FACTS/FLUKES: Springer, B. Norris, DeShields, Pomeranz, Gattis

Springer powers up, and then some ... In a season dominated by the long ball, George Springer (OF, HOU) has stood out more than most with 24 bombs from April through June. And he's doing it with a near 50-point batting average jump, too. Can Springer ride this wave all year?

Year   AB   BA    xBA  ct%  HctX  GB/LD/FB   PX/xPX  hr/f  Spd/SBO  HR/SB  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ====  ========  =======  ====  =======  =====  ===
2014  295  .231  .238   61   105  45/15/39  191/161   28%  126/ 9%  20/ 5   61
2015  388  .276  .261   72   105  45/24/30  127/111   19%  123/17%  16/16   51
2016  644  .261  .259   72    99  48/20/31  122/111   20%  128/10%  29/ 9   52
2017  336  .310  .301   75   119  46/20/34  171/147   31%  102/ 7%  27/ 2   89

Absolutely. The skills are surging:

  • Springer's raw power (PX/xPX) supports much of the HR burst. It's not just a one-year thing too, as he flashed a similar hr/f in 2014.
  • The BA surge gets xBA's seal of approval. An uptick in ct% coincides well with a career-low 11% swinging-strike rate.
  • Our one nit to pick: the steals. Springer's odds of double-digit SB are cramped unless 2015's green light returns.

It's been an excellent consolidation year for the 27-year-old Springer. He's making enough hard contact for a legit run at 40 HR, and he's paired it with a career-high ct%, xBA, and HctX. While an SB rebound would be icing on the cake, Springer's BPIs say he can keep this up the rest of the season—and beyond. 

 

Norris dominating ... A 2.17 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and 13 saves for ... Bud Norris (RHP, LAA)? Not a typo, as Norris was thrust into LAA's closer role in late April and hasn't looked back. But with a combined 5.79 ERA over 196 IP from 2015-16, can we really expect him to keep this going?

Year  IP   ERA   xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f  FpK  Ball%  SwK  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ====  ===  ========  =====  ====  ===  =====  ===  ===
2014  165  3.65  3.76  2.8   7.6  2.7  42/21/37  28/74   11%  60%   36%    8%   80
2015    8  6.72  4.42  3.4   7.7  2.3  43/23/34  34/59   17%  58%   36%   10%   69
2016   11  5.10  4.36  3.9   8.1  2.1  48/22/31  32/67   14%  62%   37%   10%   67
2017   38  2.17  3.03  3.4  11.6  3.4  49/20/31  27/83   11%  53%   38%   14%  144

Something's changed—and we like it:

  • SwK tells us Norris is missing more bats than ever, which lends credence to the Dom spike. The reason? A knockout slider (26% SwK) and more cutters/sliders (57% of pitches; 22% SwK) in lieu of a four-seam fastball reflect a new (and improved) pitch mix.
  • He remains prone to giving up the free pass—Norris' Ctl sub-indicators (FpK, Ball%) suggest this will remain an issue going forward.
  • He's held 2016's GB% spike, which has further driven that career-best xERA and BPV.

While we can't dismiss 1,000+ career innings of mediocrity, the 2017 version of Bud Norris looks new and improved. Armed with a more effective pitch mix, Norris is missing bats at an elite rate while keeping the ball on the ground. Control remains an issue and a favorable S% says he's not this good, but don't be surprised if Norris sticks in the closer role all season.

 

DeShields a one-trick pony? ... In an environment where steals are at a premium, Delino DeShields Jr. (OF, TEX) has been an impact player with 19 bags by the All-Star break. With a .286 batting average to boot, he's on track for a career year. Can it stay that way?

Year   AB   BA    xBA  bb%  ct%  HctX  h%  GB/LD/FB  PX  Spd/SBO/SB%  SB  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ====  ==  ========  ==  ===========  ==  ===
2015  425  .261  .236   11   76    71  34  47/19/34  79  163/25%/76%  25   41
2016  182  .209  .227    8   70    58  27  55/17/28  73  104/26%/73%   8  -11
2017  196  .286  .210    8   67    66  42  49/19/32  65  136/37%/83%  19  -18

Getting on first base will be an issue:

  • DeShields has elite wheels (Spd), runs all the time (SBO), and has enjoyed plenty of success (SB%). Expect the steals to continue as long as he can get on base...
  • ... which will be a problem. That sky-high h% won't last, while xBA and an awful ct% confirm BA is in for a rude awakening. 
  • There's no pop to speak of, as PX and HctX cement DeShields as a slap-hitter.

