FACTS/FLUKES: Corbin, Hosmer, Cano, T. Williams, Thames

Corbin falling short of 2018 breakout … Patrick Corbin (LHP, WAS) enjoyed a fantastic 2018 campaign, compiling a 3.15 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 246 strikeouts in 200 IP. While he has pitched well in 2019, he hasn’t quite been able to recapture the magic from his breakout year. What’s changed?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  FpK  SwK  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f  BPV   vR
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ====  ===  ===  ===  ========  =====  ====  ===  ====
2013  208  3.41  3.48  2.3   7.7  3.3  70%  11%  47/22/31  29/73   10%  100  .703
2014  -------------------------Did not pitch; injury-----------------------------
2015   85  3.60  3.47  1.8   8.3  4.6  61%  11%  47/23/30  34/75   12%  125  .788
2016  156  5.15  4.39  3.8   7.6  2.0  57%  10%  54/19/27  33/70   18%   65  .851
2017  190  4.03  4.08  2.9   8.4  2.9  62%  11%  50/20/30  34/76   15%  102  .830
2018  200  3.15  2.81  2.2  11.1  5.1  64%  16%  48/24/27  32/72   11%  167  .583
2019  106  3.55  3.67  2.8  10.0  3.6  61%  13%  47/17/36  29/73   13%  129  .672

It’s really just a few small things adding up:

  • One noticeable difference has been a substantial increase in FB% allowed—a career high rate—which has led to more HR allowed (0.7 hr/9 in 2018; 1.1 hr/9 in 2019). A 1.1 hr/9 is still better than the MLB average (1.4 hr/9), but put another way, he has already allowed 13 HR in 2019 compared to 15 over the entire 2018 season.
  • His Dom, backed by SwK, remains well above average, but not quite at the supreme level of 2018.
  • His Ctl has gone from elite in 2018 to just a tick better than average in 2019. A decline in FpK indicates the rising Ctl has been earned (2.7 xCtl).
  • He has given back some of the massive gains achieved vs. right-handed batters, but it’s tough to complain about a 3.5 Cmd and .672 OPS allowed (.789 oOPS vs. RHB pre-2018).

As the 2019 Baseball Forecaster noted, even with some expected pullback, Corbin figured to be a desirable asset. Though Corbin hasn’t been able to duplicate his outstanding 2018, he has provided Top 20 starting pitcher value thus far. There’s nothing to suggest he can’t continue producing at or near his current level over the remainder of 2019.

 

Hosmer rebounds … The first year of Eric Hosmer’s (1B, SD) eight-year, $144 million contract with the Padres certainly didn’t go as hoped, as he batted .253 with 18 HR in 613 AB. However, he has fared better in 2019, batting .294 with 13 HR through 337 AB. How are the underlying skills?

Year   AB  HR/SB    BA/xBA    vL   bb%/ct%  GB/LD/FB  h%  HctX/PX/xPX  hr/f  Spd/SBO
====  ===  =====  =========  ====  =======  ========  ==  ===========  ====  =======
2014  503   9/4   .270/.259  .676    6/82   51/17/32  32   117/99/100    7%   82/5%
2015  599  18/7   .297/.290  .730    9/82   52/24/24  34   116/102/94   15%  107/5%
2016  605  25/5   .266/.263  .656    9/78   59/16/25  30   109/97/89    21%   77/5%
2017  603  25/4   .318/.298  .760   10/83   56/22/22  35    99/96/65    23%   91/3%
2018  613  18/7   .253/.266  .527    9/77   60/20/20  30    98/90/68    19%   86/7%
2019  337  13/0   .294/.273  .662    7/79   57/22/21  34   107/85/79    23%   90/1%

He has made better contact, but there are still problems:

  • His BA is back threatening .300 thanks to improved quality of contact and a touch of good h% fortune. In addition to upticks in HctX and LD%, his Statcast measured HH% has risen from 38% to a career best 46% (MLB average: 34%) and his exit velocity has climbed from 88.8 mph in 2018 to 90.3 mph in 2019 (MLB average: 87.5 mph).
  • That increased pop is still being stifled by his propensity to beat the ball into the ground. Regardless, he appears on track to make a run at 25 HR.
  • Hosmer has only attempted to steal once in 2019. Given his subpar Spd and 58% SB% over his last 12 attempts, it’s doubtful he’ll contribute more than a couple steals going forward.
  • A 21% h% dragged down his BA against left-handers in 2018. While that has regressed in 2019, his struggles vs. LHP are still evident (lifetime: .668 OPS and 61 PX in 1,629 AB vs. LHP).

