges. And yes, we’re going to talk about a certain starter with the last name Castillo who pitches for the Reds.
Throughout this series, we’ll look at different Statcast metrics for batters and pitchers each week. We’ll talk numbers and what they mean, and I’ll provide some player-specific notes after each section. The metrics themselves will change on a weekly basis, and we’ll circle back to some of our favorites every few weeks to see what trends we can identify.
Have something you want me to cover in this space or just want to talk baseball? Feel free to reach out on Twitter @mikeMaher with questions or feedback anytime.
Swing & Take / Run Value
Last week, we took a look at barrels, barrels per BBE (batted ball event), and barrels per PA (plate appearance) for both pitchers and batters. This week, we’re going to focus on the Swing & Take leaderboards and the Run Value numbers that come with them. The way Run Value works is this: every pitch is assigned one of four zones and a run value based on its outcome (ball, strike, home run, etc). For a complete breakdown of how Run Value is calculated (note: it’s incredibly detailed and cross-checked based on historical data), Statcast links to this piece on the Tangotiger blog for a full explanation. As for the four zones, they are somewhat self-explanatory but are Heart, Shadow, Chase, and Waste. Here is a visual for reference:
Swing & Take Run Value – Pitchers
In the chart below, we have the Run Value numbers for every pitcher who has thrown at least 500 pitches in the big leagues this season. We have a column for Heart, Shadow, Chase, and Waste and then a Run Value column that calculates the net runs allowed based on these values. For pitchers, we want negative numbers. Pitchers want to prevent runs. So, positive numbers (the red ones) are bad. Negative numbers are good. The default sorting for these is by HIGHEST (worst) Run Value, but feel free to click around, search, and sort it however you like.
Note: This table is sortable and searchable, so feel free to look around!
- Luis Castillo's +21 Run Value is easily the worst in all of baseball. It's +8 higher than Jose Quintana's 13, which is second-worst. Everyone has been trying to figure out exactly what happened to Castillo this season, and the answer is probably a number of things. This chart is a good indicator of just how badly things have been going. He is getting hammered inside the heart of the zone, and he isn't really having much success on the edges or even out of the zone, either. Surprisingly, his Chase Rate % is currently in the 87th percentile, but his Run Value in the Chase zone is +7. So, he's getting batters to swing at pitches in that zone (which is generally good), but they aren't missing those pitches and are having success when they do make contact (that's bad).
— mike Maher. (@mikeMaher) May 26, 2021
- Just as a comparison, below is a look at what Brandon Woodruff's Run Value chart looks like. At -22, Woodruff has the best Net Run Value of any pitcher who has thrown more than 500 pitches. His Chase and Waste values are interestingly in the positive, but he makes up for it with a whopping -28 value combined in the Heart and Shadow zones.
- Kevin Gausman has not one but TWO pitches (his four-seam fastball at No. 2 overall and his splitter at No. 10 overall) ranked in the Top 10 in all of baseball in Run Value. At -15, his four-seam fastball is second only to Trevor Bauer's fastball, and his splitter cracks the Top 10 with a -9 net value. No other splitter is even in the Top 50, with Shohei Ohtani's coming in at 51.
- Patrick Corbin has had success working in the Shadow region, but his Heart and Chase numbers put him in the bottom five of the league. Ditto for Dylan Bundy, another pitcher who was a middle-round target for many fantasy managers this offseason and is off to a rough start.
- The Zach Davies Chase zone jumps off the page here. He has a -1 Heart value and -2 Shadow value, but his Chase value is +10, tied for the worst in the league. His ERA is 4.96, and his xERA is an even worse 7.08. And if you go to his Statcast page, you'll see a lot of dark blue in some of the most important categories. In fact, his xwOBA, xERA, xBA, and K% are 3rd, 3rd, 2nd, and 1st percentile, respectively. And many of his other metrics aren't far behind. That is about as bad as it gets, and it doesn't seem like there is any positive regression in Davies's future.
Swing & Take Run Value - Batters
In the chart below, we have the Run Value numbers for every batter who has seen at least 500 pitches in the big leagues this season. For batters, we want positive Run Value numbers. Below, the chart is sorted by negative Run Value (the most runs lost or fewest runs created), but feel free to click around, search, and sort it however you like. Red/negative numbers are bad. Blue/Positive numbers are good.
Note: This table is sortable and searchable, so feel free to look around!
- Fantasy managers who bought low on Elvis Andrus this offseason and were hoping for some steals and a decent batting average have been, well, disappointed. He is batting just .190 through the first two months of the season, and this chart shows why. His -12 Heart Run Value is second only to Marwin Gonzalez as the worst in baseball, and, as you can see above, his overall Run Value of -17 is the worst in the league.
- Elvis Andrus at the bottom of the list? Sure, makes sense. Jackie Bradley Jr. right behind him? That adds up. But Eugenio Suarez in the Bottom 3? That's surprising even with his dreadful start to the season. After all, how can a player who already has 10 home runs have a Run Value of -13? The problem is that, other than those home runs, he just isn't hitting the ball. His -17 Shadow value is by far the worst number of any batter here and appears to agree with his decline in O-Contact% (52.7% in 2020 vs. 42.1% in 2021). He is getting crushed by pitchers on the edges and just off the edges of the zone, and his -4 Heart number isn't encouraging either. His 2020 vs. 2021 Statcast numbers are night and day, and his xBA is among the worst in baseball right now. His decrease in Hard Hit %, from 44.7% in 2020 to just 31.8% so far this season, especially alarming.
- Alec Bohm has been a popular buy-low candidate after his slow start, but his -9 Heart and -10 Shadow values are concerning here. He is hitting the ball hard, and his numbers do indicate some positive regression is likely, but he is batting just .174 against fastballs and needs to be more consistent at the plate.
- Does it surprise anyone to see Francisco Lindor near the bottom of this list? He is another buy-low candidate, but is he approaching the point of...sell low? He is walking, isn't striking out, and is hitting the ball decently hard when he is barreling it. BUT his xwOBA, xBA, and xSLG are 28th, 22nd, and 16th percentile. And his -10 Hear and -8 Shadow value here contribute to his -8 overall number. If not for his generally good eye at the plate this season on Chase and Waste pitches, he might be down closer to Andrus and Bradley Jr.
That's all for this week, friends. See someone above you'd like to talk more about, or just have a general question? Feel free to reach out on Twitter @mikeMaher anytime.
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Mike Maher is an editor and featured writer at FantasyPros and BettingPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive, follow him on Twitter @MikeMaher, and visit his Philadelphia Eagles blog, The Birds Blitz.