DeShields' running game is legit, but expect the SB opportunities to start drying up—he has the third-highest split between BA and xBA among all major leaguers (min. 100 AB; Gamel, M. Smith). In a league-wide landscape where steals are scarce, DeShields has value, but don't view him as anything more than a one-trick pony. 

 

Pomeranz mired in mediocrity ... The Baseball Forecaster's outlook for Drew Pomeranz (LHP, BOS) seemed clear: "1H version (2.65 ERA) not coming back; heed xERA (3.71) for most likely outcome." So far we've nailed it, as Pomeranz has put up a pedestrian 3.75 ERA and 1.35 WHIP through 18 starts. Anything different beneath the surface?

Year  IP   ERA   xERA  Ctl  Dom  Cmd  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f  FpK  Ball%  SwK  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ===  ========  =====  ====  ===  =====  ===  ===
2015   86  3.66  3.85  3.2  8.6  2.6  42/22/36  28/71    9%  58%   36%   12%   87
2016  170  3.32  3.71  3.4  9.8  2.9  46/17/37  28/77   14%  56%   37%   12%  108
2017   96  3.75  3.87  3.2  9.8  3.1  42/24/34  34/76   13%  61%   37%   11%  111

Not really; the Ks are nice, but control issues persist:

  • Pomeranz is getting ahead in the count (FpK), but not throwing enough strikes (Ball%), which all but cements another subpar Ctl.
  • He continues to provide a strong K foundation. Pomeranz features two primary pitches: a four-seam fastball that generates a bunch of whiffs (52% of pitches; 12% SwK) with a complementary curveball (36%; 10%).
  • The luck factors (H%/S%, hr/f) have mostly been a wash—Pomeranz's xERA is in line with his surface ERA.

At this point, Pomeranz owners know what they're going to get: mediocre ratios with a healthy dose of strikeouts. There isn't much room for further growth, as Pomeranz's lack of control continues to hold him back. Expect more of the same the rest of the way.

 

A new Gattis ... Strikeouts are down and home runs are up, but Evan Gattis (C, HOU) didn't get the memo. Gattis is hitting for a career-high .284 BA, but it's come with just 8 HR—a far cry from the 59 HR he smashed from 2015-16. Gattis entered the season with a lingering shoulder issue—has that sapped his power?

Year   AB   BA    xBA  bb%  ct%  HctX  h%  GB/LD/FB   PX/xPX  hr/f  HR  OBPvR  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ====  ==  ========  =======  ====  ==  =====  ===
2014  369  .263  .259    6   74   124  30  39/17/45  163/165   18%  22   .308   60
2015  566  .246  .267    5   79   109  27  46/17/37  126/116   16%  27   .291   64
2016  447  .251  .261    9   72    94  28  41/18/41  157/119   24%  32   .307   54
2017  194  .284  .283    7   85   112  30  36/20/44  116/ 88   11%   8   .373   64

Could be, but he's at least made gains in other areas:

  • Gattis has seen the second-highest increase in ct% vs. 2016 of any other hitter (min. 100 AB; Justin Smoak)—xBA confirms the BA gains are legit.
  • The power has vanished, however. Gattis is still getting plenty of loft, but xPX says the hard-hit balls have been few and far between.
  • Gattis has been able to get on base vs. RHP in 2017, which can only help him get regular playing time on a crowded HOU roster.

Which version of Gattis should we expect going forward? Nearly impossible to say, as he's completely flipped the script so far. Gattis' BA gains reflect a major ct% spike, but it's come with a career-low xPX. A previously-strong power baseline suggests more homers are coming, but it remains to be seen if he'll need to sacrifice contact to make it happen.

 


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.