Hosmer got off on the wrong foot in his new home a year ago, but he has gotten back on track with a solid first half of 2019. However, even with the improved quality of contact, his upside is capped by the huge GB%. Consider that from 2016-present, the 29-year-old leads all qualified MLB hitters with a 58% GB% and only Wilson Ramos owns a higher GB% in 2019. It could be argued that Hosmer’s greatest asset has been his durability, as he has logged more than 660 plate appearances in five of the last six seasons and that has allowed him to accumulate typically serviceable counting stats.

 

Has age finally caught up to Cano? … Robinson Cano (2B, NYM) displayed strong skills in a PED suspension shortened 2018 season as he batted .303 with 10 HR in 310 AB. However, his first season with the Mets has been a disaster thus far. Is there any hope for a rebound?

Year   AB    BA   xBA  bb%  ct%  h%  HctX  GB/LD/FB  HR   PX  xPX  hr/f   vL
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ==  ====  ========  ==  ===  ===  ====  ====
2014  595  .314  .301   9   89   34   109  53/23/25  14   95   82   11%  .746
2015  624  .287  .286   6   83   32   118  50/24/25  21  100  107   16%  .715
2016  655  .298  .300   7   85   30   122  46/18/36  39  124   96   19%  .770
2017  592  .280  .281   8   86   30   128  50/19/31  23   91  111   15%  .557
2018  310  .303  .284   9   85   33   130  48/23/29  10   99  110   13%  .893
2019  230  .239  .247   6   80   28   118  51/19/30   4   78  108    7%  .513

It’s a bit of a mixed bag:

  • While his ct% has fallen to a career low, it’s still pretty darn good in today’s game. Factor in an above-average HctX along with Statcast measured 91.1 mph exit velocity and 45% HH%, both ranking in the 81st percentile in 2019 and there’s reason to believe his BA is due to rise.
  • Based on his track record and the wide gap xPX/PX gap in 2019, his hr/f is ripe for some regression.
  • It’s a minuscule sample, but he has been brutal against left-handed pitching in 2019, sporting a 72% ct% and pitiful 14 PX (lifetime: 84% ct%, 75 PX and .762 OPS in 2,814 AB vs. LHP).

While most of those signs point toward better days in the second half of 2019, it’s possible injuries could be playing a role in his struggles. Cano was hit in the left hand by a pitch on April 21 and missed a couple of games before being hit on the same hand by another pitch on April 28. X-rays were negative and he avoided a stint on the injured list, but he has just 1 HR in 130 AB since the end of April and his xPX has been in freefall, going from 134 in April to 79 in May and 59 in June. He also missed a few weeks in late-May and June with a strained left quad. If healthy, the 36-year-old figures to be better the rest of the way, but keep expectations in check from here on out.

 

Williams flashes hidden upside … Trevor Williams (RHP, PIT) enjoyed a surprisingly effective 2018 campaign, buoyed by an eye-catching 1.82 ERA in 79 second half IP, but it was heavily influenced by the combination of H%/S% and hr/f luck. Things haven’t gone as well in 2019, as evidenced by a 4.54 ERA through 71 IP.  Is there reason for optimism?

