Statcast Review: Alex Verdugo, Nelson Cruz, Tyler Mahle (2022 Fantasy Baseball)
This Statcast series began last week with us exploring the disconnect between actual and expected wOBA. Conveniently, by the time the article was published, a few of the names listed had performed as described in the column.
Like last week, we will again look at “expected statistics” and revisit the caveat included in the previous article. That is, we can’t directly and perfectly ask the players to perform to the numbers we will soon analyze, but we can generally gauge the direction in which said players’ numbers will move.
We used wOBA last week because of its attempt to serve as a one-size-fits-all number, and it isn’t — because, in sports, nothing is — but it paints a nice picture of overall effectiveness.
This time, we will dig into a more basic — but equally crucial for fantasy baseball — statistic: slugging percentage. It is often associated with power hitters, but keep in mind that the formula is calculated using “total bases,” so if you play in a league that values either slugging percentage or total bases as their own categories, this article is directly suited for you. Otherwise, use it for the potential of power — most likely via home runs but, indirectly, for runs batted in.
Actual vs. Expected wOBA – Batters
Below is a table of batters sorted by difference between xSLG and SLG to identify the players who have the most significant gap. Players with at least 50 batted balls in play were used. For batters, a negative difference is better, suggesting a positive correction. For reference, the league averages as of the time this table was created are .368 SLG, .431 xSLG, and a -0.063 difference.
|Lourdes Gurriel Jr.||53||0.462||0.464||-0.002|
- There is nowhere else to start except for Alex Verdugo. He leads the group in “differential” but also sits second among qualified hitters in expected slugging. His actual numbers have been OK, but it’s easy to see how much growth is still left for him. I would be targeting Verdugo somewhat aggressively if a fellow manager is interested in moving the outfielder.
- Sitting right behind Verdugo is the perennial slugger Nelson Cruz, but it isn’t his presence as the second-ranked hitter in “difference” that has earned him a highlight in this article. It’s the pitifully low slugging percentage for a hitter that has always been known for power. Obviously, this is good news as we can see that Cruz’s current underperformance is not sustained by anything that appears problematic.
- We can’t say the same for Trea Turner. In terms of ranking, he sits 11th-worst for “difference.” That isn’t the comparison we should use for him. Turner currently has a career .490 slugging percentage. Therefore, it would make sense to see him trend upward toward this number. Not so fast. If we trust the expected slugging percentage, then his current rate of .403 is actually too high. We may simply be looking at a small sample size featuring an anomaly, but there is a chance that Turner continues along his current downtrend.
- As always, I like to close out a section with players who are not experiencing a significant expectation gap but are still performing at a high level. Enter Ty France. He is currently ranked sixth in this group in expected slugging percentage and fourth in actual slugging percentage. His numbers are almost perfectly aligned, and it’s inspiring to see that no collapse is imminent.
Actual vs. Expected wOBA – Pitchers
Below is a table of pitchers sorted by difference between xSLG and SLG to identify the players who have the most significant gap. Players with at least 50 batted balls in play were used. For pitchers, a positive difference is better, suggesting a positive correction. For reference, the league averages as of the time this table was created are .368 SLG, .431 xSLG, and a -0.063 difference.
- As we saw with the hitters, the leader in “difference” for pitchers has a significant gap. Unlike hitters, said leader stands alone with no one challenging him. Tyler Mahle’s gap between slugging and expected slugging percentages is so large that he goes from well below average to well above average when moving from one number to the other. He is currently experiencing a slugging percentage almost 0.1 higher than where it should be, and this type of correction should do wonders for his fantasy value — even if he doesn’t move the entire 0.1.
- Aaron Nola and Luis Severino slide in as the next two pitchers worth mentioning because their “differences” are so close, despite the actual numbers being less aligned. Nola is technically worse in both categories, but that might set him up for an even more significant positive correction. His prior history suggests that he can deliver as one of the league’s top fantasy options at starting pitcher. Severino is inspiring in his own right, as his 19 innings pitched so far in 2022 are more than the last three years combined.
- And then there’s the other side of the chart. Cal Quantrill leads the way with an impossible cavernous gap, but some of the other names in his range are worth a second look. Zack Greinke was mentioned in last week’s column as someone who might be on the verge of a downturn, while Chris Flexen appeared right next to him in the chart. Both continue to show worrisome trends. We can also add Jose Berrios and even Walker Buehler to the list based on this data.
- In searching for the players excelling in expected slugging percentage while also keeping their actual numbers aligned, Framber Valdez and Sandy Alcantara are the two names worth highlighting. They rank first and third, respectively, in expected slugging, while their overall numbers are impressive in their own right. It will be interesting to see if they can continue with their current pace.
Have something you want me to cover in this space or just want to talk baseball? Feel free to reach out on Twitter @MarioMergola with questions or requests.
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