Year   IP   ERA/xERA  Ctl  Dom  Cmd  FpK  Ball%  SwK  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f  BPV  
====  ===  =========  ===  ===  ===  ===  =====  ===  ========  =====  ====  ===  
2015* 131  4.79/5.13  3.1  5.8  1.9  N/A   N/A   N/A     N/A    35/70   N/A   49  
2016^ 123  4.10/5.03  2.8  5.1  1.8  56%  36.2%  10%  45/25/30  34/74   31%   40  
2017  150  4.07/4.47  3.1  7.0  2.3  61%  36.2%   9%  48/21/31  30/70   10%   68  
2018  171  3.11/4.51  2.9  6.6  2.3  61%  36.4%   8%  41/22/37  27/76    8%   60
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2H-18  79  1.82/4.45  2.8  6.6  2.3  63%  35.0%   8%  40/24/36  27/86    5%   60
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2019   71  4.54/4.52  1.6  7.2  4.4  67%  31.6%  11%  38/24/38  32/67   11%  101
*MLEs
^Includes MLEs

Yes, there are positive signs beneath the surface:

  • A heightened focus on getting ahead in the count and pounding the strike zone has led to an elite Ctl.
  • His SwK has surged from meager to average, but his Dom has lagged behind (8.6 xDom), so there’s some potential upside there. It’s also worth noting that he has gained 1 mph in velocity (up to 91.4 mph) and opposing batters have chased his four-seam fastball outside the zone much more often in 2019 (O-Swing% up from 23% in 2018 to 33%).
  • According to Statcast, he hasn’t done quite as well at limiting exit velocity and HH% in 2019, but he’s still better than average in both areas—76th percentile in exit velocity and 64th percentile in HH%.
  • The BPV column encapsulates how much his skillset has improved in 2019.

Williams was never a good bet to replicate his 2018 success, as it was mainly the result of a confluence of good fortune masking a collection of substandard skills. However, the major strides he has made in 2019 with regard to FpK/Ball%/Ctl and the potential Dom gains hinted at by his growing SwK indicate the 27-year-old could be on the verge of taking a step forward. If you’re in need of pitching, he’s worth a look, especially given the low price point.

 

Thames providing profit … A torn UCL in his left thumb cost Eric Thames (1B/OF, MIL) about two months in the first half of 2018 and he managed just a .208 BA and 9 HR in 183 AB from that point on after Jesus Aguilar took over first base duties. It’s been a reversal of fate in 2019 as a poor start from Aguilar has opened the door for Thames to become the team’s primary first baseman. Thames has provided cheap power, slugging 13 HR while batting a surprisingly good .267 in 195 AB, but can he keep it going?

Year     AB   BA    xBA  HR  bb%  ct%  HctX  GB/LD/FB   PX/xPX  hr/f    vL
====    ===  ====  ====  ==  ===  ===  ====  ========  =======  ====  =====
2014#   443  .320   N/A  22   10   79   N/A     N/A    175/N/A   N/A    N/A
2015#   472  .355   N/A  28   15   82   N/A     N/A    184/N/A   N/A    N/A
2016#   436  .299   N/A  24   12   78   N/A     N/A    151/N/A   N/A    N/A
2017    469  .247  .256  31   14   65   110  38/20/41  174/162   25%   .664
2018    247  .219  .228  16   10   61   103  33/20/47  180/186   23%   .612 
2019    195  .267  .233  13   14   61   102  36/19/45  171/149   24%   .857
#Korean Baseball Organization MLEs

The power is legit, but the BA is not:

  • The elite power is his calling card and he hits lots of flyballs, so even in a platoon role, he could wind up with 25+ HR.
  • Unfortunately, his ct% is abysmal and xBA indicates the BA downside.
  • Given his history of struggles against left-handed pitching (lifetime .204 BA in 285 AB), the platoon role suits him well. Note that his 2019 exposure to left-handed pitching consists of just 21 AB.
  • A strong bb% gives him a boost in OBP leagues.

We cited Thames as a bench bat worthy of consideration back in early April and he has provided solid value. It looks as though he’s pretty well locked into that strong-side platoon role, so expect more of the same in the second half, albeit with a batting average closer to .245. The 31-year-old might even chip in a few more steals as an added bonus.


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